4 Things Missing from Most Portfolios

Over the past month, we’ve received almost two hundred portfolio submissions and reviewed dozens of student portfolios at four art schools. And while there have been a handful of gems, we’re still in the process of hiring an in-house, salaried animator. Why haven’t most portfolios and reels been up to snuff? Well, we have been wrestling with this question for the last week, so we decided to share what we think is missing from student and recent grad portfolios (and share some portfolios that wowed us).

1) Not enough drawing

Drawing is the fundamental vehicle for visual communication and storytelling. If you’re applying for an animation or design position, we want to see portfolios with endless amounts of sketches that demonstrate a solid understanding of “construction” and anatomy. We’re not interested in seeing  a handful of figure drawings from class or a few sketchbooks pages…we’re interested in seeing dozens of pages of sketches and concept drawings (kids, adults, monsters, animals, vehicles, locations, etc) with a range of emotions in variety of poses. We’d rather see fifty loose, energetic character studies than one very detailed character turnaround.

2) Not enough character animation  

If you’re applying for an animation position, we want to see how you can bring objects and characters (people, animals, coffee cups) to life. Animation reels should include a range of beautiful character motion studies that demonstrate a solid knowledge of acting, emotion, weight, space, and timing. We’d rather see a dozen loose hand-drawn character studies with beautiful motion and timing than one half-baked three-minute film (though stellar films always help). Also, we don’t produce experimental animation, so please don’t submit reels that contain more than 50% non-narrative mixed media techniques (stop-motion, sand, paint on glass, etc). We’re a character animation studio, so it’ll be difficult to gauge how you’ll handle the type of animation we do.

3) Not enough digital 

While we always value artists and concept designers with tremendous traditional media skills (watercolor, pen and ink), we’re a digital studio that works almost exclusively in Photoshop and Flash. It’s not mandatory that you have these skills, but if you have a portfolio that shows a mastery of traditional AND digital tools (specifically Photoshop and digital color), you’ll have a leg up on the competition, especially for art and design positions. If you don’t know the ins and outs of Photoshop (blending modes, adjustment layers, custom brushes, HSB color, etc.) or don’t have digital samples in your portfolio, we encourage you to find online tutorials and experiment.

4) Not enough personal exploration

We want to see work that you do outside of class assignments. While work is work, you should feel a sense of excitement, curiosity, and love for character-driven storytelling and/or gaming. We hire curious artists who love to make things even when not prompted. Be it animated gifs, written stories, comics, paintings, music, or more drawings—side projects and personal experiments are often the best way to gauge a candidate’s passion and artistic voice. If you haven’t filled two sketchbooks in the last year or created side projects outside of school or work, it’s usually a red flag. We live by the saying: You can’t fake passion.