A lot of artists I’ve come in contact with over the years have asked me a lot about my journey from 9 to 5’ing it to being a full-time artist. So after the advice I’ve given I finally decided to sit down and blog about it so that all can see and bypass a lot of hurdles along the way. Nobody loves free information more than me so I might as well do my part in contributing. I’m going to try to cover as broad a range of art/photography as possible without sacrificing too much career-specific detail. Also a lot of you may already be generating revenue with your art but there may be tips in these blogs that can help you out in reaching the next level. While no two careers in the art industry are identical I’m going to try to help you organize the chaos that is the professional art world so you can build your own prototype in your head before execution.
Now there are two ways to pursue a career in art, freelancing or being on staff. I’m going to hit them both but mostly freelancing in these blogs due to the way this field is changing. Companies are turning to freelancing more often to diversify their talent pool. Most artists I talk to don’t like a 9 to 5 or a boss anyways and I can relate. Back in the early 2000’s when Disney traditional animation was just coming out of its golden age they had expressed interest in me and offered me a scholarship. I graciously declined. People called me crazy but I just couldn’t see myself, an untamed artist, being just being another cog in the Disney machine. Plus I knew I wanted to be my own boss if I was to undertake a career in art.
Now while these how-to blogs might help you land a job at an animation studio or the like you really have to consider how you want to work and create. So basically we’re going to start there. Take out a piece of paper, imagine how you want your art career to look, and write it down. I know it sounds cliché but it’s a crucial first step in commanding the universe to meet your demands. What kind of art do you do? Do you want to travel? Can you think of a few clients you would want to work with already? Write it all down. Just like any other pursuit in life you’re going to have to form goals concerning your art career. With that said trust me I understand the common artist attitude. “I’m an artist and the world should just recognize my genius and come looking for me.” That right there is the reason you hear the term “starving artist” all the time, lack of linear focus and goal setting. But that’s not going to be you right? I’m going to get guru here real quick and say life is short, you go from egg and sperm to dust in about 8 decades, but your art can live longer than that.
And it’s your job to make sure it does . . . so write your goals down because it’s going to help you pave the way. I set my first month goal at five commissions. And I got them. It works. When you’ve written your goals down it’s time to really objectively look at what your art and what you’re capable of. A lot of artists stop here because they feel their work isn’t good enough. They lack esteem and are timid to put their art in front of too many eyes. I’m not going to baby you, you have to get over that. Some stuff you’re just not going to be able to do simply because your heart isn’t in developing that particular skill set or whatever. For instance, I’m an illustrator. I’m self-taught except for a few animation courses. I’m not the most proficient in Illustrator, Photoshop, Quark, etc. but I’m great with concepts, storyboarding, character design and other stuff. Recognize your strengths so you’ll know how to market them correctly. Recognize your weaknesses so you’ll know when to turn down jobs that may hurt your progress.
There is a market for exactly what you do. Being honest with yourself brings you closer to tapping into that market. I love storyboarding personally and look forward to doing more of that.Some people might like doing funny Spencer Gifts type of humorous cartoons for cards. But as they say different strokes for different folks. It’s ok to be versatile but every artist knows which style they really lock into to communicate their message when they create. And just like the way the universe works, it all starts with you. The books and the resources I point out in this how-to are just channels for you to promote you and your work. And here’s a little bit of information I’ve discovered during my journey as an untamable artist – people are more inclined to buy the art IN ANY FIELD when they know the artist’s story and like them.
People buy art but more importantly they buy the artist. You can have one piece or style in your portfolio that blows people away but when people like you it makes your whole portfolio look better. And to prove this, some of my pieces that I put a lot of passion into weren’t well received until people knew my story, then all of a sudden the pieces they weren’t showing the most attention to we’re looked at as genius . . . like I didn’t do that piece 4 years ago. Your work has to be good, damn good, but that’s subjective . . . reputation is key. Next part in this series is going to be a list of resources, websites, books, and other stuff you’re going to use so stay tuned.