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Noely Ryan: Concept Artist Advice

By 3dtotal staff

Web: https://www.artstation.com/artist/enor (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 16th May 2017

Concept artist Noely Ryan walks us through his path into the industry, provides some great advice about working with others and offers guidance on working at a studio...



My name is Noely Ryan and I am an artist living and working in Dublin, Ireland. I live with my girlfriend Hilda and our dog Blondie close to the city centre. I'm very fortunate to be able to cycle to work every day. I like coffee and fresh bread, sci-fi and fantasy movies, monster movies and trying to create monsters of my own. I also love to play computer games whenever I get the chance (it's been a while!)

I love to imagine and draw things and this has stuck with me throughout my life. I've kept sketchbooks and copied other artists work growing up and practised at being better at drawing. It's taught me to be disciplined and focused. It has gotten me through countless nights of boredom and, to be honest, kept me sane.

A two hour speed painting tutorial done for 2dArtist

How I got started

I come from Clare on the West coast of Ireland. It is a very special place; however the opportunities for artists wishing to work in film were non-existent. When I was growing up the idea of being an artist in the film industry didn't exist to us yet. We didn't think like that, so when it came to leaving school I was still none the wiser. I didn't know I could be a ‘Concept Artist' or a ‘Matte Painter'. I was just into comic art and never really thought about digging deeper; I just copied the pictures. I stopped drawing after leaving art school and trained as an electrician for three years and worked in bars and clubs for seven years.

Grumpy giant sculpt

When I found out about concept art and visual art for film and games it made me think more seriously about being a professional artist. I started drawing again, I found out about drawing and painting software and the other digital tools used in the games and VFX industries. I took a game development course and started a portfolio. With the love and encouragement of my girlfriend I worked very hard on it and tried to do the best work I had ever done. When I finally had something to show I went around to the companies in the city and emailed them and I could not get a job; of course, I didn't. I needed to do more. I was inexperienced and fresh but I knew I had something to offer so I kept working on my art and my software skills.

One day when I attended a VFX summit in Dublin City I met someone working in a studio nearby who offered to have a look at my work. I went to speak with them and showed them my work and I was offered the chance to help out on a couple of projects for a two or three week testing period. I relished the opportunity and I did anything I could to help. Thankfully I was able to show my skills in Photoshop and ZBrush providing concept art, sculpting props and demonstrating I was capable. Soon after this a received a paid internship and within six months I was an employee at the studio.

A work that received a lot of praise and boosted my confidence in my work

A ZBrush creature sketch

Part of this was being able to work fast and use the software skilfully. If you can't work fast you will not be very useful to companies. Time is of the essence in the industry. Clients pay well for their time and you have to be efficient with it. However a large part of it was down to being able to work with people in a team and get the job done. You have to be good to work with and you have to be able to work with people. This is the most important thing when it comes down to a crunch and you have forty-eight hours to finish a project.

Everyone has their own skill-set and has their job. They know what they are doing and are still learning at the same time. Being able to help each other out and support each other is what gets most of the projects done. The first project I worked on had seventeen different nationalities working on it so it was a real eye opener for me. My years working as a barman had taught me to be personable so I got along with every single person. I loved it – the work was something I knew I could do and I would get better at it working with other like minded professionals.

A creature design inspired by facehuggers and headcrabs

A one hour speed painting done for Super Speedpainting Funtimes Group on Facebook

Advice for Artists

If you love what you do you will have no problem with improving. It has to be something that you can't live without. All of the artists portfolios that make you cry with disbelief are a product of a lifelong pursuit. These artists have worked hard at their craft and have improved with time, awareness, patience and practice. There are no ‘tips n tricks' that will make you better. The tips and tricks become relevant when you know how to apply them.

Practice as much as you can without infringing on your social life, but sacrifice your social life so you can practice. This is a hard balance to get right but you will make it work.

Creature design inspired by Horizon Zero Dawn for the Brainstorm Group on Facebook

Stay on the cutting edge of technology and software but always remember the foundations of creating a piece of art. The human body is still one of the most difficult subjects to realise in a drawing. Practice drawing it and it will teach you a lot.

Your portfolio will always be evolving, lose the old work you thought was your best years ago. Don't be afraid to narrow your portfolio down to 3 or 4 works and make room for improvements. As some companies like to explain on their sites, a portfolio of 3 or 4 strong works can be more effective than one with 15 mediocre works.

Getting noticed comes with persistence and determination. Keep applying even if you have been unlucky with applications. Keeping working and you never know; they might even come looking for you.

Kaiju monster design

Working for Studios

I work at EGG Post in Dublin City Centre. Working at a studio is more secure in the sense that you don't have to be chasing the next job. You have the software at your finger tips and the machine power to work fast. The software is maintained and updated. The machinery is upgraded too so you don't have these worries. The pay is different as you are working for the studio and not yourself. As a freelancer there are a lot of factors of finance you have to get right to be able to live comfortably. Once you get this right and you have built relationships with clients that like your work then you work for yourself, on your own time and at your own pace - this is highly rewarding.

In a studio there are many variables at play and you will have to do some extra work to get a job done in half the time for review the next morning. You have to be ready for the smallest to the greatest of responsibilities and stay on the edge of creativity and technology when different jobs demand different styles of art in different software. You also have to be willing to forego your artistic personal preferences and just do what you're told. Unless you have been hired in as an Art Director whose opinions and decisions are final then you just do the work and get it done for review.

Brainstorm Group design Challenge Brief – ‘Aposematic Stalk-eyed honey Sucker'

The best way to get into a studio is networking, persistence and being really good at what you do. Some studios will keep a record of your old application and refer to it with new applications to see have you improved. The talent pool is huge and you have to stand out from the rest of the crowd. A good way to stand out is to show you can hold a conversation with people when networking. People remember a nice person for the right reasons and a not-so nice person for the wrong reasons.

Just be pleasant to work with and know that you can depend on your colleagues for advice and help at anytime. Be on time and presentable in case you need to meet a client or potential clients on a tour of the studio. And never forget your notebook for meetings.

Cloud study

A two hour speed painting tutorial done for Master the Art of Speed Painting for 3dtotal

Related links

Check out Noely Ryan's portfolio
Grab a copy of Master the Art of Speed Painting to read Noely's full tutorial
Read Noely's tutorial for speed painting atmospheric scenes


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