Need some advice

SinbinnerSinbinner Registered User regular
Like the title says I'm in dire need of advice from fellow artists and professionals in the industry. I was born and raised in a small town known for being the boyhood home of Walt Disney. I attended the Walt Disney Elementary School as a child and was surrounded by Disney characters all day every day of my childhood. So to say art has been a part of my life is putting it mildly. I grew up drawing things that I thought were cool looking, most often things like comic book characters.
I had always planned on do something in art when I grew up, but never was sure what since I was always isolated in this small town and didn't know how the outside world worked. As far as I knew you could be like Walt Disney and do cartoons, draw comics, or try to make original art and hope people would buy it so you could make a living.
My high school years lead me away from art since I thought there was no way I'd every be able to make living at it, until I found drafting. This gave me a new avenue and possibility at making a living drawing.
I wanted to go to college, but couldn't get financial aid. My parents would like to help, but they had no money to give after helping my older brother go to college. So I got a job at the local publishing company that made year books as an artist. Seasonal work and low pay made it apparent I couldn't spend my whole life working here. I didn't make enough money to live on my own so I had to stay with my parents, which I later learned was a bad idea, because every time I applied for financial aid I would get turned down because of their income.
Eventually I got financial aid and some help from my family and started taking classes at the nearest community college at evening, which was also an hour away. But I had to take industrial technology with specialization in drafting because the school had no graphic arts or fine arts programs at that time. Before I could finish my degree my wife decided I wasn't spending enough time at home because I worked 40+ hours a week and a full time student taking night classes so she wanted a divorce. I couldn't concentrate and keep up with studies so I ended up dropping out.
I spent the next thirteen years working as a draftsman with a local structural steel fabricator until a car accident caused me to lose my job after missing too much work because of my recovery.
I wasn't overly upset with my job loss because the economy was in the toilet and my job had gone from creating detailed drawings for the fabrication shop to just plugging in numbers for a living. I realized that I missed the creating and knew I needed to get back to art.
So after a long recovery period and the end of my new wife and I savings I decided to go back to school for a new career. I had worked for the only two companies in the area that used draftsmen so there were no job prospects and we wanted to stay in this area because my kids lived with my ex-wife.
I enrolled in the local community college again, but this time they offered a graphic arts degree. I graduated in 2012 and began looking for a job. Six months later I was hired by a correctional health care company to work in the local state prisons medical department. Yeah not exactly my dream job, but really it wasn't bad. I enjoyed the work and liked my fellow employees, but like most jobs around here the pay sucked, kind of hard to live, pay your bills, and student loans on nine bucks an hour.
For two years I went to work at the prison until a small local printer advertised for a graphic designer. They offered me the job, understanding it had been two years since I graduated and offered me ten bucks an hour. Not much more money, but at least is was art. Even though they knew it had been two years since I graduated and my degree was graphic art technology not design, they never offered to train me. They showed me a few things in the beginning, but from that point on I was expected to seek them out and ask them to show me what to do. They never explained any thing in the way of why we do this or how this works or why this works, they just said this is how you do that. So needless to say at the end of my first 60 days things started going wrong. I could feel the tension so I finally approached my boss after work one evening and said, “Things aren't going too well for me are they?”
We talked about the problems and came up with a solution of everything I worked on being proofed by someone else. Two days later he gives me a T-shirt design for the local school and wants me to do it. Feeling the pressure I tried to get it done as fast as I could and gave it back to him to be proofed. He calls me into his office and says he wants to talk about the design not looking like the example I was given. I was confused at first, but then realized while what I had given him looked like the example from a design stand point they were not the same. This was on a Friday so I went home for the weekend and came back to work the next Monday. I came in to find a new college intern was starting that day and then right before lunch one of the pressmen gave his two weeks notice. I spent the day doing my work getting pointers and jobs to be done from my boss. Thirty minutes before quitting time he calls me into office. I go in and find him and the front desk receptionist inside. I sit down and he tells me things aren't working out and he's letting me go. He said because I didn't notice instantly the designs were different caused problems for him and he thought it was best to end it.
So now that I've given you an insight to what is going on I'll tell you why I'm looking for advice. I've been completely and utterly stripped of any and all confidence I might have had in my skills by all this. I immediately called my old job and told them what had happened and said I was available, but they had no open spots. I signed up for unemployment and started the long search for lousy jobs in the area I live.
I have spent the three weeks I've been unemployed looking for a job and then trying to figure out a way to keep skills and knowledge sharp in hopes of finding another job in my field. I can't pay the subscription for adobe's CC so I've download the free versions of inkscape, gimp, script, and blender. Now I don't know what to do, how to do it, or why I should do it this way or that. I have found tutorials online, but those only show you how the basics work in the software. I've tried to sit down and just sketch anything and I mean anything at all and I can't. Over the years I have listened to everyone telling me wow your a good artist you should do that for a living. My responses is always, “Really? Tell me how to make a living doing a pencil portrait of a celebrity.” I know I can learn and increase my skills, because until a few years ago I could only do contour drawings and now I can do pencil portraits with shading. Their not high end I'll pay you a lot of money for that drawing good, but you can see who it is in the drawing. I've spent three weeks everyday reading everything I can find online involving art and design and different careers, but in the end I'm not anymore talented or able to see what experienced artist see in art with the proper knowledge. I've never understood color, shading I can somewhat do, but is a long way from being good.
I don't want to leave art behind like I have done so many times in my life. I want to stop making mistakes, being ashamed of what I create, and learn how things are the way they are and how to make them better. I'm forty six, unemployed, have twenty thousand dollars of debt in school loans that I have had to defer for almost the whole three years I have been out of school.
My wife's family lives in the Kansas City area and has already said we could stay with them while we get settled if we move there. I have a house I'm still paying for that I can't sell. Every way shape or form I've used to try and find a job in the area has turned up nothing. I can't even get an interview.
Everything says to become better just practice practice practice. While there is some truth in that, I need to increase my knowledge. I'm hoping that by reading this someone might have some good insight or knowledge to share that can head me in the right direction.
I would like to go back to school, a good art school or university that could give me the kind of training I want, but already being in student loan debt and forty six I don't believe that is a viable option for me. I'm looking for some honest to goodness insight or words of wisdom to all this, not a bunch of trolling responses to my story.


  • tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular


    Stop by, look around, make a thread, ask questions, take advice, and yeah - practise, practise, practise. Without seeing your current output I can't give you more advice than that, but if you're truly fixated on making art a career then here is a starting point.

  • MagicToasterMagicToaster JapanRegistered User regular
    What kind of art job do you want?

  • JohnnyCacheJohnnyCache Starting Defense Registered User regular
    it sounds like you live in one of the country's many industrial anuses and should get out if you can.

    It also sounds like you actually are talented, but don't know where to set your sights, or price yourself.

    CC is cheaper if you are a student, and their standard for proving you are a student is fairly lenient. #justsayin'

    If it's any comfort *living* with your parents didn't hurt you - their income would have affected your FA regardless, unless you went through a fairly convoluted appeals process with the institution.

    Also, and this is a spitball, but your skill scatter sounds like you might actually have the makings of a tattooist, believe it or not, which actually IS rather well paying and creatively free and while learning to do it, your subject matter would be pretty structured. I would be tattooing right now if I could fucking draw so much as a stick figure. The only downside is the learning process can be a bit backward, there's not a lot of formal training to it, but believe it or not, you have synergies with the medical stuff and the machine shop environment. That and you have to have a little bit of ego to believe you should be allowed to permanently draw on humans.

    If you have 13+ years as a draftsman and are working for <15 an hour, you could also likely improve your situation if you resolved to move to work. IDK about kansas city specifically, but there's drafting work to be had where I live (utah)

  • SinbinnerSinbinner Registered User regular
    Thank you for the replies. First and foremost I would like to be an illustrator. For me it has always been about the process of creating something and being able to sit back and say wow I made that. This point really came through when the economy went in the toilet while I was doing drafting and I ended up just plugging in numbers instead of creating drawings.

    My wife's uncle suggested a field I had never known existed called Technical Illustration. He thought with my background in drafting and love of drawing I would be a good fit for this field, but I can't really find the information I need about the field. Like software, most everything says adobe illustrator and photoshop, but then they also add in 3D CAD and modeling software, however everything I read gives different software for the 3D. When it comes to CAD software most companies have their favorite and they expect you to know it when they hire you not something that is similar to what they use. The next problem is can I get the software free some how or is the price of it doable for me. Finding beginner tutorials online for using illustrator to create isometric views of simple blocks has been no problem, but that is pretty much where it ends. I can't find anything more detailed that can help you understand the process and how it's done.

    I do like graphic design, but after this last job with the small print company I really doubt my self and my abilities. Anytime I create something there is no reason why I do something the way I do it's more of a feeling. I don't know why something is right or wrong/good or bad, I just feel like this is how it should be. While in the past I was happy enough with that, now I feel like I need to know why I do the things I do when I create something. When you present a concept and your boss asks why did you use this type of line or this color scheme there not looking for an answer of "umm well it felt right to me".

    Bottom line is I'm really lost right now and just hoping that by putting this out there someone might be able to help me find the right direction.

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    It'll be near impossible to give you direction without seeing your work. If your skill level is relatively low, it maybe a bunch of stuff you really don't want to hear. If you are serious about moving forward in your art career, you also have to get serious about receiving feedback, and that means putting your work on the table when you are asking these kind of questions.

    This is a difficult industry to carve out a career in and a lot of artist supplement it with other skills. This is especially true if you are thinking about illustration. You'll need to work hard to be in an art position that doesn't eventually turn into something else. Just something you may want to keep in mind.

    Reading through your posts is interesting, because it highlights one of the few benefits art school/ high level formal training really has, which is the resources, language, and networking one needs to navigate the potential ways to make money in the art field. I don't know much about technical art/drafting unfortunately. If you have an .edu email, you can get autodesks student versions of their software for free. You may not even need that anymore, they actually seem to understand that the only way people are going to know their software is if they can afford to learn on it.

    If your old community college program has an adviser of some sort, reach out for advice. They may not have as many resources as a bigger school, but they still may have some of that general insight you are looking for.

  • tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    Technical illustration is vastly different from creative illustration, and yes nowadays you will need to know some kind of CAD software to get into the field. The good news is that at least in 3D CAD, experience with one piece of software translates well to most of the others (the difference mostly come down to interface rather than structure, except in some key manufacturing-related areas which you probably wouldn't have to worry about in a TI field). And most community colleges should have some kind of low-cost 3D design course which would teach you the basics. Unfortunately yes, the software is generally very expensive and to my knowledge there aren't any really good free equivalents for the high-end programs.

    The rest of your post has ... sort of been addressed above? I mean, seriously, if you want to learn the hows and whys of art and illustration, there is a huge free resource sitting exactly one forum above this one. Come and make a thread in the artists corner and we will help as best we can.

  • SinbinnerSinbinner Registered User regular

    Here are a some of my most recent drawings. As you can tell I've been concentrating on portraits of late. As you can tell no color, because right now I just don't understand how to do color. I have considered colored pencil, but haven't gotten any instruction books on the techniques yet. I've only been able to go so far with my pencil shading and then I feel lost. When I have pushed farther and tried to do more shading the end result is usually more cartoon looking than realistic. My shading technique needs a lot of practice. You asked for sample of my work here it is. Start the feed back.

  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    I think you've officially graduated to the Artist's Corner. Congratulations!

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
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