A lot of people create artwork just to share it with the world, after all, art is worth nothing if it isn’t seen. Some people are satisfied with just that, showing off their work. That’s great, there is nothing wrong with that.
Other people want to make a career out of their work however. With the growing demand for digital artists in movies, video games, and advertising there is a lot of money to be made. That is, if you are good enough.
So how do you get a job in this increasingly competitive field? Can you just go to school and get a degree? Then an internship? Probably not. Knowing theory doesn’t mean you can make good work. Although, good art theory, knowledge, and inspiration can enhance good work.
I personally value higher education. I think it’s great, it exposes you to a lot of different things that can be applied to many different aspects of life, especially artwork. Also, nothing beats proper instruction. So yes, I highly recommend going to school even if you want an art job. A degree alone will not get you a spot in a prestigious company though. As an artist you need to be able to show your skill, and the only way to do this is to show your work.
A company will turn down a college graduate with a bad portfolio in favor of a high school graduate with an amazing portfolio. In fact, many companies that need artists just prefer a college education to weed out bad applicants and keep people from applying who probably don’t cut it anyway. What they don’t usually tell you however, is that it’s really the portfolio that gets you the job in this field.
Another thing that will help you out is building an identity. Get your work out there, build a reputation. Let people know who you are and look professional. That’s why I publish my work on several websites, such as the prestigious CgSociety, the rapidly growing CGHub, and many others. I’m scattered around on several websites. This is to ensure a wide variety of people see my work. And trust me, they do contact me. I get youtube messages and comments constantly from my channel, which features several CG videos created by me.
This is a highly competitive field, and employers want to know they are hiring the best artists possible to make their products. I once read that Weta Digital, the guys who made the visual effects for Lord of the Rings, only hire maybe 2 people per year. The company is based in New Zealand also, so chances of them hiring people out the country are slim, but not impossible of course.
Your portfolio should cater to the company you are applying to. For example if you are applying to Pixar, you should try to create works in their style. If you are applying to Ubisoft, perhaps you should study Assassin’s Creed, or Prince of Persia, and base works off of those series. Do not copy them, but get inspiration from them. Companies want to see creativity in your work.
On saying this however, your work has to be good to get a job. Employers get thousands of portfolios sent to them each year. Generally in video form, they mute the video and start playing. If the first few seconds don’t grab their attention it’s scrapped. Sorry. You’re an artist, your job is to captivate people, so do it!
When making a portfolio, your best piece should be first. If something sucks, just don’t include it. If none of your work is up to par, keep working on it. Make your stuff better.