The good news is, it’s probably never been easier to talk to a professional in the field you want to enter, and even to talk to your absolute art heroes. The great thing I’ve found about artists, is they are generally some of the nicest, most giving of their time and knowledge, people you will ever meet.
The first and probably easiest way to try to make contact with a professional is through their website or social media. A quick web search should turn up their website fairly easily, assuming they have one (and most do), and that will in turn lead you to their contact email. Also, many of artists keep a profile on Facebook. You can also find artists in your field active on the same sorts of web forums that you might find peers of your own level. I’ll make a list of a few of the popular web forums I’m aware of at the end of the article.
You can also meet artists at appropriate conventions and events. A face to face meeting is great, and it often times allows you the opportunity to talk to several artists in one event. If the artist doesn’t appear too busy, or his table too crowded, many will happily give you a brief portfolio review, and offer tips, advice, and that precious feedback you need to keep improving.
There are a few ground rules though to get the most of your interaction with professional artists:
- Be polite. This should go without saying, but sadly it does need saying sometimes. Remember, you are asking a favor to have them look at your work and comment on it. Sometimes they may simply not have time, or have more pressing things to do. You can try again later, or try for another artist.
- Don’t monopolize their time. You may have a million questions, but try to limit yourself to a few. If you talk to the artist online, their online time competes with working. If you talk to them at a convention, there are likely other people hoping to talk with the artist, or they may have other activities to attend.
- Be prepared. If you want a portfolio review, have it handy, and have it edited down in size to probably not much more than a dozen pieces. Those huge artist portfolios are honestly too big to work well with a convention table, stick to the sizes easy to hold open in your hands. If you are asking for advice via the internet, do not send them large image files. Send a link to where they can see your work online.
- Listen. Actually listen to the advice. This isn’t the time to make excuses for the work, it’s the time to listen to what they have to say so you can improve. If some of the comments are blunt or are hard to hear, remember, this isn’t a judgement about you or your potential, just about where your skills are currently.
- Thank them. Mostly that’s part of being polite. It’s always best to leave a good impression, and remember, you will likely want to be able to ask questions again some time.
BONUS: Online communities that are good places to meet peers and professionals
- The Artorder, a community managed by Wizards of the Coast art director Jon Schindehette. This often revolves around structured challenges which are open to all to participate in.
- CGHub, which has a lot of pro and semi pro work. You can brose lots of artist's works, and post your own.
- CGtalk, the official forum for the CGSociety. It’s prime focus is digital art, and you can make posts to share your work and get feedback. Also, lots of good information hidden in the various sub-forums.
- ImagineFX, forum for the arts magazine. You can create a profile and share your art in their Galleries sub-section.
- and DeviantArt, another place to share your work, which has a wide range of artists from beginners to professionals