I had the time of my life at the CTN (Creative Talent Network) expo this year. Not only did I get to meet some of my favorite artists (like David Colman, Terryl Whitlatch, Iain McCaig and Brett Bean), but I also got my portfolio reviewed by all of the aforementioned people and more! I talked to the Bancroft brothers, DreamWorks, Pixar, Pascal Campion, Steven Silver, David Cardenas, Tom Moore and lots of other folks in the industry. Needless to say, I was star-struck the entire time.
The best part about all of it, was that no one ever talked down to me, or made me feel like "just a student". Everyone treated me like someone in the industry, and gave me advice and reviews as such. Because of that, my portfolio reviews were very honest. Of course, not everything was easy to hear, but all of it was massively helpful and, ultimately, true. There were a few reoccurring things I heard in every portfolio review I had, (including from DreamWorks and Pixar):
- "You're draftsmanship is strong -- hire-able, even, but now you need to really focus on polishing [the anatomy, color, line, etc in] your characters. That'll take you to the next level."
- "Push your character shapes."
- "Focus on putting more character into your characters. Really tell a story with each drawing!"
- "Why the hell are these environment paintings in here? Get them out. They aren't strong."
- "Only put what you love to do in your portfolio. Everything else can get taken out. That way, your portfolio will be more focused the next time around, and you won't get hired for anything other than what you love."
These 5 things are now fuel for the next year or two. My focus was honed and shifted dramatically from thinking I need to get better at environments and illustration to knowing that I already have strengths in character and animal drawings, and that I should focus on heightening those skills. Lots of folks told me to draw exclusively from life for a good chunk of time (especially for polishing my animals), and Iain McCaig specifically told me to build a world and design all of the characters and creatures from that. The funny thing is that I've been wanting to do that for quite some time! Hearing affirmation for ideas I already had was extremely encouraging.
Overall, I want to go back next year with a new portfolio. I'm already looking forward to seeing the Oatley Academy folks again :)