Advice To a Young Artist

Recently I was at a bit of a family gathering type thing. I was introduced to cousins to whom I am related in ways I can never quite remember - I’m terrible at these things. Anyway, human gatherings aren’t especially within my comfort zone but with the warm label of “family” attached to this one I felt as at ease as I could in such a situation. My state of mind is important here because of the following conversation killer.

It was announced that one of the young cousins, suffering through the age of high-school, is fond of illustration. All heads turn my way. Any career advice for the young man? they asked the unemployed “artist” suffering through the age of mid-life.

This is where the state of mind becomes important. See even in the most comfortable of social situations, I’m still usually so wound up that my brain is only running on half-power. This makes for doing things like giving life advice to an impressionable teenager at the drop of hat a little stressful.

So I stalled. Collected my thoughts. Then just went with whatever came to mind second. (Because, naturally, what came to mind first was marry into money).

I told the young, impressionable and doomed cousin that nobody’s going to care about your grades, they’re going to want to see your portfolio so focus on that. But go to school anyway for the experiences and try every discipline, eventually you’ll realize what you love most - even if you never figure out why. And most important remember that rejection is not a measure of the quality of your work, sometimes it’s just not the right fit.

At least that’s what I think I said. It’s what came from my gut so I hope it’s fair advice. My theory on advice is that the adviser is only ever going to be able to speak from their own experience so objectivity is pretty much moot. But that said if you happen to hear something that resonates then so be it, its just a new perspective to consider.

Poor guy. Illustration. Yikes. Even so called fine artists think us illustrators are half-assing it.

One Response to “Advice To a Young Artist”

  1. straydogstrut Says:

    It’s good advice. I’m sure your cousin was just as overwhelmed with stage-fright as you, given the social setting. I know I always (am) when other people try to plan out my future. Hopefully your advice was taken to heart.

    When I decided to try University for the second time, I found all the creative schools wanted portfolios. All the grades i’d built up through various courses didn’t really matter unless I had a portfolio to go with it.

    For someone like me who flits between interests, creating a portfolio hasn’t come easy. Even now, having graduated, I have some projects i’ve worked on, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider them portfolio material. I’m too fussy=)

    For someone like your cousin, doing illustration, a portfolio is a must. A portfolio website is what all the kids are doing these days, so maybe he could do that. Drop a link on Twitter or something, i’d love to see his stuff.