Students of Illustration were treated to an exclusive sharing and workshop session by Jan Urschel, a concept designer and illustrator from Germany who now works and resides in Singapore. Jan, who has been a concept designer for close to a decade, and an illustrator for even longer, shared his journey as a concept artist in the entertainment industry. He also spoke about the job scope and skills of a concept designer, pros and cons of in-house versus freelance, and shared practical tips as well as real industry advice.
Jan has worked on various Hollywood films such as the upcoming Captain Marvel and X-Men: Dark Phoenix which are slated for next year, Ghost in the Shell, Star Wars: Rogue One; and video games such as Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Halo Wars 2 and Star Citizen. He had previously worked at Lucasfilm and Ubisoft Singapore before making the jump to be an independent concept designer. Some of his clients include Marvel, Warner Bros., EA, Microsoft and Sony.
He said that it is up to the artist to choose which projects to advertise themselves with in their resume, because it will determine the kind of jobs that will be attracted in the future. He added that as an artist, one needs to be able to diversify their portfolio and show lots of different aspects of work that they can do. He explained the work scope of a concept designer from pre-production, production, post-production and marketing. They also need to possess skills such as quick idea presentation in drawing or 3D, idea generation, iteration, refinement, and presentation.
He gave an overview of what they will face as an in-house employee and as a freelancer. He advised that freelance is something that they should only consider later, because as a beginner they will need to gain experience and see how the production pipeline works. A concept designer is part of a bigger team and it is important to know what goes on around the production. There are pros and cons when it comes to freelance, and one should make the choice based on their character. Some people thrive in a freelance lifestyle while some will completely fail.
“You need to network, whether in person or online. Clients cannot hire you if they don’t know you exist. You need to stay in contact with people to remind them that you can be their go-to person. Figure out a few key events to go and network, bring along your portfolio and business cards,” advised Jan.
“Be true to yourself and it will show in your art. Don’t compare yourself to others. At the end of the day, what matters most is if you’re happy with the work you’re doing. You are your own journey,” he concluded.
A one-day workshop was held the next day, where Jan conducted a demonstration and tutorial in concept designing. The students immersed themselves in a hands-on experience designing environment concept art under his guidance.