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  1. #1
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    Alternative careers?

    So, it's kind of already obvious why most of us are here. We either like art, like making art, or both. I was wondering though (and I'm not sure if there had aready been a similar thread posted about this before), while I take it that most of the people here are studying/working one way or another in the art industry, how many of the others aren't? And what do you guys do? And for those of you guys who could've gone to art school or started a career in art but didn't, do you regret it?

    I can start. I was born in a family of artists (or you know, people who work in the industry anyway, somehow), and I've always kinda sorta knew that it was something I had an aptitude for. When the time came for me to choose my degree, I decided to go in a completely different direction and become a scientist (*is also a huge science geek/nerd), because I thought, hey, I'll always have art in me anyway, right? Now I'm actually in a somewhat advanced stage in my career and whenever I come across some of my friends from highschool who were also part of the art crowd back then, who actually went to art school for college and are now producing all these amazing stuff, and working for all these awesome people, and being part of this... elite art group, I keep on thinking... damn. That could've been me. Every now and then I'd compare my most recent works to theirs and feel just completely iadequate and left behind. Does anyone else feel like this?

    For the record though, I do love my job very much. It's just sometimes, I can't help but think about the shoulda woulda couldas. And also sometimes it gets weird when everyone at work talk about their interests (mostly sports and music) and you can't exactly geek about your favorite artists and comics and whatnots, just because it's not exactly a mainstream interest. So yeah, I guess to me art is kind of like a guilty pleasure/secret life.


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  3. #2
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    Hi Kahel,

    Yep... art is not my primary income. Like you, I drew a lot during high school, but was always that scientist-type geek. So, rather than going to art school, ended up getting a degree in physics and working as a scientist, after college. I would draw off and on, every so often, but the bug about being serious about art work hit me when I was in my late 30's.

    Do I regret not going to art school? Sometimes. However, being a software consultant allowed me to travel around the world and have some amazing experiences (not that I couldn't if I was a full-time artist)... but, it was just easier (since the company paid me to take the trips). Also, I have always found that the grass is NEVER greener on the other side. So, no, I never do wish that I had taken a different road. The current road that I took created me the exact way that I am and I'm pretty happy with myself and my current situation.

    Like you, I absolutely love my job (nowadays, I write software for a neuroscience company). In my spare time, I paint/draw a lot and sell my paintings at various art fairs and to local customers. I like having the security of my software job and the fact that I can make decent money selling my paintings. I usually try to get 2 - 3 paintings done a week and am able to spend about 30 hours per week working on my art.

    Also, at work, I usually help out with the poster/image designs, so I do get to do a bit of art at work.

    Dougie

  4. #3
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    Well, it will be years before I can even think about making money off my stuff since I'm a total newb.

    I got my degree in biology and I'm two months from getting my certification in histology. So basically I work as a Histo tech in a hospital full time and draw/write/be weird in my free time. It's not a horrible job but it can get very repetitive. I do wish people would talk about other things besides how their families are terrible or how their job is terrible. No one talks about art or comics or even current events. Maybe movies once in a blue moon. So I feel kinda isolated from my colleagues.

    I don't really regret not going to art school because I don't think it ever could have happened. I only got back into art at about 20-21 and by then I was in college. I do regret that I quit drawing at age 14 even though I liked it because I thought that using references or looking at things and drawing them was cheating. I realize now that going into an empty room and trying to draw from my imagination is incredibly stupid but I didn't know that as a teenager. I was always frustrated with my crappy stuff and eventually quit. I wasted so many years, especially the years where I actually had a lot of time.

    I'm in a position where I'd like to move forward with either science or art. My job is dead end in the sense that it's more a job and not a career. I'd like to dream that art is a way for me to have an actual career but I know that I need to improve a lot before that becomes possible either.

    Art and science are both fields that are hard to break into and be successful in or at least that's what it seems like to me. XD
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  5. #4
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    I've gotta say, it's pretty cool to find out that there are other people in science here on CA.

    @Doug - That is pretty awesome. Seems like you've found a good balance between art and your work, which is great.

    @Reutte - Yeah I agree. It takes a lot of exposure and quality work before you can even get anywhere near being a household name in either field. Though, I think while for both you'd be needing a lot of connections, with with science it might be a bit more straightforward (in a sense that you either have it or you don't), whereas with art, if you're good at marketing yourself, you might just be more successful.

    I've always been kind of mulling over the idea of applying into an art school later on. I do realize that a lot of great artists were abe to make it learning most everything on their own (and everyone keeps learning even after school anyway), but still, I guess I imagine being in an "instructional" community and being around people who are learning like you somehow makes it easier, or at least more fun. That being said, I worry that maybe by the time I'll get the time to attend art school, I'd be too old for it. -___-;; So the question now is, how old is too old? Art students/instructors/professors, any of you guys ever had older people in your classes? If do, what's the age gap? I'd hate to be the old lady sitting in class with a bunch of teenagers, lol, but I'd probably do it one day.

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    I agree, having scientists on this forum is really cool. I always thought that if I wasn't a freelance illustrator or graphic designer and would have applied myself in school, I would have liked to do something in science. Maybe studying planets or the universe. I think that having a foundation in Science will be so helpful when creating convincing scifi art. Also sometimes its good to have a methodical approach to things. I never went to art school and I don't regret it. It was a choice I made a long time ago and you have to stand by the decisions you make if they were right at the time and not going was right for me.

    Now, I would look to get some tutorage to learn more about drawing and get some first hand help on the inner workings on all the CS programs, but there is a lot of info out there on the net you can get for free. Conceptart.org is a great place to start. I saw a thread recently where people posted up their work before joining CAorg and then some recent stuff. The improvement over time was incredible. Proof that if you practice smart, you really make head way.

    All I will say is that it is never too late to chase your dreams or change your career. I am not telling anyone to do it on a whim but, if you budget and work very very hard, you can make a living off of your art and be more than comfortable. You have to make big sacrifices too. Your life style will be different for a time and having a supportive network of friends and family will help you out as it won't be an easy transition. Luck will play a part of course, it does in everything. Just look at Kevin Smith (film maker of Malrats, Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob fame). He's quit making films to become an internet radio broadcaster. He seems to be doing a good job with the old Smodcast thing... I am sure everyone can think of someone who has made a jump in career and done it well.

    Of course, his situation was very different but he still worked damned hard to do it.

    I quit my job a year ago to become freelance and it has been tough. I'm not the best illustrator in the world but there is more to making money from art than having incredible skills. Learning the business, marketing, testing things and all that back office jazz takes time. For me, learning to sell myself with words has helped get me some cool work doing designs for games and some work on a short film. Its all about selling your ideas through communication. So far, a year in, I still feel like a complete newb but its been fun and looking forward, I am even more hungry for it.

    I would love to know of anyone else about to take the plunge or if anyone has recently jumped into the big pond and has some wicked wisdom to share.

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  8. #6
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    good thread, why not keep the stable job and freelance in your spare time. It's like having your cake and eating to, no ?
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  9. #7
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    That's what I do... I have my stable job and then work the additional hours for my painting sales. I'm still not sure if I want to go to the "freelance" route, yet.

    Dougie

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    Yeah I tried that as well for a while. But then I realized I didn't have the kind of discipline needed for it yet. Also tried to do custom designed sneakers for a bit *insert shameless plug* (http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2084/...e2692ce1_b.jpg, http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2350/...337d8299_b.jpg) but in the end it didn't work out too well for a few other reasons like not having enough time, or being too sentimental, etc. etc. Bottomline I guess is that maybe I'm just not competent enough to be making money off art. And while I don't really intend to go to art school so that one day I'd be able to make a living from it, I'd still like to learn and grow (preferably with others) so that I'd be able to one day maybe feel confident enough to claim that I can make a living from it. Or something like that.

    It doesn't help of course that I'm such a terrible multi-tasker, generally only able to commit to one big thing at a time -____-;;;

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    Nice sneakers.

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  13. #10
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    yea those shoes are awesome !!!

    I did go to art school and I found that the students who studied on their own (not following the current lesson) were the students that did the best. The students that followed the curriculum and did what the professors asked were not that great.

    I'm against spending money on art school until your already making money in the filed or you are really good (technically).

    Art school didn't make artists awesome, they become awesome through their own education and practice.

    @ Doug Hopes, I think you've got the best of both worlds
    Last edited by gruve24; May 17th, 2011 at 10:45 PM.
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  15. #11
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    One of the things that worked well for me was not going to art school. I tried doing the art school bit (more like taking a couple of art classes at the university), but what I found was that I spent 90% of my time in critique or listening to a lecture... not actually drawing or painting.

    So, when I started to learn about oil painting, I found a one week workshop over the summer. After one day of the workshop, I learned more about painting than I did in any university class. We literally painted for 8 hours that day and my work became a lot more professional looking after the first day. At the end of the week, I could actually create a decent painting. The lectures were minimal. It was mainly a lot of brush work and corrections on how to use the paint/brush strokes.

    When I found out that this same instructor (been studying with her for the last 2 years) taught a class at night one day a week (on Tuesday nights) and the cost for 9 months of hands-on instruction was cheaper than one semester at the local university, I never went back to the university. Over the last 2 years, my painting skills have significantly improved.

    So, rather than go to art school, another useful option (that worked for me) was to find a mentor to teach you. The ones that I study with (Karen and Jack Winslow of Cambridge, Vermont) make a living selling their paintings in galleries.

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  17. #12
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    That sounds like a much more financially viable and forward thinking way to learn art. In the UK, going to uni has become even more expensive so looking for workshops and combing these forums for advice is the best way to push your learning to new levels. It would seem that The Art Department offer some good learning opportunities at quite reasonable prices. In fact, if you look around the web you'll notice that there are many places you can learn and find advice to improve your painting skills.

    ...I wish I knew more about science though...

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  19. #13
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    Yeah, well. I wish I knew more about science, also. :-) When I was a scientist for Hughes Aircraft (5 years) studying atmospheric effects on laser weapon systems, I had constant ulcers. The stress was too much. Then, stupidly, I got out of government work and wrote software for large corporations... the stress got too much and decided that that lifestyle wasn't the one for me.

    Nowadays, I get to write neuroscience software for a small company in Vermont. Minor stress (near release dates), but no more 80 hour weeks or having to work weekends/long nights. I can relax at home with the wife and kids and work on my painting.

    My goal is to sell my work as a nice income when I retire (about 25 years from now). No more rat race for me.

  20. #14
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    Interesting, I never really thought about it that way.

    I'm concerned that what I lack most is discipline. Every now and then I'd manage to draw or do something artistic several hours straight. And while I'd feel really productive immediately afterwards, a little later I just get so sick of it that I'd somehow end up not doing anything artistic in avery long period of time. And then later on I'd stress over not being able to draw enough. It's a vicious cycle really, and probably it has more to do with my personality, but then I guess I've always had this notion that being in a form of "school" would somehow fix that. At least, it worked for me in academics. But yes, you're right, having an art mentor would definitely help a lot.

    Science is pretty cool. I'd call myself a mediocre scientist at best, but I definitely enjoy learning. I'm actually in the biologial/medical field. Gentic experiments, growing cells in a plate, poking around superbugs and messing around with vaccine development. That sort of stuff. The one thing I dislike about being in this field is the politics. But then again I guess you'd find that anywhere, even in art communities. Laser weapon systems sound pretty awesome though.

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    @ Kahel - Trying working for one hour or two hours a day rather than going hardcore for once for a long time. I'd do the same thing and then not want to draw the next day because I'd just drawn for hours. But then I realized that between drawing for 5 hours one day then waiting another week and drawing 5 more hours, I was forgetting a lot of stuff and undoing most of the time I'd spent drawing.

    Also the genetic bio/medical field sounds awesome! I love to get more into that area in the future, perhaps cytogenetics but it's hard to get trained as a cytogeneticist.

    Politics like office politics or politics like governmental politics?

    @Doug Hoppes- I'm biased but I wonder if programming isn't even harder than working in science? But I guess it depends on the job you have at the time.
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  22. #16
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    @Ruette: I would assume that Kahel is talking about office politics. I know a number of labs where there's a lot of office politics going on.

    I find programming versus science equally difficult. For science (physics, in my case), it was the mathematics that is incredibly difficult. I always found it amazing that I'm not the best mathematician but I can still solve physics problems. I can see patterns fairly well, but always had trouble doing the low-level mathematics to solve the issues.

    For programming, I actually don't find it that hard. It's more of a logic problem. If you break down the project into manageable parts, each part is doable. The tough that sucks about programming is that, there are times where you tell the computer one thing and it does something totally different (heap corruptions, stack overflows) in a totally unrelated part of the program. Those suck and are very difficult to solve.

    Like art, each is tough and if you want to be very very good at it, you spend a LOT of time working at it.

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    @ Doug Hoppes

    Oh office politics. Where I work we just call it drama. XD

    I'm not particularly talented in the math so I physics will forever be beyond me.

    That's an interesting way to describe programming. I honestly don't know much about it but one of my friends got her degree in CS. So I've heard stories about how one code was wrong and then suddenly her entire program was bust.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reutte View Post
    That's an interesting way to describe programming. I honestly don't know much about it but one of my friends got her degree in CS. So I've heard stories about how one code was wrong and then suddenly her entire program was bust.
    Yeah, but really many things work that way and people are trained to spot mistakes and fix them. You might as well say that being a mechanic is impossible because one component goes and the whole car is bust. Yet lots of people manage to become mechanics and fix cars. You have tools and training that help you figure out what's wrong.

    Also, programming and science are not two different things. Science is a body of knowledge and a set of rules/methods to extend that knowledge. Programming is a tool. Sometimes programming is the tool that science uses.
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  25. #19
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    Lol yeah, a bit of office drama, but that's a given anywhere.

    I meant more like.... there's always this thing with the scientific community. It's almost like high school only maybe less juvenile, I'd say. Whenever someone gets something published, people tend to be always critical about the group where the paper comes from. They look at who you're working with first. Like oh I know that guy, his group is working on this and that and I'm not totally buying it. Oh that journal is low impact factor, they probably couldn't get it through the higher ones and so I wouldn't pay too much attention to that. I don't know, I get the impression that people tend to get vicious when it comes to publications and what nots. It seems like the currency in this field, or the one I'm in at least. Publish or perish, indeed.

  26. #20
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    I'm liking this discussion!

    Yeah, in the science community, publishing is king. The more that you publish and the more popular you are. This leads to more funding that you can get. The more funding means that you get to better equipment and potential to solve the problem faster. More funding also means that you don't have to struggle to find funding, but can focus on the problem.

    One of the things that I usually tell people (I've been writing software for about 20 years... when I was a physicist I wrote a lot of programs for my analysis) is that the main difference between new developers and experienced ones is that the experienced ones (high level) are usually very very good about seeing where an bug is and how to resolve it. The more advanced developers are also pretty good about seeing the big picture and how all of the pieces fit together. New developers tend to see only their own part, not the whole. A lot of this is due to training and a lot of it is due to lots and lots of time on the computer writing programs (same as drawing every day).

    I view that this is the same with doing artwork. Advanced artists are very good about seeing how the whole painting/drawing fits together. They look at the reflected light of the entire scene, how the shapes of one item/reaction of one character influences everything. New artist focus on mainly one thing.

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    True true. I've been in the field for a while now, and often I still get overwhelmed on the amount of money needed to just get a few things done. The fancy equipment, the assay kits, the reagents... If people knew how much we spend in a year, they'd proably be suspiscious of the kind of things we're doing in here, haha. Now, if only our expenses would reflect our pay... lol.

    That I agree with also. I think the same applies in every field, no? What I like about art, is that you can always track your progress, probably more that in some other fields. You can always look back to your previous works and realize that the mistakes you overlooked before have now become glaringly obvious. You basically document your own growth, which is pretty cool.

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