AuthorTopic: Kid lacks career, questions concerning pixels considered by community.  (Read 3972 times)

Offline Blick

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So I've been starting to think that I might be ready to get serious about pixel art and that just leads me to questions that I'd like answered by anyone with experience or just an opinion.

For a person without self motivation, is freelancing really a good idea at all? Would being an in house artist be any different?

My pixel art skills are decent right now, but my drawing is surprisingly weak, would that matter or should I start working on drawing too?

Are there any companies you would tell me to stay away from?

For offers that require relocation, does the company generally pay for the move, does the artist or is the cost at least split?

What programs should I become proficient in?

What should I expect in terms of pay and work load?

What would you say is the best for constructing a portfolio, a diverse set of mediocre pieces or the ones I feel are the best, but probably would neglect diversity? Perhaps just throw everything in chronologically to show a line of improvement?

I suppose that's all my questions for now. I know I've still got a while before I can even hold a real pixel job, since I am still the worst at animation and tiles.

Offline Ryumaru

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not that im an expert, but i think self motivation is a must. without it youll be missing deadlines left and right, which is NOT something you want. obviously.

Offline Feron

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if you're good enough go for in-house.

as for cost of moving - that depends on the company.

Offline Akzidenz

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I can't comment on the professional pixel art community, but speaking in terms of a general creative environment, here's my advice/answers:

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For a person without self motivation, is freelancing really a good idea at all? Would being an in house artist be any different?

Personally, I'm either extremely motivated and active and excited or I'm dead bored. There's no inbetween for me. Among friends of mine who work in the creative industry, from graphic design to animation to game development, that sort of thinking seems to be the norm (or close to it). The difference between motivation and laziness is getting interested in a project - and getting interested in a shit project is a skill that is critical if you want to be able to make a living in any creative field. Different things work for different people - I won't talk about that too much, it's enough to spawn a whole different topic.

The upside to freelance work is that you have complete control over the projects that you take on. If you only want to work on things that call to you, if you only want to work on projects that you don't have to struggle to sustain interest with, then you can do that. If you don't want to live on the street, though, you need to learn how to save money. You have to know the average amount of time that you'll go without work, and you have to save up enough money to sustain your basic needs during that period. Freelance work is amazing and terrifying all at the same time.

Being in-house is different. You'll likely work in a more specific realm of your field. If you're able to figure out a decent way to maintain interest in crap projects, you have everything to gain from being in-house. This isn't to say that everything you work on in-house will be crap - you'll definitely get to work on some gems - but be prepared for the worst at the start of every project and you can't go wrong. I make this sound far more grim than it actually is, don't let that description scare you - it's just a good state of mind to be in.

What it boils down to is that, regardless of what creative field you're in, you usually end up doing crap to pay the bills, and then you do work that you really care about on your own time (and occasionally you get a chance to do it at your job). Unless you're incredibly lucky, you will not find a creative field to work in where you get to follow your own vision and create your dream work without having to make heavy compromises along the way.

Personally - I've found that the best way to work, for me, is to work in-house at a place that I don't hate, and to do freelance jobs that I enjoy on the side. I'm really happy doing this. Most of my friends and colleagues do the same, and it keeps them happy and sane.

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My pixel art skills are decent right now, but my drawing is surprisingly weak, would that matter or should I start working on drawing too?

In my position, I can get away with not drawing (or with doing crap drawings). In most creative fields, you need to be able to draw. It's never a bad skill to have, it's always worth getting better at. I'm constantly trying to get better at drawing, even though it's not a skill that I actively or frequently use - and what I've found is that a lot of the things I learn about drawing can be applied to other steps of the creative process.

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Are there any companies you would tell me to stay away from?

Can't really comment on this one. In general, though, it's better to shop around for as long as you possibly can. If you're going to take a staff position somewhere, make sure it's the absolute best that you can do, either artistically or financially or both.

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For offers that require relocation, does the company generally pay for the move, does the artist or is the cost at least split?

Depends on the company. In my experience, companies will only help you pay for a move if you've been employed for a set period of time. They usually won't help someone move before they've become an employee.

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What programs should I become proficient in?

This varies by industry, but industry standards across the board tend to be Adobe products for 2D. Each profession has its own special tools though, so as far as pixel art goes, I can't say what people will expect you to know.

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What should I expect in terms of pay and work load?

I can't talk about specific pixel art rates. I know that for animators and graphic designers, a $300 day rate is fairly standard (in Los Angeles, at least). In general, if you're a freelancer, expect not to sleep much. In general, remember that the faster you can work (while keeping your work above a certain level of quality), the more money you'll make. Learn every shortcut you can, and try to develop the most efficient process that you can.

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What would you say is the best for constructing a portfolio, a diverse set of mediocre pieces or the ones I feel are the best, but probably would neglect diversity? Perhaps just throw everything in chronologically to show a line of improvement?

Always put your best work in your portfolio. Put the work that you're proud of in there. If you desperately need a job, and you know that a certain employer is going to look for a certain type of work, then it's alright to stick a couple of more mediocre (but focused) pieces in there. Whatever you do, do not tailor your whole portfolio around what you think an employer wants to see. This seems like it's a good idea, but I've never seen it go well, ever.

Case in point, a good friend of mine was trying to get a job in a certain field that had a certain aesthetic. He completely restructured his portfolio (going so far as to create new pieces) in order to fit that aesthetic. He didn't get a job at any of the places he applied to. On the other hand, my portfolio is absolutely crazy, and absolutely not tailored to or suited for any commercial work - but it gets me commercial work time and time again. In general (and this is just my experience, mind you), the people who are going to be hiring you in a creative field are not going to be stupid. They'll be able to see the brilliance in your work if it's there, and they'll be able to figure out what you're generally capable of based on it.

I'm sure that isn't exactly what you were looking for, but for what it is, that's the advice I have.

In general, I'd say that the best piece of advice that I can offer is that, the sooner you accept the fact that shit work pays the bills and great work doesn't, the better off you'll be. It doesn't mean that you should stop doing great work (by any means!), it doesn't mean that you should stop looking for it, it just means that you shouldn't expect for it to pay your bills.
que faire quand on a tout fait, tout lu, tout bu, tout mangé
tout donné en vrac et en détail
quand on a crié sur tous les toîts pleuré et ris dans les villes et en campagne

Offline AdamTierney

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"For a person without self motivation, is freelancing really a good idea at all?"

Nope. It's exactly the wrong type of job. If you have no motivation, find a salary job.

"Would being an in house artist be any different?"

Yes - you know when the next paycheck is coming.

"My pixel art skills are decent right now, but my drawing is surprisingly weak, would that matter or should I start working on drawing too?"

You should definitely try to beef up those skills, but I've known plenty of great pixellers who weren't exceptional at traditional art.

"Are there any companies you would tell me to stay away from?"

Nope, none that I know of.

"For offers that require relocation, does the company generally pay for the move, does the artist or is the cost at least split?"

They might. There's no real standard. Just ask the company if it comes down to that.

"What programs should I become proficient in?"

Pro Motion and Photoshop.

"What should I expect in terms of pay and work load?"

Pay is widely variable. If you're an artist or animator without a higher level of responsibility, you're probably looking at between 25K and 45K a year.

"What would you say is the best for constructing a portfolio, a diverse set of mediocre pieces or the ones I feel are the best, but probably would neglect diversity?"

Neither. Put together a solid set of great pieces. If you're not capable of doing that, you probably won't find work anyway.

"Perhaps just throw everything in chronologically to show a line of improvement?"

No, no one cares about that. You are who you are at that moment. If a piece shows flaws no longer in your work, don't exhibit the piece.

"I know I've still got a while before I can even hold a real pixel job, since I am still the worst at animation and tiles."

Get better. No one starts good at this stuff.

Cheers,

Adam

Offline Indigo

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For a person without self motivation, is freelancing really a good idea at all?
Nope. It's exactly the wrong type of job. If you have no motivation, find a salary job.

I somewhat disagree with this comment.  There are ways to keep yourself motivated if you know that you simply aren't.  I tend to have a slight problem in this area as well.  This is what I do to solve it; I dress up for work and have a set amount of hours that I dedicate to it each day.  Dressing up puts you in the mindset to "work" even though you may be in your bedroom hunching over your own computer as usual.  Also the set amount of hours converts your mind from 'freelance' mode to 'salary' mode.  Making yourself *think* you have to work from time-A to time-B helps tremendously.

Offline big brother

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For a person without self motivation, is freelancing really a good idea at all? Would being an in house artist be any different?
I would say no. The first impression is that freelancing gives you a lot more free time. In reality, it gives you more flexible time. As far as hours go, when I was freelance I spent more time working than at a staff job. Don't forget the business angle. You can find helpful resources, but writing contracts, invoices, and paying all the taxes can be daunting.

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My pixel art skills are decent right now, but my drawing is surprisingly weak, would that matter or should I start working on drawing too?
Definitely. Your grasp of the fundamentals will carry over into every media.

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Are there any companies you would tell me to stay away from?
Gameloft. For reasons see this thread:
http://www.wayofthepixel.net/pixelation/index.php?topic=1535.0

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For offers that require relocation, does the company generally pay for the move, does the artist or is the cost at least split?
Generally, if the company wants you, they will help. If they don't offer some kind of relocation package, I think that's a good indication of how much they care about their employees. 

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What programs should I become proficient in?
Photoshop is generally madatory, Promotion is a plus, and Flash will make you versatile. (A number of mobile phone companies dabble in web based games, plus you can make killer "living" mockups for game pitches)

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What should I expect in terms of pay and work load?
It depends heavily on what stage the project is in. For pay I'd say $40K/year plus benefits (insurance) is the average base salary for an urban area.

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What would you say is the best for constructing a portfolio, a diverse set of mediocre pieces or the ones I feel are the best, but probably would neglect diversity? Perhaps just throw everything in chronologically to show a line of improvement?
If it's ordered, start with your best piece and end with your second best. Do not pad it with pieces you feel are old or mediocre. I would say 10-12 solid pieces is good. If you have fewer, they better be fantastic. Try to show that you are proficient in a variety of styles and game genres. Some animated pieces are good, too, since most pixel artists are required to animate also. Don't waste the art director's time "showing improvement" in your pieces. He will care the most about what you can bring to the table right now.

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I suppose that's all my questions for now. I know I've still got a while before I can even hold a real pixel job, since I am still the worst at animation and tiles.
Both skills are pixel art staples. Practice!

Offline goat

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I like you to bits, Blick, so here's the straight poop from my experience.  For the record, when I first jumped into paid pixels I was nowhere near ready, and it's only through the grace of the almighty sun god that I managed to stay afloat long enough to have any success at all in it.  Some of what I'm gonna post is negative; I'm not trying to discourage you or anybody else, because what you're talking about is entirely possible and a lot of people do it who are way dumber and less skilled than you or I.

Brief rundown of my experience: did a 2-ish year stint as a fulltime pixelist before enrolling in art school, now I only take pixel contracts part time, and take onsite web contracts full time.  I don't miss full-time pixels much, although when I gave it up entirely I really missed it.  It's probably the most addictive and most uniquely challenging job I've ever had.

For a person without self motivation, is freelancing really a good idea at all? Would being an in house artist be any different?
Without self motivation you're going to crash.  Hard. Everyone has times when they just have no motivation (especially me, as my work ethic is nowhere near ironclad).  Unfortunately, as a freelancer those times will also mean you have no food, gas, or electricity.  The pressure of a development cycle isn't really any easier to deal with in-house, although starving to death isn't as big of an issue.

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My pixel art skills are decent right now, but my drawing is surprisingly weak, would that matter or should I start working on drawing too?
While it's common to be more competent at one medium than another, for the most part art is art. if you think your drawing skills are weak, then your other skills are likely proportionally stunted as well.  I'd put some serious effort into expanding your horizons before I considered a big project where you might be wearing multiple hats, although on a case-by-case basis the only person who can best judge if your skills are right for a job is teh u.

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Are there any companies you would tell me to stay away from?
with a handful or exceptions, most of the "danger" companies come and go (or change names) so quickly that the best way to detect them is to develop your bullshitdar.  The Goblins thread is a good place to start, although it's mostly just something you pick up.  You're a smart lad, I wouldn't worry about it too much, although it does take some time.

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For offers that require relocation, does the company generally pay for the move, does the artist or is the cost at least split?
depends wholly on the company, there are policies from "yes, in full with transient housing in a hotel" to "no, working for us is a priviledge, flee your former home now" to everything in between, including arrangements where you get a relocation budget and if you exceed it, then too bad.

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What programs should I become proficient in?
whatever you need to get the job done asap.  most will expect promotion, maybe gale, at the very least photoshop.  In my experience people are willing to flex on what tools you use as logn as you deliver in the format they're looking for.  If you pixel for long enough you'll eventually run into someone who wants you to use their crappy in-house editor, if not for the actual spriting then for assembly of animations and such, so be ready ;p

aside from those tools, feel free to use any additional ones that you feel comfortable with... it's kind of agreed upon among a lot of the artists i've spoken to that a lot of the "rules" go out the window when you're in the trenches of paid pixel art.  while my hobby stuff is entirely pixel purist, i've been repeatedly guilty of using filters, photomanipulation, and adaptive palette optimization to get the job done in time.  the only people who really give a shit are missing the point (two points actually, one point being the deadline, and the other being my rent :p)

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What should I expect in terms of pay and work load?
There are way harder jobs that pay a lot less, but this isn't easy money, it's a labor of love.  If I had to give any numbers, Adam's are pretty spot on.  You should "expect" what you ask for; this is REALLY important.  While skill, speed, and experience plays a big part in how much a client is willing to pay, how much they actually end up paying depends on what you ask for and how well you stick to that and convince them that you're worth it.  You determine your own worth for the most part, and even people who try to lowball you will understand what good art actually costs... some people aren't out for good art though, and just want cheap art.  That's usually what they get.

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What would you say is the best for constructing a portfolio, a diverse set of mediocre pieces or the ones I feel are the best, but probably would neglect diversity? Perhaps just throw everything in chronologically to show a line of improvement?
My portfolio is incredibly small because once a piece gets to be what I consider old I toss it.  IMO, even if you don't have a lot to show, quality takes major precedence over quantity.  Fluffing your portfolio with pieces that aren't representative of your pro-game isn't worth it as it'll only take one bad piece to turn a prospective client off.

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I suppose that's all my questions for now.
If you have any more, shoot.  I'm by no means a beacon of knowledge on the topic but I'll be glad to offer any answers or better yet help :p
« Last Edit: December 19, 2006, 12:21:10 am by goat »
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