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.