Art's not a real job....

The American dream - work hard in your classes, graduate from school, start work in your field in a junior position.  Work hard, impress your boss, and gradually get recognized for your ability until you are a thought leader in your field.


About that...

Your parents were probably right - art is not likely to work out that way for you.  If that's your definition of a "real job", then you are absolutely right to exclude visual art.  There have been a few, very brief periods in American history where that might have been the case, but it has never been very obvious when it was happening, and it's basically not happening now.  The last time was probably the concept art boom in the late 90s and early 2000's, and schools are still catching up to that and pumping out students at a rare old rate, even though the red-hot market has mostly gone away.

ILM is doing a "Star Wars Challenge." right now.  They won't say it's to hire people, but if you talk to their recruiters, you will be told that the challenge is the only way they are sourcing it's to hire people.  Four THOUSAND people signed up for the challenge.  Those were people who felt "ready" - even assuming 75% of them are wrong, or won't do the work, or whatever, that leaves 1,000 qualified, talented concept artists competing with each other.

Those odds qualify as "lottery-esque", not "actionable."  You can never plan on getting a job that way.  You can try, and you probably should try, but you can't build your life around "I'll work hard, fight in an arena to the death with 999 other people, and then things will be good!"

You say, "But Seth, ILM is the top of the mountain!  There has to be stuff that's not as high profile!"  You're right.  There is....and because their standards aren't as high, there aren't 4,000 people, there are 10,000 people.  You can't plan on that either.

Why am I being such a downer?  Because I want you to love what you do.  Just because this isn't a real job doesn't mean you can't eventually succeed - just that you can't build your life around *when* you will....and the only people who make it are the truly passionate.  We are reaching the point where skill isn't enough, companies have to see the love too.

I went to a "Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way" panel at SDCC one year, and they said they loved hearing these stories, because every time someone found a way, the industry made sure it would never happen again.  They laughed, but it's true.  You can't plan your way into this industry, and if having a plan is important to you...this isn't the right place to work. 

You have to paint/draw/animate/model because you love it.  You can't do it because you want to make money.  If you love it, you'll network with other people who love it.  You'll have passionate conversations about the nature of design, and how people need to stop making "Steampunk <xxx>" and do something original.  Without getting too mystical, you'll start generating an energy that will draw you into the world you want to be in - but it won't work the way you 'planned', or wanted it to.  I can't tell you you'll work at Disney in 5 years...I can tell you that the people I know who are passionate and love making their art do find a way to get paid for it....but not usually how they expected at all.  You gotta, gotta, gotta love the process, because the destination is a constantly moving target.

Keep climbing the mountain of mastery my friends, keep your head up and your heart bright.  Acknowledge that this isn't a "real" career the way your parents thought about it - but Hell, it seems like the entire American dream has imploded anyway, you might as well do what you love :)

Thanks for reading, as usual :)