Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Don't Be An Artist

I used to refer to myself as a "Visual Technician".

I somehow did not think that the word "artist"... as most people perceive the meaning of the word... really applied to what I was doing.

I guess I thought of myself as a cross between a "technical artist", and what is generally perceived as an "artist". But I came to realise that I was a foolish fool... that it was just a matter of semantic. Not unlike "comics" or "graphic novels".

You will notice that I never refer to comics as "graphic novels".

I understand that some are trying to make comics more respectable/acceptable to the general public by calling them "graphic novels" instead. But to me.... calling them "comics" is quite acceptable. So I made the choice at some point to not fall into the trapping of calling them comics "graphic novels". Comics are comics. So I call them just that... comics.

So "artist", "cartoonist", "illustrator", "technical artist", all those terms and others I fail to mention do describe what it is that I do.

But for the sake of discussion... to keep the discussion simple... let's agree to stick to the word "artist" for this blog.

Don't be an artist.



How can this be??

It depends on the type of person you are. Sometimes, on projects, I see people who should have perhaps chosen a different carreer path than becoming an artist. Here are a few examples.

If you are an insecure person... don't be an artist.

On each project I have worked on... there always were a few people who were terrified because they did not know what they would do at the end of the project.

In some cases, the fear will grab them a month or so before the end of the project. In other cases.... from the very first day on a project... they worry about what will be their next project after the one they are barely starting to work on.

Some people are constantly terrified of not finding a new gig.

If that is your case... if you need some sort of job security... Don't be an artist.

If money is important for you... don't be an artist.

There are times when you can make a lot of money as an artist.

There was a time when I was making more money than anyone that I knew. More money then even my bosses at the time, thanks to the amount of scenes that I would make. Even those I knew who had more "important" jobs did not make as much money as I did.

I can tell you that many who had other more "important careers" were green with envy that I was making more money than them from drawing "silly little cartoons".

And I even saw many who "improvised" themselves as artists to try to make some of that money.

But there are times when the money just isn't there.

When the animation industry crashed in Montreal... many people had to settle with lesser paying jobs. There were a lot of artists looking for work... and there were just a few jobs for all those people.

So many had to settle for lesser jobs.

Directors had to settle with making storyboards. Designers had to settle with being clean-up artists. And some artists had to settle with making photocopies or such jobs to keep a foot in the studio.

And many others.... once the money was no longer there... simply changed carreer. Some went into banking. Some went into printing. Some went to make websites. And some went to work in various shops or fast food joint.

It happens. So if money is important in your value system... don't be an artist. Because when the money isn't there... odds are that you will simply change career and go do some other job.

If you don't like networking/job hunting... don't be an artist.

As an artist.... you are constantly expanding your network and looking for your next gig.

So your networking skills and job interview skills are constantly needed. And you must be prepared to always be making some new business contacts, and constantly be meeting new people.


10 years ago.... I had a pretty big network of people who would offer me work... or who I could call to try to find out who was hiring at a given time. But when the animation industry crashed... a LOT of them contacts just disappeared overnight. And those that remained were so busy trying to get work for themselves... that no information concerning who was hiring would be available.

So it was back to square one, and it was time to rebuild my network.

It happens.

So if you don't like looking for work and for new contacts... don't be an artist.

If you can't adapt easily...don't be an artist.

As an artist... you constantly need to adapt.

Adapt to a new project, a new style, a new studio, a new working method, new technologies, etc.

Even if you are always doing the same job... you still will need to adapt.

For example... even if you are exclusively working as a painkiller... you might need to adapt your style to the project you are working on. If you are penciling Superman on one gig, then on your next gig you move on to drawing Batman... although you are still doing essentially the same job... penciling... you still need to adapt to the needs of your new Batman project.

You would not pencil the Batman comic with the same approach as you did the Superman comic. You might want to use more shadows/black areas, more textures/etc.

So your ability to adapt is always needed. It is always challenged.

I have seen many good artists who could not adapt to a new project. To a project that was not done in their style. Heck I remember on Arthur a guy who I thought was a GREAT artist, leave the project after only a week because he simply could not do it.

It happens.

So if you like to have some sort of routine and always do the same thing.... don't be an artist.

I could probably go on and on with reasons NOT to be an artist...

If you like to work from 9 to 5, from Monday to Friday...

If you can't draw 80 hrs a week...

If you don't like solving problems...

If you give up easily...

You get the idea.

Being an artist requires a lot more than just talent or the ability to draw. Talent alone won't do it. You need talent, perseverance, the ability to adapt, the ability to solve problems, the ability to build a network...

If you have all of those... then you might have what it takes....

... to be an artist.

- Pierre


Chris Nye said...

Agreed. Experienced all of what was mentioned ehre and the bizarre ebb and flows.......It can be rough. Heck, Dick Giordano told me last year that he wished he had gone into a different line of work!! And I thought he was pretty darn successful!

It helps to be versatile, computer-savvy......and open to new projects. And it's STILL tough.

So why do I love doing it so much?

Pierre Villeneuve said...

Hi Chris,
Yes it is a rough ride... which is why you better love what you are doing.... because too often... that's all you get in the end.

When your motivation is to love what you are doing... you are not to devastated if the money, or job security, or any other reward isn't there.

And success is different for everyone. What might seem like a success for one.... can be a big failure for another.

It's alway very personal.


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