Preparing for an Artistic Life

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Preparing for an Artistic Life

Living as an artist can be a unique and rewarding experience, but it is a jungle out there, so you need to be prepared. Let the competition be your challenge. Hard work, determination, and the ability to market yourself can help you go far. 

First you have to determine what your values are – do you value making a lot of money or working in a satisfying career? Learn more about the creative careers you are interested in and the degrees that are required for those fields. By understanding your options, you will know whether you are ready for an artistic life. 

Jean Branan, director of Career Services for The Art Institute of California — San Diego, explains what individuals need to do to prepare for an artistic life. Branan shares with us what makes creative careers unique and the challenges and opportunities they provide. What are some of the things that make creative careers unique?

Branan: One of the things I hear from our students and graduates about their artistic and creative careers is that the best part about it is that they are paid for doing what they love to do. It takes a combination of talent and hard work to be an artist and their craft is cultivated through their education, extracurricular activities, and ongoing learning. 

Artists are visuals in terms of how they think and produce vs. those who may be more mathematically inclined. Through their visuals, they are able to reach out to so many different people. To be employed in a creative career can be a unique, rewarding experience when you’re working on exciting projects such as animating for a major film studio, cooking side-by-side with the executive chef in a 5-star restaurant, or designing for a high-profile national ad campaign – something many would love to do. 

AS: What are some of the things you and your staff tell art students about artistic careers?

B: We tell them that it’s highly competitive out there and opportunities won’t fall in your lap. If they really want to be an artist, they need to get out there as a current student and “live” the culture. Go to art exhibits, meetup groups, local conferences, national conventions, networking events – anything you can do to gain exposure to your field of study and meet individuals in the industry. Do everything you can to learn everything there is to know about what you would like to do. Artistic careers can sometimes be difficult to find, but they’re definitely out there. 

AS: What are some of the challenges/opportunities that you tell students are out there?

B: We tell them that their career search is a full-time job in itself. They should not wait too long before conducting their job search because once a few months pass and they’re still unemployed, they lose their “recent graduate” status and they’re now just another unemployed person looking for a job like so many others. Technology changes so quickly, so even if they’re actively looking for employment, they should always be keeping up on the latest and greatest that’s out there and be aware of up-and-coming technology that could affect their job search (if they’re not savvy to what’s being used). 

AS: In addition to full-time work, are students encouraged to pursue other creative outlets?

B: Yes. By pursuing other creative outlets, students can meet and network with others who they can help or who can somehow help them. To be successful in the creative field really requires that you make this your “lifestyle.” It should cross over from the classroom to your professional and personal activities. 

Creative activities help shape your personality and form who you are in your professional career. We encourage our students to get involved in co-curricular and extracurricular activities related to their fields of study. Pro-bono projects for non-profits, internship experience, freelance or contract work related to your field of study will all help build experience and possibly creative opportunities in the future. 

AS: How can people prepare for the competitiveness of an artistic life?

B: Since obtaining and keeping a creative career can be competitive, it’s so important to always keep your creative juices and fresh ideas flowing. Keep up with what’s upcoming and new in terms of techniques and technology. Know your competition. What are others doing? And always be a student.