How do you decide what direction to pursue?



  • Yo, SVS people! 😘

    I have a little issue here that I hope someone may be able to discuss. You see, I find myself torn between two certain career paths, both requiring very different skills.

    Part of me screams "I WANNA DO ILLUSTRATION! CHILDREN'S BOOK ILLUSTRATION IS THE THING I WANT!", while the other one is like "ANIMATION! I AM IN AN ANIMATION PROGRAM AT COLLAGE AND I LOVE ANIMATION, I WANNA DO IT!" and it kinda feels like those two parts of me are constantly fighting each other, making it really hard for me to decide what steps I should take next in terms of my education.

    Should I learn more about light and shadow, or should I study acting and movement? I feel like I am at a point where those two paths separate and instead of choosing one, I am standing on the crossroads.

    Have you ever felt that way and how did you made the decision when the time came? Both of those fields are very competitive so I can't really follow the logic here. 😞



  • I feel your struggle, I was in the same boat as you, However the real and unfortunate answer is you gotta pick one for the time being. However with one path chosen that does not mean you can't practice the other. Also the good thing is once you are in the field, from there if desired you can easily transfer to another part of the creative field. One other way to choose is knowing your strengths and weakness's. As an example for myself I can illustrate faster than i can animate a project. Even though I Love both Animation and illustration, Its also going to be a bit easier when you are looking for jobs. I made the mistake of just looking everywhere, Bad idea cause its a big headache. Pick one path, make a portfolio based on that one path, and of course for the job in that path you want. Hope this helps out, I tried to explain as best as possible. Any questions please feel free to message me πŸ™‚



  • One bit of advice I want to offer is that at the time, it always feels like a crossroad, but after you've been on that road for a while you realize that it was never as linear as you originally had thought.

    You might go down one path and feel like it was the right thing to do, but in doing so, learn that you want to go down the other path later on. You never would have known that if you hadn't chosen the first path in the beginning.

    What will happen regardless of what pathway you choose is that you as a person will evolve and develop new skills, tastes, perspectives, desires, goals and any number of things you don't have right now. It's highly likely you will find a way to even blend those two things as you get further into your craft. You might pursue animation, love it, do it for 25 years, then get a passion to illustrate and completely change gears.

    What I'm mainly saying is that I wouldn't sweat it too much. What a wonderful place to be in, right? Loving two things, and you simply have to choose one to do right now, and it by no means limits you down the road is a nice place to be in. And you can always change your mind πŸ™‚



  • You have a great problem right now! Enjoying two artistic endeavors is a good thing. Lots of creative people use one artistic outlet for the day to day job, and develop another on the side. To find some better direction for the short term, I would test your skills against both Animation and Illustration professional work. Which one do you feel you are stronger in? Animation to illustration isn't a big leap if you are a strong artist. Everyone's situation is different, but if money is an issue, I'd lean toward whatever direction you feel you can keep a steady job. You can then keep developing both skills (but at least one will bring a paycheck).


  • Pro

    @IgorWoznicki I studied animation in college. Then worked 3 years in a studio. Now I'm a children's books illustrator. shrug Those two are not as mutually exclusive as you might think! The knowledge I gained of acting, movement, dynamic posing, and drawing characters consistently helps me tremendously in my illustration job. I'd say keep studying animation. You can get an illustration job with an animation diploma, but it's hard/impossible to get an animation job with an illustration diploma. You can learn light and shadow by yourself or with online courses like SVS, but learning animation outside school is MUCH harder. With an animation diploma in hand you can do whatever you want. I know fellow graduates of my school who have gone on to do children illustration like me, work in character rigging or environment design, storyboarding, comics, VFX, producer, fine art gallerist, and much more. One guy in my year now does engravings for a funeral home (like on tombstones). It's really a discipline that opens doors, it doesn't close them.


  • SVS OG

    @IgorWoznicki my advice is to choose one and see if it fits. Since you’re in animation, perhaps it’s best to go with animation and see if you enjoy it. If along the road you find that it’s not, illustration will always be waiting for you. You can learn online. Plus, you’ll have the advantage of having animation skills that will give you a leg up from your illustration competition.



  • I know what this is like. I enjoy doing all sorts, drawing comics, illustration, animation, writing. And because of this my portfolios are lacking. (I'm rectifying that now though).

    So I guess on the one hand is your skills and what you enjoy. I think what others have said about animation skills transferring to illustration being true. Keep upping your skills in art and you'll become a better artist which will help in whatever you do.

    On the other hand is earning money. This comes down to how you present yourself and the service you offer to the world. That's where your portfolio(s) come in. It might seem like short changing yourself, but the best thing to do to get work is to present only one thing at a time - very specifically, and then market it. There's work in every field, and every field is competitive. So this has to come down to the kind of work you want to do.

    The last thing to say is, you don't have to do just one thing. I'm doing web/app development on the side and stock trading to make the bills for example. Last year I did fan art commissions and this year I might do my first children's book! It's all evolving and changing. Hope this helps



  • There is a French artist, because he came to animation very late, who has an unique (and very poetic) way to animate, especially because he has been outside the norms that prevail today in the animation industry / education. He is very successful. When you hear him speak, illustration and animation are not opposite.
    I ll try to find his name again if you want to check his work and path.
    Good luck!

    Edit : Benjamin Renner


  • SVS OG

    I'm not a professional so I'm sure others can advise better but from my own life experience and what I've heard from Jake, Will, and Lee on the podcast, one major thing you want to consider is the lifestyle you prefer. Though I'm sure it's not an absolute given, it seems for example, that most animation jobs involve working with others in a studio while most illustration jobs are working on your own etc. Whether it's in art or in non-art fields, the lifestyle that comes with a job is often as important as the job itself in determining how fulfilling it is.



  • Holy smokes, I never had expected such an overwhelming response! 😱
    Thanks to everybody who took the time to write an answer! I appreciate every single one 😌
    Some of them actually moved me on a realllyyy deep level, especially when @jdubz and couple of other folks said that the path is a great place to be in and that I am lucky to be in love with two things.

    I also really appreciate people like @Ryan-Ehrenberg or @NelsonYiap who mentioned the money side of things...
    Looking at it from the paycheck side of things, I do feel like an animation studio is the safer option that a freelance illustrator's path. Also, when it comes to animation, I already had some clients so there's that πŸ€”
    Well, a thought to chew on I guess and a very solid reason to stick with animation.

    Also, I have some thoughts about @NessIllustration response! I've been bombarded with statements like "YOU DON'T NEED COLLAGE TO BE AN ARTISTS" statements from left and right ever since I started listening to podcasts and interviews and I think you're the first person that has ever told me something that is located on the other side of the fence and basically told me to stick to my degree. Oddly enough, for the past few months I've been considering quiting school, since the animation program that I am in is... noooottt really good. Your comment was like a cold shower, because this thought is gone now :smiling_face_with_open_mouth_cold_sweat:
    Without even knowing it, you kinda solved my other problem. Also, I checked out your illustrations and I am suuuperrr in love with them 😍


  • Pro

    @IgorWoznicki Every situation is different though, and just because it worked for me doesn't necessarily means it's best for you. I was studying in Canada for about $300 a semester and the program was really really good with dedicated teachers. If you're paying $10,000 a year and the program is crap, it may be that's actually not the best investment in your case. Only you can tell πŸ™‚

    As for not needing college, that's both true and false. Certain professions in the art field, such as animation and graphic design, actually do care very much about a diploma and wouldn't hire someone who doesn't have one. In other art professions, it's all about the portfolio. Since I switched to freelance illustration not ONE person has asked me about my education and credentials, not even the agent who wanted to sign me. It's all about that portfolio. BUT! I've noticed a lot of artists who are self-taught or even if they take online courses but haven't been to college, feel like they're not good enough or they're impostors. The truth is we ALL feel like we could improve and we're not good enough artists, but self-taught artists often feel like there's some secret to art that they've missed by not going to college and that's preventing them from ever becoming as successful as educated artists. That's never true, yet I've noticed it can harm their confidence and thus their ability to apply places, send out their portfolio, pursue opportunities as aggressively as they should or negotiate. Obviously, people who do all those things will be more successful than someone who acts like a quiet mouse, even if the skill level is the same. I feel like having studied animation gives me the confidence I need to bursts through doors and take no prisoners, and that's hugely contributed to being able to live from my art. If only just for that, a diploma is a good idea. But not if you have to go in debt $60k for it...



  • @NessIllustration Oh yeah, I know that it doesn't mean it will work for me, however I am super glad you made me aware of the fact, that animation studios actually DO want you to have a degree.
    My program ain't putting me in any loan. Fortunately, higher education in Poland is not that expensive. Also, I got a schoolarship for getting good scores in school which is almost enough to pay for the entire month of schooling. It's just the curriculum, that has suprisingly little animation for an animation program, bothers the heck outta me, but since this degree can be useful, I guess it's worth suffering through some pointless assignments.

    Anyways, thanks for some professional insight! That was really helpful and exceeded beyond my intial questions!
    Cheer, Vanessa! I appreciate the help 😌



  • A lot of people working in children's books /illustrations came from an animation background (Jon Klassen, Christian Robinson, Claire Keane, Molly Idle, Pascal Campion, just to mention a few). I almost think it might be an advantage to study animation for doing children's books.

    Sometimes, it is really hard to know what you want to do until you do it. My experience is to pay attention to how you feel when you are doing an animation project, compare to doing an illustration project. IF you have done a short animation and you have made a children's book yourself. Then you can compare the process, which one do you enjoy more.

    Both animation and children's book is a time consuming process. I think the only way to not burn out is to really enjoy the process of doing them.

    I hope you will have fun with whatever you choose.
    And remember education does not define your profession. You can always change your mind. And if you have worked hard, nothing will be wasted :-). I studied graphic design for my BA, and interaction design for my MA, worked as an interaction designer for about 10 years. Now I am doing children's books. All my past experiences are very useful for me regarding making art, and also dealing with client relations.


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