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Author Topic: what would you have done differently. . .
Derek
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This question goes out to the vets in the trenches, the type of folks with millions of horror stories.

I seem to be at a crossroads in my life. I am 26 years old and trained as an illustrator and a scenic/costume designer. I have worked in the art department for stop motion animation, worked at the Yale Repertory Theater as a scenic artist, storyboarded for CG, built models, created instillations for galleries, illustrated for publication, worked as a graphic designer. . .so at a young age, I have a small taste of different things. I am one of those weird guys who can do well in an art department where you have to wear many hats.

But, here is the big "WHAA!" where the professionals are going to tear my naive, "who do you think you are," ass apart. None of these job make me happy. As a matter of fact, I don't last very long because I get depressed. This is because the jobs all have something kind of related to what I want to do, but not really. Theoretically, all I want to do, is draw or paint. . .anything. But then I will get the job and feel like I am not using my brain or being creative. . .and that will be all she wrote. Thing is, I am one of those weirdos who REALLY doesn't care about money. I am just really passionate and want to be happy. . .and I don't know if I ever will unless I am being artistic. But art doesn't pay the bills, and jobs like concept art (my dream job) and illustration are few and far between. Creating animated shorts would make me love life every day, but it is just impossible to survive.

So I have decided to put my money where my mouth is. I saved up $20,000, I have no kids, no ties holding me back, and I am looking to make a big change in my life. So here is my question to you professionals out there. If you had a chance to do it all over again what would you have done differently? I would really love to hear from anyone who has a similar story. If anyone out there is like me, how did you find balance in your life? Does anyone have any regrets? Is it worth sacrificing everything to live like a starving artist if it makes you happy. . . because then your whole life becomes about your work?

I would love to hear the wisdom

Derek

ps. here is a link to some of my stuff if you feel like it. . .

http://www.flickr.com/photos/18654218@N07/sets/72157603882042478/show/

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SNAKEBITE
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you and I are cut from the same clothe when it comes to this subject. although you are way better than I was at your age and I never had 20k saved up.

I could go into my take on this but really, the first thing that came to my mind was take 5k of that money and go travel, backpack to a country of choice.

I sooooooo wish I had a big chunk of change saved up at 26 to go do this. my one big regret was to travel the world at your age. not that its too late now, just that I have people depending on me now. maybe one day I'll have a big chunk of money saved up and time on my hands to do it. in fact, I know I will.

but if I was to say anything to you is to go experience new cultures, new people and put yourself in a situation where you depend on yourself only to get by.

I totally feel and know where you're coming from
but I think traveling for a couple months should be high on your agenda.

if that doesn't inspire you or put you on a path of some sort then you're a lost cause...lol

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SoleilSmile
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Me: I wish I had got better at math in high school, so I could be a biologist. I was darn good at science, but couldn't get past the math, so I pursued an animation career.

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HipChick Comics and Animatress Blog

www.hipchickcomics.com
http://www.animatress.blogspot.com/

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OFFBEAT
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Spend 6 minutes of your life watching this. [cheers]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aubF7v-MlMM

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"Get Rich, or Die Drawing!"

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-FP-
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quote:
So I have decided to put my money where my mouth is. I saved up $20,000, I have no kids, no ties holding me back, and I am looking to make a big change in my life.
Unspoken in your post:
What exactly do you want from this "big change"?

Keep in mind that $20K in US American dollars is practically nothing these days. Are you willing to live a broke-ass life to have "freedom"? I think "freedom" is worth it, but I live with what most USA people would consider meager accoutrements, just because I don't give a shiz...

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OFFBEAT
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2 words. Amsterdam. Hookers.

Just kidding. [Smile]
The responsible answer is to save it, or invest it. Start a 401k. Plan for retirement.

Especially since the economy is so unstable right now. It looks like we're headed towards some very rough times.
That could be very comfortable padding during such a time.

Another regret I have is not learning 3D. Like most 2d artists.. I'd prefer to draw.. but those jobs seem to be on the up and out.

I'd think of learning 3D as an alternative to learning a trade like plumbing or roofing for the times 2d jobs dry out.

It Could be a waste of time/money because those jobs are being outsourced as well. Who knows?

...You might feel really stupid if you become out of work.. and you blew the money on jetski lessons during a $20,000 Hawaiian vacation. Not a memory in the world can make hunger go away.
http://biz.yahoo.com/cnnm/080226/022608_financial_illiteracy.html?.v=6&.pf=banking-budgeti ng


My Irresponsible American answer is.. I'd travel the world, drawing it, Inspired by a friend's travel sketchbook..
http://www.leuyenpham.com/lowspeed/travel/travel.htm

..but I think i'd only do that if I won the lottery or something.

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"Get Rich, or Die Drawing!"

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Animation Co-op
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quote:
The responsible answer is to save it, or invest it. Start a 401k. Plan for retirement.
The responsible answer is to invest it in YOURSELF.

Plan for ENGAGEMENT with the world, not retirement from it.

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Derek
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The money isn't to live off of or do something ridiculous with it. The money is to move out of Connecticut to set myself up and pursue my dream. I wanted to know people's thoughts as to a smart place to relocate and how to use my finances wisely to get my foot in the door of a good gig that would make me happy. IE. . .maybe LA is a great place to work, but the business side sucks. Or maybe Canada has some cool up and coming animation stuff. . .etc etc.

I did not work my ass off to save that money to piss it away on fun and I am not naive enough to think I could live off of $20,000 while I just sit at home and paint all day.

Derek

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Ben Burgess
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The best thing to do is to get a number of artist management agents that will represent your portfolio to Art Directors. You need to get eye ball traffic to your portfolio site, in order to get more projects lined up that you will like.

By the tone of the question, you are shooting for Visual Development at Disney, unless, you want to do backgrounds for the Simpsons or even The Family Guy.

The first place everyone hits in L.A. is the Animation Guild studio listings.

www.animationguild.org

The problem these days is that the artist market is so completely saturated with good artists. It brings the price down for what artist can make because of the shortened production cycles. This would be related to animation studios in particular where there is a fast start up and a fast shut down production mentality. If a film is a hit in the theaters, then it is the same cycle again, only faster. [biggrin]


I think the movie "Curious George" had such a fast production schedule it didn't even have much of a rap party; just layoff and forget!

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[IMG] http://www.creativeheads.net/jsmedia.aspx?j=fccfc9010e&spi=0&mid=5163&direct=1[/IMG][/URL]

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KevinO
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Regarding doing it over again, I would've gone to music school in LA like I planned in '78. I enrolled but pulled out at the last minute, some monetary reasons and other reasons. By the time I was 26 I had already had 3 different jobs but none animation related, as I didn't start that adventure until I was 30.

You got some good stuff I think, more in the development and concept side for sure. I'd check out LA and the studios like Disney, Dreamworks, Sony (if they are still doing stuff by next year)Nick, Cartoon Network and Pixar even. You can get the list of addresses and who to send stuff to via the Animation Guild and send them from CT. Take some of that money and plan a trip out here for a couple of weeks with maybe the studio human resources people already contacted, make connections, get feedback.

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Animation Co-op
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quote:
I am not naive enough to think I could live off of $20,000 while I just sit at home and paint all day.
You could if you lived in Costa Rica for a year: build up a killer portfolio, expose yourself to some new experiences...

You're an artist. Think outside the box. [Cool]

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Animation Co-op
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And as Joseph Campbell said: "Follow your bliss."

(Now there's a guy who took four years "out of his life" to READ, and became one of the iconic thinkers of our age.)

Speaking from experience, when you pursue your passion, the pieces fall into place - often in surprising ways! [Smile]

There's nothing worse than for a person to waste their life "clocking in and clocking out" in the service of a retirement fund spreadsheet so they have enough money to cover their @ss while they sit in an easy chair waiting to die. [Wink]

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Derek
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hah. . .I know what you mean. To be honest with you, if I wasn't such a brow beat chicken **** , paranoid about finding this "career" that I have been told my whole life I need to get, I would probably just work for 10 years doing something stupid and save to buy a small live-aboard sailboat. Then I would just do my art and find ways to make money to eat. That has been my dream since I was little. Thing is, my parents were so unsupportive of me going into art over the years, that now I feel like I have to have some sort of conventional career to prove to myself that overcame the struggle and "made it." It sounds so shallow, but for some reason I need it, if only for a short while. I fancy myself this guy who wants to defy a conformist lifestyle, but it is really hard to shake your conditioning.

You joke about living in Costa Rica, but I REALLY am not ruling out moving to another country if that is what it takes. I visited Prague and Amsterdam and fell in love. I think you need to be hired to a job though, and you can only work for a short time on a visa. If Jan Svankmajer magically called me up to be his assistant, I would paddle to Prague on a raft and work for free. Through me a Pilsner once in a while and life would be good.

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SoleilSmile
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Derek, it sounds like you would like the life of Stuart Little. Just jump in a windup car and ride off in the sunset in search of Margolo.

Sound nice.

--------------------
HipChick Comics and Animatress Blog

www.hipchickcomics.com
http://www.animatress.blogspot.com/

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Jasen
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quote:
my parents were so nonsupporting of me going into art over the years, that now I feel like I have to have some sort of conventional career
Join the club, my parents are still trying to talk me out of being an artist. [Frown]

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http://jasenstrong.artstooge.com/
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Animation Co-op
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quote:
You joke about living in Costa Rica, but I REALLY am not ruling out moving to another country if that is what it takes.
I wasn't joking, Derek. I am entirely serious! [Smile]

I know an animator who wanted to create his own shorts by living off his savings. He calculated that he could last for a year in Los Angeles, but could make that same amount of money stretch for three years in Costa Rica. So he moved there, rented a nice little bungalow with an outdoor rain bucket shower, and did his thing. Last I heard, he's still there five years later, animating, painting, and dating Costa Rican girls. [Cool]

Think... outside... the box. [cheers]

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Mr. Fun
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The one thing you don't want to be is an old codger filled with regrets because you never did the things you wanted.

I wanted to work at mainstream studios like Disney and Pixar because I loved animated features. I wanted to animate television commercials, and storyboard for live-action. Finally, I wanted to run my own company. Now, I'm not saying I was totally successful at all these ventures - - but at least I got the chance to do it.

Randy Newman said it best in that wonderful little song from A Bug's Life. "You only go around one time, far as I can tell. It's the time of your life so live it well."

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KevinO
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You got it MF. . .(mr. fun that is)
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Graphiteman
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There was a time in my life when I thought what I was doing, however related to what I really wanted to do, was second best. Later on in life when I was high and dry career-wise I would have given anything to go back and do that thing I thought was second best and I realized how it really wasn't second best but just a different newer incarnation of what I thought I wanted to do.

You're young. The world is your oyster. It would seem from your talents you could write your own ticket. Just be thankful for your experiences. You never know how these experiences that you reluctantly found yourself doing may be encorporated into what you really want to do someday.

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JDC
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What to have done differently.. hmm.. probably just ask out more girls. [biggrin] As for balance.. I'm not even sure what that is.. don't go for the merry go round.. sure its safe, but the roller coasters are much more fun!

Why don't you just use your money to take the time off you need to develop your own movie/franchise/brand/tv show.. etc.. ? Create concept art for your own ideas and pitch them.. Don't go to the studios, make the studios go to you... (and if you figure out how,.. let me know)

you got a rad portfolio and money in the bank.. use it.

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Http://bluemonstereyes.blogspot.com

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Mel Allen Sink
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Nearly everything all the way back to grade school.

One example out of 47,864,281: grab some good mechanical pencils and tech pens and Hogarth's book and muscle mags and skin mags back around '75 or 6, and spend my spare time for the rest of high school figuring out figure rendering and inking.

OTOH, not buying that Chinon. Maybe spending that windfall on buying all the Centuri fantasy rockets and having enough change left over to buy a rough but running Bullet Nose or Silver Hawk.

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http://melallensink.blogspot.com

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Mel Allen Sink
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quote:
And as Joseph Campbell said: "Follow your bliss."

(Now there's a guy who took four years "out of his life" to READ, and became one of the iconic thinkers of our age.)

Speaking from experience, when you pursue your passion, the pieces fall into place - often in surprising ways!

There's nothing worse than for a person to waste their life "clocking in and clocking out" in the service of a retirement fund spreadsheet so they have enough money to cover their @ss while they sit in an easy chair waiting to die.

I dunno, after spending years taking a royal bruising following my bliss with the comics and rockets, it's almost a relief to punch the Post Office clock and have a sure thing with benefits.

I still have nights and weekends to do my thing. Just trying to get motivated to use the time better.

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http://melallensink.blogspot.com

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Ganklin
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in terms of my art background training, i don't think i would've done anything differently.

i don't know you personally, but i do remember ou posting some of that art work here on AN in the past. it sounds like you've done some fun things, and you must be doing well enough to have been able to sock away 20k. most people i know can't do that.

a job is a job. that's what it is. i think snake's right. maybe take some time off and travel a bit, but it sounds to me that things are going well for you. keep your connections and keep building. you will eventually get to where you want to be.

set up a project for yourself to work on in your spare time to keep you happy.

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http://fsummers.blogspot.com/
www.shamoozal.com

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Derek
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It is not that I am well to do. Last year my girlfriend and I decided to bank money to move. We pooled our money together. I averaged 70 hours a week working in a graphics department at a sign/display company. We have a really low rent right now, so I am just taking some time to paint and get back into the swing of things. But eventually, at the end of spring, I will need to get a "job." I would really rather move to southern Connecticut and take the train into NYC. I know and love the city and it is closer to my family. There are a couple of smaller studios out there and Blue Sky (but that is a long shot. . .I would give anything to work there). There are also a couple of video game places like Gameloft. I find it hard to believe that a guy like me couldn't find ANYTHING to do in NYC. That is most likely the plan.

My girlfriend is an interior designer and she is just swell in her life. Maybe she will strike it big and she could be my sugar moma. Then I could be one of those trophy husbands who works out and tans twice a day. . .hah

Derek

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Patty B
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What I would have done differently, and I knock myself constantly about this but if I'd have been less busy (and if I knew this was accessible to me)while on the job (design coordinator at Nelvana) I should have sat in on other things like assemblies and board meetings and recordings and that kind of thing. If anything just to know what goes on. And Should have kept up some drawing.
Derek-you seem to have the chops I think you should start going to animation events and get connected-make friends in the animation industry--do pen pals or travel to visit people and to drop off portfolios--many times jobs are got by word of mouth and the jobs don't get posted. Your work is something that someone would not be afraid to promote but now people need to know you.
I hope the animation industry is enough to satisfy your needs.

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KevinO
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Have you sent anything to Blue Sky? Just thought I'd ask. If you have, keep trying anyway. It's worth the shot if you want it. Besides southern CT is a really nice place to live.
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tstevens
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I wish I had been more serious about drawing when I was in highschool: I was in denial about my ability at that time so I didn't really work at it. Now I feel like I'm behind the curve relative to my age.

However, with that said, I'm glad I had the chance to go to a regular university, get a fine arts degree, and then go into animation.

If you try to look at your life from the outside in, you will in general arrive at the right conclusion. Sometimes you have to diss-associate your emotions from reality to arrive at the right answer.

Oddly enough you (derek that is) sound a lot like my cousin. He is a photographer who has a hard time working for anyone so he has avoided jobs like the plague. In lieu of that he has tried to sell his work through stock-photo web sites like Corbis and a half dozen others. The up side to his predicament is that his photos have gone from so-so to being pretty damn good in just a few years. The down side is that he has no practical business sense so he refuses to promote himself and he brings in very little real income. This has been a major source of instability in his marriage.

My personal oppinion is that if life tells you that you need to make "x" number of dollars to live then you have to find a way to do that. Money may not seem so important now, but it will be when you take on the responsibility of being married or having a family. Remember - the second you get married everything changes. Don't get married until you have reconciled your ambitions. If you don't, you will have serious issues down the line.

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http://www.foogersnarts.blogspot.com

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Derek
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I totally hear you. As much as I bitch about needing to create art, the bottom line is that no one will ever take that away from me. . .no matter what I do to make money. Though I don't necessarily want to do the whole kids and white picket fence thing right now, I am young and you NEVER know. Even if I never had any one that depended on me for the rest of my life, I don't want to debate whether or not it is in my budget to see a movie or go fishing with my father or something. I am probably a little obsessed with my work compared to say a tool maker. But, honestly,I don't want my life to be all about work. I just want to find a job I can live with that doesn't make me want to commit suicide every day. The problem is, I am not really sure what is the job title that will make me happiest. So, how can you focus your efforts on a portfolio to a specific job your not even sure you want to do. I know I love illustration, but that kind of work is being slowly phased out. Again, back to that whole thing about compromising yourself for a career that is viable rather than shooting for what you like. You may be going down with the ship. All I can do is produce work that makes me happy and hope for the best. For now I am aiming at concept art/visual development. Even if that work is a pipe dream (because the best of the best veterans in the business get the concept work), at least it is a direction.

By the way Patty, I took your advice and I am meeting up with a recruiter next week.

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Animation Co-op
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quote:
The problem is, I am not really sure what is the job title that will make me happiest.
Derek, the problem is that you're thinking about this backwards. [Smile]

Consider what VOCATION will make you happiest, and then go pursue that with everything you've got. The "job title" will follow.

I regularly ask people who are struggling, "Are you pursuing a JOB, a CAREER or a VOCATION?" These are by no means mutually exclusive (in fact, they are entirely related), but you'll find that you will be happier and ultimately more successfully if you're focused on the high end of that scale. The most miserable people I meet are typically fixated on the low end... for all of the "good reasons" that keep people stuck in dead end circumstances.

Good luck!

Kevin Geiger

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Derek
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Thanks guys. . .all of this has really helped me out. I have definitely been needlessly stressing myself out. You are totally right Kevin. All of the jaded people that depress me about the business typically have pigeon-holed themselves into one small facet of the art/animation world.

I will adjust my philosophy and paint with bigger strokes.

thanks again

Derek

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SNAKEBITE
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Amen, Kevin.

--------------------
contact@animationnation.com
www.artbysnakebite.com
www.myspace.com/mrbite
www.redskystudio.com
www.myspace.com/redskystudio

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OFFBEAT
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Looking at the question again...

The best piece of advice I can give anyone is to not get into debt.. don't get a credit card.
The misery of not having is HEAVEN in comparison to the misery of being in debt to someone.

This includes student loans. Pay for your education as you go. Or get a crappy job first, and save up..

You have no idea what a ball and chain it is.

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"Get Rich, or Die Drawing!"

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Animation Co-op
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The best piece of advice I ever heard about debt is this:

"Borrow $10,000 and the bank owns you. But borrow $10,000,000 and you own the bank."

KG

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devourax
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A co-worker of mine went to an art school in San Fran. His schooling cost him 75k. He regrets his art degree every day and would never do it again.

The reason?,....because many artists today don't need the schooling. If you have the talent, you can get a decent job without the degree. However, in my own personal opinion, a degree could set you apart from the saturated market of artists.

My own personal regret is letting my 2d drawing skills slack off while I dove into the 3d realm. I relazied that my 2d is what makes me...me.

3d isn't as personal.

-dev

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Devourax
http://devourax.blogspot.com/

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Animation Co-op
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quote:
3d isn't as personal.
It IS if it's done well.
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dermot
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Derek.......take a break....and indulge a personal project . Get out and have have some fun even if it's pursuing another aspect of art in some way ( join a band / audition for a play etc )

I only STARTED in animation when I was 27 ( and penniless ).....but time has a way of putting perspective on it .

By the time I was 31 I had gone from delighted to seriously disillusioned....but here after another 14 years I have a sense of relative calm about the whole thing .

Take as much pride and care in your work as you can , but if your dreams are way too far beyond your own capacity you're just gonna go kookoo .
Set some attainable (smaller ) goals and make them .

Enjoy the ride !....hell if I had done all the creative things you've enjoyed ( rather than working at convenience stores ) before I was 27 I'd count that as an awesome resume just starting in the business!


http://zoomfrog.blogspot.com/

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http://zoomfrog.blogspot.com/

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Derek
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You guys are great.

Derek

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