Advice for Quickly Improving Your Concept Art Design Skills

Concept artist, Shaddy Safadi spoke at GDC about how to build and keep a successful concept studio. Safadi, a former artist for Naughty Dog, founded One Pixel Brush, a successful concept art studio that's shipped work for AAA titles like Uncharted and The Last of Us to name only a few. Safadi discussed an important concept for many beginning artists: how to achieve higher levels of skill, or as he calls it, the "The Laws of Chasing Awesomeness." One of the ways to follow your road to success is to find your "art god", that other artist(s) that you strive to become, but know is probably beyond your ability. For Safadi, this is Naughty Dog artist Maciej Kuciara. "He's one of the best, in my opinion," Safadi explains, "When [Maciej] started at Naughty Dog, we were all following him. He was like up here, and we were all down there. We were like 'oh there's Maciej, let's go. If you have that attitude you get better so much faster." The other point Safadi makes is that art can be simply for exploration where artists who have the time can get better through more and more practice. However, he says this isn't always feasible nor desirable for most people. "Art can be an exploration...you can explore your whole life and no one will fault you for it...but the thing I want to point out is that we're gonna die, all of us, really soon. We don't have forever, and if you want to be a superstar, then you might as well just go up the way this other guy is going." Safadi also revealed the 4 Zones of Awesomeness that he developed to show artists what areas of their skill they can work on to grow the quickest.
  1. Cheatyness- This category represents how effective artist are using shortcuts to solve problems. This can include using Google Earth to create 3D scenes such as fly-a-rounds for city shots, using 3D Daz models to pose and paint over, or using photos for texture references.
  2. Sexyness-This category looks at how well you simplify and style shapes in service of the story and composition. Do you take the world around you and plus it with more graphic and simplified designs than what is found in nature or reality? Excellent.
  3. Classiness-Improving your classiness mean achieving good taste overall. Do you have influences that are connected to the beauty of the natural world and the greatest artists of history?
  4. Storytellingyness-How well you do you know the story points of the art your creating for. Are you using your art to be in service of the story or the other way around?