So you wanna be a videogame artist

April 16, 2016 at 9:47 am


“What advice would you give someone who wants to be a videogame artist?”

I get asked that question, and ones like it, very frequently. As a public service, I present to you an FAQ of sorts:

1. What is an average day of work like for you?

I get up at 5:30, help get the kids off to school. I get to work between 9 and 10AM. For the rest of the day, I work on art, animation or user interface assets for games. Sometimes I manage people. I come home anywhere from 6 to 10PM (later if we’re on a deadline). I try to be a decent father and husband, help with dishes, homework, walking the dog, home maintenance, exercise. And then, 10 or 11PM, I start working on my comics until midnight to 1AM or so. And then, do it all again the next day.

2. How did you get your start in the industry?

I was going broke as an illustrator. I answered an ad in the paper for a multimedia company that needed an artist with some computer skills – which I had- and built my skills and entire career from there over the course of 30 years.

3. What do you feel is the most important skill in your position?

The ability to learn new skills. No question.

4. How do you stay up to date on changes in the industry?

I play some games, but not enough as time is at a premium. Occasionally I watch Twitch, I watch my sons play games, I read industry magazines and websites, I talk to people, and I sometimes go to conferences. Mostly I work. At some point, the changes in the industry are the things you yourself do.

5. What are some challenges that you face while working?

Sometimes I have an idea for something artistically cool, but it won’t work in terms of gameplay. So, getting those two occasionally competing ideas to work well together is a challenge.

6. Do you do work in your free time?

Only if you count stuff that spills over from my day’s work (“overtime” or “crunch”), and my various personal projects.

7. What is the best way to approach industry professionals?

With respect, and a full understanding that we’re busy, underslept, tired, worn out and generally busy and tired. And also busy. 🙂 I dunno. Some guys will talk to you and some won’t. Some do, and then they get inundated with requests, and then they don’t do it anymore. The challenge is to find the nice ones or the young ones. Or both.

8. How important is communication?

I think communication is the most important… uh…thingy… you know, really, uh… I think you know what I’m trying to say.

9. If you had to give advice on getting into the industry, what would it be and why?

No one is going to hire you without experience and a killer portfolio. Sounds unfair, right? Meh. Crying about that is a waste of time because it’s always been that way and it’s not going to change. Think about it – would you pay someone else multiple thousands of dollars to do something they’ve never done? Be honest, now. I wouldn’t, and I never expected anyone to hire me without proving myself.

Do you have to go to art school to be a professional videogame artist? Strictly speaking, no. As a hiring partner, I went off of good portfolios and wasn’t concerned where a candidate went to school. But completing college shows that you can stick to something, and gives you an excellent opportunity to build your skills – both personal and interpersonal – on which to build your career. For most people I would not suggest skipping some sort of artistic training if you want to be taken seriously as a professional candidate at a serious videogame studio.

The key to getting hired is that you have to *do* something worth hiring. You have to have something to show besides an art school diploma. First, wanna be an artist? PROVE IT. Work on your craft. Get good at it. Show that you love it so much that you do it at night while other people are sleeping, and in the morning when other people haven’t gotten up yet.

When you’re good enough, you’ll have a killer portfolio and you’ll want to build on it.

Get some friends together, either in meatspace or on the net. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is – team up with them. MAKE SOMETHING. You want to make games? Make games. Get with your friends and make games. Make them until you are good at it and you have something compelling to show and good stuff in your portfolio.

Who knows? You might make something so good that you skip working for someone else altogether and you and your friends wind up starting a game company. Stranger things have happened, and I’ve worked for some people who did just that.

Most importantly, making games will tell you whether you actually *like* making games, or whether you just like playing games and *think* it will be fun to make them.

10. Would you have done anything different than what you are doing?

I would have been an astronaut. 🙂 Or, ya know, a cartoonist.

11. I was wondering if you have ever gone to the Game Developers Conference and if it’s worth going to while in school?

If you can afford it, do it. It’s a great way to make contacts and see firsthand what’s going on in the industry.

12. What would be the best way to keep consistency between the art on a project where you have multiple artists working together?

That’s called being an Art Director. 🙂 What it means is establishing a style ahead of time, getting some reference or some drawings that you can point to and everyone knows – if it doesn’t look like this, it’s not right. And then, you have to be brave and confident in your own vision and keep everyone marching to your beat while still being open to new ideas. Sometimes you don’t have it as figured out as you think you do.

Hope that helps, and as you think of more questions, I’ll answer them here.

Kick it!

March 2, 2015 at 12:44 pm


Jealous of others? Wish you could take back a simple mistake that has ruined everything? Try this time-honored technique! It works for a variety of situations!

Bikes, Planes and Rocket Ships

July 13, 2014 at 12:03 pm





InfoGraphicSMYou know that old movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles? Well, this is like that, except… yeah, different. Fun little illustrations I got to do for Bully! Entertainment. We recently used them in an infographic about Augmented Reality, a pretty neat-o technology we work with. Want to learn more about it, click the icon to the left (or this LINK)…

Just calling your process “Agile” doesn’t make you agile

March 12, 2014 at 8:11 am


Software development management lost in the weeds:

So, you’re disorganized and your process is all over the map. You have too many meetings with too many people in them, and the wrong people, and usually after small problems have become big problems. You know something’s wrong, but you don’t know how to Fix It. So you hop onto the Agile bandwagon, assured it will solve your problems.

Beware – you may find yourself 100% Buzzword Compliant, but you will still not have fixed your development problem, because your problem is that you’re disorganized and your process is all over the map. Waterfall wasn’t like that; you made it like that. Agile isn’t like that, but you’ll make it like that, too, if the problem is your tendency toward Crisis Management and a scattershot approach.

Instead, try having fewer, shorter meetings with the right people in them. Have them earlier. Try to focus on developing working software instead of standing around talking about Process. And for God’s sake, you have a staff: delegate. They may not make the same decisions you would make, but if you empower them to, they will make decisions, and the product will get out the door. You can have Veto Power, if you’re that convinced that only you have the right answers and your staff is incapable of achieving your level of brilliance, though trust me, that is probably not the case. Until then, you are the problem. You are in your own way, and your company’s.

Above, my thoughts. But for more, HERE is a link to an interesting article about how one of the guys who developed “Agile” development feels it is time to retire the word and get people to adjust their focus. I wish you Happy Developing.

Rosetta Stone – Ad

January 27, 2013 at 2:26 pm


I was privileged to work on an animated campaign for Rosetta Stone with my friends at Bully! Entertainment. It was a quick job with a small team, so we all wore plenty of hats. The amazingly talented artists at Bully! made the models, did the materials work, and animated them. Along with Bully’s multitalented Carlson Bull, I co-wrote the spots, did the storyboards, designed the characters and props, directed the animation and c0-art directed the whole thing. I’m very proud of how these two pieces came out. Second was an animated ad:

Rosetta Stone – Shelf Talk Holiday Promo from Bully Entertainment on Vimeo.

For those interested in such things, the storyboards:

A color and lighting study on how to handle the end of the spot:


A variety of art direction and visual design items:

Rosetta Stone campaign

January 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm


I was privileged to work on an animated campaign for Rosetta Stone with my friends at Bully! Entertainment. It was a quick job with a small team, so we all wore plenty of hats. The amazingly talented artists at Bully! made the models, did the materials work, and animated them. Along with Bully’s multitalented Carlson Bull, I co-wrote the spots, did the storyboards, designed the characters and props, directed the animation and c0-art directed the whole thing. I’m very proud of how these two pieces came out. First was a bit of web animation to attract people for the weeks leading up to Christmas:

Rosetta Stone – Cyber Monday Web Spot from Bully Entertainment on Vimeo.

For those interested, here are the storyboards:

Here are the character designs for the nutcracker and the Russian dolls:



A really nice materials test on the Nutcracker:


Interview at Don’t Pick the Flowers

January 27, 2013 at 10:52 am


There’s a nice interview with me over at Dave Hurley’s “Don’t Pick the Flowers” blog. Finally, all your deepest, darkest questions about my deep, dark secrets will be answered! Yes, I am your International Man of Illustration Mystery (IMIM). Go forth and enjoy!

Firaxis hiring: Senior Environment Artist

November 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Firaxis Games is looking for an exceptionally skilled senior environment artist for our latest project. As the senior environment artist, you will be working closely with the Project Art Director, Designer, and art team to establish asset creation pipelines along with the look and feel of the game world. The ideal candidate must have a solid grasp on lighting and color, as well as an excellent working knowledge of our tool-set (listed below).


Create the highest quality organic 3D art and textures that adhere to the project’s vision.
Collaborate closely with the engineering, level design and art teams to create beautiful and believable urban, sururban, rural and fictitious worlds without sacrificing readability and game play.
Help establish pipelines for creating real time 3D assets for a modular world.
Work closely with our graphics team to develop dynamic lighting systems for the game world.


Exceptional communications skills, both oral and written, are a must.
Excellent organic and hard-surface modeling skills.
Outstanding problem solving abilities.
Must be a team player and willing to incorporate ideas from other team members.
Outstanding organization and time management abilities.
A solid understanding of color and lighting.
Ability to work with an iterative design process is a must.


Must have an expert knowledge of 3DStudio Max, Photoshop, UDK and Zbrush.
At least two shipped products as an environment artist.
Interested parties, contact us.

X-COM is released!

October 14, 2012 at 10:38 pm

X-COM: Enemy Unknown, the videogame I’ve been working on for the past 5 years, is finally available for purchase! The team did a fantastic job on it, it’s receiving extremely positive reviews, and I’m proud as the old, stodgy studio art director, that even I made several assets for the game, including the Vigilo/Confido X-COM shield (above). If you like good strategy games with action and cinematic flourishes, this is the game for you. It’s available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. Go get it!