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Thread: Help with lack of drive for my life's career choice?, or, lets talk about passion.

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    Unhappy Help with lack of drive for my life's career choice?, or, lets talk about passion.

    The following is my snowflakey story. I'm mainly looking for advice, but if I can help anyone else, I'll definitely try. tl;dr if you don't want to scope out this essay.

    I joined this website six years ago, and within the first few days I knew I wanted to be a concept artist. Or, I did at the time. You don't really have a choice when presented with that kind of work, especially when you're 15.

    I'm 21 now and attending Ringling College of Art and Design for Illustration- it's second semester of my 3rd year. Next year is the last one. I consider success having a job/having already done freelance work before graduation/ inclusion in important annuals- all of those I've looked up to have had similar successes. Francis Vallejo comes to mind immediately, of course. He was my idol by the time I got to college. His work, along with many others, made me realize what I felt about digital vs. traditional media- I now know I will never be as satisfied with a piece of digital work as I would be with an equivalent oil painting, or print, or anything else.

    So I also knew by then that I did not want to be a concept artist. I did not love drawing and painting creatures, or machines, or environments, and especially not with a tablet.

    My 2nd year was full of experimentation and attempting to emulate the work of my favorite artists. Each assignment was done with a different media or technique. Tomer Hanuka, Victo Ngai, Brad Holland, Sam Weber, Eric Fortune. I went down the list and tried em all out. I'd have tried much more. None of them were particularly impressive. I didn't expect them to be. The underlying reason for doing this was that I had no work of my own. All this time I still do not feel as if I've ever made a piece of work that I could call my own.

    This made me very anxious- all of my heroes had, by this time, been making huge strides in their art and were developing personal and engaging work.

    By all accounts I should have been and should be satisfied. I'm a fairly competent draftsman and one of the better painters at my school. But I had, and still do have, so much envy for my friends and acquaintances who know what internships to look for and know their own work- they just need to work on their work. I've been working on other's work.

    And now, when I should be working my hardest on my work, I am losing my motivation, and my passion. I don't know what I'm working toward. I have vague goals like 'get into annuals', but the path to them is muddled. I feel as if I knew for sure what career I wanted and had a desire to become a great editorial illustrator or a great gallery painter, or one of the many, many other things I could be, I could dive into these goals and tailor all of my assignments towards these goals- work ferociously toward them. But right now, whenever I am given a new assignment in which the media is open, or, god forbid, the entire assignment is open, I have no idea what to do.

    I've built this set of skills and now I've found I don't have a desire to do anything specific with them. I feel like a toolbox, rather than a carpenter. And I'm not sure where to go from here.

    For the past 2 months or so I've retreated into self-help and motivational online resources and I feel like I've learned quite a bit about the problem I'm having but not much about what to do about it. Most advice is to get inspired, but inspiration isn't my problem- I can pump myself up to take action, but my problem is about which actions to take.

    Maybe it all stems from unrealistic expectations- I can't have the success that Francis or James Jean or anyone else has had. And I'm aware that many top illustrators working today were shitty when they graduated. But I have really high standards for myself...

    Sorry for the essay guys. I hope others have had similar experiences.


    tl;dr: I don't know what I want to do for a career in illustration and it is wrecking my motivation and drive, and I hope others here have gone through the same thing and we can start a meaningful discussion on the topics of passion, drive, and motivation.

    Thanks.
    Last edited by drd; February 20th, 2013 at 08:22 PM.
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    Damn dude, sounds rough. We all go through rough periods...right now I'm dealing with some personal shit and depression and it's not fun and I'm barely painting these days.

    The real thing with you though is it sounds like you have absolutely no direction. You clearly have a passion for art, and are pretty good at it from what I can see in your portfolio. Perhaps as you say the issue is that you are sort of wishy-washy with style, which is affecting your success. For fine arts, people want to collect pieces from people that will go up in value. They want their pieces they bought to be a [NAME], and when you look at it, you can just tell [NAME] painted it. You need to be consistent.




    When I look at your site, what I see is a collection of things that are each individually quite nice, but as a collective whole don't hold together. I like some of your still lifes quite a lot, and they remind me of Euan Uglow--nice simple compositions, flat colours, chunky planar things. It's a nice approach, and I like their direction. BUT, then you look at your other stuff. Your portraits each look like they were done by different people (none of whom are the one who painted those still lifes), as you can't seem to decide on stylized or realistic, and a couple of them along with the landscape there looks just unfinished to me.

    Your figure work isn't really sellable as they are all quick sketch things, but they're my favourite stuff by you. The penwork there is phenomenal!

    Your illustrations also are all over the place. Each one individually nice, but each one looks like a different artist. If I were to look at a new painting by you, I wouldn't be able to tell it was you who did it. Take a look at one of your heroes' paintings, and even if it is one you've never seen before you KNOW it's theirs. This probably is what's holding you back from a lot of success...if I were looking to hire you I would be a bit hesitant because I couldn't be sure the result would be what I wanted.

    The thing with style is many say that "it develops with time", "you don't find a style, it finds you" etc etc. While those are true, you also do have to play a role in it as well. What artists do you like? Why do you like them? What are they doing differently? How can you incorporate that into your work? You know what you like, you even listed out a bunch of them. That's part of the problem, you have too many sources you are drawing from (haha puns!). Choose TWO or MAYBE THREE artists, and use them as your guiding light. If you choose just one you will be a shitty mimic of them (ugh so many shit Frazettas), and if you choose too many people to look up to you will be pulled in all directions and be in a scenario like now. The other option is to just forget about all those people for a while, and just paint. Don't worry about style or anything, try to keep it all intuitive without thinking or worrying. Just paint. A lot. You will start to find yourself painting in a certain manner with certain quirks, and then after you can cultivate it and push it in directions by looking at other people.




    Anyways, those are a few thoughts, but ultimately I think the best part of my post is what follows. These are a few questions written out by the great Richard Schmid. Take some time to read through and answer them, and really think about the answer. I think it will be a useful exercise for you right now, it will get you thinking about what you really want to do. Maybe then you'll have more direction and can do something about it. So yeah, just my 2 cents on it all, hope this helps!

    1. Why did you go to art school (or decide to take up painting) in the first place?


    2. Did you think you were an artist before you began art studies, or did you think that learning how to paint would make you an artist after you knew enough?


    3. How do you see yourself now? Do you think you are a "real" artist?


    4. If so, is being an artist what you expected?


    5. What does it mean to be an artist, and how would you define one?


    6. Do you think you are any different than non-artists?


    7. Why do you paint? To get rich? To get attention? For fame or adulation, or because it's fun and sort of elite? Is it a way of ducking out of other ways of making a living?

    8. Do you do it in response to a real need for self-expression; if so, what are you trying to say?


    9. Do you see your job as simply creating beautiful things that people can recognize and enjoy?


    10. Are you happy with the subjects you are doing? Are you painting them the way you really want to?


    11. Does your work reflect your true impulses?


    12. Are you actually taking the risks you would like to be taking?


    13. Are you too chicken to explore certain ideas?


    14. Would you be producing what you do if you didn't have to make a living from it?


    15. Do you reject ideas because you think they won't sell, or because they are taboo, or because people might not understand, or think you were a little nuts?


    16. Do you think anyone gets the point of your work anyway?


    17. And what is the point? Can it be expressed in any other terms except art itself?


    Note: I continue here with some rather philosophical "WE" questions, perhaps best brought up in discussion with others, with my disclaimer or at least apologies for any semantic confusion or arguments that might ensue.

    18. Does what we do as artists mean anything? And what does "mean" mean anyway?


    19. Suppose we do produce work that resonates (for want of a better word) within us, and gives us some certainty that we have really touched upon the stuff of true art. What difference would it make in the long run—especially in a world that often seems largely indifferent to us? (And is it really indifferent?)


    20. Why do we work ourselves silly trying to perfect a painting? Is it to simply have a personal sense of accomplishment? Or is it our actual intention to communicate to others our ideas and visions of what we think we know about life and the world we live in? On a more intimate level, do we intend others to see what we see, and then perhaps feel what we feel?


    21. Do we as artists feel that we have a social or political function? Should our work influence or arouse our viewers toward social justice, or some "spiritual" truth, or environmental awareness, or how beautiful or nasty the world is, and so on?


    22. Or is it our function simply to achieve excellence, the way nature does—without the need for justification or explanation?


    23. Should we work in order to reach a point of virtuosity where painting becomes as easy as drawing a breath, so we can then ease into the pure joy of creating and enjoy it like bird watching or a good meal—as an end in itself?


    24. Is our art perhaps something else, possibly an extension of our relationship with ourselves? Is it self-serving (in a good sense)? Should we indulge in the process of creation as a way of entering into a purely personal and possibly even mystical (I hate that word) situation? (Am I really writing this?)


    25. And is the work that emerges from such lofty thoughts merely a record of that purely private experience?


    26. In other words, should we seek insights so we may paint, or should we paint in order to have insights? Or is there a point to be reached where there is no distinction between those things?

    27. Finally, are we all just grown up kids playing with paint?
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    Sounds like disparity having a fork in a road leading toward two different passions? Fine art vs Concept Art? Being indecisive or changing your mind mid-stream career paths is killing your mojo? Let me just say a LOT of people would love to be your position attending Ringling College of Art and Design.

    After graduating or getting a degree. Family or people will paint a target on you, expect you to have job right away or instantly successful. It doesn't always work that way. Give yourself a year to do soul searching, put some of those theories into practice. School is some what of a shelter to do some experimenting, it is normal to ponder different career paths.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44K8LtEx9uE

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    Last edited by Pigeonkill; February 20th, 2013 at 11:06 PM.
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    "I feel like a toolbox, rather than a carpenter."

    I know the feeling all too well. I have not satisfactorily answered this question for myself, despite having a stable income and my 7th book coming out this year. However, I think a couple of things might help:

    1. Your career doesn't have to look like anyone else's. Especially don't try to follow the career of f***ing James Jean. He's a mutant.

    2. It's okay to not have it figured out when you leave school. School is a time to experiment and shake it up. It often takes 6-18 months after graduation for the pieces to fall into a pattern.

    3. Your sketchbook is one of the major sources for finding yourself artistically. Spend a lot of time working in it, with various media.

    4. Sometimes even if you can't answer the question "what do I want to do" in an overarching way, you can figure out what you want to do right now. And sometimes even if you can't figure that out, you will do something, and then over a period of time you will look back and say , "hm, I seem to be doing X."

    5. I've said it before and I'll say it again (in the words of the immortal Dave Passalacqua, as nearly as I can remember them) - "you do the work, and the industry will figure out where you belong in it."

    Good luck!
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    One thing, whatever you do in school doesn't need to define what you do afterward; and what you do right after you graduate doesn't have to define your career for the rest of your life. Many artists shift the focus of their careers multiple times, sometimes quite drastically... And many people have multiple simultaneous interests and careers (for instance, commercial art + fine art, editorial illustration + concept art, editorial illustration + fine art, children's book illustration + concept art + editorial illustration + fine art, etc. etc.) Art can be a pretty flexible career.

    So don't feel like you're doomed if you don't have a single focused direction now. Very few people have a firm idea of exactly what they want to do with their lives while they're students - or even if they think they do, they're liable to change their ideas sometime after graduation. This is normal. It's part of living and maturing and changing.

    Also it sounds a bit like you're focusing too much on rather vague goals like "getting into annuals/getting famous" - goals that aren't related to what you actually want to DO with your time. Maybe focus instead on what made you enjoy making art in the first place, and what kind of art would you be most interested in making (because that's what you'll be doing most of the time as an artist - making art.)

    Part of the problem sounds like the familiar art school syndrome of getting lost in all the possibilities. Art school is famously the time and place to experiment with as many directions and styles as possible. Which is a good thing, but after a lot of that you can start to feel like you've lost track of whatever it was that made your art yours, or why you ever enjoyed it in the first place. This happened to me by the end of Junior year, I'd been experimenting with everything and anything and had no idea what direction(s) I really wanted to go in anymore. What worked for me was spending summer vacation just playing around drawing things I liked to draw. Of course it was hard to figure out WHAT I liked to draw at first, my brain was so filled up with school influences... But by letting myself relax and forget about "goals" and "styles" and "what I should be doing" and everything else for a few months, I eventually started seeing trends emerging in my random noodlings that pointed me in a direction that I felt was really me. (I can't say a "style", exactly, but at least a general direction... I feel like anything I could call my "style" is perpetually evolving anyway.)

    So that's a possible option. Maybe set aside time during a long break to just play around with whatever art you really enjoy making. It may take some time to figure out what that is - but let go of "goals" and everything else for a while and try to get back to just having fun with art, and you might start getting a better feel for what it is you really want to do.

    Also if you haven't read "Art and Fear" yet, it might be applicable?
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    Quote Originally Posted by mickeymao View Post
    Especially don't try to follow the career of f***ing James Jean. He's a mutant.
    Hehe this is a good point. Another thing to remember with trying to follow careers of others is that you only get to view it from the outside. James Jean makes everything seem so easy, and just seems to find success without even trying. In reality though he has his own set of struggles:
    http://www.jacktiltongallery.com/con...azine-2013.pdf
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    Nobody's career turns out exactly the same as anyone else's anyway, there's just waaaaay too many variables involved... You can try to do everything exactly the same as one of your idols and still end up in a completely different place as them. Because you're not them, doing what they did, when they did it, where they did it, and who they did it with.
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    You know what, you might want to listen to this Marshall Arisman interview.

    http://illustrationage.com/2010/08/1...risman-part-1/

    I suffer from a certain lack of focus, but eventually jumping around from influence to influence started feeling like... get-rich-quick schemes to me. You know, when you're desperate you'll jump around from thing to thing hoping that one of them is what finally saves you. And of course none of them do, because they're either the wrong thing or because you don't stick to them for long enough to make a difference. I had to take a step back and really focus on what I knew and was willing to do for extended periods of time before I was able to narrow my focus enough to get a portfolio together. And even now, I still occasionally need someone to remind me to stick to the plan instead of freaking out because I'm not James Jean yet.
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    People who know what they want to be when they grow up are boring.
    It took me like three hours to finish the shading on your upper lip. It's probably the best drawing I've ever done.



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    dude, I think we all get to this phase in a big way at one point or another, if I'm honest, I'm still there now - but I've come to the conclusion that you don't actually have to be "just one thing" - there are plenty of guys that do outstanding work in various different fields at different times (here is where someone will probably jump in and tell me you should specialize if you want to excel at any one area, but I think you can make it work with moving around between them) a perfect example being James jean, who you clearly, and rightly so, look up to. But hes just a guy. Like you. Contrary to the earlier comment, he aint no mutant! and I would personally say that the only huge difference between a lot of people and their quality of work is the amount of time they are willing to take on a finished piece. It sounds like you aren't willing to commit to a piece as it were, or at least not in as big a way as the guys you mentioned, so I would recommend taking days, maybe more, to finalize a wonderful idea you have in your head, and bring it to life like you want to, on paper, at which point you will say "but that's the problem, I cant think of anything I want to create"...

    to which I say - get inspired. Somehow. Go out, hang with friends, do something interesting, watch epic movies and so on.Whatever it takes to spark the tinder again . I would recommend not watching television too much - I think it dulls us, on some level. You must have had a certain level of creativity to want to study art in the first place (or at least that's what I think makes most people want to do it...I may be wrong) so it will probably just be dormant somewhere (probably blocked by over thinking it)

    randomly sketch. Anything that springs to mind, or even just scribbles - anything could grow into a finished illustration project.

    search on here for the john cleese video on creativity - its awesome and does genuinely help (long story short - let yourself be free to do it, time wise and commitment wise, and things will flow)

    And if you still cant get overly creative, maybe just become focused on something perhaps more observation based rather than imaginative e.g. still life work.

    I think to be honest the biggest hurdle (getting good) is over for you really, your stuff's solid (and i don't say that flippantly - it takes years to get there) so that in itself is awesome - I'm making a wild guess here, but I would reckon minimum 70% of people who start out wanting to be artists give up before they get to your level. I for one got very upset when I realized it would take "unartistic study" of anatomy and perspective before I got halfway decent - I didn't think art was a science at all, which, as far as getting any level of realism into a picture, it certainly is - and so takes hard work and study. Which you have done, so congrats!

    On a final note, please, whatever you do, don't try to "be" James jean or whoever - being a knockoff of someone will just be horrible, both for you, and the viewer (if they are relatively knowledgeable at all) and try not to hero worship too much - I don't think its healthy putting anyone on a pedestal, whether its frazetta, freud or that girl you are scared to ask out.

    oh yeh, one last thing, do work that satisfies you. Life is pleasure based - if you don't get a kick out of it, you probably wont want to do it, and most of the time in art the biggest enjoyment, for me at least, is in the satisfaction of having an end product to treasure. Although I love the process to.
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    drd:
    State in one diamond hard sentence, what your question is.
    Because until you know what you are asking, how will you recognise the answer?
    Take your time... but do it. One question that nails what's eating you.
    It's the only way out... believe me.
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    My advice was going to be focus on getting laid...because everything after that is just details anyway, isn't it? But Chris's advice may be better.

    Kidding aside, I would suggest shifting your focus to one simple question, "What do I want to say?" Or basically what ideas do I want to communicate? Not how, not in what style, etc. but just what am I interested in communicating and sharing with others? TBH I never really come up against this particular wall, I think mainily because I've just always started from the idea side of the equation rather than the technique (which is not to say I haven't run up against many of the common issues we all deal with regarding skill development, insecurities, frustrations, etc.).

    Anyway, maybe that shift to message rather than outcome will help a bit. I'm curious to see if it helps. Good luck!
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    Quote Originally Posted by J@n!t View Post
    People who know what they want to be when they grow up are boring.
    I knew what I wanted to be when I was a kid and never have been accused of being boring.
    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
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