“Don’t search for the style. Search for more knowledge.”

The quote above was spoken by independent concept artist and teacher Bobby Chiu during a presentation about how to gain exposure as an indie artist.

Click here for the eighteen-minute presentation (click here)
(via FilmSketchr)

Chiu starts with a discussion of his dream of becoming a “concept artist for Hollywood films” — who was trapped in a dreary data management job that required a conspicuous lack of artistic ability.

He notes that being passionate about smaller work can lead to larger work, because if you work on projects that you love, you’ll work harder and better than you might otherwise. That leads to better output, which can lead to more challenging opportunities and creates an upward spiral of projects that in turn push your skills higher.

Chiu mentions his “big break” working on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Rather than relocate to London to be on-set, he remained at home in Canada (where he was also teaching concept art, thus making it difficult to move in mid-semester and “abandon his students”). On his next Hollywood job, he again refused to move, and used Tim Burton as a reference in order to placate the studio and show that telecommuting is a viable working option. The unanswered question, of course, is how he was hired by Burton in the first place; it’s still notable that he successfully bucked the trend of the “journeyman” indie artist and held firm to his own terms of hire.

“You’re younger than the other people, or you’re older than the other people… but with every disadvantage you think you have, there are advantages because of that.

A key part of the presentation arose as Chiu discussed issues surrounding the development of a unique, in-demand style:

“Finding your style… I don’t look for my style… when you learn more knowledge, it affects your art. So don’t search for the style. Search for more knowledge.”

“I’m also not afraid to have people copy my style — I will continue to learn. I’m always on that search for knowledge. So by the time somebody gets there, I’m going to collect more knowledge and get somewhere else.”

“The more ways you know how to do things, the more of a unique product you’re building. A unique ‘brand’ that you’re building for yourself.”

At that point he mentioned his own learning site for artists: schoolism.com

Another valuable idea that he raises is the principle of “starting from the top”:

“A lot of times I do things backwards. A lot of people, when I first got out of school, they said ‘Okay, find a job!’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna find a job!’ (And they said) ‘Start from the bottom and work your way up!’ And I’m like, ‘what?! I don’t have patience for that!’ So instead, I figured, ‘you know what? I’ll start from the top. I’ll try to start from the top. And if they say no, I’m gonna go to second place. Third place. Fourth place. And where I end up will always be higher than if I purposely tried to start from the bottom! Right?! That’s pretty obvious.”

Obvious, maybe — but also often overlooked.

Chui also gives a brief set of guidelines for his “master plan”:

1. Develop a cool style
2. Build a website, a blog, etc.
3. Connect to forums — for example, deviantart, cgtalk.com, and conceptart.org
4. Go to conventions and meet others in the field.
5. Submit work to annual art book collections. He mentions:

– EXPOSÉ for Ballistic Publishing

He closes his talk with a mention of his other learning site, sketchoholic.com and a few inspirational remarks.

Even if you’re not a concept artist, there are useful ideas to be gleaned from his talk that can transferred to your creative field(s) of interest and expertise.