With SDCC fast approaching— here are my tips on networking with pros!
(My first advice blog was dub rainbows and unicorns made of sugar, but the big rock candy mountain has some deep dark caves, and we’re going to crawl into one here. Hopefully we’ll all emerge better on the other side of this thing!)
**If you’re a tall gorgeous redwood of confidence and charm— feel free to skip past all this yammer. Also congrats on all that:D
To the rest of you/ us:
I’m pretty awkward. Maybe all the awkward. Like you might think you’re awkward, but really, have you ever seen me and your awkward in the same room? Right….
The truth of the matter is that as an artist, I am far from alone. Whether you share my specific laugh to snort ratio of 1/3, or if you suffer instead from a severe case of “So who’s this Janelle Monae character all the youths have been talking about”…
THERE IS HOPE.
However, since I promised cavernous darkness (GRRRRrrrrrrr)— let’s go with the call outs first.
Let’s call this section:
Recently I saw a generic tweet cut and pasted repeatedly with a new big name artist on it each time on my feed. The tweet contained a link to a recent piece of art by the unnamed tweeter. I saw it time after time and cringed a little more with each one. This was the unfortunate inspiration for this blog post.
There are so many things wrong with this that it’s going to need it’s own bullet points:
These are human people who work hard all day then go home, either to some much needed down time, or more often trying to make their own work in limited free time. They likely spend a lot of energy wading through emails/questions from followers. Why should they use their valuable time responding to a form one-liner blast, when there are 15 others who wrote considered emails with thoughtful questions??
Using buzzwords like “please” and “thank you” does not make your request appropriate or polite.
Making a public request can put the artist on the spot. It’s kinda rude, and you are unlikely to get honest thorough feedback. So really, why bother?
Twitter is great because you can reach a huge audience with a couple clicks. With great power… and all that. Use it wisely.
Ever been on a dating site? If you’re not familiar with the “Hey Girl” ignored by women the world over, then read up!!
There’s a ton of crossover. So when you spend an afternoon taking advantage of the old copy and paste keys on twitter… you’re not just annoying those artists (which is bad enough)— but potentially other folks like myself that just saw several of the exact same message clogging their feed.
This was a crime of Passion.
The problem is awareness and consideration. When you are fighting for your dream you get tunnel vision. It becomes your whole world. Realize that while your motives are valid— they are YOURS. Other people not only exist— but they’re running around like crazy trying to make their own dreams come true;) Even the ones you admire. ESPECIALLY them.
A couple facts to make you feel a bit better about the situation:
We love an underdog, and most people can relate to feeling like a circus freak and being weirdly obsessed with sandwiches. Metaphorically.
Being a fan is forgivable, if not entirely charming. You just have to pair it with humility.
Here are two examples.
I watched a sweet girl come up to one of the main stage presenters at ICON8 this weekend. She was so nice— but she was shaking with nerves and she could not remember the name of an artist she was talking about. It was actually really endearing— it made me like her even more because she was just so genuinely moved to be talking to this guy that she admired. He helped her along and I’m sure was flattered that she was so overwhelmed by his presence!!
I met another girl when I went back to SCAD to give a lecture. I was introduced to her specifically because she loved Laika and her professor thought she’d have a lot of questions. Instead she immediately began quizzing me on what I knew about the studio, asking me about facts she had read online and educating me when I wasn’t sure, for example, how many minutes Coraline was… I know she was excited, but it was hard to stay in the conversation. I was already pretty tired from hours of portfolio reviews. She wanted to show me how much she knew and I could have been human or park bench standing there for all the back and forth that was happening…
There have been some great posts lately about networking. Jim Zub’s post from back in April is one of the best I’ve seen. If you haven’t read it, I strongly urge you to check it out!!
I completely agree with everything he says there— read and reread that post. If you can manage casual, absolutely do it. If you’re more like me (meaning being CASUAL is about as likely as doing that catching flies with chopsticks thing from Karate Kid)…
QUICK GUIDE BELOW:
Ways to Get the Most out of Pro Interactions: even if the word “cool” is foreign to your existence:
If someone begins telling you about something you already know— STILL LISTEN. Do not interrupt and hurl your knowledge at them. You might still learn something, but even if not— you just avoided being referred to for the rest of the week as that rude guy who interrupted! Bonus points for a big thank you after!
Limited time is always an issue. Curate your top questions. If there’s a line behind you, maybe just ask one and see if they’ll consent to a follow up email. Even then, less is more.
Okay don’t lie #OBVI — but you must love the work of this person if you’re fighting to get a slice of their time?? Show you know their work— mention why, or which you liked best!
Your job is to enable them to share their secret knowledge with you as easily as possible. Lay out the bread crumbs and then hush as you lure them further and further out of their shells:) You might be surprised how easy it is to get someone talking when it’s about something they love!!
When you start to sense that you have worn out your welcome, or if the crowd waiting for your pro is looming— it’s nice to leave gracefully on your own terms. Offer a card with contact info— ask if you can follow up with them, if they have a card/ or contact info.
Say thanks by following them on twitter/ tumblr/ wherever they have a presence online. People are more likely to continue a dialogue with you if you aren’t a fair weather friend.
I hope this gives you guys a better idea of how to approach people even if like me— you’re just a little uncool;)
I wish you all the best!!! Let me know how it goes!!
Jennifer Ely is an artist working in the animation industry as a Color Stylist on a Dreamworks television show for Netflix. She has also worked on LAIKA’s upcoming stop frame feature film The Boxtrolls, and still moonlights for them as a Visual Development Artist on super secret future projects!
You can follow her here:
I love you guys. These words are for you, and also for myself.
I thought that by the time I actually got a creative job in the animation industry I would surely feel… like less of an imposter. Nope. Often times when I get an assignment I experience a moment of pure terror. Afraid that my last success was an accident and I’ll be shown for what I am in front of an audience that grows with each day in the belief that I am something that I am not. This feeling comes in white hot flashes between fleeting moments of proveable victory.
A creative act is a leap of faith, and like many who follow something greater than ourselves, we falter often.
When I was in grad school and still figuring out what was possible, I had a revolving door of people telling me to lower my expectations. Friends and foes alike, telling me I wasn’t good enough. And I wasn’t… YET. But it did not matter.
It does not matter if you are READY.
Ready is a lie. It’s a finish line we point to, always far in the distance, where the weather is always sunny and a roaring crowd waits to give a standing ovation.
Ready is always far enough away to create comfort, but not so far that we need admit failure. It is as sweet and delicate a fantasy as exists, but in addition to being only mildly comforting, it is ultimately damaging to our artistic goals.
What creative goals have you been putting off because you aren’t “ready”?
Whether you want to write a novel, develop a video game, be a character artist for animation— whatever your goal is, the only way to BECOME is to do:)
Apply for that position. Go to that convention. Approach that artist for feedback. Do it now. Learn what you can, then do it again. Every time it will become less daunting. You’ll find new things to be afraid of in no time;)
Trying to become perfect in a vacuum, and then present yourself to the world like some sort of gift wrapped God of art making is not realistic.
Immerse yourself in the community.
Fall down and get back up.
Allow people to help you, and help others in earlier stages than yourself.
Be courageous (and positive:)) as you jump in with both feet!!
This year— to take my own advice. I will be creating a book of my artwork, getting a table at at least one convention (ECCC2015), and reaching out into the world of kids book publishing as it’s a huge dream of mine to work in books. And of course creating written content for the followers of this blog;) I may not be ready for any of these things… yet:) But this is the fastest way I know to get there:)
I wish you all the best!! Be fearless!
Jennifer Ely is an artist working in the animation industry as a Color Stylist on a Dreamworks television show for Netflix. She has also worked for LAIKA as everything from Intern to Visual Development Artist.
You can follow her here:
Thanks for coming out to the talk!! :)
The program is called ArtRage. I had seen demos of it before but never really gave it a second look. I only began using Photoshop a couple years ago and one program was intimidating enough;) One day at work the Production Designer on The Boxtrolls, Paul Lasaine recommended it to me and I knew it must be worth taking a look at— he’s an incredible painter both traditionally and digitally.
It’s really fantastic because it’s cheap, easy enough that you can jump right in and paint, and most of all— you can get some really nice painterly effects. You can have visibly chunky impasto, and when you put down a color it will interact with the color below… things you really miss when you move to digital from traditional. I know PS added those couple brushes that are meant to bridge that gap a bit, but they never felt great to me and I don’t really use them.
They also have layers and many of the things that photoshop has— so it can be a nice alternative to PS if you simply can’t afford it (PS ain’t cheap!). Fair warning though— it can be buggy and you should update the program and save extra often. Nothing more frustrating than losing a piece when you’re getting somewhere.
I have included some work that I have done using the program. It’s great for portraits and the like— anything done more alla prima.
Our dog Logan:)
A portrait of the incredible Nelson Lowry
There’s no replacing PS, but I use this to do different things, and will often work on things back and forth between the programs utilizing the specific virtues of each.
Thanks for the great question!
Have you ever used ArtRage? I’d love to hear what you like/ don’t like about it! Have you made some work in the program that you’d like to share?? Shoot me a link! I’d love to see it:)
As always you can catch me here— or give me a shout on twitter @elyjenna
I love hearing from you guys, keep the questions coming!!
Thanks so much! Interesting question! When I was a kid I did almost nothing else. I had no idea what I was doing really, but my grandparents worked at Disney and I was obsessed. I’d draw the characters all day. Any book report I did for class would have a terrible little painting along with it:D. I remember the very first “real” painting I did when I read Call of the Wild. My mother probably still has it. The worst was when I made a whole diorama of the grassy knoll out of old shoe boxes and poster paint. My poor parents were probably terrified of what I would become!
I got distracted briefly from being a maker when I started high school. I was captain of the basketball team and wasn’t sure if I should try to go to school for that! I wasn’t even any good;). I ended up getting injured and with that came the realization that sports might be the only career I could choose that was even LESS practical than artist;)
Even during that time I was plugging away doing elaborate colored pencil drawings of whatever was around me.
I was dedicated to art making the majority of my life— but I was also somewhat aimless for a long time. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to apply the skills I was honing. I didn’t have the realization that A. Visual Development for animation was a REAL job that you could have, or that B. Honing one style for use in freelance illustration or gallery painting would ultimately be kind of unsatisfying to me.
When I found concept art/ visual development I knew that was IT. The thing I had been waiting for. After that I made every single day a step toward that goal. That was 2011 and I haven’t looked back since!
I hope that answered your question:)