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Gearing Up for Gen Con
Dragon's-Eye View
By Jon Schindehette

A s you are reading this, I'm lofting my way across the United States and heading to Indianapolis, Indiana, for Gen Con! It might not be a big surprise that I keep pretty busy while we are at Gen Con, but my main goal this year is not to end up on crutches before the convention kicks off. Seems I've been having a difficult time of doing that recently.

My dance card is pretty full while I'm at Gen Con. It usually is, but I'm going to try to spend more time on the floor so that folks can snag me and chat with me about how things are going with D&D. Of course, I have to make sure I take care of business while I'm there. Here are a few things that I'm excited about.

A Night with D&D—Thursday, August 15th

An evening filled with fun and laughter in Baldur's Gate. There's so much going on here, I'm not even going to try and tell you all about it. There's going to be plenty of coverage about it, so keep your eyes peeled for pictures. We also have some news to share about a sword, but I'll let that announcement speak for itself. I'm just excited to go and mingle with the rest of the fans of D&D!

D&D Digital Panel—Friday, August 16th

Mike Mearls will be hosting some of our digital partners to talk about the various D&D digital offerings, existing and new.

Art Show Judging—Friday, August 16th

I get to join up with Brom and Emily Fiegenschuh as we judge the Art Show and then head on over to the Art Show Awards ceremony later that evening. The art show keeps getting better and better every year. I highly recommend that you take some time to check it out.

Last but not least . . .

Portfolio Reviews—All Week Long!

Now whether you are grabbing one of the official portfolio review slots or just snagging me at an opportune time while I'm wandering around the floor, this is your opportunity to get a few minutes with me. Or perhaps you'll speak with Kate Irwin or Richard Whitters. If you are going to talk to any of us, though, please read through a few tips and tricks I have below to make the encounter as successful and effective as possible.

Be Prepared

Bring your portfolio. Bring it in good condition. Bring it on at least an iPad or other tablet (iPhones make terrible monitors), and please don't bring originals! Bring a list of questions to ask. Frequently when I ask if an artist has questions, around 90 percent of them say, "I did, but I can't remember them now." Plan ahead!

Be Motivated

I'll never get more excited about your work than you are. If you show up grumpy and irritable, we're going to have a bad review, no matter how good your work might have been. If you show up positive and upbeat, things are going to go better.

Don't Make Excuses

If the prints aren't good, don't tell me about it —get good prints! If you didn't have "enough time" to prepare, then don't ask for a portfolio review—go get prepared and then come talk to me. If the art director had you make bad decisions in the painting, and you aren't happy with the result, then don't put it into your portfolio—go repaint it and put an image into your portfolio that you are proud of!

Be a Good Self-Promoter

Now is not the time to be shy and coy. Give me your pitch, give me a leave-behind, and make a great first impression (or second, or third, or . . .).

Don't Argue

You don't have to like what I have to say about your work, but you did ask me for my opinion. If you don't want it, don't ask. If you do want it, don't argue with me about my opinion. You won't change my opinion of your work, and you might just create a negative opinion about you as a professional. Think about that.

Don't Dominate

I can appreciate that you are excited about the opportunity. In fact, I applaud your energy! Please remember that other folks might want to have a chance as well. So please respect the art director's need to have conversations with other artists and don't try to keep the conversation going for hours.

Be Professional and Be Courteous

I don't have any problems talking to folks, but there are limits. For example, if I'm in the men's room, wait until I'm done before you approach me about a review.

Now let's get into some of the nitty-gritty of portfolio reviews. I don't have the time or space to go into a lot of detail in this article. If you want to really dig into how to build a successful portfolio, swing on over to TheArtOrder.com and check out my Portfolio Building series of articles.

You Have 15 Minutes

The typical portfolio review lasts 15 minutes or fewer. Make sure that you spend most of that time listening rather than talking. If the art director asks you a question, answer it quickly and efficiently. If the answer takes more than a few seconds to answer, chances are good that you are telling a story rather than answering a question.

Practice your "elevator speech"—that 15- to 30-second blurb that tells who you are, what you do, and what you are up to. No need for gushing about your love of the brand or respect for the art director. This is a professional INTERVIEW, so treat it as such.

Bull's-Eye!

It requires something of you, but make sure you target your portfolio for the person reviewing it! If you go to the event and show exactly the same portfolio to every art director you meet, then you are doing yourself a disservice and you are limiting your potential success. Don't show an editor from DC the same portfolio you show to the art director for Magic: The Gathering. They have two distinctly different art needs, and to be effective, you have to have two distinctly different portfolios to show them.

Images Minus One: Trimming Your Portfolio

I am frequently asked, "How many images should be in my portfolio?" The answer is simple: at least one fewer image than you have in there. Here's a little art director secret: I can figure out 90 percent about you as an artist by looking at just one image. I will have a pretty good idea of the quality standards you hold, your artistic skills, your preferred content, and your preferred art style and render style. While I'm flipping through the rest of the images, I'm just checking to see if the rest of the pieces start lowering my expectations—and they always do! Here's another secret: I don't judge your artistic worth by your best image in your portfolio; I judge your abilities by your worst. If I use your best attempt as my guide, it tells me that this is the best I can expect from you. If, instead, I use your worst as my guide, it tells me what I can really expect from you. If I get better than that, I will have some wonderful Christmas present moments when I receive your art for a project. Do you see the difference? And for that reason, you need to really control what worst image you intend to show me.

In parting, here's my final bit of advice:

Just say "hi!"

Whether you have your portfolio with you or not, just swing by and say hello to me. Introduce yourself, drop off a card, and commit to connecting with me at another con or to sending an online portfolio URL or a few jpgs to ArtDrop (artdrop@wizards.com). It's all about making contacts!

Jon Schindehette
Jon Schindehette joined Wizards of the Coast in 1997 as the website art director. In the intervening years he has worked as the marketing art director, novels art director, and creative manager. In January of 2009 he moved into the role of senior creative director for D&D. Jon is a long time D&D player (started in 1978), and currently plays in a Tuesday night game and DMs a random pick-up game for younger players. He can be found on Twitter (@ArtOrder) and at theartorder.com.
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