I've been thinking about something for several days, it's really been tickling at my brain for a long time and I thought it would be nice to open a discussion about this topic and see what you guys think about it
I've been getting more and more work lately and I've also got signed by my agent a couple weeks ago and that really got me thinking. I'm not that exceptional.There are so many artists out there that are way better than me, some of them of course are doing exceedingly well but some of them are surprisingly not! I've been wondering about what it is about an artist that will determine if they're able to make a living at it or not. I have to conclude it's not all about skill!
I think a lot of it is about proactivity and putting ourselves out there. Making a portfolio, sending it out, contacting people, applying to jobs. It seems evident, but as artists we tend to fall into a trap: we doubt ourselves and our own skills. We know our weaknesses and see all the flaws, so it can be easy to tell ourselves that we're not good enough for paid work yet and we need to keep practicing. While it's great to always strive for improvement, I don't see why we can't keep practicing and look for paid work at the same time. There's so much to be learned from actual jobs that you can't learn from personal art. Even building a portfolio to send out is a great experience even if nothing comes of it. You could even get some feedback from professionals, even if they don't hire you! When I think of the most valuable skills I learned as an artist, almost all of it happened while I was working at a studio.
I graduated from film animation 3 years ago, and when we showed our films there were awards given out to the best ones, about 5 awards for 25 students. I didn't get an award, I didn't even get a single nomination! My film was, by any standards, quite forgettable. But I didn't have the opportunity to overthink it and doubt myself after I graduated. I was completely broke, I had stretched the last of my money to finish my studies.. I didn't have food, hell I didn't have toilet paper! I had borrowed 40 bucks from my neighbor to have my business cards made for my graduation. I woke up the next morning at dawn and by lunchtime I had applied to 30 studios. 3 weeks later, I had a job! While so many of my more skilled classmates did not...
A similar thing happened last Spring when I had to leave my job to move to Ottawa. The market is so much smaller here than Montreal. There's only about 5 animation studios, and I applied to all of them and didn't get hired. Then I started to panic! I had 3 months to find myself a way to make money and move my butt to another province. I had no chance to doubt myself, I built a portfolio and sent it EVERYWHERE. Truthfully, I didn't feel ready to be a full-time freelancer, I didn't feel like I was skilled enough to get work. But a couple months later, I had enough contracts to get me started, and I've kept getting consistent work since. Now I can start picking which contracts I feel like doing, and I even have an agent...
I can't help but think a huge part of that is putting myself out there, applying to jobs and sending out my work even if I don't feel confident. Some of the contracts I have gotten so far were ones I was sure I wasn't good enough for, while some others I thought I was an obvious choice for never called me back. I'm reminded of one of @Will-Terry 's videos where he talks about the different kind of paid work there is out there for all artists of different skill and experience level. I keep seeing amazing artists on Instagram, Facebook, even on the SVS forums, who have something great to offer that I know someone would pay for, but they say they still need to improve before they can think of sending out their work, or even build their first portfolio.
Just yesterday a girl on Instagram was congratulating me on getting an agent and saying she'd love to have one too but she still needs to practice more before she can look into that. I check out her profile and she has beautiful work, a consistent and adorable style and thousands more followers than me. The only reason I have an agent and she doesn't is because I applied and she didn't... Or at least that's what I conclude!
So I pass the question off to you, what do you think about my observations? Do you tend to agree, disagree? And if you are at that stage where you think you're still not ready and need to practice more before you can get yourself out there, take a moment to ask yourself: "What is stopping me? What am I waiting for?"
Oh and sorry this is so long ^^'''''' If you made it this far, congrats you are a trooper!!