Behind your favorite video game and animated film lies at least one concept
artist. Think of Monsters VS Aliens, Shrek, Halo or Prince of Persia. Concept
artists decided what the characters, scenery and props would look like in
each of these movies and games.
"Concept artists create designs for fleshing out worlds. They are given
a spec about a creature, or area, and then draw different versions of what
it could potentially be," explains concept artist Katy Hargrove.
They can design anything from characters to backgrounds to props. So being
a good concept artist means knowing how to draw well and having an active
"The other main thing is to get the pieces in by the deadline if not sooner,"
Concept artists often use plain old pencil and paper to capture their ideas
and present them to film and game producers. But the boom in technology is
changing that. Some companies want to see digital paintings of designs.
Big and small entertainment companies hire concept artists. Pixar and
EA Games are examples of some of the entertainment powerhouses. A concept
artist in these big studios will have very specific duties and responsibilities.
They will be assigned only one aspect of the game or movie to develop.
"If you work for a smaller studio, you'll end up probably wearing more
than one hat," says Pierre Fortin. Fortin has worked as a concept artist
for video games. "You might end up being the guy doing the weaponry, doing
the character design and doing the environments in 2D drawings."
Budgets in smaller companies are so tight that concept artists might also
have to animate their designs in 3D, something an animator is usually responsible
Well-known artists can freelance. That means they can work from home and
make their own schedule. Freelancers may work on several projects from different
companies at the same time.
Many concept artists are contract employees, especially those working in
film. They will be hired for a certain number of months until the movie is
complete. Video game companies are more likely to hire permanent concept
artists to work on different games they are developing.
"Others fly all over the world, working a few months in one location and
then moving on to the next job," says Hargrove.
The conventional 9-to-5 workday doesn't apply to concept artists. Shifts
can last 15 hours or more. Some concept artists have spent all night getting
their work finished.