How to get a job as an artist/ animator
Getting a job in which you can draw and animate is as challenging and as time consuming as creating drawing and animation. Whether you are new to animation or extremely well educated, it is a challenge because it is so sought after so studios have the ability to be choosey.
So where do you begin?
1. Do your homework
I’m not just talking about your literal homework…that was all practice for the real world. Your assignment…find as much out as you can about the industry you are going into. Know the difference between a work for hire, salary, temp to hire, freelance, and hourly work. There are several outlets for animating/design/ and art besides the entertainment industry, two of the most expanding being in education, interactive gaming, social media, and medical fields.
Do not limit yourself to just working at Pixar or Dream works, because you will find it difficult to break into any of those fortune five hundred companies without some serious experience and everyone has to start somewhere.
2. Get constructive criticism
Everyone is so afraid to show their work now a days, especially if the person has a reputation for being a master at there craft. However, no matter positive or negative, you need to take every word into consideration that they say, because they are experts and know what they are talking about. I once showed storyboard artist at blue sky who had over 25 years experience at Disney prior my portfolio, which I had spent most of my college life building…he flipped through all ten images fairly quickly…replied I had talent but he would rather see 100 sketches than 10 fully rendered paintings because the only thing he could learn from ten paintings is that I could paint, but to be a storyboard artist you must be able to draw anything, and quickly, vs. a painting which could take several hours and the viewer has no way of knowing how much effort went into it. So, go seek these people out. They are almost always more than likely to respond to message or email. If at all possible, find them in person. Always better to make a real personable connection.
3. Get to know companies and their culture
If your heart is set on animating, really do your research about not only what is thriving currently but which companies within that field are doing the best, which are making a comeback, and which are falling behind. It is important for your progress to note this as well. Also talking to people within the industry will give you fast insight as to how you might fare in similar shoes. I was told by a woman who worked at blue sky that it became difficult during there weeks of overtime during the summer where sometimes the workload was 80 hour weeks in which she would arrive at work around 4 am and leave at 6 pm and would only get a few hours a day with her kids and husband before having to do it all over again the next day. If your not a hard-core fast paced environment person, that doesn’t mean you can’t be an animator or an artist, it just means there is a different job for you. Other design projects take months or years to produce…maybe you rather do something that requires long term developing as opposed to fast turn around times. But you won’t know that until you get to know people and see what they say, and than ask yourself “could I do that?” “do I want to do that” “how good would I be with that”
4. Think outside the box when applying to jobs
Everyone that knows me knows I am creative, but they also know my creative ways of getting jobs. How do you ask? Call it being open-minded and unafraid of rejection, but I choose to look on craigslist and linked in every day. Why? Word of mouth often travels faster than ads; because ads usually cost companies money and the second they go up they are bombarded with hundreds of emails. Look not only in the creative classifieds, but in other ones that are related such as television/ entertainment, or art/design…you will be surprised sometimes you will hit gold.
Linked in also is huge! If you are impatient with waiting to be discovered as I was, you will start recruiting recruiters and headhunters yourself. If not just them, you will also recruit people within the industry you want to be a part of. It is really important because in entertainment especially, it’s all about who you know so name recognition may help you, either by being associated with people or by being a big deal all by yourself. You will be surprised sometimes when an art director or a big shot producer sees your stuff and likes it. It is possible; you just got to get out of your shell and show them your serious!
5. Sell yourself
Sounds like this is a negative thing right? Not really…because lets be honest, if you can’t tell someone with full confidence why you are going to make them money, why would they invest in you and your talent? Put yourself in there shoes…if you were hiring an artist or animator…what would you need to hear in order to consider them? What would you need to see? What is of value to you in your employees…? Once you answer that, become those things…present yourself like you fell out of the sky as the answer to all there artistic needs. #1 out of everything though, let the work speak for yourself…and than when asked speak about the work. Don’t mess up the order because these guys can quibble about how great your art is with you all they want but they are there to find the most profit with the least amount of risk. And nothing refutes risk quite like a badass portfolio and a great track record of completing assignments.
6. Portfolio evaluations
Every two years, you should be creating a new portfolio. You are not the same person you were when you were in college, and the only way your work will evolve is if you push yourself further. But this is a little bit different than that. So make a new portfolio, and keep in mind what others are submitting. There is a blueprint as to what these companies look for and they are all different. Find out what it is and get to work. If you wouldn’t frame it on your wall it probably shouldn’t go in. It’s okay to be picky and if you are unsure ask a stranger.
7. Wear more hats
Companies want multi-talented employees because it saves them money and it makes it easier to have in house people solve problems than to further recruit assistance because they know you are capable. So be sure to advertise that you are not only a master artist but you also learn programs quickly and you are good at writing. You will make waves and spark more interest and admiration from your coworkers if you take on multiple tasks outside of your job description. The extra brownie points won’t hurt you.
8. Social media
People can’t hire you if they don’t see you. Social media is becoming a new inexpensive way to market your self as an artist. USE IT! There is a huge following of animators and artists in the entertainment business on tumblr AND blogger so go friend them, see what they are up to, what they post about, how they describe there work flow and daily lives, and get yourself hooked into a new community. I will never forget the day that the head of Disney Storyboard department Paul Briggs started following and commenting. Sure enough we linked up via linked in and he invited me out to Disney studios for a tour anytime I am in the area and gave me some expert advice I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Seriously…get blogger if nothing else. Facebook pages also a plus.
Some people complain that you can’t afford class or have a lack of supplies. And yes, you know it can get expensive but honestly the only one keeping you from moving forward is you. Go to the park, the store, a café…there are free models everywhere. Any scrap paper napkin and pen will do. Just practice. Doesn’t need to be final rendered works. People back in the day before computers had such fewer resources and they pioneered ways to create depth and motion that nobody else has. If they can do it without the internet and fancy supplies so can you. But if you have or need the internet, LYNDA.com has great tutorials. If your aim is more for 3D animating, you will need Maya…but student versions are often available for reduced prices and are just as good. There are lots of free tutorials out there so paying 50 grand for a year of school is often not necessary.
10. Don’t give up
This is the biggy! True story I’m going to tell you, my first year out of school was HARD! I had a dream of going to grad school in Cali for animation and landing my dream job within just a few years out of school. But I learned that the world had another plan for me.
I was doing animation mentor and balancing a fulltime design job. It was a lot of new programs to learn and I was getting burnt out…so I quit my job, thinking that was the reason that I wasn’t exceling in 3D animation. I learned that wasn’t the issue either. I didn’t pass my class so they placed me in the same fundamentals class again. I was starting to get frustrated. I dropped out after three weeks and with little advancement in my skills…and I realized I didn’t feel like an artist anymore. I felt very lost and in place of my passion was anxiety from not only quitting my job to advance, but also by not advancing. Did that make me a loser, a quitter…was everyone right that I was destined to be a starving artist?
Something snapped and I said…”NO” this is not going to be it for me. I did not work my whole life for this to stop here. So
I applied for hundreds of jobs, everyday searching, redid my resume, created new work comps for every interview or inquiry. I was hunting…and than I started hunting in NYC…and landed four interviews in one week. To which I received two offers, and to one which I accepted.