Welcome to the post where I divulge all my mysterious secrets to becoming an artist. The hints! the tips! Your guide to becoming a breakout unprecedented success, yacht owner and all around Money Bags.
With 4 easy low payments of $59.95 you will receive my master lecture series of 5 VHS tapes. Together, we turn ‘Starving’ artist into ‘Swimming-in-cash’ artist! I give you the foolproof roadmap, put together by today’s rocketeers of the industry, to propel you into stardom!
13 simple steps, broken down into 50 easy to remember phrases, It’s the information they don’t want you to know! Now strap in, slip on your sunglasses and get that hand ready to sign autographs for your frothing fans!
Sign up now and receive one FREE master pencil and virtuoso pen.
How can you expect to draw like a master if you don’t have the same tools as a master?!
Take the plunge today and go from ‘aspiring’ to ‘inspiring’!
Ok now that I got that out of my system.
Let’s start this by saying there is NO easy way to becoming a successful sought after artist (I’m still working on it). There is no shortcut, there is no secret, no insider info, no ‘correct’ tools, no ‘proper’ process, no ‘winning’ style, no, nope, natta. Unless your uncle or grandpappy owns a studio and brings you in as a favour to his estranged relative, you’re probably outta luck.
I have to admit, I really don’t care for the ‘aspiring artist’ term. I don’t fully understand where it starts and where it ends. Am I an aspiring artist until I get my first paid gig doing a drawing? Or until I get a job a studio? After that am I no longer an aspiring artist? If I lose a job am I back to being an aspiring artist?
The same kind of goes for saying you’re an art student. I hate when I see people applying for an art gig and stating specifically that they are a student. What point does it serve? Sadly I feel it only allows a company or individual to invent reasoning to pay you less since you are just a ‘lowly inexperienced student’. It’s like stating you feel you aren’t worth the same as someone who is not a student. “I really want a good artist, but you know, I just don’t want to pay much… oh! I know, I’ll just get some ‘student’s to do it”. I’ve met COUNTLESS ‘students’ who were miles above me in their artistic skills. I felt they could get and do any job I could, yet seemed limited by this ‘student’ title stigma.
Since I never went to school, I obviously never went out of my way to say I was a student, yet just like everyone else, I was trying to figure out what the hell I was doing (still am). I have never been asked about my education, or lack thereof, when applying or getting any of my jobs or contracts. The thing I love about this industry is how much relies simply on what you can ‘do’ and who you are. I really feel that you taking courses, or attending an institution have nothing to do with you applying for an art job or contract. That information should play a very limited to non existent part in the process of your inquiring or acquiring of contract/freelance work.
Let’s say there is (A) who has education at a prestigious well known school, but presents a very sub par animation reel and (B) who has no education but presents a demo reel of animation that surpasses all others. Who would you go for? My guess is whoever seems best for the job. This has nothing to do with whether or not you should go to a school, more on recognizing you are an artist from the get go. If you have developed the skills to get work while going to school, then BAM you are an artist, plain and simple. Not an ‘art student applying for work’, an ‘artist applying for work’. If you are self taught and built up the skills to apply for contracts/jobs, you aren’t an ‘aspiring artist applying’, you are an ‘artist applying’. At least that’s my opinion.
Well that first bit went on longer than I planned… What is this post supposed to be about again?
Oh yes! Tips and le Tricks!
So for the rest of this post, let’s go point form and take a peek inside what I like to call:
‘Cale’s magical drawer of various things he’s learned, seen, thought or heard thus far!’
In no particular order:
You have to draw. A lot.
- Kind of a no brainer but really the biggest piece of the puzzle.
- If you want to become an professional artist, you need to develop the skills of a professional artist.
- Remember in this industry so much is based on what you can show and what you can do.
- I don’t think any tip, trick or skill can help you if you aren’t prepared to sit down and just draw, draw, draw.
You have to keep working to improve.
- As an artist there is always room to grow and you should never stop working at it.
- Keep pushing yourself, experimenting, and trying to learn/grow.
- Don't get bogged down in a style, try new things, do some life drawing, expand that juicy brain of yours.
You need to be able to take constructive criticism and grow.
- None of us enjoy hearing what is wrong with our art, BUT, we need to be able to take criticism in order to learn, grow and make our art better.
- It doesn’t mean you need to take what everyone says as the word of Zeus. It just means you need to be able to distance yourself enough from your art to be willing to hear other’s feedback.
- A lot of the time I haaaate hearing the feedback I get, not because it's bad advice, but because I know they're 100% right and I have to make the changes they proposed. For the good of the illustration!
- Constructive crits can be your best friend in the world for getting better and making a piece shine that much more.
No time to be timid about showing and sending your work.
- Once you have your portfolio, send it out!
- I’ve found you can’t be quiet and shy, hoping somehow, somewhere, someone will find and contact you out of the blue.
- You need to market and sell yourself!
- You can be the greatest artist in the world, but if no one knows you exist then what does it matter.
- Apply! Inquire! Poke! Contact!
Do you exist on the internet?
- There are countless ways and places to post your work for free these days. You really have no excuse not to have any web presence.
- This is the exposure you should be doing. Not the kind where you do other people’s work for the promise of exposure.
- If I look you up and can’t find you or your work anywhere, I’d say it’s not a good sign.
- Get on instagram, or tumblr, or twitter, or facebook, or snapchat. Try to use these sites as a resource to get your art out there.
- I personally think it’s always nice to have a place where you can point people to see a nice curated page of your portfolio, such as a simple clean website.
- No one wants work in order to find and see what you do.
Don’t just ask questions for the sake of asking questions.
- While there are always questions we need help with, I find that I get asked a lot of questions which feel like no brainer or common sense things. Things where I want to answer "Have you heard of google?"
- I'm all for helping (as I think are most working artists) but would just say to try and find answers for yourself first. If you’ve tried all the methods you can think of and are still unsure, then email and ask someone.
You have the internet, use it.
- Research for yourself, don’t rely on bugging people for easy answers, or in hopes of non existent shortcuts.
- There is so much information and so many resources at your fingertips, take advantage of it!
Don’t fear rejection, learn from it.
- None of us want to get rejected, but it’s honestly just part of the industry. A lot of the time it’s not personal and the best thing you can do is try and learn any takeaways from it. Are they looking for something specific? Was I lacking anything? Should I work towards something? Etc.
- Recognize that rejection is not the end but merely part of the path, and certainly not a sign of failure. Just think of it as getting all your 'No's' out of the way to get to your 'Yes'.
- Rejection is a wonderful thing because it means you actually stepped outside your little bubble and put yourself out there. It’s a big step forward each time and if anything should be applauded as it's a lot more than most do!
Be professional otherwise how do you expect to be a professional.
- An email or message saying “Look at my work” or "hi tell me what you think" is the opposite of being professional.
- If you are emailing a professional for advice or applying for a contract/job remember to be professional! Type in full sentences! check your spelling! Be gracious and be courteous, as these people are in no way committed to even reading your message, nevermind replying to it.
- If you do receive a reply from a professional or possibly client, for the love of god, reply back to them to at least thank them for their time.
Advice is meaningless unless you put the work in and use it.
- Just be sure to really digest any info or feedback you gather before going and asking the same questions to someone/somewhere else.
Is there an area calling to you?
- If there is an area you really want to break into then you should research, ask solid questions to those in said area, and approach the places you wish to work in search of any advice.
- You will most likely want to build up a portfolio specifically for that field (ie. Storyboarding, animation, childrens illustration etc)
There is nothing more hilarious than an artist with an ego
- It’s a rare sight, but regardless I’ll say there is no place for egos here (or anywhere for that matter?)
Learn from the good, learn from the bad.
- Not all of my working experiences have been great, but I’ve definitely learned from both the good and the bad.
- Whether it’s what not to do, what to watch out for, or what to keep in mind, the bad cases do offer some good takeaways, you know, once you look past the terribleness.
Are you in it for the money?
- Insert laugh track here.
- Obviously you have to be doing this because you love it. That and because you are by all accounts, insane.
But in all seriousness, you are worth more than exposure.
- No, we’re not in it for dreams of McDuck sized money pools, but we do deserve to be fairly paid for our services. Student or no student, aspiring or not, you deserve to be paid for any work you do.
- Promised exposure is not being paid. Promised royalties if the project takes off is not being paid. The honour of 'bettering' your portfolio with some loser’s project is not being paid.
- Don’t waste the skills you anguished over year after year to attain, in order to give them away for free to some inept person or place that wants to take advantage of them.
A contract to hug and hold.
- If you are delving into the world of contract/freelance work, then it’s not a bad idea to write up a simple basic contract to cover your butt. Moving forward with absolutely no contract in place is risky business, and not in the Tom Cruise 80’s kinda way. You don’t want the client to dump the project 90% through and get nothing in return.
- Also remember that you should never deliver your final files until you have been paid, unless you have a solid contract in place. Otherwise they got what they need and there’s nothing in place to force them to follow through with paying you.
There is more out there than just what you know.
- Don’t forget there is a wild array of opportunities for artists these days. From games, to mobile apps, to shows, to movies, to design companies, to children's illustration, to education, to commercial work, to editorial work, to who knows what?!
- While it’s great to have your sights set on one thing, it can be smart to check out what other options exist along the way. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Don’t forget about the little guys.
- I think big studios can be awesome, BUT, don’t forget about the small studios too.
- While big studios can be amazing, they can also have a lot of red tape, resistance to change and a fury of meetings to discuss meetings. Not to mention everyone and their golden retriever wants to work there. On the opposite side, small studios can sometimes be a breath of fresh air.
- Usually smaller studios are more willing to experiment and try new things in order to find their place.
- I enjoyed getting to dip my toes in numerous areas in a small studio, since being one of a few artists, you needed to jump around to what was needed, from character design, background design, to animation and UI. A nice way to try a bit of everything.
- I feel that smaller places can be overlooked when people have Mickey Mouse ears in their eyes, and they may even be stepping stones on your journey to get there.
Just because you got a job, doesn’t mean you should stop growing.
- Don’t forget to keep working on your skills even if you’ve landed a full time gig. While it’s fantastic and high-five worthy to get that gig, it’s never a bad idea to keep working on your portfolio at the same time. Sadly fulltime jobs can abruptly come to an end, and having your skills nice and sharp is always a good way to step forward out of that ugly situation.
- I am also a firm believer in always fitting in time for some personal art, as nothing feeds my soul and recharges my creative juices like personal work.
Baby steps can still get you to where you wanna go.
- We’re all in different life situations and naturally not all of us can just squirrel away to draw 16 hours a day in order to attack our dream of being a professional artist.
- With jobs to work, families to raise and many other responsibilities, it can be hard to find any time, but I think it’s always important to remember that even baby steps can help you get there.
- If it’s just drawing for 15 minutes a night, it’s still progress towards getting better and reaching that goal.
- Never laugh in the face of baby steps!
It’s different for everyone, stay on your own course.
- We are all on our own path and a lot of the time we need to be reminded of that.
- Don’t get caught up in what others are doing, how fast they got there, how much success they have achieved, or all the other ways you can compare yourself to them.
- Aside from hopefully getting some motivational drive, comparing yourself to another offers very little positive help on your journey.
- You are you, and they and them. Just concentrate on you.
- Don't forget to celebrate your goals and achievements, be them big or small. Every step forward is a step you should be proud of.
- While of course most of becoming a professional artist is based on your talent and skills, I do believe being positive helps along the way!
- Why is a studio or client going to hire you if you yourself don’t even believe they should?!
- Obviously none of us are going to be full of positive glory all the time, but just don’t be a full on negative nelly. (sorry nelly’s out there)
You’re a person with a personality
- Who you are can be as important as how skilled you are when working at a studio.
- You are in a place full of collaboration, meeting, and working together with other people. If you are constantly verballing putting curses on people and staring through their soul, it may be tricky to fit in a studio environment.
- That doesn’t mean you should be someone else (unless you are like the above example), it more means to remember recruiters are alway thinking about their studio culture while hiring. They gotta work hard to avoid hiring them poison apples! ...Don't be a poison apple you guys.
But what about the tools?!
- Dammit Cunningham! You don’t want to get too caught up in specific tools early on.
- If you need to know what software to get just do your research (Photoshop, manga studio, harmony, flash, 3D studio max, etc).
- If it’s literal drawing tools, remember there are no magical perfect pencils or pens (except the master pencil and virtuoso pen 4 payments of $59.95). A good artist should be able to draw as good with a $100 pen and pricey paper, as they could with a crayon and a napkin. If you’re having fun trying different tools that’s totally cool. Just don’t get too caught up in what every other artist out there is using. Concentrate on drawing!
- Since they are more common now, I would also say that you don’t need a super expensive wacom Cintiq right off the bat. Yes they are great and if you just have loads of money jammed between your couch cushions then go for it, but otherwise I would suggest a simple tablet or something less expensive to get you started in digital painting.
Remember to have fun.
- At the end of his behemoth post, the one thing to never forget, is keep having fun doing it!
- Remember why you started, and what makes you happy about doing it, as it’s the fun that made you decide to dive into this ridiculous and crazy industry!
You got this.