Quit my job & go full-time art school?
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Thread: Quit my job & go full-time art school?

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    Quit my job & go full-time art school?

    I'm sure many may be in my situation, but here's me, staying up late and thinking things over for the 1000th time:

    I have always loved 2D art, especially concept art & illustration. But currently I work full-time as an engineer, pulling on avg 40-50 hour weeks. The job isn't too stressful exactly, but the annoying thing is, in order to do my job I have to put in a lot of brain power every day. The deep mental dedication required by the work does not allow me to simply pretend to enjoy the job, it requires me to actually "genuinely" enjoy the job (taking "pretending" to a whole new level), which not only further drains me, but is also basically near impossible, since like many of you here my true passion lies in art, and every moment I spend not doing art I feel is wasting my time, life, and soul.

    Basically, combined all together, my daily routine right now significantly drains me. The mental drain has overtime grown so much that it's starting to become physical also. I try my best to draw after work and on weekends, and have even tried to take community college classes, but so far it hasn't worked too well, with very slow progress, which is becoming even slower because I have even less free time now due to increasing responsibilities at work, which in turn drains my head further.

    So, recently I've started thinking about leaving my day job all together, and simply going to art school. I do not know a single artist in real life, and while the internet does have lots of information it also tends to exaggerate or understate many real life phenomenon, so I have no idea whether an article is written by someone overly-lucky & overly-optimistic, or by someone very unlucky & extremely pessimistic. So, with all this being said, I again put my trust in the heart of CA, and listen intently to what you all have to say



    - Are there a lot of people in my situation?
    - I have shown my portfolio to people, and visited some good schools, and many of them, including the instructors, tell me I should go for it. Should I take this to heart, or do most people get this kind of feedback?
    - For people who really work hard in school, spending 60 or more hours a week drawing, how is the 2D job market right now for concept art / illustration?
    - My eventual goal, dream, and definition of "making it" is to work full-time in a studio environment with other artists. Among the people who do succeed as artists, what is the ratio between full-time studio & self freelance? And what is the ratio between 2D & 3D?
    - and finally, any suggestions on what I should do? Keep my job and do art in free time, quit job and do art full time, or something else?



    I'm sure things like this are posted very often, but being the practical me, I wanted to share this bit with you and hope to hear what everyone thinks Thank you.

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    Is there a possibility to cut down your working hours and make it into an part-time job? Then you have more time on your hands and still a steady income.
    Also, what does your artwork look like now?

    I have worked in the engineering field too, I exactly understand what you mean with taking "pretending" to a whole new level.

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    Okay, first of all, I'm definitely in a similar situation. After a full day of writing software and solving math problems, by the end of the day, my brain is pretty fried (not every day, but a lot of them... especially when product roll-out comes near). That said... I also absolutely love what I do for work. No pretending (on any levels). I like solving the logic problems, user-interaction issues, the 3D coding, etc. So, in that respect, this definitely does not sound like you.

    There are plenty of days that I would like to just sit down and watch tv.... just do nothing. However, I have my easel in my living room and deadlines for shows and store deliveries that I have to meet. So, I work on the paintings and drawings after dinner (my down-time after all of the chores are done).

    Like you, I said to myself, a number of times... this would be great... become a full-time artist. Quit work, go to school and then work full-time. Those are times when, in reality, I just want a change from my current situation (a project at work is not going too well, etc). I realized that all I was doing would be to avoid my current responsibilities for some time in the future. So, if I really was going to make it and I really loved doing artwork, I would find a way to do it with my current job situation. I have a goal to go full-time, someday. However, I also have responsibilities to my family that I must meet first.

    My wife has agreed that, if I can meet my salary for three-years in a row, then she would be fine with me going full-time as an artist. That is a goal that I'm working towards. It means a lot of work, now and a lot of time-slicing, but it also means that, when I do go full-time, I'll have a lot of experience under my belt and be much better at time-management.

    No-one can say what would be best for you. The only question that I have is... if you love artwork with your art and soul, why don't you work at it when you get home? Yes, it's extremely tough. Can you honestly say that, if you went full-time, that you would hit the ground running, working and studying a lot, etc... just not in the beginning, but after 2 or 4 or 10 years?

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    There are plenty of people who would like to help you here but it is so difficult when everyone's situation is different. Do you have mouths to feed, people depending on you? Your personality has so much to do with this. It is a difficult field at any end. What are you making now and can you live on less? Maybe we can see some work? It's very romantic to say throw it all away and be an artist but the realities of making a living as an artist aren't so different than making a living doing other things unless you are able to just start painting for yourself. There will still be bosses and people asking for an all nighter. Are you the kind of person who can create for a living and still love it? It's easy to love something if you hardly ever do it but what if you have to do it every day all day. There are a lot of questions for which you need to dig deep to find answers.

    This stuff has chosen me and would never let go. I always wonder if it did loosen its grip a little could I eve do anything else.

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    First don't believe anybody unless they are willing to give you money for your art. There is no job security as an artist. It is important that you become the best artist you can be before trying to get a job as one. The more ability you have, the more money you will make and the more creative your job offers will be. Most people do the opposite and try and find a job as soon as they start drawing and end up getting low paying jobs making crap for the rest of their lives.
    If you want to make a living as an artist, either as a freelancer or in-house artist, you will be lucky to go ten years without changing jobs or being pushed out of the industry you've chosen. So if you decide to become an artist you had better be smart about what your goals are and how hard you will have to work. You have to improve even after you start working always learning new software and techniques staying current with market trends.
    2d art and 3d art are similar skill sets, they each have assets and deficits as jobs and they pay is about the same for the different levels of ability.
    The best thing to do is be an above average generalist in 2d and 3d. Someone who can do a lot of things better than most other people. Even if you can accomplish that, the pay for artists is dropping. I was just at Illuxcon where top industry guys like Todd Lockwood and others were complaining about how the pay hasn't changed or is dropping for the last 20 years. This is across all disciplines- publishing, movie, tv, games and gallery work, with most artists depending on another person to live a middle class lifestyle. By middle class I mean buy a house have a car maybe marry and raise a family.
    Working in house you will constantly be pressured into management jobs if you show any ability where you no longer do art or do very little. Most in house jobs are cookie cutter positions that are easily filled and not very creative. Freelancing you will have times where you won't work for months or take jobs that are not very creative too. You will have to learn to be a good business person and save your money for the slow times. if you don't think you can handle all of those things then art isn't for you.

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    Schools will generally tell you to go back to school: it's their job. Start your research somewhere near the end of the pipeline, and ask prospective employers for their opinion: from what schools do they hire graduates? Are there schools they ignore? Ask the studios, don't ask the schools about the studios. From there, work back: do you like these schools, did graduates like it, ... , how do you get in?

    Grinnikend door het leven...
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    Totally agree with Doug Hoppes. It all boils down to choices. Its a double edged sword. Having a regular jobs gives you a certain level of security and the ability to explore your talents further and get as good as you can get before looking for work. However it means sacrifices along the way. Since I got back into drawing I have hardly watched TV ect. But I don't miss it. If I have spare time I would rather use that for improving my art. It also makes my day make sense.

    Sometimes I wish I could turn the clock back and be at the stage where I could just sit and draw at home all day with no financial pressure or obligations. However, conversely I think a lot of new graduates from art school feel pressure to start making money from their art as soon as possible, as they have invested so much time and money into it before there work is at its best. As Dpaint quite rightly points out the temptation is to start taking lower paying jobs because you are not technically ready to get the jobs you really want or that will pay well.

    As an artist the quality of your work must alway be at the forefront of your mind. Even if that means its a slow process getting to the point where your work is of the right quality and you have to sacrifice things along the way like free time ect. If getting payed for your art asap is the only end goal, then the temptation will be to take shortcuts to get there as soon as possible before your ready and it will show in your work.

    We all develop at our own pace and need to embrace the journey as a life time pursuit, not a few years of study to break in as soon as possible then the best work will start flooding the market. Its not easy coming home from work and having to sit down and draw and create when your tired (well it can be if you really love it enough) or want to just watch a movie or go out and see friends. But if the love of your art is strong enough then you will make those sacrifices and choices to allow yourself to keep getting better. I can't comment on what it must be like to wok professionally, it sounds like it can be a rough ride. But if you have taken the time to bring your best quality work to the table when you do, then you give yourself the best fighting chance to carve out a career for yourself and see where that takes you. Thats how I see it.

    So no one should throw away a full time income easily but try and maximise every spare moment outside of work to work away at improving. I am far from perfect in this regard but as my passion for my art grows the sacrifices are easier to make and I don't even see them as sacrifices any more its just the only way to live life.

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    I agree with the above, keep your job and maybe your artwork will develop a little slower but it's better Than working on your artwork full time living in a homeless shelter.

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    dpaint really hit the nose on the head with this.

    I am an outsider looking in but quit your full time job? As an engineer? What field of
    engineering are you in? I've thought about this myself, but reality is that I my family
    depends on my income. So I would only think about this if I was only the person
    that I was responsible for. So if I was single and had 2 years worth of salary saved up
    and expenses to cover schooling...maybe....

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    Sometimes it's a shame to take the thing you love and do it for a living. It changes everything. Because once it's your job (especially if you're working in a studio with others), big chunks of it are like every other job you've ever had. There's deadline pressure and paperwork and taking orders and assignments you don't like and sucking up to people you don't think much of and meetings and performance evaluations and that person in the cubicle next to you with the awful smoker's cough and your 401K and all that stuff that you wouldn't put up with if you weren't getting paid. Doing art for a living doesn't transport you to a magical land of creativity, unsullied by the grubbier bits of making a living.

    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).
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    If you really want to be an artist for a living, I would try it for a few years before starting a family or anything else because its really hard to do it after you start a family or have other commitments and responsibilities, so much so that I don't know anyone in the thousand or so people I know who are artists that have done it that way. At least none who were the primary bread winners. You could work 20 or 30 years and retire or go part time and then paint after you've set up financially, which a lot of people do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Agro View Post
    - Are there a lot of people in my situation?
    - I have shown my portfolio to people, and visited some good schools, and many of them, including the instructors, tell me I should go for it. Should I take this to heart, or do most people get this kind of feedback?
    - For people who really work hard in school, spending 60 or more hours a week drawing, how is the 2D job market right now for concept art / illustration?
    - My eventual goal, dream, and definition of "making it" is to work full-time in a studio environment with other artists. Among the people who do succeed as artists, what is the ratio between full-time studio & self freelance? And what is the ratio between 2D & 3D?
    - and finally, any suggestions on what I should do? Keep my job and do art in free time, quit job and do art full time, or something else?
    I really think Bills questions/considerations are appropriate in this case - very hard to answer without knowing more background. But I'll share my thoughts anyway...

    I don't think there are a LOT of people with solid careers that are willing to sacrifice them to chase a different dream. Or hell, maybe there are but circumstances and personality prevent them from doing so. Either way it doesn't matter too much - it is common enough that you aren't alone...for whatever that's worth.

    On the portfolio thing...yep, people will blow smoke up your ass all day long if they think you'll pay them...others just want to be nice and supportive. Real feedback will only come from objective professionals in the field you are interested in pursuing. About the best way to gain access to them is through workshops, things like Spectrum Live, animation conventions, etc. where portfolio reviews are offered.

    Job market in illustration and concept art is highly competitive...and illustration earnings have been stagnant for 25 years. It's like a massive pyramid missing most of the blocks below the pinnacle - a few at the top then lots at the base struggling to climb...but with no blocks to climb on.

    On the ratio question it's just too specific to say...and it changes constantly...and at the same time it is different in each case. Definitely no hard data there to rely on.

    If it was me (and it has been), I would keep my job and work my ass off developing myself as an artist in my spare time. I would cut out everything non essential (obviously not family or loved ones/companionship) and stop being tired at night (which for me meant cranking up AC/DC while painting). I would spend my money on good books, DVD training and especially traveling to well respected teachers offering workshops. You can learn more in two weeks from a good teacher at an intensive workshop than you ever will in a few years of school (depending of course).

    Anyway, just my two cents.

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    As Jeff mentioned, I've found the best route to be taking workshops, watching DVD's, and spending most of my free-time painting and drawing (after making time for my wife and the dogs). I'm one of those that'll be retiring in 20 years, so working hard to have a full customer list by then. That way, when I do go full-time, I've already got a base set of customers and an income flow established.

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    Wow, I didn't knew DVD's could be usefull for learning. I think I always had a prejudice against them... don't know why. Interesting thing to know, I think I will buy one from here and try for myself...

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    I know several people now who have done 360-degree career changes successfully, so it can be done. My sister is the most drastic case I know, dropping a long-time music career and orchestra seat to move to the other side of the country, go back to school, and become a librarian. Of course it isn't easy, and of course it's a huge risk. But if you really loathe the idea of spending the rest of your life in your current career the risk might be worth it in the long run, but only if you're okay with a potentially huge drop in income and security. This assumes you can't find any way to ease into a second career by studying in your spare time (which would be the less risky way.) An ideal compromise might be to cut your current job down to a part-time job so you can have more time to work on your second career - though that might not be something you can easily arrange...

    Mind you, what you do may depend on your family situation. Everyone I know who has done the drop-everything-career-change was free of child-raising responsibilities (either never had kids, or was done raising their kids.) If you are still raising kids, you'd probably want to proceed with caution until they've grown up and left.

    Also definitely do your research before taking drastic steps... Jeff's idea of showing your portfolio to professionals is good advice, also research possible career paths and markets and talk to people who work in the areas that interest you, if you can. (And if you do decide to go back to school full-time, research the hell out of schools and pick a good one. Preferably one where classes are taught by practicing professionals. Otherwise it's a waste of time and money.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    I know several people now who have done 360-degree career changes successfully, so it can be done.
    Don't you mean 180? If they do a 360, they'll be back where they started...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Star Eater View Post
    Don't you mean 180? If they do a 360, they'll be back where they started...
    Whoops. Yeah. I always get that wrong.

    Though I do know one person whose career path is so convoluted it's practically a moebius strip. I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up back where he started while moving in the opposite direction...

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    Pffft, I know exactly what you meant anyway. But a scene from 'Last Action Hero' where it was brought up has been ingrained in my memory.

    This scene here actually. I loved the villain played by Charles Dance.



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    Thank you to everyone for your replies, they are very helpful and gave me much more to think about. To tell a bit more about myself, and to answer some of your questions:

    I work in a research lab so part-time is really out of the question. I am actually very young, still single, so no family or mouths to feed, and already saved up for school. However, I'm still cautious, because if I do decide to go to school, it will be very difficult to return to my current field of work if I change my mind. So basically one way or the other, and if I still don't get to do what I want to do even after attending art school is a big fear, because then I would've wasted 2 things. I don't think I'm using art to avoid my current work responsibilities, I simply do not truly enjoy the work. I'm prepared to work 60+ hour weeks if I do go to school, and I feel I'm fine with all-nighters if I do manage to become a professional artist, as it's something I truly love.

    - As for job security as an artist, I heard the amount of full-time positions are actually growing, especially in the west coast area, such as LA's game & movie studios, is this true? I appreciate everyone mentioning the lack of jobs, amount of competition, and how hard it is to make a living as an artist, but I'm just curious ---- does this apply to the average art graduate from all institutions, or does this also apply to the more high end schools such as Art Center? For example, if an Art Center student spends 70 hours a week practicing for 3-4 years in a row nonstop, do most of them still fail to find full time jobs upon graduation? It would be great if a California, or Los Angeles local can comment on this

    - I've also heard the "pyramid" structure often too-- few good ones at top, most getting-by at middle, and many struggling at bottom. Is this due mostly to personalities & interpersonal politics, or purely skill based? I sure hope it's the latter. For example (assuming you are at least an OK, normal person, if not a complete social butterfly), if you can draw as well as say, Craig Mullins, Kekai Kotaki, or James Paick, will you still have trouble getting full-time work, or lots of freelance so it's same as fulltime? Or do people even at these masters' skill level still have long dry spells

    - Currently I'm very interested in very realistic-looking concept art, designing all aspects of imaginary worlds, the characters, vehicles, and environments, including matte painting. As far as jobs go, is this field better than others in 2D art? I'm definitely not looking to become a traditional fine artist.

    - Also, to everyone who replied, it would be great if you can share your geographical location and where you went to school. I'm mainly looking at the LA area right now, maybe San Francisco too, just wondering if work is easier to find in entertainment hub cities, since you can forge personal connections and network really well in person there.



    Again, thank you to everyone for your replies, something to think about indeed


    Btw below are some of my sample works, to give everyone an idea of where I am skill-wise, if you are interested (Edit: actually it would be great if you can let me know what you think about these too. Never took any college level art classes, just did these in my free time):

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    Last edited by Agro; November 30th, 2012 at 02:42 AM.
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    I'm pretty sure that those pieces you show would definitely get you into the school of your choice. As far as work, IDK, As i'm in a similar worry. From what I understand, you are right that the arts and entertainment field is growing, but so are art school graduates.

    I really can't say much for hiring or work, especially since I'm planning on starting school this upcoming summer. I also cannot speak on the west coat either since I'm on the east coast.

    Fudge this AWESOME place!!!

    My SKETCHBOOK: please critique! i can take it!

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    Ah well, that explains things... since you are young and you really don't like what you do, then (if it were me), I would definitely go for it. (I started out as a physicist and did that for 4 years and hated it... so, switched to software engineering).

    For me, I've always made sure that I've never regretted any decisions that I've made. Even if it didn't work out, I would have regretted not trying, rather than failing.

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    Look, I have lived coast to coast and done a lot and taught a lot. I would tell my students if it keeps calling then you have to answer. You are in an ideal situation with no responsibilities but for yourself. You have some money and obvious discipline. If you go into it understanding that your lifestyle might need to change for awhile, you're young, man life is too short. I think any school would welcome you. I may be a little new agey about this but go for the dream. I had an opportunity to go the advertising route or back to school to make art. Thankfully I had people like Brian Froud, Ian Miller and others whose work just kept calling out to me. I would have been rich and retired now had I partnered in advertising but instead I get to paint every day, my weird out there stuff, and talk about art almost every day. I never regret the direction I took. I never feel like I go to work anymore.

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    Reading dpaint's post, it sounds like being a professional artist just about as bleak as many jobs or possibly even worse. That's disheartening but very useful information to have.

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    JeffX99 is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Here's the deal (haven't sifted through latest posts yet)...yes, if you're good enough of course you won't have trouble finding work...that's just nature. And yes, Art Center as well as Academy of Art in SF are great schools. If you do well at these types of schools you will have a solid career. LA area currently has a great deal more "satellite" kinds of schools, ateliers and opportunities happening. SF is still a great area though and has Lucas, Pixar, EA, etc. happening. SF tends possibly to be a little more experimental and "fine arty" than LA. If it was me and I could choose I'd probably head to LA and try to go to Art Center for Industrial Design.

    Edit: OK...read through your post...I would definitley suggest LA...just way more happening there as far as what you're interested in. Red Engine Studios is a great little school (all Art Center grads)...you have Gnomon down there...some great schools and ateliers for traditional study and figure...plus just so many more folks tied into what you like. I'm a Nor Cal boy myself and my main career was/is in games but I've mainly transitioned to fine art and teaching. I've taken a few courses at AAU and have friends at Disney (both animation and actually in the Imagineering Dept as a concept guy) and scattered throughout games and film. There is also a pretty active aeoro-space hub in LA that employs artists...your engineering background may be an asset there as well.

    Your work is plenty solid to get into the schools, imho. The digital stuff is a bit rough but that is eaily overcome...and what you're going to school for anyway! Good luck to you - you seem to have what it takes!

    Last edited by JeffX99; November 30th, 2012 at 03:56 PM.
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    Any reason for specifically majoring in ID? You can learn a ton of technical stuff that way I'm sure, but illustration at Art Center also offers some of the same courses ID guys get like Viscom. Nothing as in depth as the ID major, but yeah. I got accepted to Art Center with a fairly hefty scholarship (half off -- still can't afford, screw you sub 3.0 gpa! and megahigh EFC!) so if you need any advice on what I think your portfolio needs I'd be glad to help. On another note I don't think your portfolio is built at all for ID. Also, ID at Art Center I believe is a graduate level program? Product design might be what you're thinking of, Jeff. I don't think they offer it to undergraduates, so just go with illu.

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    I think they have Entertainment Design, which is like a mix of industrial design & illustration. I think illustration is also ok, as long as i can pick and choose classes focused on realism, rather than stylized art.

    I posted my work samples to give everyone an idea of where im at skillwise currently, definitely do not have an actual portfolio put together yet haha.

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    I don't think you get to pick and choose all that much. It's a pretty defined curriculum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Here's the deal (haven't sifted through latest posts yet)...yes, if you're good enough of course you won't have trouble finding work...that's just nature. And yes, Art Center as well as Academy of Art in SF are great schools. If you do well at these types of schools you will have a solid career. LA area currently has a great deal more "satellite" kinds of schools, ateliers and opportunities happening. SF is still a great area though and has Lucas, Pixar, EA, etc. happening. SF tends possibly to be a little more experimental and "fine arty" than LA. If it was me and I could choose I'd probably head to LA and try to go to Art Center for Industrial Design.

    Edit: OK...read through your post...I would definitley suggest LA...just way more happening there as far as what you're interested in. Red Engine Studios is a great little school (all Art Center grads)...you have Gnomon down there...some great schools and ateliers for traditional study and figure...plus just so many more folks tied into what you like. I'm a Nor Cal boy myself and my main career was/is in games but I've mainly transitioned to fine art and teaching. I've taken a few courses at AAU and have friends at Disney (both animation and actually in the Imagineering Dept as a concept guy) and scattered throughout games and film. There is also a pretty active aeoro-space hub in LA that employs artists...your engineering background may be an asset there as well.

    Your work is plenty solid to get into the schools, imho. The digital stuff is a bit rough but that is eaily overcome...and what you're going to school for anyway! Good luck to you - you seem to have what it takes!
    Hi Jeff, I was doing some more research, and I came an old thread, in which you and some trolls (maybe?) got into a heated exchange. I found the following very funny, interesting, true, and helpful:

    "Of course it would be nice to have a set of "backup skills" - most people do anyway - I worked my through my late teens and twenties as a carpenter and concrete finisher. I have never argued it isn't a good idea to have backup skills - I've argued it isn't realistic to have a degree in a field not related to you interests. The argument that you should get some kind of "core" degree as a backup and then study art is just not realistic. If this was the way it worked that is how people would do it - but they don't. Again, how many industrial designers, animators, art directors or concept artists are also lawyers, engineers and doctors? How many attorneys are in Disney's animation department? I mean, that notion is absolutely so far out I can't believe anyne would entertain it. "

    Hahaha, it's true . Now that I think about it, all the industry stars I admire basically had degrees just in art, they also only did art as a job, or at least art was the only job they seriously dedicated themselves to. While a RARE few artists I admire did have degrees in other fields, I don't think any of them worked their non-art job fulltime for a prolonged number of years. This further puts into perspective my attempt at striving to their level, while remaining a full time engineer

    Again, thanks for your replies, and to everyone as well.

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