IS ART-SCHOOL RIGHT FOR ME…?
Well, it depends! It depends on your situation and what your goals in life are… Here are a few quick questions that can help you answer for yourself the massive question of: “Should I go to art school?”
- Is this something I want to make a living with working for other people, or would I rather enjoy it as a personal hobby?
- Have I been passionate about this my whole life, or is this a relatively new interest? Will I still want to do this in 20 years?
- Is this something I need to go into massive debt to learn, or can I learn it elsewhere less expensively?
- What is my ultimate goal in life? Where do I want to see myself in 5, 10, 50 years?
Hopefully these questions will help you get some clarity on whether you should go to art school or not!
THE MYTH OF THE STARVING ARTIST
“I consider myself to be a thriving artist. I see no reason why everyone should not be able to be a thriving artist.”
—Mark Simon, Storyboard Artist
Let’s talk about money— money is important. Yes, yes, following your passions and your dreams is all well and good, but if you don’t have any money to feed and support yourself, your dreams are going to be short-lived.
Parents are often concerned about their kids pursuing creative fields like animation, but I’m here to tell parents of all creative kids that they would do well to encourage them to be in a creative field like art and animation.
Here are 5 reasons why you SHOULD be an artist:
ART AND ANIMATION PAY$!
Aren’t artists not paid well? Not true!
An artist/animator is a highly-skilled person who has taken years or decades to refine their craft. Not everyone can do what the artist does, so they are (or should be) well-compensated for their talents.
The video game and movie industries are HUGE and getting bigger every year! Companies like Dreamworks, Marvel, and Disney hire 1,000’s of artists to bring their creations to life! Both fields provide several long-lasting creative positions for jobs from 3D modeling, animation, compositing, video editing, coding, sound and graphic design.
Stats on how well animators are paid:
The Animation Guild also has a ton of resources for how much animators should make!
BE YOUR OWN BOSS! SET YOUR OWN SCHEDULE!
If you choose to become a freelance artist, your pay depends on how well you build and sell your business. Your success is entirely dependent on you, which can be scary, but extremely rewarding when you get it right! Freelance artists on average earn about $62,000/yr.²
You’ll also have the added benefit of not having to rely on a company that can lay you off at anytime— that sounds like job security to me!
Oh, and you also get to work in your pajamas. ;)
ROBOTS ARE TAKING OVER!
It’s true. Statistics show that 50% of the job market will disappear due to automation and robots becoming commonplace in the workforce.³
But what can robots not do? Be creative!
Robots and computers are very good at crunching numbers and building cars, but people are still needed for creative solutions. Learning a creative skill is more important than ever!
Low-skill or technical jobs will rapidly disappear as automation and robots become the norm.
IT’S EASIER NOW, THAN EVER BEFORE!
In the past, animation was a HUGE process requiring gigantic camera equipment, teams of ink and paint artists, and a giant building full of employees.
Today, an entire animation short can be created by one person, on one computer. And the availability and diversity of animation software is enough to satisfy anyone’s desires with the medium!
You don’t even need money! Check out my blog post on How To Create Cartoons for FREE!
Yes, money isn’t everything. Your happiness I would argue is more important. Life is so stinking short. Wouldn’t you rather live a life where you struggled a bit, but got to support yourself and your family doing and sharing something you love? That sounds like a life well-spent to me!
WHERE SHOULD I GO TO COLLEGE?
Here are some great animation schools that are highly regarded! There are online schools as well as on-campus schools. Check them out and see which would be the best fit for you!
- CalArts – https://filmvideo.calarts.edu/programs/character-animation
- Animation Workshop (online) – http://www.animwork.dk/en/
- Animation Mentor (online) – http://www.animationmentor.com
- iAnimate (online) – https://ianimate.net
- Ringling College of Art and Design – http://www.ringling.edu/Computer-Animation
- Savannah College of Art and Design – http://www.scad.edu/academics/programs/animation
- Vancouver Film School – https://vfs.edu/programs/classical-animation
HOW TO MAKE MONEY AS AN ARTIST / ANIMATOR?
This is a huge topic that deserves a post of its own, but here are some quick tips I’ve discovered while making a living as an animator:
Get paid upfront. I cannot stress this enough. I was lucky enough to not get paid at all on my first freelance job, so I learned this lesson early. A general rule is to get paid 50% upfront before starting the work, and 50% upon final delivery. If it’s a larger project, you can divide it into thirds per milestone.
Have a contract. Even for smaller gigs. They will help to clarify what needs to be accomplished for the job, and will reduce arguments from both sides. The site I use for this is free: ShakeLaw.com
Set aside taxes. For the U.S., take out a third of your earnings and put it somewhere you cannot touch, because that money is not yours. Another reason it is super important to price yourself fairly for your work.
There are TONS of places to make money online! Freelancing websites often don’t pay the greatest, but can be good places to pick up quick work and find clients for future work. Here is a list of great places to look for animation jobs:
As an animator, you have a diverse set of skills. Art school will definitely help with this, as you learn how to use different software and design fundamentals. If there’s no animation work at the moment, you can pick up some logo designs, illustrate kid’s books, or use any other skills you have to drum up more work.
Save money during plentiful times so you will be prepared when times are tough. This was one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt over the years. But as you get more skilled and in higher demand, those funds you put away can be used for your retirement, or for your kid’s college fund in the future.
My Personal Experience
For my art school, I went to the Art Institute of Portland which helped me get my first job at LAIKA/house out of college in 2009, and I’ve been working full-time as a professional animator ever since. I’ve had the privilege of working with amazing companies like Microsoft, Google, Coca-Cola, and Cartoon Network.
If I were to go back to my past-self and give myself advice on going to art school, I would advise against going to an expensive for-profit art school like the Art Institutes. Or at least get credits for basic classes earlier so I wouldn’t pay $1,000 for a Math class. Also student housing was a rip-off. Find some roommates, and get a place of your own!
I have lived a very blessed life and a lot of it has been through luck. But I believe that my luck was due to my hard work practicing my craft, and putting myself and my work out there as much as I could. If you would like to ask me questions about making a living as an animator, feel free to contact me!
What supplies do I need to be an animator? How Do I get started?
Here are some tools that I would highly recommend, whether you want to get into modern digital animation, or go old-school with pencil and paper animation!
Tools for traditional paper animators:
Tools for digital animators:
Books to learn animation:
I hope these resources will help you!
In conclusion, I would like to encourage all parents to drop your fears. Let your kids pursue art and animation as a career! I have been very successful and happy working as a professional animator, and I know I will enjoy my passion as a career for decades to come! I want you all to do the same! :)