I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to get out of my final semester project and how I can tailor its scope to match those goals. I’ve settled on two main ones: create a really spectacular portfolio piece, and learn (or at least familiarize myself with) all of the skills I’ll need to be successful in industry as a junior character artist.
At the beginning of this course, my biggest concern regarding my own skillset was my speed. I’m fairly quick at picking up new skills, but was painstakingly slow at settling on project ideas, concepting, and sculpting as a whole. While I still struggle with perfectionism and decision-making, I’ve gotten exponentially faster at each step of the character art pipeline with every new pass through it; what used to take me weeks (Marvelous costume construction, retopology, etc.) now only takes days as I become more familiar with the steps. While I’ve picked up a good variety of skills, there are still a few aspects I’ve never touched: hair cards, custom Substance Designer textiles, and rigging to name a few. I’d like to go into industry with at least an understanding of these basic processes and a better idea of how to budget time for them, hopefully avoiding panic or missed deadlines when the stakes are high(er than a self-directed university project).
In my years of cosplaying and judging crafting competitions, I’ve puzzled out that the single best way to be successful is to do a large variety of techniques well. It’s sort of become the rule for higher-level shows: it’s not simply enough to be extremely precise and perfect with one technique (e.g. sewing) because there will always be someone who has amazing sewing AND leatherwork AND armor AND resin casting AND wig work, and that acts as a tiebreaker. And while I’m fairly familiar with a range of techniques and do my best not to show any particular bias, I’ve certainly judged alongside specialists who only recognize skill in the area they’re familiar with, and push very hard for a winner in that category.
All this is to say, I think to create the best portfolio piece possible, it needs to touch on as many techniques as I can (competently) include. Even if I’m not actually focusing on all of them in industry, it’s important to have an understanding of the time constraints and processes of most, and a technique may impress one developer on a hiring team that happens to favor specialized skills.
With that said, my primary aim is to create the most well-rounded portfolio piece that I can, which showcases a wide variety of character modeling techniques. My current plan should cover:
- Anatomy (human elderly female, male skeleton with some musculature)
- Grooming (hair cards)
- Feminine and masculine clothing
- Advanced garment work (smocking, quilting, complex patterning)
- Textile design (embroidery, piping, jacquard)
- Texturing weathered/worn garments
- Complex detail sculpting (trinkets and jewelry)
- Rigging and posing
- Environment basics
- Dramatic lighting
- Unreal Engine 5 rendering
- Full character pipeline