This week Loris Attacks! was provided the opportunity to interview the award-winning senior creative director at Wizards of the Coast, Jon Schindehette.
Aside from being an artist himself, Mr. Schindehette has started a giant art community that offers creative challenges for fellow artists as well as professional advice and guidance via insightful blog posts. I highly recommend anyone attempting to break into an art career to check out the ArtOrder community!
LA!: A major step between a student and a professional is a solid portfolio. How did/do you approach building yours? Are book portfolios still in demand?
Jon: Strategies for portfolio building are often more art than science. In fact, I'll be doing a weekend workshop on this project in September - it's that big a subject! A couple of things that I keep in mind when I'm building my book(s):
• Who is the book for? Which company, which product line, which art director? A book needs to be targeted and relevant to capture the eye of a potential client.
• What work do I have that best represents the needs to the person the book is for? I start out by sorting my work by 'appropriateness" rather than whether it is "my best work". Sometimes my best piece isn't relevant and will actually bring down my portfolio in the eyes of the reviewer.
• Thin till it hurts. Did I cut it down to 20 pieces pretty easily? Great, then cut it to 15. It it was tough, but not grueling...then cut it to 10. Cut until it feels like you couldn't cut a single image and still hold your book together...and then cut one more.
Physical portfolios are STILL in demand. In fact, they are still my preference over viewing bloated and unfocused portfolio sites.
LA!: Quite often students of the arts are told things like “it’s all about connections”. How true is this mindset and how did/do you approach forging your connections?
Jon: It IS all about connections. Building connections should be one of the most important tools in your self-promotion toolbox. You can be the most amazing illustrator in the world, but if an art director or editor isn't aware of you - you'll never get work. Creating connections is another of those questions that could take hours to really address fully. I build connections in any way I can dream up. I get to know the people in the industry that can get me work, I get to know the artists that are getting the work, I get to know rising stars, and make myself available to folks that have less experience than myself. I volunteer my time and energy locally and globally in as many ways as I can find ways to make myself of service. I never say "no" to a "learning opportunity", and every time someone asks for help - it's a learning opportunity :)
LA!: Although you are primarily a digital painter, do you ever return to the fine arts mediums? If so, what mediums do you utilize the most?
Jon: Loving oils again. I've gotten back to them after a 20+ year break and am just loving the newfound freedom and expression I'm finding in the marks! I have recently started working in metals again, and having fallen in love with blacksmithing. I think every creative venture helps us improve our eyes, and opens up new creative space in our brain. I know that pottery helped me see spatial forms in a way that I never suspected back in my earlier career, and doing 3d modeling opened my eyes to spatial forms even more. Never underestimate how playing in a different medium will open your creative world!
LA!: What do you find to be the best tools for self promotion?
Jon: Your mind.
LA!: How often did you “work out” artistically in order to reach the level of excellence you currently enjoy? Do you still practice as often or does it eventually just come naturally?
Jon: See #3
LA!: What advice would you give an artist wishing to use their creative talents as a career?
Jon: Work hard, draw/paint daily, expand and grow your skills. Learn something with each and every project, grow your network....and follow the Robh Ruppel credo "Be good. Be nice. Communicate."
LA!: As an Art Director, what is the most common "rookie mistake" you see?
1) Not including contact info or portfolio url in communications.
2) Not showing relevant work samples
Many thanks to Mr. Schindehette for this fantastic interview, I look forward to using this advice to strengthen my body of work and encourage our readers to do the same.
Brew your coffee, sharpen your pencils, and boot up your imagination; your next masterpiece is just around the corner!
The blog of Jon Schindehette