How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Well I am back from my summer hiatus to chronicle my adventures in animation and art school.
It’s been an interesting and somewhat difficult three months but events conspired to turn out alright, which is always awesome. The most pressing news of late is that I decided to postpone school. “What?” you ask. “But you got in!” Well, after calculating the expenses I would have had to take out $30K in loans to live in Canada for the year. I unfortunately would not have been able to get a work permit until I lived in the country for six months, and international students do not qualify for work study, and since the economy here in the States (and everywhere else in the world) is so crummy, I was unable to save any money. Being 30 grand in the hole right off the bat was not appealing to me, so I made the wise decision to wait.

I am grateful to be here in the States and practicing my art. Because I am not going to school this year, it has given me an opportunity to take more life drawing classes here at home to strengthen my skills. Also, I will be able to make all the early deadlines not only for Sheridan but other schools here in the U.S. I will also be able to attend Portfolio Day and have everything reviewed before I submit my work to schools.

Another great thing about being here is that since the market is so bad I qualify for unemployment. I have been spending my time drawing and collecting money, instead of working three jobs as I was doing earlier this year and hardly having any time to draw or research schools at all. I have to say it has been what you would call a “blessing in disguise.” Who knew unemployment could provide such an opportunity to improve oneself? There are millions out there without jobs, and my hope for all of them is that they not only find a great job soon but also gain new skills while they are looking that will enable them to succeed in the workplace and earn more money. It’s a pretty rad combination.

So since I have NOTHING BUT TIME I’ve been taking advantage of life drawing classes and the zoo, as well as researching school curriculum. And for those of you who are planning to go art school, as I am, I shall now climb up on my bully pulpit and dispense the info I learned through years of sorting through the muck trying to figure out how to get into school and industry in the first place. Save yourself some time and effort and read on. These tips have helped me a great deal and I am certain they will help you. I have gleaned this information not only from my search for schools, but from professional experience. As an Editor for Vault, a publishing company focusing on career guides for post-college students, I spoke with many people in various industries on how former students could land a job that will take them where they want to go. And as a college graduate myself who navigated through the often choppy waters of employment (and by choppy I mean having to work in customer service for three years before being able to get a real job *shudder*) I know how difficult it can be to find the school for you and also the right job. Hopefully this advice will aid you in your search and enable you to skip selling clothes, home decor, and dealing with anything involving food. So, without further ado:

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If you go to Disney, Pixar or Blue Sky’s websites, they list the types of skills that their animators, storyboard designers, and others need to have in order to get a job. I recommend making sure that the school you want to attend teaches classes in the subjects you need to know to get said job. This is painfully obvious, but you would be shocked to see how many animation programs fail to teach basics like storytelling and acting. These are the pinnacles of animation folks. It’s not enough to be able to draw pretty pictures.

Some schools are located where all the action is. There are film studios and galleries all around them where you can showcase your school work and network with professionals. Other schools are located in the middle of nowhere. Now, plenty of schools in the middle of nowhere have produced successful animators, but my money is on the schools that are near the industry, or at least an arts hub of some kind, so that you can talk to people and gain exposure throughout your school career, not just when you graduate.

How good a job does the school do in helping to get students jobs? Do people in the industry come and give talks to prospective students? Is the Career Center in good standing with companies you want to work for? Are there ample internship opportunities available through the school? Do Alumni speak well of their experience? Do they have any Alumni events? Doesn’t do you any good to have all that head knowledge if you can’t get a job once you graduate. Make sure your school cares about where you go once you leave, not just sucking you dry of funds while you are there.

When was the last time your teacher worked in the industry? Are they working on their own projects? Are they aware of all the changes the industry has gone through even in the last five years? You want folks who are knowledgable about the subject and are themselves still learning as much as they can to keep themselves relevant, not just folks stuck in the “glory days.”

Now, before you start flaming me for all the previous points – here me out. While it is vitally important for a school to teach you what you need to know to prepare you for the work force, understand that the school itself will not give you a job. Nor should it. A school’s job is, as I just said, in operation to PREPARE you. Ultimately, it’s up to you to find work. That means not only doing your best in class, but joining organizations and meeting people, getting summer and fall internships, and most important, working diligently on your craft. For me personally, I am working on several projects that have nothing whatsoever to do with getting me in school, not only because they are fun, but also to create a portfolio of work for myself to land me a job. It’s always a good idea to be working on your own stuff and providing a place where you can show it to as many people as possible.

So there you go. Hope it helps. More fun artwork to look at tomorrow.

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