If you want to do art...Then DO it already!

10 min read

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I've been asked by a lot of aspiring artists how I got into 3D and game art in general. So, here's my experience and what I've learned that'll hopefully provide some good advice.

First off, I've always been a fan of video games. When I was about 5-6 years old, I would go to my neighbor's house and play Super Mario Land and Tetris on the Gameboy and would later run home to play more on my SNES. My parents are both talented artists in their own ways (my mum is an impressionistic oil painter & my dad is a musician/photographer/graphic & web designer) that greatly influenced my choice to become an artist and they still inspire me today.  

As I got older, the game that really stuck to me was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I loved everything about it, and it's what really got me interested in art. 

Throughout middle and high school, I started drawing, practicing photography, writing, writing music, and messing with graphic design in my free time. I spent a lot more time alone in my room creating art than I ever did with friends. 

I went to a small community college in fall 2008 to start a degree in Graphic Design (this is also where I met my boyfriend :iconsstrikerr:!) In high school I went through a big phase of designing icons for Live Journal and my parents convinced me it would be the safest route for a career. By the end of the first semester, I realized I was more interested in the 3D Animation major Cody was in and would make a more enjoyable career path. I switched majors and braced myself for the awesomeness. Then.... I was face to face with 3DS Max. With a combination of my struggle to grasp the software and poor teaching, it resulting in me failing the class. Due to my struggle, I decided to look for help outside of school.

A group of friends introduced me to the 3d art forums online. Within weeks I was entering small challenges, conversing with professionals, and learning the workflow of 3d game art. It was great, but at the same time, I realized I was throwing away my money on school. I barely passed any of my classes, lost my scholarship, and was put on probation to raise my GPA. I struggled for the next two semesters and was forced to drop out.

After leaving school, I spent many months practicing. I had some pretty bad jobs, ranging from cleaning in an old folks home to sitting at a table in a kitchen, counting out tips for waiters at a hotel. It's easy to get discouraged when you feel like you can never make it, but never doubt yourself. 

Wawawa polypaint by MissMaddyTaylor

About a year and a half after dropping out of college, I finally caught a break. I was given an opportunity to take an art test and fly out to southern California for a 3d Character Artist interview! I was so ecstatic that I worked day and night on my art test 'til the day it was due. It was an amazing experience. The first time you walk into a game studio is so epic and overwhelming at the same time. I felt like I didn't deserve to be there, but it goes to show that hard work rewards hard workers. 

The interview went great and when I got home, I was prepared to move across the country. A few days went by and news came that I didn't get the job. It was heartbreaking but I swear I hit a jackpot within the next 24 hours. The same day, Cody and I were hired as Contract Artists for Vigil Games. We MADE IT! 

These jobs helped me realize the type of artist I wanted to be. Not only that, but we were found by a professional member of the Polycount community. I learned and applied all the feedback I received and in a few month's time, I learned more in a month than a year on my own. But all things come to an end... 

9 months later, Vigil had a massive layoff. We were given 2 weeks' pay and had to leave the office on the same day. It was horrible and emotional not just that I had lost my job, but the fact that I wouldn't be working with the same group of people. But as soon as all that happened, we immediately got in touch with the Polycount community and began creating again.

Some people from Riot Games came down and held a dinner with all of us who lost our jobs. One of those people was someone we looked up to on the Polycount community and he offered us both an art test. We went home immediately that night and began working. Within the next few weeks, we landed our next jobs at Riot Games which would last us an amazing 4 1/2 years!

Zyra by MissMaddyTaylor

In that time, we met many new people and grew into mid-level artists. We've even gotten good enough to the point where we were asked if we'd be interested in mentoring other artists with what we knew. It was such an amazing place to work and an inspiration for us still to push ourselves even further. And so on the side of our jobs in 2013, we began developing a small game idea...

And then in September 2016, Cody and I left Riot Games to work as freelancers and focus on building our own game company - Thar Be Monsters!

Thar Be Monsters is a company we created after we had started up our own game idea called Blubber Busters - a sci-fi action platformer we're currently developing a slice of! Initially, after our leave at Riot, we launched a Kickstarter for the game with a proof-of-concept demo (mainly to demonstrate to publishers that we could make a game at all.) Unfortunately, we ended up canceling the campaign before the end because we would clearly not reach our funding goal - but we did receive a TON of amazing feedback and exposure that's helped us push on and continue development to this day. We're currently working on a real slice of the game with way more content in hopes that we can get the full game going sometime in 2018. 

Blubber Busters went through another campaign to raise funds at the end of 2019, but unfortunately, there wasn't enough hype left in the project to get it funded. It helped me learn a lot about game development in general and managing a team and I'll never regret that. But onto new and better things! 

It is now mid-2020 and a lot has changed since my last update. I'm working at Yacht Club Games as a 3D Artist!

I've been working at YCG for a few months since writing this and it's been so welcoming from my team and for my mental and physical health. Working as a freelancer for 3+ years in California was definitely not a smart choice (from the cost of living alone), but it gave me a lot of time to focus on improving myself. In those few years, I did a 30-day drawing challenge and drew almost daily, created some of my most recognized original characters, sculpted and worked with a manufacturer to produce a figurine prototype, created prints, an artbook, pins, and other merch & tabled at Anime Expo, and improved my sculpting abilities. I made connections and friends that have changed my life and even drew enough courage to get my first tattoo! I can honestly say that I haven't been this happy and hungry to grow since I was practicing to get in the industry. 

Halloween Girl Pins by MissMaddyTaylor
Some pins I designed for Halloween 2018 (moodybuns.bigcartel.com)

Seedless Crown by MissMaddyTaylor

Now-a-days, I'm learning more about 3d printing so that I can print and mold my own work (maybe even airbrush it?) and working on a second sketchbook, merch, and various pieces of fanart. 

...more to come soon!

Art requires skill, skill requires practice, practice requires effort, and effort requires you to put that pen/pencil/paintbrush/whatever in your hand and use it! If this is what you want to do with your life then make it part of your life. Post on the forums, participate in art challenges, talk to other artists and professionals, learn from tutorials, and always create. Every time you practice your craft, you will improve.

Don't make expectations of yourself. Your work will evolve and over time you will see change. 

If you want to know anything else or any other bits of advice, feel free to leave a comment! 

Stay positive, practice, and make art!


Also, feel free to check out my tips for building a strong portfolio! ->  Maddy's Tips: Building a Strong PortfolioAfter receiving a few emails recently asking for portfolio feedback and general advice, I decided to write up a small list of tips that can help a student or graduate create a portfolio that game studios will want to look at (most specifically for Character Artists!)
Degree ≠ Job. A lot of studios don't look in a resume for where you went to school. The first thing they're interested in the quality of work in your portfolio. If you have the skills, then you're more likely to get hired!
Do more than homework. Lot's of college students get turned down by studios because they give them a portfolio that only has school work in it. Studios look for people that create more outside of class. It can range anywhere from fan art to designing your own characters.
Get online. Stay active on social media platforms like Twitter and game art forums like Polycount! Share your work and speak with other aspiring game artists and professionals as o
© 2011 - 2021 MissMaddyTaylor
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MarsKatt's avatar
Thank you very much. This is immensely appreciated and inspiring. I'm glad I was able to contact you :hug:
MissMaddyTaylor's avatar
Np & thank you! I'm glad I could help! X3
3DAri's avatar
"I had some pretty bad jobs, ranging from cleaning in an old folks home to sitting at a table in a kitchen, counting out tips for waiters at a hotel. It's easy to get discouraged when you feel like you can never make it, but never doubt yourself. "  -- that is super encouraging, I'm currently experiencing that now and feel disappointed in myself for not finding anything yet -- but i'm not going to give up!
You are so inspirational! As an aspiring artist (who lacks a great amount of skill), I'd love to go into designing splash arts for games and the like. I needed to read this. I'm only a junior in high school, but it's my dream to do digital art and make a career out of it. Thank you for your push at the end... It was something I've needed to hear. (: 
MissMaddyTaylor's avatar
Hey, I'm really glad I could help in some way! You've got so much time ahead of you to learn and grow your skills so take advantage of that now and get a great head start on your career. All the best! Lovely Shoujo Emoji (Huggy Hug) [V2] 
whisperpntr's avatar
Sorry to be a little critical as everything you said here was pure gold. 

I agree with pretty much everything here except one cautionary note about teachers and that is teachers aren't paid much and honestly aren't appreciated nearly as much as they should be.

I also had a horrific time at school, but while I can blame others and the trauma I felt, I ultimately hold myself responsible for my life decisions and I think that's what you mean as well.  I was just surprised at your criticism for that teacher and something my faculty at art school has been pushing is to take their advice with a grain of salt.

That said, thanks for your amazing insight and the tip to go to polycount.  :)  It's much appreciated!
MissMaddyTaylor's avatar
Thanks for the feedback! 

I'm sure my experience is different than many others, but the teacher I had thought very highly of himself when he didn't have much to offer. I know that community college shouldn't be a place to expect much, but I was hoping that my animation teach was as passionate as my foundation drawing or cartooning teachers. It left me frustrated and wanting more, which is why I eventually started doing my own work on the side. He's stated that animation wasn't his passion in life, and unfortunately it hurt me and many of his other students.

I just want everyone to have an inspiring teacher, because no one deserves less! :)
Leritoz's avatar
MissMaddyTaylor, i just got the chance to read this and i must say you have been through a lot to be where you are today and it is very inspiring!! Thank you for taking your time writing us this! :D
DreamKeeperArts's avatar
Thanks for sharing this, MissM.
Those of us who haven't made it yet need the encouragement, big time.
tracygraves's avatar
I find it really inspiring and interesting to hear people's stories on how they go into the industry. Finding another female who does character design (and brilliant work at that) is really cool to see. Would love to network if you're up for it. Would you ever be interested/not to busy to maybe critique some work? I'm planning on putting together a portfolio for Riot to look at in March around GDC when I was told some people from the company would be stopping by my school, but if I could get any feed back before then, I would really appreciate it!
MissMaddyTaylor's avatar
Hey, thanks! :) And sure, feel free to send me anything and I'll give some feedback. ^_^
Chantel-sky's avatar
This was really inspiring, Thank you for sharing!
ZombieCeli's avatar
Maddy I dont know if I annoy you by now with my comments...but you grown to be an Idol for me. I will to my best as I can.
Im signing up for Polycount and reffer to you, thanks for motivating people out there, to never give up.
Im studying Gamedesign but till the 5. Semester I had bad teachers too. I will do my best to teach myself everything.
You are so great! ;w; <3

*flies away*
MissMaddyTaylor's avatar
Hey! Thank you so much, I'm really glad I could help Hug 

To answer your question on my other post, my username is TerraBite :D

ZombieCeli's avatar
Im pretty sure you are not only helping me, but others too ^-^

Super! Now I could do the refferal thingie :D
And cool name! Does it have a cool backstory?

My name there is ZombieCeli too >w</
I will try my best for the Riot Contest, thats so cool!
Not for winning (Im way to bad) but for trying out and getting feedback hopefully :3

Aaaaaaaand I found you on Linkedin while researching about the Art Recruiter and reading the Internship forum! x'D

But I guess it would be too shameless to ask you if its okay to add you there x'D
Sorry for my annoying posts all the time, you sure are buisy ;w;

I will watch you from the distance and look at your awesome wooork, maybe it will be ok for you one day that Ill add you! :')

Greetz! <3
MissMaddyTaylor's avatar
Good to hear! And no, I just chose to use the word terabyte but spelled differently. No backstory =P

You can add me on LinkedIn if you want, I add anyone. :)

Awesome to see you join the community!
ZombieCeli's avatar
Oh okay x)

So I added you! *-* Such an honor, thank you x)
Yes! Thanks to you :3 I hopefully will learn much, Im planning to rework morgana for the Riot Contest x')
Still have to learn Zbrush and Im trying to do the low poly model with 3ds Max.
The Problem about 3D for me is, there are so many ways, some more efficient than others X_X
Hope this works out x'D
Please tell me when I write you too much okay? x'3
Greetings <3
MissMaddyTaylor's avatar
Learning by doing is the only way to improve. :) And it's really the best when you can have fun doing it!

I hope you have fun ^_^
ZombieCeli's avatar
Yep! :3

I do have fun.
Sometimes there are things you struggle to learn (perspective and architecture for me for example)
but you have fun when you try and explore every time. Ehhh for me it is like this :D <3
Colafied's avatar
:') I'm suuuper happy for you :) Something this amazing wont happen to me because I'm just too lazy ^^
and because I life in Finland there are no game companies,maybe couple but they would not be interested.
and my current skill is just shitty compared to those who have worked hard and earned their place in a game company :)

It would be amazing to do art for a living but the way i am will make me do shitty jobs for the rest of my life.
MissMaddyTaylor's avatar
My philosophy is that I only have one life, and I'd best use it to do what I want now before it's gone. If art is not your cup of tea, find something to do in your life that fulfills it. Neko Emoji-28 (Yay sho happy) [V2] 
Colafied's avatar
haha :) you are right. I prob should not take art so seriously and just draw. and see if it takes me anywhere.
Because art is still What I love to do, sometimes its just hard to find that spark of motivation.
I should just do a drawing schedule that i follow. and make something that motivates me every time. :thinking: 
W00tT's avatar
thank you so much <3
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