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Portfolio Building with Assistant Art Director Carmine Pucci at Pulse College #Recap

Our Assistant Art Director Carmine Pucci gave a talk titled “Portfolio Building: A talk about building yourself”‘ at Pulse College in Dublin last month!

Carmine gave an inside peek into what the studios look for in portfolios and interviews, whilst giving students an insight into the workflow here at Brown Bag Films.

Having years of experience in concept art, character design, environment design, 2D art, illustration and storyboards, students from animation, film and games were shown how to create a valuable instrument to apply for the specific roles they each desire. Carmine explained that portfolios built around a single theme give a solid narrative structure to follow, but each portfolio needs to be thought of like a Ferrari: “Yes, it needs to be stylish, fast and beautiful, however, it also needs to be mechanically perfect or it won't make the cut.” - via Pulse College

Here are some of his #toptips from the talk:

Think Ferarri

A Ferarri is gorgeous, fast, a status symbol, but it also functions mechanically. Your portfolio must be solid in every aspect, it's not just about showing off beautiful pieces. You need to build it, showing all the steps that motivated your choices.

Art Directors and Leads are also often looking for assurances in your portfolio that show whether you're able to collaborate, follow instructions and work in a team.

Your Portfolio is an Instrument to Help You Sell Yourself

“Good artists copy, great artists steal” - Pablo Picasso

Observe, study what's successful from the best artists' methods and portfolios, and use those key pointers in your own portfolio. The end goal is to land the job and like in war, you need a strategy and plan!

The portfolio should communicate your ability to follow and satisfy the needs of a project.

Use it to express that you can do more than just good looking stuff.

Simulate a project, don't just throw in random pieces - there's a difference between an image gallery and a curated portfolio.

A simple start could be to choose a theme from literature, cinema, games. Try to give it a new vision, your vision. But also, try not to push the visual in something to an incomprehensible place for people. Remember you're trying to sell your skills to get a job, you can always create another gallery for that type of content on your site.

Presentation tells a lot about you and it's the way people will see your art. You can have strong artistic skills but if you are not able to present them well, you're communicating a lack of discernment and an inability to distinguish between the quality of your work. When you curate your work and organise it, you're showing that you care how other people interact with your work.

Why do you want the job/role?

This is not a silly question to ask yourself, it pushes you to investigate the reasons behind your motivations. Often an artist starts his/her career because they're good at drawing but that's just the start - if you are trying to enter the industry you should examine yourself a bit further.

What will be your contribution to the company you are approaching?

What is your vision?

It's important to keep questioning yourself but it's also important to give yourself the time to find the answers.

Imagine the Big Picture

Don't forget that entering a company means that you will be working under instruction, with other people.

Your artwork will be passed through the production pipeline and ends under up under the client's eyes.

Your passion should be visible in your artwork so choose the theme and the visual style wisely in order to avoid getting bored quickly. If you get hired because of your photo-realistic portfolio then you will more than likely be tasked with doing photo-realistic work for a while, so be sure you'll enjoy it!

Be Curious and Explore

To create a successful portfolio and be a good artist you need to know things. You need to study, just like a doctor would for a surgery, the drawing on the paper will be more effective after proper research.

Anatomy, perspective, composition, lights, colour are the fundamentals but you'll need to learn more than this - you'll need to create a visual library in your mind that allows you to expand your imagination.

Books, movies, video games, history etc the more you know the more you can create.

Archetypes, pillars of a genre, language - all of these are the basic tools to envision new worlds in art. You can see in all movies, video games, books influences and touch points from predecessors. You can play with these to create your own story without starting from scratch. But in order to modify, to play, you need to have a knowledge of topics and be curious.


When you start building the world for the story you're showing in your portfolio, you need to think about how the observer should feel looking at it.

Are you developing a dark, gothic story? Think about the palette of that world, it should be cold, desaturated. Take reference from movies, understand what choices directors make and why.

As for the main character, are they a hero? Should they contrast with the world's palette through a vibrant and warm color palette? Or are they a nocturnal creature for example, therefore the 2 palettes, the world and character's, should complement each other and fit together?

Use keywords, write a list of emotions and feelings that the environment and characters should evoke for the observer, and start creating!

Let the observer understand your mental diagrams, what caused you to make your choices is really important in creating a professional impression and proving that you're able to think Big Picture.

Another important aspect that shows you can manage a project is showing that all the elements of a project (characters, environments, props, FX etc) look like they belong in the same narrative universe.

So when you are creating them, keep that in mind. Confront your work, look over previous passes and be sure the elements work in the line-up. Play with shapes to give characters definition.

It's a Job!

As you can see, your portfolio must show you as a professional figure, so you can't tackle it without a proper plan.

Make a calendar, give yourself schedules, deadlines. Try to finish it in a reasonable amount of time. Put yourself under realistic production pressure.

Set milestones and go through all the production steps:

- Character Design (main cast model sheets, expressions, gesture)

- Environment Design (main sets technical design, key lights, props)

- Main Sequence Keys

Would you Hire Yourself?

This question is the key, if you are honest, of finding out whether you are ready or not for the job.

Change perspective, imagine you're lead in a company that is reviewing your portfolio and is about to invest money in you. Would you hire yourself?

Being proud of your art is good. It gives you the strength and motivation to succeed but consider also that you will have responsibilities if hired.

Working from home, in your room, on your own time, on what you like, is completely different to working on a project with other people and on a schedule in a real-world environment! So be prepared for that.

Special thanks to Oisin Roche and Pulse College for organising a great event!

And, you can view more of Carmine's work here.

Anahita Tabarsi

Anahita is Brown Bag Films' Marketing Director, Digital & Social and drinks more than five coffees a day...

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