Life, Career, Calling... ?



  • Hey everyone!

    This may seem like a loaded question, but how did you all "fall" into your current career? Are you aspiring to do something else or satisfied where you're at?

    I'm 25 and been in the same job since I graduated from college with an art degree... doing absolutely NOTHING related to art. It's frustrating. I want out, but have no idea exactly what I want to do, but I know there is something that I am called to do. I love illustrating, love painting. What is out there?! Do I teach? Do I try to break into the Children's Book Industry? I scroll through job sites every afternoon trying to figure out exactly what's out there for me.

    So, what do you do? How did you get there? And did you always know you wanted to do that?

    I'm really excited to learn about you guys! 🙂



  • @Kaela-McCoy How serious are you about being an artist? I always liked art, but never thought of it as a viable career, (i was badly advised as a kid, although perhaps thats unfair, as im 39 the world was a different place back then, especially where i grew up.) Im in healthcare, (which is alright really, dont hate it) and probably now due to my current wage i couldnt realistically give that up to start again in an art industry, plus id have to move area, relocate family etc. My only hope now is to get good enough to go freelance in some capacity if i want any future as a professional artist. Im not sure im that bothered though, i love art, but the job thing could kill that passion. Imagine drawing stuff you had no interest in, all day every day?
    If you are serious, you should probably find the crappest job in some vaguely creative place, anything at all, immediately give up your current job, and then work up from there incrementally. The longer you stay in any job, the harder it becomes to leave. Good luck!



  • That is a big question. There are so many paths to take.

    I went to college for illustration. I knew that I needed to work in a creative field and at the time my dream was to be a concept artist/character designer (like so many others). I also dreamed of being an editorial illustrator and a childrens book illustrator and author. But at my core I knew no matter what my job needed to be creative.

    I graduated from college and dove head first into freelancing. And it was really hard and I was naive and had 0 work ethic because I'd never had a full time job.

    So eventually I got a part time job at a paint and sip place being an art instructor. And worked on my portfolio in the off time.

    I got rejected a few times applying to game studios.

    Then I applied for a fairly random position as a studio artist at a design and fabrication studio that primarily work in the hospitality industry. I was really really lucky. Really really lucky. My portfolio, full of cute whimsical illustrations, was NOTHING like the studios abstract, high brow aesthetic. But I got an interview and got the job.

    I've been here for over 2 years now, making art that is nothing like my personal work. I still fantasize about going freelance and becoming an illustrator. There are days when I am miserable making abstracts or random photo collages... but if I step back and think about it, I'm still getting paid to create artwork and I am so grateful for that experience. Is it what I want to do forever? Absolutely not. I am not in my dream job.

    Someday I will freelance again. I will write and illustrate childrens books. And I will support myself on my personal art. It's never too late to start if you have the need for it. And for me, art is a need. I do not function without creating.


  • Pro

    @Kaela-McCoy I always drew all the time since I could hold a pencil, but was told from a young age that an art career was impossible. That you could only be an art teacher or a starving painter. It wasn't until I was 17 that I met an illustrator at my high school's career fair. He talked about his work doing illustration for advertisements. That night I went on Google and researched all the different art careers. Children's book illustrator, comic artist, animator, graphic artist, colorist, tattoo artist, concept artist, etc etc. There were so many possibilities I was never ever told about growing up. I never looked back. I went to college in visual arts then switched and got my diploma in film animation. 2 weeks after graduating, I starting working at a mobile games studio as a 2D illustrator and animator.

    I stayed there 3 years and that seemed to be it for me. But life took an unexpected turn. After 3 years, I had to leave my job to move out of the province. I looked for a new studio job in my new city for months, but there weren't as many studios or opportunities there. I wasn't able to find a job so out of desperation I started looking for illustration contracts. Children's books contracts, portrait commissions, part-time remote gigs, whatever I could get my hands on. It was scary not to have a plan B or a net to catch me, but it did light a fire under me. I couldn't fail, I had to pay the bills. I was sending blast emails to every publisher I could find or researching the freelance life every waking moment for months. By the end of that year I was able to make a comfortable living 🙂 And I ended up liking freelance illustration so much that when a studio contacted me with a job offer... I surprised the heck out of myself when I found myself refusing it!

    I'm all set now, I have an agent, recurring publishing clients, and an online shop that has grown to half of my total income. It's not easy to make this happen, but it's definitely possible if you have enough drive. I suggest you start researching the career possibilities and the business side of things. So many talented artists are never able to get into the industry just because they haven't researched it enough and don't know anything about the business side. Start there 🙂



  • @gavpartridge Thank you so much for taking the time to respond! I have often worried about the same thing - that doing art for money would kill the passion.
    But when I do get little creative outlets in my current job, I am so, SO much happier. I love to paint and have just recently gotten into illustrating. I am not sure if my
    passion for both would persist if I did it day in and day out, but I do know that I NEED to use some sort of creativity in my "day job". Thank you for your service in healthcare, especially now!



  • @Kaela-McCoy lol, cheers, but dont thank me, ive missed the whole thing as im off sick with a ruptured achilles, literally contributed nothing, im housebound same as everyone else. Good time to do it really! Yeah i wish i had a more creative job sometimes, i keep looking for opportunities, but truth is i think i could only really be freelance anyway, the thought of sitting at a computer at a desk all day leaves me cold, i could do that in my own house probably but not in a studio somewhere. Even then i'd miss the people,in my current job i meet about 20 new people a day and this lockdown has highlighted to me that id miss the face to face interaction. Its frustrating, we need more lives, one isnt enough.



  • I'm in a very similar position to you so it is interesting to read everyones replies. I'm 24, have a degree in illustration yet I work full time as a finance officer - probably one of the least creative jobs there is! I am working on my portfolio in the evenings and weekends but it is definitely a struggle sometimes when you're mentally tired from work.
    The plan was that I was going to drop to part time at work so I could focus more on trying to break into the children's book sector, as my partner was supposed to start a new job soon and be earning more. However coronavirus has pushed back his start date at his new job so I will be working full time a while longer!
    I live in a place where there is not really any in-house art jobs (except for graphic design and teaching art which I am not really interested in) so unless I relocate, I think freelance is my only option!



  • @EliaMurrayArt I can really relate to you! I majored in Graphic Design/Studio Art and ended up hating graphic design - at least the work I was doing at the time (my professor only approved of "modern and clean", but i like more whimsical styles.. like you'd see in children's books).

    I love to hear stories like yours - how you just took a shot even though you felt "unqualified" and got the job! Even though it may not be your "dream job", the fact that you still get to create every day is very inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing.



  • @eriberart I know where you're coming from - 100%. My current job is similar to yours.. paperwork, files, meetings, BLAH. Not very creative. It pays the bills, but I am definitely longing for something more. I wish you the best in going part-time to focus more on children's book illustrating. That's amazing!!

    I get so frustrated, because I'll do a good drawing and get all excited, ready to focus on illustrating. Then I will reeeeeally struggle with a painting and get discouraged. I wish I had the confidence to pursue my dreams like you're doing!



  • @EliaMurrayArt I love hearing stories like yours, where you just went for it! Even though your portfolio may not have matched what they have, you took a chance and proved yourself! I understand you not wanting to do your current job forever, but that is truly amazing you get to create every day. That's all I want - to find something creative where I will be able to learn and grow and be taught by my peers. I want experience! What that looks like for me, I have no idea yet.



  • @NessIllustration Thank you so much for sharing your story. You definitely inspire me! Fear of failing holds me back, and I know it does for a lot of others, too.


  • Moderator

    I'm in a bit of a different boat than most of these folks. I'm 51 and I have a Master of Fine Arts in Theatrical Costume Design. I have a 5/8ths benefits-based position at a local private university, where I've designed costumes, managed the costume shop, and taught classes for the last 20 years.

    But. The nature of the work and how it's created is evolving, and I've simply burned out. Working for 20 years at a part-time adjunct job that would be full-time anywhere else is just... If I'm going to work this hard, I'm going to do it for myself.

    Anyway, I'm trying to use my part-time job to my advantage and develop my drawing skills as much as I can so I can supplement my income with a part-time illustration career. And then eventually move over. I have my first portfolio review through my local SCBWI chapter this weekend, and was contracted to do an album cover before this whole Covid thing happened, so that's been pushed back.

    I'm hoping my experience collaborating with others will lend itself to collaborating in a publishing environment. Because wow I've worked with too many truly clueless directors that had no plan whatsoever and continually changed their mind until there wasn't any time left, and if I can get through that I'm really hoping I can work with Art Directors. I don't feel like I'm changing my career entirely, just changing the course of the river to flow in a different direction. It's still the same river.

    Because I really like drawing. But it's not a "happy escape" place for me, so I don't think I'll lose my love of it. It's very clearly a skill I need to develop for future jobs, just like learning tailoring skills or cobbler skills or hair/wig styling.

    I just need to keep practicing and practicing and practicing and do more and more prompts and personal projects. I just gotta keep doin' the work, you know? Because I'm old enough to know I don't know anything. And I have a LOT of work to do to catch up to young whippersnappers like you all. 😉


  • SVS OG

    @Kaela-McCoy hi! I was around four when I realized I wanted to be an artist but since I knew no one in our small time who made art for a living, I kinda opted myself off of that dream. When in I was in high school I wanted to go into Animation but Animation was too expensive where I’m from and we just couldn’t afford it. So I took the sensible route and studied Civil Engineering. I was in my third year when I realized I hated Engineering and really wanted out. However, my family had already spent too much for me to back out. I no choice but to push through it. It was like hell, being forced to do something you don’t want. But I guess I’m lucky in a way. I discovered what I wanted early on and still had a lot of time yo shift my career.

    My suggestion to you is to do your research in the various art industries. Find which speaks to you the most. Which job do you not mind working day in and day out? Which option is the most financially viable for you? Perhaps you want to make art but you don’t want a client directing your every move in which case being a gallery artist is for you. Perhaps you want to make art in a structured environment with secure pay, then you could join an animation/graphic design studio. Or perhaps you just enjoy making art, you don’t mind a client telling you what to do every now and again, and you prefer to have full control of your time and which projects you want to work on, then the freelance route will be great for you.

    I wish you all the best in your journey.


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