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    Need advice on how to reach my artistic goals

    TL;DR I'm a CS major but am trying to make art my profession. I have more interest in it and just got the CS degree for the money. Below are my overall artistic goals and possible paths I've thought of that I can take to try and achieve those goals:

    GOALS:
    - Become a freelance artist with an emphasis on character design and illustration.
    - Land a job/contract as an artist in the entertainment industry, more specifically in the gaming and animation industry
    - Pay off $70,000 worth of student debt within the next 5-10 years
    - Go back to school and get mentored for art & design, either through online schools, ateliers, or a top art & design school (if I manage to get a freelance business off the ground or get into the entertainment industry before this, then it won't be as necessary)

    Path #1 - Software Development:

    This is the most probable path for me if I want to get paid well as soon as possible, and it's the path I'm currently striving for. The problem is, I don't know what I'd have to do to get a software dev job. I have coding experience, but I don't have a portfolio, and I've heard that a portfolio is necessary to land a job as a software dev.

    Anyway, with this path, I'd hope to at least make $60K a year, and then spend as much time as possible outside of work to pursue art and starting a freelance business. One major problem I see with this path, is the fact that I may have to commit a large chunk of my free-time just to learn the necessary information in order to land a software dev job. This would slow down my growth as an artist considerably. Although, I head that once I land the job, it doesn't really matter whether or not I study coding and programming outside of the job. So, theoretically, once I actually land a software dev job, I can spend literally all my free time on building the necessary art skills to be successful with my freelance business.


    Path #2 - Game Development:

    Essentially software development, but theoretically harder to get a job through it. At least, that's what I hear. I hear people say that it's harder to get a job as a game developer because "everyone wants to do it." Also, game developers probably aren't as high in demand compared to software developers, since game development is pretty niche compared to software development.

    There are two things that separate this path from the software development path: This would go in line with one of my goals, and I actually (sort-of) have a portfolio for game development. I'm developing a game right now, and it should be presentable and test-able by the end of this month. The thing is, I don't know if I should continue to pursue making games after I'm done with this one. I mean, I can, but one of my major goals is to become a professional artist, and I don't know if I can do that if I'm spending time coding games every day outside of work. If I code games as my full-time job, then that'd be fine, but if I'm sacrificing my free time to do it, then it becomes more of a problem.


    All-in-all, game development may be a slightly more probable choice for me mainly because I have more experience with game development as opposed to software development. Despite this though, I'm still primarily aiming for a software dev job.


    Path #3 - Technical Artist:

    This is a path I sometimes forget about, but is very plausible for me. This job is essentially someone who tries to bridge the gap between programmers and artists in a game dev company. Things like Rigging, Shaders, Lighting, Rendering, Texturing, and any kind of programming/scripting that would better help the artists' workflows are possible jobs for Technical Artists. Unfortunately, I don't have much experience in any of the jobs I've listed, and I also heard that most tech art positions require at least 3-5 years of experience in the field. So, not really sure how I'd get into it, but it's definitely something I'll keep in mind, as it all seems very interesting to me.

    Path #4 - Pursue art right now with a "regular" day-job to fund my studies:

    Very plausible for me, but the biggest drawback would be, if I'm not required to commit that much effort to my day-job, then that means my day-job probably isn't paying all that well. I have a temp job right now as Data Entry, but it's only paying okay ($16/hr) and I won't have it for too much longer. If I'm going to have a day-job that I don't really care about, then I want to at least do SOME problem solving in it.

    Like this Data Entry job for example. I'm technically required to just enter the data manually into the system, but as a computer scientist, I know better than that. I've coded some scripts in AutoHotKey to do the job better and faster than I ever could, and because of these scripts, I've been able to progress through the job much fast than I would have without the scripts. If I feel like I'm not solving enough problems while on the job, then I'm going to find more problems to solve.


    You don't have to read the rest of this post if you don't want to. The following is just some background on me if you need to get a better idea of why I'm trying to pursue these goals:

    Ever since I was a kid, I've always wanted to be a professional artist or performer of some sort. While growing up, I've dabbled in many different 3D modeling and animation software, messed around in image editing software like Photoshop and GIMP, tried to get into photography for about a year, tried to get into video editing for a good three years, tried acting for half a year, gave competitive gaming a good two and a half years, and made many attempts throughout my childhood trying to get better at drawing, and it wasn't until a little over a year ago when I started to draw everyday consistently.

    Not once did I ever consider getting into programming when I was growing up, not until college at least. I went to a particular college in my state because I heard they had a really good film curriculum, and I started college around the time I was really interested in film editing. After just a semester in it, I was starting to really worry if I actually had what it took to be a filmmaker. It just didn't seem like I had nearly as much dedication as the other students there. It also didn't help that I really didn't know anything about movies. I just enjoyed the editing part. So, after that semester, I switched my degree from Cinema and Photography, to Computer Science. CS wasn't all that exciting to me at the time, but I wanted to go through with it because everyone was telling me it was one of the "better" career paths compared to other ones.


    To my surprise, I actually kinda liked it. I though the idea of essentially getting a computer to do what you wanted it to do was really cool, and I could see the potential in programming at the time. Now I know that potential is incredibly vast, and in the end, I'm glad I went through the curriculum and got my degree. I don't think it was a very good curriculum compared to others in the US, and I don't think it was worth the amount of debt I put myself in, but at least I had obtained new skills by going through it. I had invested enough time into coding where I now have a pretty good idea of the fundamentals, and can make simple software/scripts.


    Would I say that I like coding more than creating art? No. Would I rather drop coding all together and just invest as much time as possible into art? Also no. I still do enjoy coding, to an extent. I'd just rather create art as a profession, or at least help others create art.


    So that brings me to my dilemma. I'm trying to be good at two seemingly opposite skill-sets. I tell other people about my desire to do both, and they usually tell me to focus on one over the other. I'd like to focus on art more than programming, but I also feel that it isn't as "financially viable" as programming.


    Anyway, any advice would be appreciated. Also, any suggestions on other possible paths I could take would be nice.


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  3. #2
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    Programming is creating. Don't doubt that.

    Pay back your loans, do art on the side, and get on with it. FFS don't get some regular "day job" and piss away your degree so you don't have the art chops OR the experience to keep yourself afloat.
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    Idk why “day job” is always the last option people want to take. It’s the easiest unless you were born rich. Day jobs don’t have to be boring or useless. Newsflash: most people have regular 9-5s and then work on their hobbies on the evenings and weekends. It’s not shameful or a bad way of doing things - it’s the most realistic.

    edit: I’m in agreement with modi, just to be clear. A day job shouldn’t be a waste of your education.
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    Also, planning for life is mostly futile. Take it as it comes. I had a great job in my field for a year, then three completely unrelated jobs in rapid succession over 6 months (a mix of bad luck and literally illegal practices - currently suing one of those companies), and now I have a job in my field again. It’s a subset of my field I swore I would never ever do, but it pays well and I enjoy the work a lot more than expected. I have free time to pursue all kinds of artistic hobbies now. I couldn’t have planned for any of that.

    finish what you started but don’t make concrete plans right down to how much salary you expect. Economies change, circumstances change, your interests change. Or you could be like my partner who got hit by a car and spent a few months in a wheelchair making perlerbead art because he had nothing else to do
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    Quote Originally Posted by modi123 View Post
    Programming is creating. Don't doubt that.

    Pay back your loans, do art on the side, and get on with it. FFS don't get some regular "day job" and piss away your degree so you don't have the art chops OR the experience to keep yourself afloat.
    I don't doubt programming is a creative process. I just don't want to ONLY code. I'm fine with coding for my job and resorting to art during my free time for now, but I don't want to be doing that for too long. I'd put up with it for 4 years at most.

    Also, I know I shouldn't be getting a lower paying job, especially since I have a CS degree. I'm just often not confident in my ability to land a dev job because of the lack of software I've developed.

    Quote Originally Posted by octopuscats View Post
    Idk why “day job” is always the last option people want to take. It’s the easiest unless you were born rich. Day jobs don’t have to be boring or useless. Newsflash: most people have regular 9-5s and then work on their hobbies on the evenings and weekends. It’s not shameful or a bad way of doing things - it’s the most realistic.

    edit: I’m in agreement with modi, just to be clear. A day job shouldn’t be a waste of your education.
    I guess by "day job" I meant anything that payed under $50k /year or under $25 /hour. I know I'm probably going to have to work jobs I don't like in order to pay off my debts, but I'm looking for jobs that can pay off those debts the fastest. Unfortunately, jobs that pay off debts the fastest also require me to spend my free time really improving at certain skills, and most of those skills are unrelated to art.

    Quote Originally Posted by octopuscats View Post
    Also, planning for life is mostly futile. Take it as it comes. I had a great job in my field for a year, then three completely unrelated jobs in rapid succession over 6 months (a mix of bad luck and literally illegal practices - currently suing one of those companies), and now I have a job in my field again. It’s a subset of my field I swore I would never ever do, but it pays well and I enjoy the work a lot more than expected. I have free time to pursue all kinds of artistic hobbies now. I couldn’t have planned for any of that.

    finish what you started but don’t make concrete plans right down to how much salary you expect. Economies change, circumstances change, your interests change. Or you could be like my partner who got hit by a car and spent a few months in a wheelchair making perlerbead art because he had nothing else to do
    Well I know randomness can happen in life, and I can't always plan for that randomness, but I feel that having at least some kind of template to follow will help me more than having no template.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aallen View Post
    I don't doubt programming is a creative process. I just don't want to ONLY code. I'm fine with coding for my job and resorting to art during my free time for now, but I don't want to be doing that for too long. I'd put up with it for 4 years at most.

    Also, I know I shouldn't be getting a lower paying job, especially since I have a CS degree. I'm just often not confident in my ability to land a dev job because of the lack of software I've developed.
    [...]
    Typically a job, well in my neck of the woods, is 40 hours a week. That leaves plenty of time for sleeping, eating, pooping, and arting. I don't get why you believe this is a zero sum event. Knock that off.

    Then get an intro job.. they are intro for a reason. Do projects in your spare time until you get a handle on what ever language your area is looking for.

    You made a choice so follow through. Keep out of debt, utilize the tools you studied for, and go on with life.
    My commentary is a gift to you.

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    You’re in school for a reason, to learn to code. If you aren’t confident in your skills, build them with homework (either given or self imposed) or apply for something like an internship. When I was in art school I still did extra drawing on top of my schoolwork, even if it was just drawing my glass of water while waiting for lunch. I went to school full time and worked part/full time for six years. It sucked but you can find time to do things you like. GitHub is a huge friendly community of coders, Codeacademy is available, and there’s a million programmers happy to chat on reddit or other social media. Think of something you want to do, even if it’s replicating an existing piece of software, and then try to do it. You’ll learn to fix problems along the way and you may find a new way of doing something or didn’t think of before. Art is just as hard and frustrating and scary. It sounds more to me like you want to be a perpetual student to avoid the responsibility of ever having to do something “for real”.

    everyone wants jobs that pay well. You better have something to show them at the interview to get it. Don’t squander your free time (and by “free” I mean time when you aren’t worrying about bills and paying back debts) dreaming of being rich. Work towards it.

    where do you live where 60k is a requirement?
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    Thanks for the responses everyone! I think I have an idea of what kind of path I can take now:


    I'm going to need some way of going from primarily programming as my main source of income, to primarily making art as my main source of income. I'm also going to need a way to get into the art industry somehow, and I think the best possible option is to become a technical artist. Now, I know I can't get the job right away, but I think I can get it within a year or two. What I'm going to do, is just find any job that pays at least $60K a year. It's okay if it doesn't pay $60K right away, so long as I have a good idea that it will eventually turn into a $60K salary within a year. I'm actually getting an offer right now that, if I land it, I will be getting paid $55K after training for a couple of months.


    Then, once I get a job that pays around $60K a year, and once I can make sure I don't have to sacrifice too much of my free time to maintain the job, I'd focus the vast majority of my free time on becoming a better technical artist. I'd have to find a way to implement both coding and art together in order for this to play in my favor. If I spend too much time coding, I'll end up slowing my artistic growth considerably. I still want to complete those two major goals I listed (freelance business, entertainment job as an ARTIST), so I'm gonna have to do a bunch of research to find which jobs implement both coding and art. Would stuff like rigging, motion graphics, or plugins do the trick? If anyone here knows of any jobs that manage to combine coding and art, let me know!


    Quote Originally Posted by modi123 View Post
    Typically a job, well in my neck of the woods, is 40 hours a week. That leaves plenty of time for sleeping, eating, pooping, and arting. I don't get why you believe this is a zero sum event. Knock that off.


    Then get an intro job.. they are intro for a reason. Do projects in your spare time until you get a handle on what ever language your area is looking for.


    You made a choice so follow through. Keep out of debt, utilize the tools you studied for, and go on with life.

    The 40 hour a week thing works until the company calls me in for an emergency, or makes my shift longer than what I signed up for because of deadlines.


    I realize I made a choice with CS, but I believe I could have made a better choice. If I were to do it over again, I wouldn't even go to college. I'd find a job (any job really), and focus my free time on improving my art skills. Unfortunately, I didn't realize I could take a path like this, nor did I have the discipline at the time to do so, so I'm trying to make do with what I have now.


    Quote Originally Posted by octopuscats View Post
    You’re in school for a reason, to learn to code. If you aren’t confident in your skills, build them with homework (either given or self imposed) or apply for something like an internship. When I was in art school I still did extra drawing on top of my schoolwork, even if it was just drawing my glass of water while waiting for lunch. I went to school full time and worked part/full time for six years. It sucked but you can find time to do things you like. GitHub is a huge friendly community of coders, Codeacademy is available, and there’s a million programmers happy to chat on reddit or other social media. Think of something you want to do, even if it’s replicating an existing piece of software, and then try to do it. You’ll learn to fix problems along the way and you may find a new way of doing something or didn’t think of before. Art is just as hard and frustrating and scary. It sounds more to me like you want to be a perpetual student to avoid the responsibility of ever having to do something “for real”.


    everyone wants jobs that pay well. You better have something to show them at the interview to get it. Don’t squander your free time (and by “free” I mean time when you aren’t worrying about bills and paying back debts) dreaming of being rich. Work towards it.


    where do you live where 60k is a requirement?

    I should've mentioned I graduated this May with my BA in CS. Sorry for the confusion.


    I explained my new plans above so I won't repeat myself, but your comment about me wanting to be a "perpetual student" to avoid doing anything "real" isn't far from the truth. I used to very much be like that. I was afraid of taking my own path and guiding my own life, but I feel that I'm different now. Art is something I've always been terrified to do, but it's something I've always wanted to do at the same time, and it was only last year when I started creating art consistently. I took art classes in college (the BA allowed me to take electives for credit), and started to grow as an artist rather quickly. I started sketching daily and am now finally tackling anatomy, although I may have to stop my studies for a few months if learning how to be a technical artist requires different skill-sets.


    As for your question, it's not so much the COL that's bothering me, but it's the fear that my loan will accrue endless interest if I don't pay it off soon enough. I've heard horror stories of people paying loans for over 10 years and hardly making a dent in it because of interest (then again, they usually have over $150K in loans, and mine is less than half that much, thankfully).


    Anyway, if my plans go through correctly, i.e. I get a $60K job and can work toward being a technical artist in my free time, then I should be okay money-wise. My primary concerns are whether or not I complete my goals, and being rich isn't actually one of my goals. I'm much more concerned about how much I DO, rather than how much I MAKE.


    Quote Originally Posted by Black Spot View Post
    If you want a coding portfolio, offer to code free for some charities.

    I may actually be okay with what I've made so far. I've talked to other programmers about my background and they think I just haven't sold myself well enough based on what I've already done, so I'm gonna try curating my resume to better portray what coding skills I already have, and see what happens from that.
    Last edited by aallen; 4 Days Ago at 06:20 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aallen View Post
    The 40 hour a week thing works until the company calls me in for an emergency, or makes my shift longer than what I signed up for because of deadlines.

    Well.. yeah. That's the world. Maybe because I am sitting on a conference call for server and database upgrades waiting to test out a handful of mission critical applications, and a cluster of tercerary apps that I am rolling my eyes. There are an infinite amount of things to take away time.. car breaking down, getting sick, popping out crotch fruit, just being tired, burning dinner, etc. You *MAKE* time if you want it.


    Quote Originally Posted by aallen View Post
    I realize I made a choice with CS, but I believe I could have made a better choice. If I were to do it over again, I wouldn't even go to college. I'd find a job (any job really), and focus my free time on improving my art skills. Unfortunately, I didn't realize I could take a path like this, nor did I have the discipline at the time to do so, so I'm trying to make do with what I have now.

    You have a college degree in a well to do field and, from what I read, are good enough to graduate. Stop bemoaning you have a degree. That is hardly a negative and you should stop framing it as such. It's better than some. Get over it, and get to work. By all means please don't romanticize the would-of, could-of, should-ofs.. Deal with the here and now, and not some fancy alternative future. You have a degree that should get you over the hump to get a job that is creative, interesting, and should pay well.
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    Yeah, my average week is 45 hours plus one week of 50 a month, plus whatever overtime needs to be done. I think you’re vastly overestimating how much time even an above-average schedule takes out of your life. It’s frustrating because you’re sitting on infinite time and already restricting yourself because of an imaginary boundary on your energy. Why do you need to take months off of art at a time? There’s 7 days in a week - do art M-W, coding T-Sat, take Sunday off. People balance multiple hobbies and skills and responsibilities all the time. As modi said, you find time.

    Also, do you think the art world is free of overtime and deadlines and low wages? It’s fun as an idea until you’re working for 12-16 hours a day every day to hit a deadline. What do you picture freelance life or the entertainment industry to be like? Technical art? Because I’m gonna tell you it’s 80% stuff you don’t really care about or actively dislike but is part of the job.

    re the 60k thing, have you actually looked into your repayment terms? Do you know what your interest rates are, your expected monthly payments, your grace periods? If you have forgiveness or refinance options? The only reason I’m picking at 60k is because it seems like a number you pulled out of nowhere and are fixating on for some reason. I can tell you I live in a high COL area making less than 60k and I still find plenty of money to blow on dumb stuff while all my bills are covered.

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    Quote Originally Posted by modi123 View Post
    Well.. yeah. That's the world. Maybe because I am sitting on a conference call for server and database upgrades waiting to test out a handful of mission critical applications, and a cluster of tercerary apps that I am rolling my eyes. There are an infinite amount of things to take away time.. car breaking down, getting sick, popping out crotch fruit, just being tired, burning dinner, etc. You *MAKE* time if you want it.





    You have a college degree in a well to do field and, from what I read, are good enough to graduate. Stop bemoaning you have a degree. That is hardly a negative and you should stop framing it as such. It's better than some. Get over it, and get to work. By all means please don't romanticize the would-of, could-of, should-ofs.. Deal with the here and now, and not some fancy alternative future. You have a degree that should get you over the hump to get a job that is creative, interesting, and should pay well.
    I'm making attempts to bridge my coding knowledge with my artistic knowledge, and I feel that technical art is a field that can do that for me, so I'm doing what I can do make the most out of my CS degree, while still staying in line with my artistic goals.

    Quote Originally Posted by octopuscats View Post
    Yeah, my average week is 45 hours plus one week of 50 a month, plus whatever overtime needs to be done. I think you’re vastly overestimating how much time even an above-average schedule takes out of your life. It’s frustrating because you’re sitting on infinite time and already restricting yourself because of an imaginary boundary on your energy. Why do you need to take months off of art at a time? There’s 7 days in a week - do art M-W, coding T-Sat, take Sunday off. People balance multiple hobbies and skills and responsibilities all the time. As modi said, you find time.

    Also, do you think the art world is free of overtime and deadlines and low wages? It’s fun as an idea until you’re working for 12-16 hours a day every day to hit a deadline. What do you picture freelance life or the entertainment industry to be like? Technical art? Because I’m gonna tell you it’s 80% stuff you don’t really care about or actively dislike but is part of the job.

    re the 60k thing, have you actually looked into your repayment terms? Do you know what your interest rates are, your expected monthly payments, your grace periods? If you have forgiveness or refinance options? The only reason I’m picking at 60k is because it seems like a number you pulled out of nowhere and are fixating on for some reason. I can tell you I live in a high COL area making less than 60k and I still find plenty of money to blow on dumb stuff while all my bills are covered.
    I wasn't necessarily thinking of taking months off at a time for art, although that would definitely help me improve faster as opposed to doing it on the side. My plans involve having some kind of job to keep me afloat financially, while I pursue my artistic goals in my free time.

    I don't think the art world is free of overtime, deadlines, and low wages. I actually think artistic fields have MORE of those compared to most other fields, but if I'm going to be stuck in a situation where I'm working more than I signed up for and am not getting paid well, I may as well be doing that for a field I have a lot of interest in, rather than a field I have only a little interest in. I went into CS thinking I would be able to avoid unfair situations, but after talking with other software devs, it turns out I may not be able to avoid those unfair situations anyway, so I'm trying to make a career switch as soon as I can.

    I picture freelance work to be very hard and unforgiving, but difficulty doesn't matter to me because it's what I want to do. I expect technical art to be just as hard, but I'm willing to go through with it because I feel it will get me closer to my artistic goals as opposed to just staying a software dev.

    I'm aware that that 80% of what I do for art jobs will be things I don't care about, but again, I'm willing to go through with it because it's what i want to do. For some reason, I have this pride complex and can't satiate it until I can consider myself a "professional" artist. Think what you want of it, but I'm going to find a way to satiate my desires. I've ran away from my dreams for too long, and it's about time I start to actually pursue them.

    Considering the $60K funds, I haven't done too much research on how to refinance my loans, so I may just be blowing the problem out of proportion. I'll look at refinance options within the next few days.

    Anyway, I'm learning from my mistakes and moving on. I'm actively looking for jobs that will pay well and can pay for my artistic pursuits. I'm looking for avenues I can take to get a career in technical art. If any of you have info you could give me on paths I could take, I'd appreciate it. If not, I'll look elsewhere.

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    That's a lot of text and planning. Show us some of your art, without knowing where you're at I feel like all this talk and planning is lacking a proper foundation. You might be close to professional level, you might be years and years of hard work away from it, there's just no way of deciding what to do or not to do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Benedikt View Post
    That's a lot of text and planning. Show us some of your art, without knowing where you're at I feel like all this talk and planning is lacking a proper foundation. You might be close to professional level, you might be years and years of hard work away from it, there's just no way of deciding what to do or not to do.
    I was going to post a thread this weekend with the artwork I did over a year, but I'll show little snippets of it here.

    This is my latest portfolio, but it's pretty outdated. Most of the stuff on there is over half a year old:

    https://aallen170.weebly.com/

    Here's a link to my github containing a still life series I did over 10 days. I painted from observation and switched between using Photoshop and Medibang Paint Pro for each painting (for instance, my 10th painting was done in Medibang, and my 8th done in Photoshop), but most of them were done in PS. I forgot to put the 10th one on my github, so I'm posting it below the link:

    https://github.com/aallen170/stillLifes

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    I would post my sketchwork and classwork, but I only have photos of them on my phone, and my phone isn't letting me send them to my computer at the moment for some reason.

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    Not gonna comment on the art really because I’ve been out of 2D art for a while. but here’s what I will say:

    It’s easy to say “oh I wouldn’t mind the deadlines/hard work because I’d be doing what I love”. I’m an architectural designer for a living. the majority of my job is visualization using various 3D programs and CAD. My artistic hobbies in my free time are also 3D modelling (Blender) and photography, occasionally digital painting. So basically my hobbies in my free time are more or less my professional job. I like my job, but it is infinitely more stressful than my hobbies. If something doesn’t go well in my free time, I can leave it for a while and collect my thoughts. If the project is a bust I can ditch it. At work the best I can do is take my 30 minute lunch if I haven’t already (which sometimes gets interrupted with work) or one of two 10 minute breaks I’m entitled to. When construction deadlines run closer, I just have to smash my head against the computer until something works. Sometimes the problem solving is fun, sometimes you just want to push a button and have everything magically fixed because six different people all need something by the end of the day.

    I'm not saying not to follow your dreams. I’m just worried about how much you’re romanticizing it and hand waving any concerns with “but it’s my dream”. Many artistic hobbies have been destroyed by people entering the field professionally. It’s part of the reason I switched into architecture because it was something I could compartmentalize and put away at the end of the day. I don’t even touch the same software at home
    Sketchbook (last updated June 20th, 2018)

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