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The Visual Storytelling Podcast

Disney Artist Chris Oatley helps you become a professional Visual Storyteller with Tutorials and Expert Interviews on Concept Art, Animation Visual Development, Character Design, Storyboarding, Comics, Illustration, Children's Books and Screenwriting.

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4 Keys To A Long and Healthy Illustration Career :: ArtCast #114

How long did it take you to learn the “Happy Birthday” song? …and how long would it take you to learn to sing a pitch-perfect, note-for-note, Broadway power ballad? Years, right? Because style takes time. …and how many wrong notes would you produce in private before you gained the confidence to perform live? Millions. Process and performance are different things. Let’s pretend you have some real potential. Would you start chain smoking and take a day job in a coal mine to pay the bills? Of course not. You gotta take care of your moneymaker. And when you’re a big hit on Broadway with crossover success in movies and pop music… …did you make it without a mentor? Probably not. A good mentor is essential. We can easily see the absurdity in the image of an aspiring Broadway star who expects instant results, performs without practice, neglects their throat and lungs and thinks they’ll somehow succeed without expert perspectives. But it’s a lot harder to see – in ourselves – the illustrator who expects instant results, publishes without practice, neglects their body and brain and thinks they’ll somehow succeed without expert perspectives. Today, Lauren Panepinto (Creative Director for the Sci-Fi/ Fantasy publisher Orbit Books) and Marc Scheff (Games-Illustrator-turned-Fine-Artist) join me to share 4 Keys To A Long And Healthy Illustration Career… Watch The Lesson: [ download the mp3 ] [ download the pdf ] Lesson Transcript: *The following is a transcript of the full lesson – with illustrations! Here you’ll also find links to the artists and resources referenced in the lesson… Introduction: Hello, my friends and welcome to another episode of The ArtCast by The Oatley Academy! I’m Chris Oatley – I’m an Illustrator and Visual Development Artist currently working for Disney. …and here at ChrisOatley.com, I help Artists create dream careers in the Animation Industry. I’m delighted and honored to announce that today’s guest, my friend Lauren Panepinto will join Loish, Animation Recruiter Alison Mann and me in teaching my new course at The Oatley Academy! It’s called Dream Machine: Social Media Strategies To Upgrade Your Art Career! …and it is awesome. If you’re interested in working with us to develop a sustainable, efficient and effective social media strategy, that aligns with your personal values, fits your specific career goals and helps you rise above the chaos and competition, join our interest list! I’ll follow-up via email in a weeks with more information about the course (the curriculum, schedule, payment plans, etc.) and I’ll share all the details about how to join! Now, grab a pen because you’ll definitely want to take notes on today’s lesson: 4 Keys To A Long And Healthy Illustration Career! KEY #1: Style Takes Time Every successful, Professional Artist is either a Peacock or a Chameleon. (Some Professional Artists can actually switch back and forth.) Most Illustrators, some Concept Artists and some Animation VisDev Artists are Peacocks. They build successful careers with a unique, personal and distinctive visual style. Most Animation VisDev Artists, most Concept Artists and some Illustrators are Chameleons who work in project-specific styles inspired by the story they’re telling. Whether you get hired for your personal style or to help develop a project-specific style, it takes time. Here’s Lauren… ——– [Lauren] People freak out about finding their style. They know they’re supposed to have a style. They hear everyone saying: “You have to be unique you have to be the person that does that thing the only way that you know how to do.” …and they freak out because they think: “I don’t know what my style is and maybe it’s like this and maybe it’s like this?!” I’ve never seen the level of anxiety… Just… Just make work. [Marc] You don’t wait until “The Style” finds you and then make work. You know, Picasso said, ‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.’ [Chris] My good friend Zi Yan – He answers the style question with a parable. Zi says: A student comes to a mentor… The student says: “Mentor, can you please help me find my voice?” The mentor says: “You’re speaking, aren’t you?” The student says: “Yes.” The mentor says: “Now go find something to say.” [Lauren] Exactly. [Chris] …and I’ll add to this a story about a friend of mine who had a child – a toddler. We went to dinner and there was a little play area for the kids. All of a sudden we hear their child screaming – the most shrill, intense scream – and it doesn’t stop. It just keeps going and going and going… [Lauren] That’s alarming. [Chris] Just “AAAAYH! AAAAYH!” over and over. We all look up and see the child standing by himself in the play area. But there’s nothing wrong. No altercation. Nothing. He’s just standing there with clenched fists, screaming. The child’s mom then explains that the baby has discovered… …his voice. [LAUGHTER] And last week it was [motor sound] “BRRRR!” week. And it was “BRRRR! BRRRR! BRRRR!” all week long. …and now – congratulations to me – it’s scream week. I saw them a couple months later – and the child was experimenting with an entirely different sound. I realized: This is what Illustrators and Animation Artists to need to understand.  Finding your style is often just: “BRRRR! BRRRR!” It’s like trying to hear your own voice and figure out all the different sounds you can make. If you take time to really listen to yourself – to your own voice – You can find it by trying and discover it by doing. Move forward – make work – and your style will begin to reveal itself. [Lauren] But people don’t let themselves play. They’re so determined that every piece they start is going to be a portfolio piece. They don’t play. [Chris] Exactly. Yeah. That’s just bonkers. [Lauren] So many times we’ve looked at people’s portfolios, and we’ve said: “I see you’re trying to do all this other stuff. But *this* thing, *this* is really cool. Have you ever tried doing *this* thing?” Tawny Fritz was talking about being at IMC (which is a hotbed of people picking out what you should be doing – which is why people go) but she was trying so hard to be like an Oil Painter. …and she had these – she was doing these black and white pen and ink Illustrations. [Marc] Just in between painting sessions. Just screwin’ around. [Lauren] Just to decompress. But everyone who came around was like: “Whatever.” (About the painting.) “…but [these pen and ink pieces are] great! You should be doing *this!*”  …and she talks about going through this – almost a grieving process. [Marc] We all go back to the IMC dorm where everyone’s staying and I walk in and she’s sitting there in a chair… [Lauren] Like somebody died. [Marc] …and I ask: “What’s going on?”  She said something like: “I’m busting my ass on this painting and everyone’s coming by and they don’t even notice it – and they’re like: ‘Oh look at these ink drawings.'” And so I asked: “Dooo you thiiink maybeee you should juuust… …do this?” …and she’s like: “Okay, okay. I’ll think about it.” …and now she’s making these beautiful… [Lauren] Now that’s what she does. [Marc] And she’s committed to it. [Chris] And it’s not like she can’t ever try oil painting again… [Lauren] It’s not like we choose something and then we’re stuck with it for all time. [Marc] It’s not a future dystopia, where it’s like: “You are an ink person! Go to the ink people! Forever you will only eat ink and breathe ink!” [LAUGHTER] [Lauren] It’s true that people get really freaked out. I’ve [suggested a particular focus] to people and they burst into tears in the middle of a portfolio review because they think: “No that’s not me! That’s not what I want to do!” …and I think: “Okay, well, that’s fine. You can paint like a third-rate Donato for the next ten years, but you could be getting work doing this while you figure it out.” People get so wrapped up in their vision of their own identity: I am this kind of Artist, or I am this kind of person. I was talking to an artist up at IMC and they were talking about how they would never be the kind of person that does personal projects. They only want do commissions. They don’t want to do any personal projects. …and I was like: “Wow, okay. Well that’s opposite of how most people feel but, okay. But why? Have you ever done a personal project?” “No that’s just not who I am.” “How do you know?” [Chris] Wow. [Marc] I’ve seen it happen over and over again where it’s like: “I appreciate you trying this here, but scrap it. Because this thing – this other thing – that you keep showing up with…” [Lauren] Is great. [Marc] “…is really where your heart is. So why don’t you try exploring it?” How many people listening to this really wanted to be (I’m raising my hand) “that” kind of painter, gotten halfway to being good at it and realized: “I don’t want to be “that” kind of painter. I actually want to paint this other way. That’s not what’s coming out of me.” [Chris] Yeah. Something I’ve been saying to my students a lot lately has been: “Try on different outfits.” They completely buy-in prior to even having tried it on for size. It’s like window shopping for wedding dresses and then you go and you spend $5,000 on a dress before you’ve even tried it on. [Lauren] It’s almost like absorbing people’s superpowers… Try and do a piece of your own in the style of Escher. Try and do a piece of your own in the style of Mucha. It’s ok if your influences show. They will show and they should show. (But people stop at that point.) We teach people to career stalk. You should have for 5 or 10 Artists that – you think you want their career. (It changes every couple of years. Everybody coming out of school right now looks like Victo Ngai. A couple years ago it was Sam Weber.) You should not just look at their website wistfully and wish that you could be as good as them. Go back and look at their old art. See how they got there. See what their clients said they got. Did they work in-house? A lot of people don’t know that Sam Weber worked for The New York Times and was pretty much a black-and-white/ pen-and-ink Illustrator. Knowing that is critical to bridging that gap between where you are and where you want to be. So we teach people to (politely) career stalk. (Don’t actually stalk them.) Do your research. Pretend that these are your mentors – even if they don’t know – because cause they are. Don’t just look at the finished product. Figure out how they got there. The Internet is an amazing place for that. Go back far enough in someone’s Facebook timeline and you can see a whole career. KEY #2: Separate Process And Performance Social Media almost forces Artists to conflate Process and Performance. Process (which often includes practice) is, primarily, private. Performance is, primarily, for the public… ——– [Chris] Everybody at Disney has Frank and Ollie stories and though most of the people at Disney now didn’t know Frank and Ollie – but the stories are still circulating. I can’t remember who told me this story. …or if the person who told me the story is even the protagonist of the story. I don’t remember. But there’s this Storyboard Artist who is new and he has a pitch coming up. …and the Story Artist wants to impress Ollie Johnston who will be reviewing the Storyboards. …and so he works night and day, making the most perfect, beautiful Story Sketches you’ve ever seen. He’s shading everything, putting some color on there, drawing and redrawing and cleaning-up and he goes in and does the pitch. Then Ollie stands up to share his opinion… …and instead of really giving feedback on the pitch, he just picks up a pencil, walks up to one of the Storyboards and he just starts kinda – delicately doodling – nonsensically – over the drawing. …and he looks at the Storyboard Artist and asks: “How does this make you feel?” [LAUGHTER] The whole point being: It’s a Storyboard. It’s not the final piece. This is process. …and there’s this amazing – sort of – disposability that folks in Animation approach their work with that I think a lot of Illustrators could really benefit from. In that it’s all just steps along the way. …even if you spent an entire week on a painting it’s still going to be in the rear-view mirror… [Marc] Yeah, and I think that’s something that gets lost a little bit, especially… Take sketchbooks as an example. If you want to figure out the design for something, you don’t work on a giant canvas and try to figure it out there. You work in a sketchbook. If you’re trying to figure out how you work with oil, you don’t do a giant – you don’t do a Waterhouse. You have to make a lot of work. …and you have to be willing to make crap. It’s also one of the things that desensitizes you to failure. [Lauren] That’s the confidence thing. You don’t gain confidence by winning. You gain confidence by losing. You gain insecurity by winning, cause then you have a streak that you don’t want to screw up. [Marc] Then when you’re sitting there and you’re making a piece of dung in your sketchbook, you’re not also beating yourself up about it. …hopefully not. When people post their sketches online, they’re not posting the fifty pages of stuff that just looks like nothing – not good – the light on the face is terrible and all that other stuff. [Lauren] That’s social media in general. You only see ten percent of the best work. [Marc] Well, we can go down that road if you want to… [Lauren] That’s different. [Marc] That’s part of the issue. The process is so opaque because people aren’t showing all that stuff. KEY #3: Take Care Of Your Moneymaker As Artists, we’re fortunate that most of us will be able to continue to do creatively fulfilling work well into our old age. The problem is many of us work in ways that risk our long-term health. Just recently, I heard an interview with a popular Instagram Artist who said she wrecked her stomach and injured her spine from overwork. After that, I read an interview where an experienced Professional Artist was quoted saying that in order to make a living as an Artist, “you can’t ease up or relax at all – ever.” …which simply isn’t true – let alone sustainable. Most of the pros I know do work a lot, but they don’t wreck their bodies and relationships in the process. Here’s Lauren… ——– [Lauren] Pay as much attention to your mental strength as your artist strength. What an Art Director gets to hear that a lot of Artists starting out don’t get to hear is that the Artists at the top of the chain have the same doubts and insecurities and mental head-game stuff as the guys on the bottom of the chain. It’s just the level is different. [Marc] I heard one Artist – I won’t name names – talking about this and saying: “Well, yeah. I am booked solid for the next two years. …but what about after that?” …and everyone else is like: “Two years, Geez…” [Chris] That’s great, yeah! [Lauren] But the anxiety doesn’t go away. It just gets bigger and bigger. Really the questions that we get over and over and over again are not nitty-gritty business questions. They’re therapy questions. Things like habit building, how to deal with anxiety, confidence and depression. [Marc] Getting enough sleep. [Lauren] Self-care… …to the point that it has sent me on my own little side journey of reading Artists’ psychiatry. (To Chris) You and I have talked about this before, but I’m even thinking about doing a Master’s in Art Therapy to try and help. I’m from New York. So I am completely, a thousand percent transparent that I have a therapist. [Marc] I love mine! [Lauren] Yeah. [Marc] I think when you get here they just give you one. Right when you get off the plane… [Lauren] I wish they would… [Marc] You have a temporary one assigned just for your trip, while you’re here, Chris. [LAUGHTER] [Lauren] Bringing down mental health stigma is a big thing right now. Especially on social media and that’s important because we all like to pretend that everything is fine. …and one of the dangers of social media is that we only see when it’s fine. There’s a version of this talk – that’s taped now – I think it’s from The Society Of Illustrators – But Mike Mignola gives this talk at IMC whenever he’s there about his career. …and there’s a chunk in it about how the years when he was just writing Hellboy – and he wasn’t drawing Hellboy – weren’t because he was too busy (which is what everybody assumed) or that he was working on other stuff but because he’d had, pretty much, a nervous breakdown and he couldn’t bring himself to draw and all he could do was write the stories. It was a fight with himself even to get a cover drawing out. …and that’s so important for people to hear. …so they’re not blindsided by things that come up. …and the shame of it. You know, like: “Oh I should be better than this. I shouldn’t let this sideline me” or “I shouldn’t feel this way.” I mean, if Mike Mignola can’t draw Hellboy… You’re not alone. So I think those issues are really, really, really important. I see it all the time on Facebook. I see Artists that have the work down and have the contacts down and they just can’t get their head-game together. I wanna reach through the Internet and say: “I’m not a Therapist. Can you please, please, please find one?” [Marc] Definitely speak to friends and see what options are out there because there are public health options. [Lauren] There are apps too. There are text-a-therapist apps that are affordable… [Marc] Much more affordable, yeah… [Lauren] Also, Mark and I wanted to have a blog on MakeYourArtWork.com but we wanted it to be different. There are three sections on that blog. One is “Book Notes.” I read a lot of books – and they’re almost always self-help books. …the ones that I make notes of. They’re like Artist self-help. Things like habit building and confidence (like The Confidence Code) and I put a little review, but the summary I write in my sketchbook and I scan the pages so people know what I’m reading and where I’m getting this information from that I think is really valuable for Artists to read. The second thing is “S.O.S.” Which is: “I don’t know what to charge!” …and then we give you bullet points. Or “I can’t find my style.” [Marc] “The Art Director is standing across the room! What do I do?!” [Lauren] Yeah, those things. …but the third one is “Artist Therapy.” …and it’s just whatever I’ve learned from all of the books and all of the therapy. I try and distill it into those posts – and it’s not tailored to individual people – I try to make it as general as possible. [Marc] There are a lot of the same questions that come up that require that kind of conversation. [Lauren] And again, I’m hearing these questions from people who are struggling with this stuff at the Iain McCaig level and Mike Mignola level and people are struggling with it at the entry level. It doesn’t magically go away the more successful you are. [Marc] “When does the pain stop?” It doesn’t. KEY #4: A Good Mentor Is Essential Lots of Artists are introverted. Most of us, I’d guess. And introversion can be a beautiful thing. But even introverted Artists can’t succeed – at least not in a significant and lasting way – entirely on their own. Here’s Marc… ——– [Marc] Make sure you have one really good friend. Don’t go at it alone. A lot of us are introverts or shy or some combination of both. And it’s not always easy to go have a crowd of people you hang out with. …and maybe you don’t like to hang out with people. Maybe that’s just not your thing. Maybe you actually prefer to be by yourself. …and that’s. That’s what you get. But it’s very important to have that one person that you can share all the things with. …and it’s not just valuable for mental health. Take Rebecca as my example. I don’t see Rebecca all the time. [Lauren] Rebecca Guay. [Marc] We talk occasionally. (More these days, honestly.) But I can – anytime – send her something and say “I’m kinda stuck.” (She calls it: “Rats in your head.”) “I’ve got these rats running around my head and I’m feeling insecure. I don’t know what I’m doing with this piece. Should I apply to this thing? Which piece of should I send this thing?” …all that career stuff on which I just want someone else’s perspective who – definitely – whose opinion I respect. …but who will also give it to me in a completely realist way. …and in a way that I can also hear. Having that friend, that person that you trust in your life. It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who’s doing the stuff in your world, but someone who… [Lauren] Who just gets it. [Marc] I can point to a number of turning points in my career where I showed somebody something and they gave me some real feedback and it changed everything. Rebecca has been that person for me. …and I can think of a few times when she’s done that. …where she saw some Illustration work I was doing and said: “Why don’t you try doing a lot of that?” …and that changed everything. When I was working on building up my repertoire in the gallery world, I showed her some stuff and she helped me hone it down. [Lauren] You need somebody to call you on your sh**t. You need somebody to pat your back when you need it. …and tell you it’s going to be okay. [Marc] It’s very easy for creatives to be looking forward all the time. …and you have to be. That’s important. But if you’re not also measuring how far you’ve come, you completely lose sight of how great you’re doing. …of all the stuff you’ve done. [Lauren] It’s hard to tell yourself how good you’re doing. You need your friends to be like: “Oh my god. Okay. This is not going so great. But do you remember when you did that amazing thing?” Sign-Off: Connect with Lauren and Marc at DrawnAndDrafted.com And join the interest list for Dream Machine: Social Media Strategies To Upgrade Your Art Career! Again, if you’re interested in working with Creative Director Lauren Panepinto, Feature Animation Recruiter Alison Mann, Loish and me to develop a sustainable, efficient and effective social media strategy, that aligns with your personal values, fits your specific career goals and helps you rise above the chaos and competition, then this is one epic opportunity that you will not want to miss! Until next time, my friends, remember: You are creators, not consumers. Design your lives accordingly. The post 4 Keys To A Long and Healthy Illustration Career :: ArtCast #114 appeared first on ChrisOatley.com.

1 Jan 2019

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11 Social Media Habits That Hurt Your Art Career (And How To Break Them) :: ArtCast #115

These days, whenever I ask my industry colleagues where they’re finding work, the answer is almost always one of two things: Industry connections or Social Media. …but, despite the proliferation of Social Media success stories within the Entertainment Industries, many of us are still afraid of Social Media. …and if we’re not afraid, we’re often too familiar for our own good. …but Social Media is just like drawing and painting. It has a set of learnable skills and a professional approach. I learned how to power my business with Social Media strategies that progress both the business and my personal art career. I also helped a number of my students and my Animation industry colleagues develop their own Social Media strategies. We’re all Artists here. If I can figure it out, you can too. …and today’s lesson – 11 (BAD) Social Media Habits That Hurt Your Art Career (And How To Break Them) – is a great place to start! Click through to watch the lesson and download the free resources… Watch The Lesson: [ download the mp3 ] [ download the pdf ] Lesson Transcript: The following is a transcript of the full lesson – with illustrations and links for the Artists and Resources! NOTE: I made each Bad Social Media Habit into a Character. They do NOT represent real individuals. They are satirically simplistic, fictional Characters created to help us identify and externalize our own Artistic struggles. Introduction: Hello, my friends and welcome to The ArtCast by The Oatley Academy!  I’m Chris Oatley – I’m an Illustrator and Visual Development Artist currently working for Disney. …and here at ChrisOatley.com, I help Artists create dream careers in in Animation, Concept Art and Illustration. We all know that Social Media is vital for a successful art career. These days, whenever I ask my industry colleagues where they’re finding work, the answer is almost always one of two things: Industry connections or Social Media. …but, despite the proliferation of Social Media success stories within the Entertainment Industries, many of us are still afraid of Social Media. …and if we’re not afraid, we’re often too familiar for our own good. …but Social Media is just like drawing and painting. It has a set of learnable skills and a professional approach. I learned how to power my business with Social Media strategies that progress both the business and my personal art career. I also helped a number of my students and my Animation industry colleagues develop their own Social Media strategies. We’re all Artists here. If I can figure it out, you can too. …and today’s lesson – 11 BAD Social Media Habits That Hurt Your Art Career (And How To Break Them) – is a great place to start! Join The Interest List For “Dream Machine” Before we begin, check out my new Social Media course! It’s called: Dream Machine: Social Media Strategies To Upgrade Your Art Career! Throughout the course, you’ll develop an effective, efficient and sustainable Social Media strategy that helps you rise above the chaos and competition. My friends Loish (world-famous Illustrator and Concept Artist), Lauren Panepinto (Creative Director for the Sci-Fi/ Fantasy Publisher Orbit Books) and Alison Mann (Creative Talent Recruiter for Illumination and Disney) will also be there to support you with their own, specialized guidance. Join the interest list and I’ll follow-up soon with the details! #1: The Rando: The Rando has no clear career goal. …and without clear career goals, one has no idea what to post. Like a desert island castaway tossing bottled messages into the ocean, The Rando posts anything and everything, hoping a stranger will, some day, send rescue. The Rando’s bio might be confusing: “Coffee addict. Cat lover. Parent to three crazy kids. Cartoonist and occasional photographer.” …or noncommittal: “I draw stuff.” …so, The Rando shouldn’t be surprised when they get ignored in favor of Artists with clearer posts and profiles. How To Break “The Rando” Habit: Social Media is full of randomness and clarity is extremely scarce. What studio or client out there is looking to acquire more randomness? What hiring manager puts “confusing” and “noncommittal” on a list of job requirements? Clarify your career goals and you’ll have a much clearer idea about what to post. Combine that clarity with excellence and you’ll earn the attention of those who will help to create your dream career. #2: The Noisy Neighbor: My good friend Justin Rodrigues was a guest instructor for an Animation VisDev course I taught at The Oatley Academy last year. Though the focus of his talk was, as you might expect, Character Design for Animation, the topic of Social Media came up several times. Justin talked about how it helps to think of your Social Media presence as an “Active Portfolio.” Dynamic, interactive, evolving… …but still professional. Scroll The Noisy Neighbor’s feed and you’ll find it pulverized by irrelevant (and often incendiary) posts. Maybe they can’t resist a political rant. …or maybe they prefer the Internet hive-mind to a qualified psychologist. …or maybe they think yet another photo of their sticky-faced kid will hook a successful Publisher or Producer. Specifics aside, the “TMI” approach to Social Media is unprofessional. How To Break “The Noisy Neighbor” Habit: If you wouldn’t feel comfortable presenting it to the entire crew at your dream studio or ideal publishing house, don’t post it on Social Media. …if you absolutely have to use Social Media for personal purposes, create a separate account for friends-and-family only. #3: The Alice: While researching a lesson on productivity, I asked my Instagram followers to share their main productivity killers. “Social Media” was, of course, one of the most common responses. Through conversations with many of the Artists who responded, the following pattern became apparent: Step 1: The Artist opens a Social Media app. (We’ll use Instagram in this example.) They don’t really know why they’re opening the app, but they know that’s a thing professional Artists do. Step 2: They check for new DMs and comments, hoping to find a life-changing inquiry from their dream Studio or Publisher but there’s just a cat video. They type a quick reply: “So cute! *heart-eyes-emoji* Thanks, Mom!” Now what…? Step 3: They do what most Instagram users do: They begin to consume. Step 4: Like Alice falling down the surreal, spacetime-warping rabbit hole, these Artists get sucked into the infinite network of hashtags and that irresistible “Endless Scroll” function. Ten minutes disappears… Fifteen… Forty… It’s understandable why The Alice might resent Social Media. …because of how consumption replaces creation. The more they consume, the less creative they feel. The less creative they feel, the harder it is to create. The harder it is to create, the easier it is to consume… How To Break “The Alice” Habit: Social Media, in the hands of a creator, is a tool that empowers and accelerates and connects. In the hands of someone who is too complacent or afraid to create, it’s endless distraction. Accept your own specialness as a creator. Commit to a specific career goal and develop a relevant project. (More on that later.) Don’t open a Social Media app unless you’re promoting your own work, supporting the work of your peers or connecting with industry pros. If you begin to sense that mental shift from proactive to passive… …from creator to consumer… …exit the app. Remember the words of The Cheshire Cat: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” #4: The Burnout: I see Artists telling each other all the time that the key to success on Social Media is, simply: “Post every day.” That’s it. No context. No conversation. Post what? Where? Why? …and for whom? The Burnout prioritizes quantity over quality. Maybe the demand for daily posts is too much or they’re trying to perform on too many different platforms. …or maybe it’s both. …regardless, they‘re overwhelmed and exhausted all the time. The Burnout also prioritizes quantity over relevance. They don’t really know why they’re working so hard. …but they keep going for fear of losing the thing that they aren’t even sure they have. How To Break “The Burnout” Habit: I know you’ve been told a thousand times to “Post every day” and to “Be everywhere.” How’s that working out for you? Of course, consistency and frequency have their value. Of course, there’s a balance to be found. But if you want to connect with Recruiters, Producers and Publishers, why would you commit to less-than-your-best? How would things change if you gave more weight to the wisdom that was formed long before Social Media? Wisdom like: “Quality over quantity.” …and “Look before you leap.” …and “Don’t burn the candle at both ends.” …and “For everything there is a season.” …and “Leave them wanting more.” There’s a big difference between tips and wisdom. #5: The Wanderer: When The Wanderer is out exploring the vast landscape of Social Media, they feel right at home. They find enough work to get by and meet many interesting folks along the way. Then, suddenly, Facebook is blown away in a toxic storm, Twitter gets devoured by big, corporate monsters and in the land of Instagram, King Algorithm falls asleep on the throne… The connections that The Wanderer takes for granted can be severed in an instant. Even The Wanderer would be wise to buy some land and build a house. How To Break “The Wanderer” Habit: Social Media, though vital for a successful art career, is no substitute for a website and email database of your own. Track the traffic from your Social Media platforms to your website and on to your email list. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Measure what works by the number of high-quality connections you can create and keep. I recommend WP Engine for web hosting and ConvertKit for email. Over the past ten years, I have worked with many of their competitors but these two are, in my opinion, the very best at what they do. If you enroll through the links above, I will receive a generous commission. #6: The Whale: The Whale swims around open-mouthed, swallowing any follower they can find. They talk about “building an audience” as if they were working with industrial materials and not individual, living human beings. They shove their way into forums and Facebook Groups with one-way communication like: “New personal work. Crits welcome. Please follow.” …and though they manage to trap some noobs, the more experienced Artists know enough to stay away. …especially the pros. How To Break “The Whale” Habit: You’ll know you’re making high quality, share-worthy work when people begin to like and share it on their own. …but you will never grow if you aren’t big enough to accept when they don’t. Find a healthy creative community and grow with them. Focus on fundamentals while you develop meaningful, reciprocal relationships. Faith is a follow but trust must be earned over the long-term. #7: The Bean Counter: The Bean Counter is obsessed with numbers. They measure the quality of their own work by the number of likes but they have no idea how it really compares to the best in the business. The Bean Counter is meticulous but extremely emotional. Gaining a new follower makes their day and they completely freak out when someone leaves. Sometimes they launch a full investigation: “Who unfollowed me? When? Why? Where are they now?! How can I get them back?!” …and sometimes they keep score: “Why does Carl have 423 more followers than me? I work way harder than he does! …and Kevin?! How did his work get featured?! He posts nothing but furry versions of famous, British octogenarians!” When the frustration gets too intense The Bean Counter might ragequit Social Media altogether. …then come back six weeks later. They might try to rally a group of share-swappers in an attempt to “Beat The Algorithm!” …or complain about the apparent unfairness of automated curation, driving away the only people who are actually paying attention. How To Break “The Bean Counter” Habit: Don’t expect pro numbers until you’re consistently producing pro work. If someone unfollows, let ‘em go. It’s just not for them. But you don’t actually need a big audience to succeed as a professional Artist. You do, however, need a financially viable market and work that consistently meets the quality standards that inspire them to like and share and follow and hire and buy. Honor the attention of the small group of people who do care, produce share-worthy work consistently and your numbers will grow on their own. “The Algorithm” isn’t your problem. Ambivalence is. #8: The Nameless Networker: The Nameless Networker has enough charisma to attract an audience but lacks the confidence to offer anything specific. So they dodge responsibility with non-stop surveys: “What kind of art do you want to see from me this year?” …and: “Should I focus my posts or do you prefer randomness?” …and: “How’s my hair?” But despite all the supportive feedback, The Nameless Networker never finds a clear identity and so the pros never follow-up. How To Break “The Nameless Networker” Habit: Maybe you haven’t been an Artist long enough to know your own strengths and weaknesses. …or what your true creative passion is. That’s okay. Art is like love. It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between passion and infatuation until it has been tested over time. (But the fear of commitment won’t get you anywhere.) Take time to unplug and visualize a medium-term goal that makes sense. Not a short-term goal like: “I think I’ll draw Spider-man today!” …but also not a super-long-term goal like: “In ten years I will win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature!” In general, I recommend a three-to-six month timeline for medium-term goals. It has to be highly specific. …and it has to define a journey with both creative and professional components that like-minded people will support. Share this goal with your audience and keep them posted with your progress. Here are two examples: “I always lose myself when I’m sketching Characters and Character Design is a viable career. So, over the next three months, I will create a Visual Development Portfolio project with an emphasis on Characters. I plan to devote eight pages to Characters, four pages to Props and four pages to Environments.” …or: “I am entranced by the hypnotic compositions of Wylie Beckert. Wylie works in an industry where Artists find sustainable careers. So, over the next three months, I will do precise copies of my six favorite Wylie Beckert illustrations – including her workflow. Not to post as my own, but to learn from her expertise.” You’ll probably want to explain that you’re still figuring yourself out so you might have to make adjustments along the way. …and though I recommend giving the goal the benefit of any doubts that arise, feel free to change your mind entirely. It’s great to engage your audience in creative ways but it’s not their job to design your career. #9: The Potty Mouth: The Potty Mouth doesn’t have a profanity problem. …they have a positivity problem. The Potty Mouth’s bio works to lower expectations rather than engage potential followers: “Just another wannabe Artist.” …or: “Here’s a bunch of useless crap. Enjoy.” …but sometimes it’s more subtle: “Artist. Trying not to embarrass myself.” When you do look past The Potty Mouth bio, you’ll notice that their updates and/or captions often lead with guilt or negative self-talk: “I haven’t been posting enough lately, so here’s a…” …or: “I always avoid drawing hands because I’m lazy LOL so I decided to…” …and yet The Potty Mouth complains about how hard it is to grow an audience… How To Break “The Potty Mouth” Habit: When you frame your work in shame and guilt, you agitate the shame and guilt in your audience. …and nobody wants more of that. …but when you frame your work in passion and positivity and professionalism, your career will, almost certainly, progress. Though the topic of mental health goes beyond the scope of this lesson, I feel it’s necessary to make a quick aside: If you discover that negative self-talk is more than just a bad habit, I highly recommend seeking the help of a mental health professional. To fight RSI, we visit a wrist doctor, right? Unbreakable negative self-talk might call for a visit a thought doctor. #10: The Hermit: The Hermit prefers to lurk and like and follow and subscribe in silent support of everyone else. But they hide from their own excellence because they’re afraid of falling into the dark chasm between risk and reward. How To Break “The Hermit” Habit: The loyal support of your fellow creatives is much needed and, in most cases, deeply appreciated. But there’s no growth without risk. That’s not a dark chasm in front of you. It’s a blank canvas. #11: The Messy Roommate: The Art School where I got my undergraduate degree was infamous for inundating its students with homework. I lived in a shoddy condo with way too many roommates and every room (Yes. Even the bathroom…) became an ad hoc workspace. Stacks of animated flour sacks, the dust of foam dinosaurs, sticky easels, overturned paint cups, open cans of turpentine (It’s a wonder we’re all still alive…), charcoal powder, pizza boxes, half-empty soda cans and socks (Why were there so many socks?!) culminated in an epic mess with a predictable-but-appropriate name: ARTPOCALYPSE! On Social Media, The Messy Roommate seems to think their individual posts are as permanent as a published book – never to be discarded nor recycled. The remnants of every creative experiment and trend create a mess of what could, with some focused de-cluttering, become a professional presentation. Recruiters, Producers and Publishers lack the time and energy to navigate the chaos, so they scroll away quickly, completely missing the all the good stuff. How To Break “The Messy Roommate” Habit: Angry as you might (still) be at George Lucas for The Star Wars Special Editions and all their superfluous CGI, they hold a valuable lesson for us all: If some of the most indelible films in the history of cinema can be reworked twenty years later, the posts on your professional Social Media feeds are definitely not permanent. If you don’t declutter and curate your work, somebody else will declutter and curate for you. …by unfollowing. Do these three things today: Consider your ultimate career goal. Think like the folks who will help you achieve that goal. Imagining you’re them, scroll your own feeds, curate and de-clutter. Repeat this every few months or every time you apply for a new gig. Sign-Off: If you struggle with any of the (bad) Social Media habits in this lesson and want help developing a sustainable, efficient and effective Social Media strategy that supports your career goals and helps you rise above the chaos and competition, then please consider joining my new course: Dream Machine: Social Media Strategies To Upgrade Your Art Career! Enrollment is currently scheduled to open at the end of March 2019 so go now and join the interest list and in the coming weeks, I’ll follow-up via email with the details! …and if you haven’t done so yet, download the free, illustrated Companion PDF and the mp3 for this lesson! Until next time, my friends, remember: You are creators, not consumers. Design your lives accordingly. The post 11 Social Media Habits That Hurt Your Art Career (And How To Break Them) :: ArtCast #115 appeared first on ChrisOatley.com.

19 Feb 2019

Rank #2

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Creative Bravery: Why Animation Pros Sarah Marino and Jenn Ely Thrive In A Challenging Industry :: ArtCast #102

This month, Sarah Marino (Color Supervisor at Nickelodeon), Jenn Ely (Production Designer for House Special, Visual Development Artist for Dreamworks) and I are teaching a new online workshop called First Flight: How To Create Your New Career In Visual Development. I invited them both to join me here on The ArtCast to promote First Flight and talk about how they achieved such significant success in their animation careers… Episode Highlights include: Turning fear into faith. Becoming more professional by de-emotionalizing your creative process. Why we stopped caring about job titles. How fear cost Jenn a a big opportunity (and why she’ll never make that mistake again). Why Sarah had to climb through a human hamster wheel. (That’s not a metaphor.) Inspiring gumball machines and the healing power of ice cream. Is a successful animation career worth the cost? Listen To ‘Creative Bravery’: [ download the mp3 ] [ subscribe in iTunes ] Connect With Sarah: Sarah Marino Follow Sarah on Instagram Listen to Sarah on The ArtCast Sarah on The Rising Stars Of Animation Connect With Jenn: Jenn Ely Follow Jenn on Instagram Listen to Jenn on The ArtCast Claire Keane, Jenn Ely and Brian McDonald on Art, Fear & Finding Your Calling Music Credits: Theme Music by Storybook Steve Recurring Musical Segments by Kangaralien Are You Afraid Of The Dark? In this episode, Jenn and I talked about how fear of failure cost each of us a big career opportunity. We both survived, but we regret the moments when we let fear keep us from taking positive action… What is a big fear you know you need to confront right now? Don’t repeat our mistakes. Commit to taking action by sharing about it in the comments below! The post Creative Bravery: Why Animation Pros Sarah Marino and Jenn Ely Thrive In A Challenging Industry :: ArtCast #102 appeared first on ChrisOatley.com.

12 Jul 2017

Rank #3

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3 Lessons For Writing Timeless Stories :: “Toy Story” Edition

What makes Toy Story a timeless classic? In this short video tutorial, I share three lessons to help you create stories that resonate – to infinity and beyond. [ download the video ] [ download the transcript ] Lesson 1: The Premise Is Universal Almost every child wonders, at some point, if their toys come to life when they leave the room. When developing new story ideas, be careful not to overlook familiar subjects and situations. Lesson 2: The Humor Is Universal The humor is grounded in truth. …but not the truth of our ephemeral pop culture. The humor in Toy Story is grounded in the timeless truths that each character represents: Woody’s Temper Buzz Lightyear’s Hubris Rex’s Insecurity …and so on. You can avoid shallow jokes when you infuse your story with humor that is vulnerable, personal and even embarrassingly honest. Lesson 3: Woody’s Fear Is Universal Woody helps us deal with our own darkest fears. His primal motivation is the fear of being forgotten and replaced. …a spiritual death of sorts. When his relationship with Buzz evolves from resentment to mutual respect, we learn that true friendship is worth the struggle because it makes us a more present, vital and invested individual. Whether you’re writing a gritty indie comic or family-friendly animation, confront your own darkest fears. Use the story teach yourself a lesson and you’ll be more likely to inspire lasting, meaningful connections with and among your audience. To learn more, join my Storytelling Course at ChrisOatley.com/Timeless/ Comment & Share! To which Toy Story character do you most closely relate? Share your response in the comments below and I’ll be sure to do the same! The post 3 Lessons For Writing Timeless Stories :: “Toy Story” Edition appeared first on ChrisOatley.com.

16 Oct 2018

Rank #4

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How To Fail Like A Professional Artist (…and Find Inspiration In The Process) :: ArtCast #109

So you trashed your last project and started over… …and then again. …and then again. …is that because you just aren’t meant to be an artist? …or is it simply because you’re ambitious? So you spent your weekend sleeping instead of drawing… Is that lazy? …or healthy? Are you blocked? …or just solving the wrong problem? Is failure useful for you? …or destructive? Today on The Oatley Academy ArtCast, we share five “Failure Flip Tips” to help you turn failure into a tool that’s just as useful as your favorite pencil… Listen To The Episode: [ download the mp3 ] [ subscribe in iTunes ] Join Us For Our 10th Anniversary Celebration! 2018, marks the ten-year anniversary of The ArtCast! If The ArtCast has a special place in your heart, please join us for our 10th Anniversary Celebration where you’ll get a sneak peek at our new album art, hear our new theme song and receive an invitation to our Birthday Party… Learn More >> Awesome Links: Ânia Marcos | Ejiwa (Edge) Ebenebe | Sarah Mills | Maike Venhofen | Chris Oatley Harding’s Lessons on Drawing: A Classic Approach by J. D. Harding Kazu Kibuishi Don’t Fear Placebos by Seth Godin Music by Storybook Steve and Kangaralien Share Your Thoughts… Whose “Failure Flip Tip” resonated with you most strongly and why? Please tell us in the comments below! The post How To Fail Like A Professional Artist (…and Find Inspiration In The Process) :: ArtCast #109 appeared first on ChrisOatley.com.

23 May 2018

Rank #5

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Interview with Animation Art Director Ryan Carlson (Part 2) :: ArtCast #101

In the previous episode, we met Ryan Carlson – my Disney mentor and the person without whom The Oatley Academy may never have happened… Now in part two, Ryan talks about: Working on The Iron Giant and what he learned from Brad Bird. His advancement from Assistant Effects Animator to Art Director. How to lead a team of creative professionals well. The greatest gift an aspiring animation professional can offer an Art Director… PLUS: The ArtCast: Behind The Scenes with the OA Team! Listen to part 2 of our interview with Ryan Carlson: [ download the mp3 ] [ subscribe in iTunes ] Awesome Links: Ryan Carlson Ânia Marcos Ejiwa (Edge) Ebenebe Jessie Kate Patterson Kevan Chandler Zijian (Zi) Yan Music by Storybook Steve and Kangaralien What Did You Learn? Whether from the interview with Ryan or from the panel discussion with the OA Team, what concept from this episode resonated with you the most? …and why? Please comment below! The post Interview with Animation Art Director Ryan Carlson (Part 2) :: ArtCast #101 appeared first on ChrisOatley.com.

7 Jun 2017

Rank #6

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The Lost HERstory Of Disney Animation :: ArtCast #113

When author Mindy Johnson set out to write a book about of the history (or as Mindy says, the “HERstory”) of Walt Disney‘s definitively female “Ink & Paint” Department, she began her research in the most obvious place: The Disney Archives. I’ve been to the Disney Archives several times. It’s the epicenter of animation history – an enormous, state-of-the-art research library and storage facility filled, wall-to-wall with art from the past century of Disney animated productions. Mindy visited, requested everything they had on Ink & Paint, and they brought her a folder holding five pieces of paper. That’s all they had. Composing the comprehensive history of any Disney division would be difficult even with the help of the Disney Archives. Mindy had to start from scratch. Today, she’ll share stories from the creation of her epic work Ink & Paint: The Women Of Walt Disney’s Animation and introduce us to inspiring artists from Animation HERstory… Listen To The Episode: [ download the mp3 ] [ subscribe in iTunes ] Links Mentioned: Ink & Paint: The Women Of Walt Disney’s Animation by Mindy Johnson Join The ArtCast Tenth Anniversary Celebration Who Is Your Unsung Hero? Mindy has made HERstory by introducing these unsung heroes of Disney Animation to the world. Who is an unsung hero that inspires you as an artist? Please tell me about it in the comments below! The post The Lost HERstory Of Disney Animation :: ArtCast #113 appeared first on ChrisOatley.com.

26 Sep 2018

Rank #7

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Disney Toy Designer Zach Gracia On Why You Probably Haven’t Failed Enough :: ArtCast #110

What would you do if you struggled for seven years to finally get an interview for your dream job at Disney… …and then completely blew it? Would you give up? …create a “Plan B”? What if you had already tried “Plan B”? …or would you hold onto hope for a second chance, humble yourself and double your efforts? Disney Toy Designer Zach Gracia shares the first part of his story today on The Oatley Academy ArtCast! Episode Highlights: Redefining hard work. Challenging your family’s expectations by pursuing an artistic career. The struggle of getting through art school without going into debt. The unglamorous life of a Disney Theme Park intern. …and what happens when you go into an interview at Disney Animation unprepared… Listen To The Episode: [ download the mp3 ] [ subscribe in iTunes ] Join Us For Our 10th Anniversary Celebration! 2018, marks the ten-year anniversary of The ArtCast! If The ArtCast has a special place in your heart, please join us for our 10th Anniversary Celebration where you’ll get a sneak peek at our new album art, hear our new theme song and receive an invitation to our Birthday Party… Learn More >> Awesome Links: Zach Gracia’s website Zach Gracia on Instagram Music by Storybook Steve and Kangaralien Share Your Thoughts… Post in the comments below and tell me about an epic failure for which you’re grateful… …if we get fifteen stories or more, I’ll post mine! The post Disney Toy Designer Zach Gracia On Why You Probably Haven’t Failed Enough :: ArtCast #110 appeared first on ChrisOatley.com.

27 Jun 2018

Rank #8

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Disney Toy Designer Zach Gracia On Why You Probably Haven’t Failed Enough (Part 2) :: ArtCast #111

Disney Toy Designer Zach Gracia continues his story today on The Oatley Academy ArtCast! In part one of this series, Zach told the story of how he challenged his family’s expectations to pursue an artistic career, struggled through art school and avoided debt by working multiple jobs (including some uncomfortable internships). …and when he finally got a chance at an interview with Disney Animation, he completely blew it. Now, in Part 2, Zach tells us: How he finally broke in at Disney. Why all the struggle was all worth it. Why Mentorship is so crucial for success in the entertainment industry… Listen To The Episode: [ download the mp3 ] [ subscribe in iTunes ] Join Us For Our 10th Anniversary Celebration! 2018, marks the ten-year anniversary of The ArtCast! If The ArtCast has a special place in your heart, please join us for our 10th Anniversary Celebration where you’ll get a sneak peek at our new album art, hear our new theme song and receive an invitation to our Birthday Party… Learn More >> Awesome Links: Zach Gracia’s website Zach Gracia on Instagram Music by Storybook Steve and Kangaralien Share Your Thoughts… What did you feel when you heard about the moment when Zach finally got his dream job at Disney…? SaveSave SaveSave The post Disney Toy Designer Zach Gracia On Why You Probably Haven’t Failed Enough (Part 2) :: ArtCast #111 appeared first on ChrisOatley.com.

24 Jul 2018

Rank #9

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Visual Development Mythbusting :: ArtCast #108

What is the difference between drawing and design? When working for a studio, does your personal aesthetic matter? Are you thoroughly exploring your story ideas or are you stopping too soon? What do Pixar’s Coco and The Shining have in common? And how can you get out of your own head and bring more freedom to your creative process? Today, Mentees from First Flight, our most recent Master Class at The Oatley Academy, join me for some Visual Development MYTHBUSTING… Listen To The Episode: [ download the mp3 ] [ subscribe in iTunes ] Connect With The Students: Dooz Zach Clarkson Amie Farrell Natalie Skerlong Matthew Cook Say Hi! As you can imagine, it takes a lot of guts to get on the mic in front of tens of thousands of artists from all over the world and share your heart like our students did in these interviews… So I welcome you to post an encouraging comment or question for them and we’ll be here to engage throughout the week! The post Visual Development Mythbusting :: ArtCast #108 appeared first on ChrisOatley.com.

14 Feb 2018

Rank #10