Networking has helped me in my search for creative employment in the past. However, that's something quit different these days....I'm attempting to start a new career and my former contacts work in very different industries. I simply don't have the connections I need. Yet. And ditto for the experience. And 3D skillset. Ok, ok. I'm being realistic. That's why I'm marketing myself as a "Visual Development Artist" not as a 3D artist or modeler.
So, what was once a week or two off between projects when I was freelancing as a graphic or web designer is now almost the same as when I first started out as an illustrator fresh out of college back in 1992 - no one knows me, my creative enthusiasm, my strong work ethic, how well I mesh with my teams, my wealth of knowledge and my continued desire to learn...how I can grow more creative skills, have new and innovative ideas, improve the creativity of my team for my employer.
A cover letter and resume can only say so much. It's an introduction, not your history. "You need at least 1 year of experience for an entry-level role..." I know, it's often a ploy to weed out the totally inexperienced. And, OMG, the amount of resumes, demo reels and portfolios that get sent out by so many hopeful artists to studios...it's a wonder sometimes that any inexperienced artist can get hired at all. Talent, sure that helps. But, it can also be "who you know" and sometimes just plain Luck. That's happened to me before, too.
And then there's my portfolio....
While drawing naked, huge-breasted sexy women is something I can do, doesn't mean that's what I want to work on all day or that I have a sketchbook full of that kind of work. Maybe one. har. Good grief, it seems like half the time I talk or meet with other artists (and sadly, yes, most if not all of them are men, not women), the creative respect isn't there until they see how well you can draw a monster, a putrid zombie, or some busty babe. Enough to make my teeth hurt from all the grinding.
And, let's not forget - Location, location, location.
Dallas is definitely growing in game development and post-production, and there seems to be potential for studios in the animation industry. Especially compared to what was around in the late eighties, early nineties. But, I need a job now! I feel like I'm wasting my time in my current job....I'm not learning anything that will be useful to me or to whatever company I would like to work for in the animation industry...particularly since I have no intention of getting myself pigeon-holed as an artist for the marketing or licensing branch of any studio, Warner Brothers or otherwise. That's not my dream. Sure, I'm contributing like heck and I have pride in my artistic work and I have nothing but praise to say for the other artists I work with (except for my creative manager...most of the time..heh), but it's not the industry I want to make my mark in.
I've been thinking more and more again about moving to LA.
I don't have a family to relocate - no significant other and definitely no kids to worry about. I'd miss my friends. :( While there's certainly alot of people out there looking for creative work, it's worth a shot - there are plenty of people here looking for work, too...and fewer places that have openings. Since I'm not a complete newbie without ANY work experience and I do know people out there...and I could get a few introductions from people I know now that worked out there, it's something to seriously consider. And if it does work out, I can still come back to Dallas, get involved in growing the animation community here like I dreamed about years ago, and this time have the experience and knowledge that I can't get if I stay here.
At least I'm working. While it isn't my dream job or my industry of choice, I can still contribute some of my skills and mentor the interns who do want to be toy designers and help improve the creativity of my art team. And, "I get to draw all day!!" Yes, that's a direct quote from my creative manager as to why we should be loving our jobs. ARGH!!
False enthusiasm doesn't help. Fake smiles make my cheek hurt. Sometimes I just want to wallow in a deep depression. Then I think about some of my old jobs...huh, like I'd list THOSE on my resume...and I remind myself that it took time to get that first "real art job" after graduating and sometimes it was longer than I'd like before I got my next art project. That at least I'm not living during a time when women had few employment opportunities...and I'm not a starving artist living in some tiny attic apartment, freezing my poor fingers while I paint my latest commission for my "patron"...even if it was in Paris. Ha! We visited a graphic designer friend of mine in Paris last Thanksgiving and she had such a tiny apartment. I swear it was maybe twice the size of my walk-in closet in the apartment I have now!
Yes, I've been a starving artist...that was one horrible winter - no heat, no money for food, no health insurance, saving what I could for rent...and for whatever reason, I still didn't give up. Didn't draw or paint much, but I did when I could.
OK, enough with the pep talk. Yay...tomorrow is a work day...and my creative manager is on vacation all next week!!!!! LOL
Found a random connection the other day - a former high school classmate of mine,
I even still remember two of his projects: one was a copy of a Hildebrandt brothers illustration of Smaug and the other was of a black leopard lying across a branch. What I didn't understand was why he got special projects to work on instead of the assignments our instructor gave the rest of us...particularly considering that there was a bit of rivalry going on as to who had the better talent. We all liked to show off our artistic skills.
Heh, that's part of the fun of art classes...pushing each other to do better, work harder and learn from each other. Finally found out why (my art teacher, Mrs. Betty Cantwell, never would really explain)...his father was a graphic designer in the Dallas area, and Aaron was just starting to work for another well-known illustrator, Don Ivan Punchatz, at the studio The Sketch Pad. Then he moved to L.A. about two years after we all graduated from high school. Long story short: Aaron is now an art director for SW Digital, the design division at Stan Winston Studio. Wish I would have had the will and the way to get myself out there then and follow my animation dreams. Oh well, hindsight is always 20/20.
On Being a Toy Designer
There doesn't seem to much information available at the company I work for that could help me or our toy designer interns know more about the toy industry. I try and do a bit of research every week so that I can find out more about what the role of a toy designer could or should be, what ways we can improve our production processes and how we can learn about the toy industry from our competitors. While one of the artists on my team went through a toy design college program, none of the other artists I currently work with have. We've all come from a variety of creative backgrounds and have different experiences. And, yes, that includes our creative manager - no toy design background either.
So, I found a few interesting sites that I'm gonna share with the others tomorrow and hopefully get a fun discussion going. :) Sometimes, things can get lively. Always exciting when we start throwing stuff around (dare I mention the screaming rubber chicken...heh.)
The first was an interesting article about a couple of designers that invented a new kind of interactive toy that sold in the millions:
"Caleb and Christi Chung, a husband and wife toy design team, had just returned from their annual trek to Toy Fair, the largest toy trade show in the Western Hemisphere, held in New York City every February." Once again we were underwhelmed," Caleb, a former Hollywood special effects developer, says. "We determined, then and there, to stop working altogether, return home to Boise, Idaho, and take the plunge, spend the next six months creating a product we knew our background and knowledge would allow us to perfect and exploit." They invented the Furbies.
The other I found after some random google with toy design criteria...luckily it was the first link so I didn't quickly do a different search. The remaining ones on the page were not something you could open at most offices. ha! There appears to be an association for Women in Toys (feel free to guess what the other results were...or do the search yourself, ha!). I suppose like the animation industry, women have had a difficult time in the past (or maybe even currently, I don't know) in gaining meaningful employment in this industry that didn't require a skirt and/or working as the receptionist or secretary. No one has mentioned this group and it appears based on the content of the site to be something at least a few of our employees, designer or product managers, should be involved with, especially since I know at least a couple of them will be in NYC for the June Toy Fair and working in our showroom.
I'll have to find out more tomorrow....