Sunday, 19 June 2011

UK - Concept Artist Education

The path to be a concept artist is still generally in its infancy, primarily in UK.

As such there is not a full integrated entertainment design course set up to develop, train and graduate a artist to be a pro artist on graduation into the Game or Film industry.

//////// ALTERNATE CHOICES ////////

Thus, one has primarily two choices in UK.

  1. Illustration Course
  2. Animation Course
  3. Game Related Course

//////// ILLUSTRATION COURSES ////////

In general illustration courses are not equipped or mentally set up for conceptual art. They tend to run courses that are more "artsy", and looking to instill a sense of producing statements via their art or with the aim of being a book cover illustration.

This in itself is no bad thing, however it may not be what you signed up for.
A complementary strategy is to integrate alot of self study and self education about the digital arts, games industry and develop your own unique coursework to complement the illustration course.

A good illustration course can be advantageous, if it can impart the basic grounds of:
  1. Life drawing (allowing for full development of volumetric form, anatomy, line and sense of movement)
  2. Basics of drawing - perspective, form, movement
  3. Opportunity to educate in art history, be aware of various influences and deconstruction of art styles
  4. Opportunity to develop your own individualistic style and perfect the basics of painting
  5. Develop a good innate sense of colour and vibrancy
The disadvantages are:
  • Your degree is probably quite divergent from concept art, ad thus you might be fighting the system.
  • Your coursework and self development means all your time is maxed out, with less time on social experimentation. (if you can stick some of that 10000 hours of art skill points, this wil set you up for a good line of freelance work)

//////// ANIMATION COURSES ////////

Animation courses on the otherhand are more closely in tune with producing concept art.

Advantages are:

  • Upon graduation, you are ready to enter animation, film or games
  • You understand how to distill real life into a stylised form
  • A great understanding of colour and flat tones/shaders
  • A great understanding of movement, gesture, anatomy
Disadvantages are:

That alot of the great stuff you've learnt you have to partially unlearn or extend further, due to ingrained habit.
  • Your are is too stylised. This may require further self education to explore alternate methods of colour rendering and aesthetics
  • Your art is too stylised. You require further exploration to produce realistic looking contemporary artwork for FPS type games.
  • Your art is too stylised and your whole colour spectrum tends to be happy, vibrant and technicolour vs the more gloom laden desaturated moody pieces. This will require more experimentation.


  • Abertay Game Design Course (dose not teach you to be a concept artist per se, but you learn a bit of everything)
  • Staffordshire University - GamesConceptsDesign course (teaches a mixture of 2D/3D/mattepainting to aim to develop games artists).
  • UCA Rochester - CG Arts & Animation. They have a good group blog that incentives the participants to think about art, sources of inspiration and accountability.
NOTE: please do write in to help share your experiences in the various UK courses, and we can compile this to provide a accurate experience and recommendation of UK related courses to be a Concept artist.


  1. Hi there,

    Just thought I'd put my two pennies worth.

    I just finished my second year studying animation at Arts University college bournemouth. I did some very extensive research on courses before i applied there. And what I found is that there is very little the UK has to offer in the way of not just concept art type degrees but even traditional art training in universities. Even though I think the Animation course at bournemouth is excellent, there isn't much in the way of competition. So much so that when applying for schools I only applied for one school.

    But onto the course. Its a very flexible course. Whatever you want to do they give you the freedom to explore and develop the skills you want to develop.
    I forgot to mention but I'm a aspiring concept artist. And from that point of view I have found the course very helpful because, the teachers and even more so your peers push you to do better work. There is a lot of life drawing on the course, so you can sharpen your skills.

    They key thing to remember about any course though is that your only going to get from it what you put in.

    By the way this is a great blog, It's the kind of thing I would drooling over a few years ago. But luckily for me I made the right choice in terms of schools, but unfortunately many people can't because they don't have the information. hopefully this helps a little.

    If anyone wants more info on the course or whatever just email me at

  2. Hi there Marley,

    Many thanks for sharing your experiences. It's all very relevant
    Considering that the Uk government is allowing various universities to charge up to £9K per annum, even though is is paid off once a student accrues some moneies and a job, this represents a sizeable debt to the aerage uk student upon graduation.

    As such, one choosing to enter concept art would do well to consider a uk based or European based education. And without your personal experiences, such informed decisions for 2011 and beyond are not possible

  3. Problem is, I really want to become a concept artist for films however a course in animation does not appeal to me at all as I have had no experience with animation and it would drive me crazy! Would it be best if I was to just choose a fine art or illustration course of would it slim my chances of becoming a concept artist even more?

  4. Its a tricky one.

    There isnt exactly a right/wrong path to the future employment of set designer/artist for films

    For films, requires being a bit of jack of all trades, and creeping in via conventional routes eg. runner for post production film, or internship for various film productions at Pinewood.

    The main thing is to have a good flexible portoflio, an eye for design sets, and being able to flesh it out for the producer on the fly

    Good luck!