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Young(ish) Artist at Professional Crossroads

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Douglas Einar Olsen
Young(ish) Artist at Professional Crossroads
on Jul 11, 2011 at 1:51:00 am

Hi Creative Cow-

Been looking for a community of professional artists to pose a dilema to. It's a bit of a Cake or Pie situation and I'm aware it's a fortunate place to be, but it makes the decision no less difficult.

I'm a visual artist with an eclectic background. 29 years old, studied Illustration in school, spent much time traveling, living/working abroad and exploring the boundaries of my creative interests. Been in NY for some time now supporting myself as an Art Handler while pursuing various projects, dabbling in many mediums. Done lot's of fun stuff and had a few professional gigs along the way but nothing permanent. Over time I've managed to cobble together a portfolio featuring mostly Animation, Art Direction and Production Art for Film/TV.

Lately I've found my work opportunities have been improving. Got a break about a year ago being hired to lead the animation department at a web start up and was finally able to stop Art Handling. Loved the job but it only lasted for about 9 months til the budget ran out. Around the same time I got a new gig doing a music video for an up'n'coming indie rock act. The video is nearly finished and my clients are pleased - so pleased that they want to commission a short film featuring their tunes. Other interesting freelance opportunities are coming forward as well. It seems I'm entering a new professional tier and have reached some sort of knee in the curve... but now I have a new option to consider.

While doing some casual job hunting, I shot a resume to a reputable video game company in another city to apply for a temp summer gig. The position was filled but they liked my work and kept me on file, this past week they offered me a different position - this one not so temporary. It's entry level but still creative, decent pay, benefits, etc. Feels like I've been aiming for something like this to happen but now that my freelance is getting increasingly interesting, it's become a difficult choice. As you'd expect, taking the job would mean lots of change - entering a different industry, moving to a new city, and beginning an ascent on the corporate ladder. The benefits would be learning new skills, working around other creative people and the comfort of a bit more financial security.

However I'm finding it hard to give up what's developed for me as an independent artist. People respect my creative vision and I'm getting projects with increasing responsibility. I feel very lucky to have reached this point and feel like hanging in there might lead to even more unique opportunities. But in the face of this 'real job', continuing this track seems like a gamble. I'm not opposed to eventually committing myself to a studio but would prefer to be 'in-between projects'. But when in life is the timing good?

I am trying to rationalize that there will be other 'real job' opportunities in the future (this is sort of my first one...) and how often does a rad electro band ask you to direct and animate a short film for them? How much will my job opportunities improve by completing this and other projects? I could try doing both and moonlight as a freelance animator/illustrator on my off hours but I have no idea how that would impact my passion/production/free time.

Any other professional artists had similar experiences? Suggestions about just hanging in there? Anything I'm not recognizing? Any advice is appreciated- Thank You!

TL;DR - I have a job opportunity at a sweet video game company but it would mean giving up the momentum and projects I've worked hard to obtain as a freelance artist over the past 5 years.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Young(ish) Artist at Professional Crossroads
on Jul 11, 2011 at 11:36:00 pm

In this economy, I would say take the 9 to 5 with insurance and benefits and investment plans sure thing with the game company, and rememeber that the freelance stuff can still go on in the background, albeit at a slower pace and with less flexibility. And your rep with the artists will be improved when you can point to working professionally in your day job.

You'll have to be more choosey what you do on the side. But you can do it.

Then again, I'm not the gambling type; I have mouths to feed. A young single person with no big debts, no real ties or permanenet relationships can do pretty much anything they want and try risky adventures. And if they fail, fine, dust off and try again, it just makes you mroe colorful... And that's why so many of the coolest things in media are often done by young enfants terribles - the stakes are low, they don't know what is considered impossible, and if only one gamble pays off out of ten, it's often enough to more than cover the nine. They have the freedom to throw a bunchj of things at the wall, hoping one sticks. Then you carefully bury all the failures and insist that you're a "instant" or "overnight" success:-)

Go, seek your Inner Orson.

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