Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Unsolicited Advice!

...Always the most fun to give. Although it's not entirely unsolicited - I was recently asked by a young reader to share advice about art careers and life in general. Asked for my two cent's worth, I then proceeded to commence a pennies-and-assorted-change bombardment on a massive scale. It's mainly common sense, but as that's frequently in short supply and never provided by our education system, I thought I'd post my 'I'm-getting-old-can-you-tell' ramblings here. Enjoy!

What advice would you give someone who was looking to go into the art field, or really any type of career?
Most of my classmates in art college were there because they loved to watch cartoons and play video games. So when their high school guidance counselor asked them, 'What do you love to do? That should be your career!' They said, 'Oh, cartoons and video games - I should be an artist!'
Wrong. If they had spare time, odds are they'd be watching TV - not drawing. Loving to watch TV is not the same as loving to sit and work on drawings for hours. This seems obvious, but so many kids fail to make that basic distinction. It's like if someone loved to swim in pools - and then made the mistake of thinking they must also love to install chlorination hardware. Except one could likely get a job working with pool equipment if they were even moderately bright and a little motivated.
But a career in art, especially in non-commercial independent art, involves passionate commitment and grueling work. If the person doesn't love that work, they'll be very disappointed as soon as they realize fame is not imminent.

Here's how to choose your direction in life:

(1) Become Good At Doing Things.

What do you enjoy *doing*? This should be an actual activity, one that involves work, effort, and personal satisfaction. If you don't know what you like to do just yet, that's okay - but be doing SOMETHING.
You may learn what you like by finding what you don't like. I did professional studio animation and freelance art for a year after college, and utterly hated it. But I was still doing something - and it's essential to get in the habit of targeting and accomplishing goals, of being active, and of striving to do your best. Just as long as you are in fact doing something.
Learn to be effective. Even if you're working at McDonald's, then kick ass at burger flipping.

(2) Know What You Want.

This actually comes second, after learning to do things. A lot of people know what they want in life - big houses, leisure, respect. But if they aren't good at doing things, they'll never get what they want, so what they want doesn't really matter.
Once you're good at doing things, then you're mobile, you can take action, you can take yourself places. And THEN it's important to decide where you're going. If you're in the habit of doing things, you'll have a good chance of knowing what you enjoy and are good at doing. If not, then you at least have some basic interests - everyone does. Research and pursue your interests with vigor so you will learn, within that arena, what precisely you would like to do.
Think about what you want your life to be like - but be realistic, visualizing unicorns and golden mansions never made a lazy man rich. But with an informed picture of the world, think about what kind of life you would like to live - what ideals would you embody, what work would you enjoy, how would you change things for the better, how would you feed yourself, how much do you want to earn, and how can you be worth it? Once you get a clear realistic vision of what you want in your life, and you're in the habit of doing things, you can start doing things in the direction you want to go.
One note, though - you spend nearly your entire life on the road, not at the destination. So make sure that not only do you want the destination, but you want and will appreciate the road you're taking.

(3) Strive. Fail. Learn. Strive. Fail. Learn. Repeat.

Being relentless is essential. Far more important than talent is persistence. Everyone fails, unless they're taking easy street, which generally goes nowhere. So don't be discouraged by setbacks. Get used to failure - it's not a bad thing. As long as you learn from it, and don't let it permanently demoralize you. Life is hard and painful - you'll need to build up your willpower to get through it. So when you get knocked down, get back up again, and keep at it. For as long as it takes.

(4) Be Happy.

Like I said, life is mostly working towards your goal, not getting it. So learn to enjoy your work and yourself, and even learn to enjoy tackling problems the best you can. Generally speaking, most people will have a pre-set level of misery in their daily life. Even if things are going okay, they will still find something to be unhappy with, because they've subconsciously selected their level of happiness.
Happiness does not come when problems are gone, or with success, or from a spouse, or approval, or from anything else. You will never find happiness. You have to learn to create it, and then you'll have it by your side to help you weather the storms.

And that's about it for advice - that, and read. People smarter than you and I have written books, and we can benefit a lot by taking advantage of that fact.

...I would consider turning the above content into a book all it's own, but I think I'd be violating the copyright on Brian Griffin's "Wish It, Want It, Do It."


SerafinoDragonTamer said...


Awesome advice! I can't wait to go into Aerospace Engineering haha "P


FABYocca said...

I liked the very early on section about "What do you like to do? That's your job! WRONG!" part because it makes sense to me

I see people in my Creative Writing class who say theyre there because they "Love to read." Its funny since my reply is "Well I don't!" And my they drool over my 5 mins of work while i use their terrible papers to clean my unmentionables.

Sukotto said...

Dave, would it be viable to say that I study animation because i love to make stories and drawing too?

most of the people in my class study animation because it's easy/they like anime (lol)