Where and how can you educate yourself to get into the industry?
You could either attend schools that teach you the specific skill set you’re looking for or teach yourself through the internet. I’ll only talk about the art aspect because it’s what I know. Later on, I’ll ask my co-workers to chime in about getting education in programming, management, and other disciplines. So let’s start with Art education. I attended Academy of Art University in San Francisco for 3 years, then dropped out. Reason being is that the education in class was too slow for me at the time. I needed to be pushed and wasn’t getting that so I dropped out and studied on my own. There are pros and cons to both going to school or self educating.
School for Education(Art):
- Networking with other students which could turn into job opportunities in the future.
- A good initial engagement to learning the basics.
- Access to educators who can answer your questions personally.
- Access to computer labs and costly tutorials.
- Industry recruits do look for talent in schools.
- Industry professionals could give on site educations at times.
- Great foundation art experience. This is something that’s hard to get if you’re studying at home. They have space set up for lighting, props, and models people could learn to draw.
- Expensive. Majority of the Art schools are pretty expensive. Not just classes, but books and school supplies.
- You don’t go at your pace. Classes could be slower because the teacher needs to make sure majority of the class is going at the same pace.
- Gamble with good teachers. You might not get the best teachers of the industry. From my experience, most teachers at the school were people who couldn’t get jobs in the industry or they were taking a break. There are great teachers but it was rare for me at the time. Once they found better jobs than teaching at the school, they ended up leaving.
My personal suggestion is, if you have the funding to attend an art school for education, go ahead and do it. BUT! Do not waste your time while you’re there because it’s really expensive. I believe that about 80% of those who go to art school never get a job because they believe going to school will give them a job. This is not true. You need to work hard and push yourself harder than those around you to stand out. Just doing homework assignments won’t give you enough education to push you to a job. It’s not all fun and games guys… I’ve seen too many people go through this. You really do need to educate yourself to the extreme while in school. Please don’t waste your time there. Make it worth it. I’ve seen a guy run two jobs while going to art school and acing every class, which got him into Pixar. Ambition, passion, and discipline will get you there.
Now if you don’t have the funding to go to an expensive art school, well you’re perfectly fine! There’s so much educational information online now that you can do this at home. Don’t let your dreams be dreams! JUST! DO IT!
Educating Yourself (Art):
- Go at your own pace. Without having to go at the pace of the entire class, you could do it on your own. When I studied on my own after dropping out, I got in-depth education of the subject matter I was studying. You could dig in as deep as you like at the pace you want, which is pretty important if you want to quickly get a job in the industry.
- Save money. This is probably the biggest pro. You will save a lot of money by studying on your own. Do invest in a good computer though.
- Study in your underwear. Study 3am at night. Study whenever you want.
- Limited access to personal connections. You landing an interview is mostly dependent on a strong portfolio, but it doesn’t hurt to have friends who might get into the industry later. Mind you, I’ve never gotten a job because of networking.
- Limited access to ask questions and get personal answers. Alternatively, you could join a CG community (lots of them out there) and get answers that way, which might not get quick responses to.
- Foundation art set ups. Foundation art, which is drawing, painting, sculpting, is very important in my opinion. Schools have teachers and materials to educate you on this. There are ways around it though. There are community art school sessions in most areas where you could go in per session and pay money for it.
- No one to tell you what to do. Lot of people tend to want to go to school because they know they won’t do it on their own. Personally, I think they already lost if they thought this way but some people need it I guess. If you’re one of these people, you really will have a hard time educating yourself.
Honestly, you really don’t NEED to go to school. If you have ambition, passion, and discipline to make it happen, you’ll be fine. There are strong communities that will help you and unlimited educational videos for free out there. If you use this to your advantage, nothing can stop you.
How much time does it take for you to educate yourself from ground up to be good enough to start working? I’d say give yourself 3 to 6 years. It depends on how hard you push yourself, but it also takes time. Know that it won’t happen right away, but believe in yourself that you’ll make it. There is no quick way about it. Just keep pushing toward it and when you’re good enough, you’ll be accepted.
I’ve seen my peer students draw a piece of crap picture in class then have it criticized by the teacher. He then replies to the teacher, “Well.. this is just my style”. Teacher replied, “You have no style right now… you’re learning beginners art.” Don’t be this idiot student. The mentality you should have going in as a student should be, “I know nothing about anything and I’m ready to absorb everything”. Become a sponge that’s hungry for information and take everything in. Throw away this amateur pride you built up for yourself because your friends said you’re good at drawing, and come in fresh as a student. Don’t let your pride get in the way of becoming a professional.
Develop Thick Skin
This doesn’t get talked about enough and needs to be drilled into our brain more. Having thick skin in this industry is important. This is something you have to build up before going into it professionally. People get offended or upset too easily because someone said something negative about their work. You CAN NOT do this. It’s a part of becoming better than who you are at the moment. If no one tells you the weak points of who you are, you’ll always be weak. If the art director tells you, he doesn’t like the result and need you to improve upon A, B and C., you can’t get upset at him. He’s doing his best to create the best product he can, and you should be too. It’s very important to understand that people aren’t trying to attack you personally. It’s them trying to help you get better results. Constantly have people critique your work and digest those then use it to better your work. The more you do this, the more thick skin you’ll develop, which will make you easier to work with as a co-worker. Most companies will try to test this in your interview to make sure you know how to handle being criticized. Don’t fail that test.
Being constantly criticized by peers and even yourself(Yourself should be your worst critic), could take a toll on you as a person. It’s no easy road and some of these mentally harsh process is necessary for you to grow. No pain no gain right? I look back at my past and I’ve pushed myself over the edge a lot of times trying to get better. This process made me a very negative and overly critical person, which people don’t like to be around… naturally. While this phase is important, make sure you stay positive and optimistic at the end of the day. Know that you’re doing this because you love it, and when you finally make it, all will be worth it. Keeping a cool head and having a positive attitude will attract similar people around you. Don’t lose that, no matter how hard things might be. You don’t want it to come to a point where you’re just miserable doing it as a result. It would make this whole thing pointless. So keep a cool head and go at a good pace. If all else fails, go shoot things in a game! That always worked for me.
Free yourself from stress
Don’t stress about money. Don’t stress about social issues. Concentrate on your skills. That’s the only thing you should stress about. You can’t be creative when you’re under stress. Have a clear open mind before going into it. Meditate, workout, drink your milkshakes, whatever clears your head, do it. Then go in with a clear mind to create something great!
At the end of the day, school or not, your portfolio and personality are going to be the main factors that lands you the job. Make it stand out for companies to take interest in you. Build a thick skin and have a great positive attitude that companies want. Get that one foot in the door and work hard to climb up the ladder. It’s truly an amazing opportunity to be in the industry and all that hard work you did will be worth it.
*Above image is owned by Blizzard Entertainment “Diablo 3”