Friday, June 4, 2010

Portfolio, Industry Recruiters, Life as an Artist

Last week, Seal attended her art school's senior industry portfolio day, where big-name industry recruiters such as Laika, Pixar, Dreamworks, Illumination, Lucas Arts, and Blizzard were conducting one-on-one interviews on the spot. There were many recent grad students like myself who were vying to break into the animation/film industry. The students were filed into a small room and waited to be sent to the various industry representatives for their respective interviews. As soon as an industry stated what they were looking for ("we're looking for 1-2 concept artists"), all students with the "right" portfolio were called in. Sometimes the line to see a certain company snaked around the corner and your peers could hear your every exchange with the rep during your interview.

Although Seal is very grateful and she personally had a lot of fun, she also noticed a downside for her fellow artists. Unfortunately, these kinds of situations breed what Monkey and Seal calls a "mentality of lack." What I noticed was that many of the students around me were thinking in terms of limitation. Many felt that this "one day" is the only one shot to their dreams, the "be all, end all" moment. Rumors started spreading around, "they are looking for only one artist, etc." Although it may be true for a company to state such a thing, it does not mean that perhaps they will not be looking next semester or even a month from now. I can see negativity in the students' demeanor. One guy in the elevator (whom I did not even know) randomly asked me, "so, . . . how many interviews did you get?" I (don't like thinking in terms of numbers) replied, "I don't know, I wasn't really counting" and he scoffed at me, "I was called into six of them." It saddened me to think that this "artist" defined his craft and himself by how many interviews he had.

It shocked me to see that so many of my talented peers, whom I aspire to, and consider my friendly rivals, were downgrading themselves. They defined themselves by how well their portfolio was received, or how many interviews they had, not by how far they have come, where they want to go, and what they need to do in order to get there.

Although it was intense, I had a lot of fun. I heard a lot of good feedback regarding my work and also how to improve it. I now have a direction to evolve my art. I was so happy to be able to speak with creative directors/ and artists from the all the different companies and had the opportunity to pick their brain and experience. Their knowledge, time, and feedback is invaluable. After all, some of these folks have worked in the field 5-20 years. Although I understand that everyone is looking for a job, would like a job, and would like to be recognized for their artwork, the one-on-one feedback from these creatives for even just one minute - was the most rewarding and important piece of the entire experience.

With all due respect and perspective, when these experienced artists of 5-20 years, see a "recent grad student's" portfolio, they probably come to similar conclusions: "I see potential, but needs polishing."

In these kinds of situations, an artist must have pride in their work for what it is, but also see into the future of their growth. One day, I will throw away everything that is in my current portfolio because I will have grown, my work may change, and I need to move forward and constantly experiment in new ways to best express the images in my head.

There were plenty of people who had talent and a kick-ass portfolio, but the people who really did well that day, who seemed as if they shone above the crowd, were people who believed in their own potential, accepted the situation as it were, and at the same time, had the generous heart to root for their comrades during such an intense situation. A couple of people came to mind, but I was thinking specifically of my friend, Nathan. He was giving everyone the thumbs up, reassuring his colleagues, really, genuinely, was wishing well to all of his "friends and simultaneous competitors." His personally was gold. And the industry recruiters could see that. I'm happy to congratulate him on his new work in the animation industry.

The way I like to look at it is this: There are jobs for each and every artist, it's just about finding the right fit.

Your portfolio, your current skills, who you are as a person right now . . . it is what it is, but ultimately, it can be molded into anything. In the end, you are not defined by your art portfolio, but your character as a person and an artist.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fighting paralyzation

Monkey here, to talk about a recent experience of mine fighting fear/inaction, and how I got out of it.

So the other day (on my day off from my retail job), I was sitting around compiling my list of things to do, and it sort of got overwhelming. It was all great stuff, but I also tend to put huge projects on my to-do lists, which I find I need to stop doing. My list was looked like this:

-rebrand Little Yeti
-finish Hyphen paintings
-digital illustrations
-card designs
-zine fest reg. update

Now while all this stuff sounds good, besides the "zine fest reg. update," these are all quite hefty projects. "rebrand Little Yeti" probably consists of at least 10 hours of design work, 5 hours or so of photo editing, and about a week's worth of me stumbling through html and xml trying to hobble together a working website.

Note to self and to everyone else: don't put items like this on your to-do list. On top of that, my enormous students loans are going to start coming into repayment, and my retail job definitely does not cover them, so I'm going to have to figure out some way to make more money pretty quickly. This anxiety, plus a monstrous to-do list did not bode well, and it just stressed me out and made me sit and stare at the computer screen.

Thankfully, Eve was around to let me talk things through with her, and then I quickly just had to start doing something. I started by throwing away the to-do list and just working on a digital speed paint. Even if it was just a quick little in-color sketch in photoshop, it was the act of creating something and finishing it that sort of broke me out of my slump.

I know I'm extremely fortunate that I have someone supportive that I can talk to. If you don't have someone you can share with, talk it out in the comments below, or stop by our facebook page and drop us a note. We will certainly do our best to send some positive energy your way and some encouragement.

If you don't feel comfortable reaching out, we highly suggest keeping a journal, or writing it out, or finding a quiet place and talking it out to yourself. Just getting all your anxieties and fears and worry out is the first step to overcoming them. When you can "get it all out" and really go back and realize that it's probably not as fatal as it seems, that's when you can push forward and start doing small actions that will help propel you forward towards big actions.

Take things in bite-sized chunks. Although I'm not going to completely rebrand Little Yeti tonight, you can be sure that I might just double-check the typography in one design, or I might make a little tweak here and there to another. It sounds stupid, but really just putting one foot in front of the other works.

Anyway, I hope this helps and keep on keepin' on!

Monday, May 31, 2010

SF Etsy Sampler

Hi everyone! Happy Memorial Day, and we just wanted to announce our selection into the SF Etsy Sampler! This event is a trunk show (with free refreshments) that was curated by the owner of the gallery. From their website:

Special Event: SF Etsy Sampler (Trunk Show)

Date: Saturday, June 12, 2010
Time: 1:00pm - 6:00pm
Location: Artist-Xchange
Street: 3169 16th St

We are excited to announce that the Artist Xchange will host the SF Etsy Sampler, the first-ever SF Etsy Team Trunk Show!

Nibble on free refreshments while sampling the superb work of 20 talented Etsy artists from the San Francisco Bay Area. At the SF Etsy Sampler, you'll find an assortment of awesome art and irresistible handcrafts -- delectable jewelry, terrific textiles, fun accessories, beautiful home decor, fabulous fashions, and yummy bath and body treats.

There's something for every flavor in the SF Etsy Sampler: sweet, spicy, a little bit nutty, rich, dark, or thoroughly decadent.

Artist Xchange Gallery 3169 16th St. San Francisco
June 12th from 1-6 p.m

Anyhoo, we hope to see you out there as we love meeting people face-to-face! We are definitely excited as we'll have some new stuff that's not yet up in our Etsy shop. Wooo!