When Jobs In The Animation Industry Disappear…

Anyone who has worked in the animation industry knows that layoffs and studio closures are just standard occupational hazards.

…but times are especially tough right now.

350 employees at Dreamworks Animation were recently recently laid-off and the creature effects powerhouse, Rhythm & Hues just filed for bankruptcy.

…and let’s not forget that Digital Domain’s brand new feature animation studio in Florida was shut down this past September – before they could even release a movie.

Is there still hope for art students and professional artists who dream of working in animation?

…and how do we respond to the troubling news of layoffs and bankrupt studios?

…and what does it mean to those of us who are trying to break in?

Read on for some words of encouragement…

To My Friends In The Industry…

So that the following article doesn’t seem insensitive to your plight, let me first acknowledge this: Layoffs suck.

I’ve been laid off several times since the beginning of my relatively short career in animation.

Shocked, Goofy Lights Up A Smoke

I know what it feels like to be laid off…

I know the nauseating dread that happens when a producer surprises you with your “end date” on a production.

I know the disappointment that happens when a colleague who is also a close friend drops by your cube to report that “Friday’s my last day.”

My heart goes out to you (and your families) who have been or will be affected by these downturns in the industry. You are, truly, in my thoughts and prayers.

I’m in no position to give layoff-related advice to industry insiders who have been doing this longer and to greater effect than I ever have.

I can only empathize and try my best to encourage you.

I do know this: You’re smart, talented and super-hard-working artists. If you weren’t, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. …because you would never have landed industry gigs in the first place.

This might be the beginning of a season of struggle.  I really hope it isn’t. But whatever this next season brings, please know that your fellow artists, fans and I believe in you.

"Life's like a movie. Write your own ending. Keep believing..."

To The Aspiring Animation Artists:

Uninspiring work is hard work.

Uninspiring work is hard work.

The rest of this post will speak mainly to those of who who aspire to work in animation.

…to those of you who spent $100,000+ on art school and heard this news just weeks before graduation.

…to those who have been fighting the creative vacuum of uninspiring work, abusive bosses and routine guilt from stealing hours from your families to draw and paint your way to freedom.

In response to the news about Dreamworks, one of my Painting Drama students Sheree Chuang put into words a feeling I know art students all over the world are experiencing right now.

Here is an excerpt from her post in our private forum:

“Just like all of you here, art and animation is my life and my dream is to work in the entertainment industry. However when news like this comes up, I can’t help but feel concerned about the industry and my future.”

Yes, when your dream seems far away, you might experience discouragement, overwhelm or even depression. I know what that’s like.

However, “Will my dreams ever come true?” is not the most important question you can ask yourself right now.

If Your Dream Dies, What Will You Do?

The bigger question that bad news reveals is this:

“If my dream dies, what will I do?”

It is wise to decide how you’ll respond to failure and seemingly insurmountable obstacles before you face them.

Jellyfish Scene Finding Nemo

Are you an artist? …a visual storyteller?

…then keep drawing and telling stories.

You can’t let fluctuations in the industry and/or economy kill your creativity.

…and you don’t need a job in the animation industry to validate your calling.

The world needs visual stories. Humanity thrives on visual stories.

I think you should draw or tell the stories inside of you even when you aren’t getting paid.

…especially when you aren’t getting paid.

We must distinguish the truth of our internal calling as creative people from all external forces.

Your Dreams Don’t Define You.

When the external validation of success replaces our spiritual sense of purpose, things get messy.

This is why some CEOs attempt or commit suicide when they experience failure. Granted, that’s an extreme example, but it’s true.

You have to keep things in perspective.

Even your deeply-felt dream of working in animation does not define you.

Jeffrey Lebowski: Time Man Of The Year

Yes, we all want the animation industry to evolve and prosper (and I think it will).

But, as current events prove, the animation industry will disappoint you sooner or later.

It might even give you a round-house-kick to the face

Since my first Disney gig in 2005, I have seen several waves of triple-digit layoffs in the animation and vfx industries.

It sucks. It even sucks to think about it. …but it’s a fact of life in Burbank. …and it’s something you need to be prepared for.

So, apart from opening a savings account, how should you prepare for the unpredictable ups and downs of a career the animation industry…?

When the external validation of success replaces our spiritual sense of purpose, things get messy.
-Tweet This Quote

When In Doubt, Draw.

During what would be my final year of graduate school, my advisor Maria Palazzi told me “One of the great things about the animation industry is that it rewards hard work and persistence.”

At that very moment, I felt an unprecedented level of confidence that has remained with me ever since.

“Hard work and persistence. I can handle that.”

…about six months later I was on the Disney lot in Burbank with a blue employee badge hanging from my belt, eating breakfast with John Pomeroy, pontificating over coffee with Stephen Silver, circling the Old Animation Building and The Pirates Of The Caribbean set and stalking the LOST writers.

What Maria said was proven true in my own life.

No, I don’t think you can guarantee success with a great attitude, hard work and persistence, but you can guarantee failure without them.

How should you respond to troubling news about the animation industry?

…the same way you respond to encouraging news about the animation industry.

Draw, paint, repeat.

Finish personal projects.

Pursue mastery.

Read and read and read.

Go to CTN-X.

Share your work online.

…and so on.

When in doubt, draw.
-Tweet This Quote

Your Dreams Haven’t Disappeared.

Detail from 'Music' by Gustav Klimt

Painting: Detail from ‘Music’ by Gustav Klimt
[ click to enlarge ]

If you’re an aspiring artist who is serious about her animation dream, then life is the same for you now as it was before the Dreamworks layoffs.

Wanting = working.

You have absolutely NO control over fluctuations in the economy or the waves of change in the industry.

What you DO have control over is the quality of your work, your focus, determination, passion and imagination.

If the animation industry is in a downturn, don’t go down with it.

Stay strong.

You’re here, in this specific time and place, for a reason. …and I think your art is a big part of that reason.

“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.” 

-Winston Churchill

Thoughts, Questions? Good Vibes?

As usual, post any thoughts or questions you have in response to this post in the comments below and I’ll respond to everyone.

More importantly, please feel free to take this opportunity to post a note of encouragement to our friends at Dreamworks, Rhythm & Hues, etc.

I’m sure they could benefit from some good vibes right about now.

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{ 167 comments… read them below or add one }

Matthew Scheuerman

“The only economy you can control is your own. ”

Love this post Chris! It really hit a chord with me. My heart goes out to everyone in the industry who is dealing with these issues right now. I hope that the industry as a whole or at least the next generation of industry leaders is able to apply lessons learned.

For myself, I’ll never give up, but I can adapt and change the path I use to get there.

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diane kress hower

Great quote!

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Chris Oatley

Extremely well-put, Matt.

Inspiring.

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Ronya Wahlman

Very well written. As an aspiring artist, and soon graduating from my education, a concern regarding all this have crossed my mind several of times. I’ll keep what you’ve just said in mind, till when times get tough. Thank you. :-)

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Ronya.

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sreejit

I have seen the same problem everywhere… your article makes people to think and inspire. thanks for sharing this…

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Sreejit. Yeah, there have been many layoffs in many industries in recent years.

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diane kress hower

Well said Chris. This uncertainty is everywhere. I have been laid off multiple times in education but the last one was for two years. Dreams often take turns and twists but they only die when you loose hope or cave in to what society or someone else says. Find your like minded colleagues and friends who support your dream and stay positive. The last one is the key.

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Chris Oatley

I couldn’t agree more, Dianne. Great, GREAT points.

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Anneliese

Thank you so much for the inspiring post, Chris. As an aspiring student (ie. not even yet one!), the recent barrage of discouraging news has planted so many seeds of doubt in my mind and fertilised pre-existing ones. But when I remember what a struggle it is getting through my current non-art degree, I realise that I’ll never find peace until I give my all artistically; regardless of the current state of the industry, if I give up (or worse, don’t even try) then I’ll be left permanently wondering “what if..?” which isn’t something I want to live with! So again, thank you for always lending that extra spark to fuel fledgling dreams, your words take the form of a steadying hand and are always such a pertinent boost.

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Chris Oatley

Thank you, Anneliese! Just like Matt and Diane said above, the dream will evolve and crystallize based on both internal and external factors. Just focus on doing great work and being great to work with!

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Christopher B

I think it’s important to remember that we’re a community and we’re all going through similar struggles. If one of us hurts, all of us hurt. I’ve been upset over things going on in the industry both because I know it hurts my ability to get a career in what I love, and because I know others have lost careers, or are struggling in their careers, in what they love. I really appreciate this post because I think it’s important for us to always stick together, come alongside each other, and encourage each other.

I know that just because the big studios are laying people off we shouldn’t lose heart either. As artists and animators we’ve always been responsible for our success personally, Not others. If we waited around for success to find us, we’d never have it. So if the industry is changing, we need to continue to be proactive and self-motivating.

Thanks Chris! I think you are so right about this.

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Chris Oatley

Great stuff, Christopher.

I, too, have been really shaken up about all the lost jobs. My wife and I have been praying regularly for everyone affected.

Like I said in the article, I have witnessed waves like this in the past but this one has weighed more heavily on my heart than any of the others…

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Alisa

Great words of advice, Chris. For those worried about the forecast for animation, this happens a lot. I graduated with my animation degree in 2002 when the NY animation industry was in a pretty heavy down turn and studios were closing. It was discouraging as a recent graduate, but I got an office job so I could remain in NY and took on freelance gigs on nights and weekends. It was frustrating and certainly not glamorous, but I kept testing and applying and eventually got an in house gig. Once you have experience at one studio, it opens the door for your next oppurtunity. Even if the big companies have layoffs, try to find a different niche for yourself with smaller companies or commercial houses. Chris is right: If you want to do the work, you will find a way!

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Chris Oatley

Perfect example, Alisa! Breaking-in stories are rarely “glamorous”!

Lotta great, practical advice in this comment.

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George

I think the animation industry is currently going through a transition period. When things get hard is when creativeness is truly valued. Stay strong.

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Chris Oatley

Yes sir.

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Scott Wiser

You’re right Chris, these layoffs haven’t changed anything about the way I’m working – as a matter of fact, I’m actually doing better than I was then. Something clicked in me when I met these recently laid-off artists at a recruiting event. There was a palpable negativity in the air and I looked around thinking, “I can’t let this happen to me.” I gravitated to some more positive faces, had a great phone call with my good friend Chris ;), and moved on.

It’s hard not to let our success define us. At Rhythm & Hues, I went from being one of the slowest apprentices to one of the faster, more innovative animators on my team – the directors all raved about my work. When I lost the job, I felt broken – that I’d lost that potential for rapid growth. I was wrong. By consistently continuing in a spirit of finishing and collaboration, I am in awe of the results and my plans for several more projects and stories to share with the world.

I’ve already told you several times, Chris, about the IMPACT you’ve had on my journey as an artist. I feel a deep gratitude and would like to add this thought to this beautifully positive article: We DON’T have to walk this alone! At least for me, collaboration is the fuel that keeps me going!

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Chris Oatley

Wow. Great stuff, Scott.

Although I can understand the “palpable negativity in the air” you are definitely aiming higher by working hard in pursuit of your creative dreams and relying on collaboration and the finishing of personal projects to fuel the fire.

You’ve always had an amazing attitude. That’s part of why I’m such a huge fan of you.

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Michael Mills

It is especially hard nowadays.
I still havent found anything and i graduated over a year ago.
(well technically i did manage to get 1)
Out of 300 resumes got about 3 interviews and on the last one i landed a gig, a really good one too, but as my luck (or the economy) would have it. The project fell through completely and i was out once more before i even started. Had to leave the city, student loans and all, just couldn’t stay afloat.
I really havent given up but I think i needed to just take a step back and really re-evaluate everything going on in my life.
Oddly enough this is my 1st day back home with parents. (what a coincidence)
so we’ll see how it goes.
I wouldn’t say I have given up but i need to be smart about how i go about with my next move.
just thought i’d share my experience so far.

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Michael Mills

p.s. great post by the way.
Thanks for sharing

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Chris Oatley

I have a friend who experienced something very similar when he was trying to break in and now he’s an Emmy-nominated artist at one of the big studios.

Thanks for the kind words, too!

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Michael Mills

Thats why im fighting not to give up.
I’ve heard of many successful artists that had absolutely horrible starts and its amazing to hear of their path to success.
i think i need a shift and a new game plan.
to be honest moving home isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it is a temporary thing and a chance to actually think.
I do plan on getting back out there but I really need a battle plan 1st.
as Scott Wiser above sais positivity is extremely crucial and stay away from negative people like the plague. my own year of unemployment has definitely taught me that much so it has been a learning experience.
its really good to hear and talk about these types of experiences as a community.

Again thanks Chris

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Travis Overstreet

Just the right words of encouragement as always Chris. I look at personal projects and work as a way of finding consistent fulfillment. The work that you do for yourself is one way of leveling out the peaks and valleys; or at least filling the valleys in. I’ve been working in the industry for about 2 years now and it can be an emotional roller coaster, especially for most of us who are prone to have more passionate, excitable natures. One of the things that always cheers me up when I hear about lay offs and closings like Dreamworks, DD, and Rythm and Hues, is that there are a lot of artist free to create their own thing. You never know what truly free creative people can do. My heart goes out to all of those facing this scary time but I hope you can find hope and solace in freedom. Thanks again Chris, this was a greatly needed post.

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Chris Oatley

You’re right, Travis.

The layoffs are definitely not what I would call a “blessing” but hopefully many of our industry friends can somehow find inspiration and encouragement in this season – despite the gut-punch of being laid off.

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Alexis Houle

”You’re here, in this specific time and place, for a reason. …and I think your art is a big part of that reason.”

Sir, you have given me faith in what I am doing. I’m currently in my last term at the university, as a 3d artist.After 6 years of hard work (3 years in cegep wich is kinda pre-college here in Quebec, and 3 years at the University) it’s about time I get a job and I’m really stressed about it.

I’ve been working a lot, struggling with jobs and school to be able to finish.
It’s now time to push my passion even harder to be able to get a job and live from what I love doing !

You’ve made my day, and what you wrote gave me a push in times where I’m a bit scared about my future.
Thank you

Alexis

(sorry for the spelling mistakes, frenchie here :P )

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Chris Oatley

I’m so glad the article helped to encourage you.

Check out Alisa’s personal story above for some practical inspiration.

Bonne chance, Alexis!

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Alexis Houle

Merci Beaucoup Chris :),

Alisa has a really interesting story ! I managed to have contracts in part time for the last two and half years, now I’m ready to do it full time. One of my teacher once said :

What kills your chance is the fact that a high pourcentage of the people who graduates in arts/animation give up after 6 months to a year. If you keep doing it and you get better at it, you’ll eventually find someone who gives you a chance.

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Chris Oatley

That’s it!

It took me about six and a half years to break in. It is not uncommon for it to take that much time or even more.

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Stephen Wittmaak

Fantastic advice sir, thank you. As a Career Service Advisor for Media Arts and Animation students this really hits home. I appreciate the positive side you always balance your posts with! I’m passing this along as we speak!

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Stephen! …and thanks for sharing the post!

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Abby

Chris, your advice transcends drawing, and I think you know that. I like reading your posts because as a writer, it’s also hard sometimes to come to grips with the fact that my craft won’t always make me loads of money (if it ever does, here’s hoping), but that I should carry on anyway. The need to create is so strong, if I deny it, I know I’ll be miserable, and if I neglect it, it will be harder to create when (if) I do get the chance to do it for pay.
Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement. Keep it up, my friend.

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Chris Oatley

Thanks so much, Abby.

I know it can help to be getting paid for the work but it is definitely a blessing to have an audience.

Before the Internet, many creators had neither!

You are so smart and creative. It’s inspiring to hear the determination in your words.

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Nicole Artigas

What a wonderful post, Chris. Definitely have to bookmark this to remind myself that everyone is going through hard times and the only thing I can do is to just keep doing art! I’m currently a student, so this recent news really has gotten me a little shaken but I’m so glad I follow such inspirational people and artists that really have hope in this industry.
I guess I’m a little optimistic but I hope this “downturn” will result in a much brighter future. Maybe the animation and vfx industry must go through this to come out stronger and better than ever!
My heart goes out to all the people struggling in the industry right now, though. I’ll keep each and every one in my thoughts and prayers. Times are tough and all you can do right now is to stick together as artists and be there for one another.
Thanks for such an inspiring post, Chris.

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Chris Oatley

Right there with you, Nicole.

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Brandon Brown

Chris,
I cannot thank you enough for posting such great inspiring words. You take time out of your day to write and keep people in the loop. When you came to CCAD and stayed to 11pm! to review our portfolios, give a painting demo and answer all of our questions shows us who you really are. Also you can to Steak N shake! lol that was pretty cool. You are a great artist and person, you have inspired many and will continue to do so. Keep up the great work and hope your Academy is doing well!

P.s- The way the industry is right now doesn’t put me down, it only makes me strive to do greater.

- Brandon

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Chris Oatley

Awesome, Brandon!

Hanging out with you and the rest of the CCAD crew was one of the highlights of my trip! I wish I could have stayed in Ohio longer to get some more time with you all but SoCal beckons…

The work I saw was really strong. Clearly, the animation faculty there are amazing.

Stay strong and keep in touch!

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Brandon Brown

well i’m glad you got to stop by! the faculty is pretty awesome they all love what they do and can communicate clearly. I learn a lot from faculty and the students, its a great environment!

I’ll stay in touch!

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Jay Fontano

Great stuff Chris. As one of those “dreamers” who recently graduated from animation school, I appreciate your positive encouragement. I’ll keep drawing.

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Chris Oatley

Awesome, Jay. Keep sharing those drawings, too!

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Henrike

Wonderful article about the animation industry Chris! It not only applies to this particular dream of working at a studio but also to other art industries who experience tough times, and also personal projects can fail. But it was encouraging to read that our dream doesn’t define who we are. We just need to give our best and then that’s all we can do. It’s hard if you’ve been dreaming of a certain job all your life, but who knows where our ideas and our hard work take us when we keep our eyes open.
Thanks!

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Tegan Clancy

“I don’t make pictures just to make money. I make money to make more pictures.” Walt Disney
I know I am not an artist for the money. It’s simply because I have too. There may never be a job in the animation industry for me, but that will never stop me working hard to create art. Do it for yourself first, and so far from my experience, this has only brought me amazing friendships, great freelance opportunities and the satisfaction of creating something I am proud to share.
Great advice Chris like always!

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Chris Oatley

I wish I’d remembered that Walt quote to use in this post! Thanks for contributing that, Tegan. Great stuff.

Speaking of quotable quotes, I especially LOVE this part of your comment: “Do it for yourself first, and so far from my experience, this has only brought me amazing friendships, great freelance opportunities and the satisfaction of creating something I am proud to share.”

Amazing. …and so very true.

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Tegan Clancy

We learn from the master of positivity!

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Scott Wiser

Beautifully worded, Tegan. I agree 100%!

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Tegan Clancy

and Henrike is correct, all we can do is our best! And I love following your art progress!

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Chris Oatley

So true, Henrike. You are a great example of this sincere commitment to the craft, however. …and it shows (shines, actually) in your attitude and artistic growth.

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Sam kirkman

I love you guys! These are the times that lead to better ones. Henrike quoted Chris saying our dreams don’t define us, but I’d like to emphasize the fact that neither do the dead end, uninspiring, soul sucking day jobs we have to hold down to make the ends meet. We do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do, and at the same time, take care o those who depend on us. So nice to share our journeys. We’re always on our way, but we have to endure the detours.

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Chris Oatley

Brilliant, Sam. Miss you, buddy!

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David R. Vallejo

Thanks for your well-written insight, as always, Chris.
Though I’m not an animator I can relate with how difficult the general art industry can be as I’ve tried for several years to break in to the field of illustration. One thing that has helped me through is my family and friends who not just give me positive strokes by telling me I’m a great artist, but keep me well grounded by reminding me that art is not the only important thing that I should be pursuing.
Another thing that has helped me is that as I have been developing my illustration portfolio over the years, I have also been experimenting with other art approaches and mediums and have taken on projects that are not the typical illustration assignment. By consistently being creative and open to things that come my way, I am now starting to exhibit my art in galleries and I have started working as a part time art instructor. I have no doubt that my illustration career will start picking up soon, however, looking back in retrospect, my career as an artist has been steady, even if it hasn’t always brought in an income.
I think what keeps me going is the realization that, historically speaking, it has almost never been an economically sound decision to be a professional artist. But success come to those who are consistent and persevere in the long run, however long that takes. For me, in the end, I think I am happier for making an effort to being the best artist that I can be rather than to simply give up and not know where my life’s path could have taken me.

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Chris Oatley

I agree, David. It absolutely breaks my heart when I hear from artists who are about to give up. Once you have acknowledged the creative spark inside, I don’t know if you can ever fully ignore it. …and I don’t think it ever completely dies.

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kimberly

yeah, it is so very true to often get discouraged after hearing news like this, but you are right about one thing, the world will always have a need for visual storytelling. so even if the animation industry tanks, there are still other options for artists out there, like comics, video games, story books, etc. they all have the need for artists and even if not your exact dream job, you would still be doing mostly the same thing. that’s why if the animation industry does not exactly work out for me, I might go into the video game industry.

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Chris Oatley

You’re absolutely right. …and new micro-industries are popping up left and right. I’m VERY excited to see what independent animation becomes in the next ten years…

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Karla

Thank you for this article, I’ve definitely been worrying about all the layoffs and bankruptcies in our industry. I’m one of those who spent $100k + on art school and barely a month after graduation Digital Domain left Florida. It’s only gotten worse since. I also have four children to provide for, which makes things a bit more difficult.

Just going to Full Sail has been a dream come true, though, and every day I work on personal projects. I’m even teaching my son to use 3Ds Max. It helps to look at this time of searching for jobs as an opportunity to enhance my Demo Reel and Portfolio. What better thing to work hard at than something you love to do!?

To all us pre-industry professionals…one day we’ll have new grads and aspiring animators looking to us for inspiration, advice, and encouragement. Let’s take up this torch and wield it with the care and passion that Chris and many others have for us.

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Chris Oatley

No doubt many torches were lit by that comment, Karla. Awesome.

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Kira

Thank you very much for this post. It is hard going into my last yer of school knowing about all of the troubles in the industry. Luckily I will be coming out with much less debt than many students. But it’s so good to hear your encouragement. I can trust that things will turn out right in the end if I continue to work as hard as I have been.

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Chris Oatley

Less debt is awesome. That’s so great to hear, Kira.

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Crispen Smith

Great post as always Chris. I haven’t read all the comments so others may have covered this, but in my mid thirties I do want to share one perspective.

Whatever industry you work in, you will be laid off at least once. That’s not about the animation industry, that’s about North America in 20xx. I’ve been there twice, once in the Telecom industry and once in the Finance industry. It’s just something that happens.

It’s better to spend the time between layoffs doing something you love.

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Chris Oatley

Before I made the move to LA, I was worried about layoffs and the economy in general. This was after all the 2D layoffs and the closing of the Disney Florida studio.

Around the time Angie and I actually made the final decision, one of my close friends who is a VP at a major bank had to go on a work trip up to the northern midwest to lay off hundreds of people at a single facility. It rocked his world.

As sad as I was to hear about it, it gave me the perspective you’re sharing now. …what’s safer, in the traditional sense than a “bank job?” If the bank jobs were that unstable, then the instability of the animation industry was just part of the status quo.

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Paul McGill

Chris thank you. It was uplifting to read your post and has further aspired me.

One thing I want to share with everyone who is reading this post is that I choose to call myself a professional in my own right. What I mean is is that I don’t have to work for Disney or Marvel or DC to be a professional. I can work on my own intellectual properties and work for myself for free. I think that is better than working for someone who doesn’t have the budget to rightfully pay you. Who is to say that your idea won’t take off and bring you an abundance of success? But that is to add on top of what Chris has said: to draw and keep drawing. Regardless of what opportunities may or may not come your way you can’t lose the passion. It’s who and what you are.

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Chris Oatley

YES!

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Owen

Great article, I really connected with this. As someone who works in the animation industry in the UK (currently Aardman) I have experienced first hand the stresses of this industry. It appears that permanent positions are being replaced with short term contracts and as someone with a wife and baby (and another due in July) its pretty stressful not knowing where the next contract is coming from. In December I was working at Cartoon Network in London and had to sleep on friends couches for the duration of the contract as we live a 2.5 hour drive out from London and commuting would’ve been a nightmare. Even after all the stresses and strains, which are ongoing, I do think its worth it (at the moment) as being paid to draw is still a great feeling. I’m hopeful that with the tax breaks for animation that start this year, things will get a bit easier. Hope this wasn’t a depressing post, it wasn’t meant to be lol

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Chris Oatley

Not depressing at all, Owen. Encouraging, actually.

Congrats on the new arrival and the great gigs at CN and Aardman! Quality!

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terryl whitlatch

Hi Chris and everyone,

As someone who has been in the Industry for a long, long, long time, I can attest to the validity of what Chris has said. I know what it is like to work on many exciting projects that were suddenly un-greenlit, and I got to go on the “unpaid vacation.” Not fun.

Employment at any one (or more) company or studio should not define who one is as a person and an artist. Nothing lasts forever in that regard. Of course, there is the practical side of paying the bills, but, these are situations that forces us to get out of ourselves, and become really creative–as in–how can I take advantage of the fact that suddenly I have all this free time? Seize the opportunity to complete some personal projects, such as pitches for your OWN IPs (intellectual properities) such as television and feature pitches, and book pitches. You can also increase and sharpen both your skill and influence through teaching or giving workshops, which can give you needed cash while you ACTIVELY pursue your personal ideas. Many, if not most, of my colleagues, myself included, have done or are doing this. Iain McCaig, James Gurney, Bobby Chiu, Chris Oatley of course, Neville Page, the list goes on.

Give your ideas wings and realities, instead of letting them mold about in some closet of the someday, where they languished when you were at your studio job. If you need to move in with your folks, (hey, I’ve done that) there is no shame in that–as long as you have a goal and a project that is tangible. There are possibilities and helps that didn’t exist before–kickstarter for one–Blurb,and mass promotion through the various conduits of social media. Self-publish, and don’t forget about Fine Art as well.

Above all, in order to survive, as a concept artist/animator, and this is the absolute crux–you must be a superb artist and draughtsperson. There is no other way. Draw, draw, and draw some more. Especially with the tradigital revolution in animation i.e. Paperman, where folk who can draw will be at a premium.

So go forth, and create great art, in spite of everything.

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Chris Oatley

I think you just coined a new term with “tradigital,” Terryl. Can’t wait to see that one added to the industry lexicon.

And, yes. Professional artists simply can’t go wrong by investing in their drawing and painting skills.

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Kate A.

Whenever I read about the industry struggles I always try to keep this in mind: no matter how hard things seem, the world always needs storytellers. Entertainment is part of what gets us through these tough times whether they’re economic or political. Some of the greatest feature films and animations were born out of difficulty and a desire to lift spirits. Time and time again art and entertainment continue to thrive even in the most difficult of climates, and I believe now is no different. If movies could soar out of the Depression, we can do the same now. As long as we continue to dream, work hard, and focus on learning the politics of the entertainment industry, we will all eventually navigate our way through it.

Thank you for such an inspirational post, as always, Chris. :)

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Chris Oatley

Thanks so much, Kate.

In response to the recent Bob Iger announcement that Disney has no traditional features in the works, one of my students (the unstoppable Fred Lang) said something like ‘now someone just has to make another Disney.’ …he was being completely serious and sarcastic at the same time.

It’s an insane suggestion to many but Walt did it.

…and not that our increasingly-connected groups of artists need to build a huge, international media empire like The Mouse has… The point is the implicit question. “What’s stopping us from just making our own dang traditional film?!”

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Annamarie

Obviously I’m not in the industry, but reading this is still really great for me. One of the things I’ve come to love about pursuing art as a career is that, in some way, it is always there, even when the lay-offs come. No matter if you’re freelance or have a job with a studio or whatever, you always have the means to create. You can work on your own art, your own stories, or you’re working on your studio’s. When I look in my head, I see a hundred stories and characters waiting to be drawn and created. And that excites me because I know that I will NEVER be bored, NEVER be without something to create and work on. And that’s just my own work, not counting countless other projects by other companies and people I could be involved with someday!

No matter how frustrated I get sometimes (as you’ve seen), art at its core always excites me more than anything else for this and so many other reasons. And that’s why, no matter what, I’ll never stop creating in some way.

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Chris Oatley

That’s one of my favorite things about you, Annamarie. …the way you just push through the struggle. …and the sincerity with which you share your artistic growth. Take a moment to look back at how far you’ve come just in the last year!!!

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Steve

Going to have to disagree here. We artists need to stop looking at work in the animation and VFX industry as a “dream” and instead see it for what it is: a business. And a very lucrative one, too.

The dreamers who are willing to accept bad working conditions, the dreamers who gladly stay late and work overtime without compensation and worst of all the dreamers who work entirely for free are a big part of what got us into this situation in the first place.
Animators and VFX artists don’t get the respect they deserve because they give the impression that their work is worth less than it truly is — every time an artist works without compensation he is devaluing not only himself but the entire industry.

VFX and animation is not a dream. It is a business just like any other. The sooner we start treating it as one, the better it will be for everyone in the long term.

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Chris Oatley

Steve, did you even read the post?

First of all, I made it clear that one’s creative dreams transcend the industry.

Second, just because working in animation isn’t your personal dream doesn’t mean that it isn’t someone else’s and it sounds like you’re trying to devalue that – which is pretty disrespectful.

Third, you’re talking about dreams and business as if they are mutually exclusive. …which they aren’t. One can dream of creating or working in a particular business.

Lastly, you’ve made an uninformed, gross generalization about every “dreamer” – assuming that just because it’s their dream to work in animation they lack self-respect and they all work for free.

Clearly, you haven’t been reading this blog for very long because we’ve already addressed this concept and will continue to do so. The “dreamers” here are hard working, well-spoken professionals and pre-professionals who take their work very seriously.

I don’t appreciate you generalizing about and insulting their integrity without even knowing any of them.

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Melissa Martinez

This couldn’t have come at a better time as I have been in a bit of a slump lately. Though I do keep myself busy with personal projects, so at least I know I’m doing something right. Thanks for this. Your words are uplifting :)

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Chris Oatley

Awesome. What personal projects? Comics? Cartoons? Apps?

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Ashley Dotson

Incredibly inspiring as always Chris. You are completely right on all counts, and especially that the good attitude and perseverance are necessary for success. Without them failure not only in your goals is imminent but yourself worth.

It was also particularly enlightening you to speak about the separation of a sense of purpose and needing validation, and keeping thugs in perspective in that sense. Keeping two feet on the ground and your head in reality can be hard sometimes with all of the overwhelming fears that come with these goals, but it is necessary for success as well as mental health. Tunnel-visioning is not good and its always great to have a reminder of when to pull back. ery well put. :)

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Ashley Dotson

Your self worth* Very* haha

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Ashley Dotson

Oh lord, so many typos. Phone replies are dumb.

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Chris Oatley

HAHA!! Awesome. My favorite was the part about “keeping thugs in perspective.”

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Elaine Rogers

“When in doubt, draw.”

Great advice in these saddening days. My inner voice is my worst enemy and with these layoffs come that evil voice of self doubt. How am i to compete with all these veterans looking for jobs? What number am I in the ratio of everyone else looking? But all that thought is just that, thought, sitting around thinking about all the problems in the world doesn’t accomplish anything. So I’m going to keep drawing and when things get better, I’ll be better right along with them! . Thanks for the inspiring words Chris!

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Chris Oatley

I don’t think young artists can or should compete with the veterans.

Both groups have great value to offer and I think the only truly healthy studio is one that has a balance of both wizened and rambunctious perspectives.

Maybe you might find more encouragement on focusing on what you can learn from all the vets and what you can contribute as a young artist.

I’d like to know your thoughts on this.

Thanks so much for posting – and for your sincerity, Elaine.

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Elaine Rogers

I agree, a lot of what I’ve learned in the past few years has come from veterans in the industry. Though outside of my school professors I have hard time approaching vets. Either my words are lost in a spam of a million other emails or they seem to high up to talk to. I wish I could find more things like your newsletter, which I find inspiring and incredibly motivating. Maybe there is some online community I should look into joining like conceptart.org so I can meet more artists from all stages of the industry. Maybe the problem lies that from my lack of industry experience I feel as though I’m outside of the fence looking in. So maybe its time to jump the fence and meet and learn from more people! Thanks again for your reply Chris.

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Chris Oatley

…and there’s always The Oatley Academy!!! We’d love to have you join up!

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Elaine Rogers

*facepalm* I was just thinking “I bet there’s a great community on here!” Definitely looking into it, always great to meet new artists!

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maripaiz

If I can chime in here for a moment…
The Oatley Academy is the best decision I made this year and the best that could happen to me. Professionally I feel like I’m taking bounds and leaps. The classes have the kind of content you can’t find anywhere else and explained in a way that you can understand. I’m inspired every day by the amazing artists in the community and how supportive they are. It’s really a fantastic community, chock full with talent… PLUS you get Chris! He’s always there with a critique in time, an encouraging nod on the right direction or a friendly slap.
I do encourage you to join. You will NEVER regret it!
Cheers,
María :D

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Chris Oatley

Thanks for the kind words, Maria! The Oatley Academy is an even happier place because you’re there!

Sasia M-Waite

Hi Chris,
First off.. my heart really does go out to my fellow artists and creatives who have been laid off recently.
This post was extremely helpful (as they always are) because I graduated almost 2 years ago here in the UK and am still struggling to break into the industry. People are always really lovely about my work but I’m yet to make my way into an animation studio. I’m never going to stop drawing and creating and hope that one day I can help to tell those wonderful stories that Disney or Dreamworks do so well.

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Chris Oatley

Hi, Sasia!

Take a sec and read Terryl Whitlatch’s comment above. That’s some powerful art-fuel.

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Dennis Salvatier

“Your dreams don’t define you”

That phrase sums it all up. Artists believe a paycheck from a major employer makes them an artist when the truth is they were an artist the first time they picked up a crayon. There is no such thing as an aspiring artist. You already are an artist. You create. You dream about color and form. A paycheck with a corporate logo does not an artist make.

The truth is layoffs and other setbacks are usually met with fear and the question “why me?”, when the truth is the universe has selected you for a special journey that you must embark on and the outcome completely depends on your actions. Will you sit around emailing resumes and hoping for a call back or will you get to creating things you love and sharing them (via social media, cons, galleries) as well as emailing your resume? An artists work is never done, he or she can only choose to abandon it, and he or she can choose to do nothing special or something extraordinary in their search of their dream. But one thing we must realize and accept when having any dream, is that dreams change.

The good news? You are still an artist. You are still good at what you do. Keep doing it and the right people will see it and a new chapter in your life will be revealed.

Great article! Thanks for inspiring me to write again.

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Chris Oatley

“Write again?!” I like the sound of that. Where can I read more from your inspiring voice, Dennis?

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Dennis Salvatier

Hey Chris,

You can check out my blog at blog.salvatierstudios.com. I think I found a purpose to my writing again. I use to write about design and illustration and all that that entails; trying to educate those who aren’t versed on the creative process. I think that I need to encourage those that are down in the dumps and those are scared to take a leap. I’ll explore this and see how it goes. All thanks to you, man!

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Chris Oatley

Nice! I loved your new post!

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Andy Cox

Thanks for writing this Chris! It’s well said and I couldn’t agree more with your attitude.

- Andy

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Andy! Not everyone does but boy-oh-boy it just makes my day when the positive (but balanced) message I’m trying to spread is appreciated.

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Kevin Cameron

Chris, thanks for putting these out as always and staying positive & determined!

The way I see it is that the attitude you and other professionals carry can weather any storm. Staying determined, being adaptable, taking on less traditional work while staying creative, and beginning personal projects are instrumental to this. If anything these events show me that the folks working in this business and industrious & won’t be kept down for long.

My grandpa used to say “nothing gets worse forever” which to me means, if you can tough it out in the bad times, things will get better. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who are affected by these layoffs, those looking for work, and those aspiring, but I know deep in my heart that you’re a diligent lot and will get through this.

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Chris Oatley

I want to hang out with your grandpa like, right now.

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Lynell

I recall that my sister was just finishing her college education in aviation when 9-11 happened and the aviation industry tanked. Much in the way that I love my art and couldn’t ever turn my focus away from it, she loved flying and stuck it out for about 6 years worked part time as a flight instructor making slightly more than minimum wage after a very pricey education. She worked hard, sacrificed having much of anything, and eventually an opportunity broke for her.
As creative people looking for ways to make a living doing what we love, it’s often scary and uncertain. It’s our determination and passion that can ultimately carry us through the bad times. My best to all who are facing these uncertainties. I hope the industry can innovate through.

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Chris Oatley

Great story, Lynell! What does your sister do now?

Innovation is essential right now.

…for the mainstream industry as well as the indie artists.

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Jesse Stark

With great numbers of people who share the same aspiration comes great business, especially to the right person/group that wants to gather together start something new. Now is a great time to start marketing ourselves, start our own studios (or work for a start up).
The internet is littered with entertainment art community websites, making easy to find these people! If you shared a classroom with them, even better! Why aspire to work for a company so hard to get into? Especially if you’re aware of the talent they bring to the table? We can aspire to challenge and level with these incredible animation companies – instead of dream for a job.
I predict a massive boom in the next 5 years of new productions and development in the Animation/Entertainment Industry, let’s all get aboard. Chris, you have an amazing thing going on here. I can tell you are genuinely spent on helping your industry – and the good people that make it… I absolutely LOVE your site.

Please stop me if this is a bad idea Chris, but what if you had a forum or workshop on your site where animators/ storytellers/ illustrators/ fine artists can come together and collaborate on worthwhile projects? Where someone can post a pitch for a film, show, commercial, ad, game, etc – and your viewers/artists can choose and decide which one they’d like to dedicate their time to? From development – to final production. And maybe, just maybe you can guide them along the way? : ) – Haha!

Just an idea. Love your post, agree with every word. Let’s beat the odds!

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Chris Oatley

Hi, Jesse.

The collaboration space keeps coming up over and over. I am definitely open to the idea. I just want it to be really good and effective and intentional.

Currently, anyone enrolled in Painting Drama at The Oatley Academy has access to this exact thing. …and collaboration is a part of the main (epic) project the students create throughout the course.

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Shawna JC Tenney

Chris Oatley, you are so inspiring in so many ways. Thank you for this article. As you might have heard rumor, the publishing industry isn’t doing so hot right now either. I have gotten discouraged. I turned down crappy jobs to work on my portfolio to improve it to get better jobs. Then I got no jobs. I have been sort of in a discouraged state lately. Your article is really encouraging to me. There are several things in there that I want to write down as quotes and stick up on my wall to always remember. Here is one of my favorites: “You have absolutely NO control over fluctuations in the economy or the waves of change in the industry.
What you DO have control over is the quality of your work, your focus, determination, passion and imagination.”

Thank you Chris, for always encouraging and inspiring. Thank you for all you do. May God bless you!

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Shawna. You are PRECIOUS!

You are a flippin’ AMAZING artist and I hope that you’ll continue to pursue opportunities to create projects on your own terms. …even if it’s sort of a back-and-forth for a while (between more traditional kinds of freelance gigs and more entrepreneurial endeavors.

Hang in there and keep me posted. (Also, the other Painting Drama artists!)

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Rachel Kimberly

This is a great encouragement to me (even though I’m not even close to graduating yet!). I’ve been applying to internships lately, and when I hear about all these companies closing or suffering cuts, it certainly makes me concerned about what’ll happen and how it will affect me down the road.

But despite that, and despite my doubts about my own artistic abilities, I’m going after my dream of doing concept art for animation. I keep telling myself that if I don’t get an internship now, I’ll just try again, and again, and again… and I’ll keep working on my drawing and painting skills until I start to get it more often than not.

(Besides, I’m optimistic about some of the things that have been going on in the indie animation world… I sense some big changes in the industry might not be such a bad thing in the long run.)

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Chris Oatley

I’m optimistic too, Rachel. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this.

I think we can all hasten the growth of the new industries by hashing it out in these inspirational, public spaces.

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marji4x

Nicely put! Also, keep in mind that just because high profile jobs are going under doesn’t mean there isn’t a job for an animator. I was entering animation school right as Disney laid off a giant chunk of its 2D department and started going 3D. Most of my friends switched to 3D even if they didn’t like it because it meant getting payed. I decided I loved 2D and if I had to live my days animating under a bridge in a cardboard box, then so be it.

But it turns out there’s a big market for 2D artists in flash television and mobile games and I even get to work on a really fun and challenging one with a gorgeous art style (minomonsters).

You never know what smaller studios might be looking for or what the next year will bring in animation/vfx development.

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Chris Oatley

It’s so refreshing to hear this. I was in school at the exact same time.

I’m so glad you’ve landed these great gigs, Marji! I love the breadth of your character work, too!

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lesley

Upon graduating I was told that the only animation studio we had in Australia was closing down (disney) and no one was hiring, I moved countries, got any experience I could then when I came back decided to freelance. I figured out I don’t need a studio to validate my skills, I discovered were my passions really lay and made sure I was constantly evolving and improving so that instead of just keeping up with the industry I was moving ahead of them.

Don’t be discouraged, you are not alone graduates, getting into the industry will always be tough – there is a lot of competition and a small amount of opportunity – but you have a skill that you don’t need to be paid to use. More than a skill, it’s one of the most unique forms of expression that’s been around before writing and talking – there will always be the need for pictures in this world.

Keep learning, stay flexible, take the opportunities you can, don’t be taken advantage of, and seek support in the art community and never be afraid to contact the people you admire for advice. We’re all in this together!

Good luck! ^_^

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Chris Oatley

To infinity!

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Alysse

Hi Chris,

This post is exactly what I needed today. I saw your email about this post right below my admissions decision email from CalArts. Unfortunately my admissions email wasn’t good news and I had been thinking I should just move on from my dreams after the recent economic issues in the animation field. However, this post puts things into perspective. I appreciate that you pointed out that no matter what obstacle an artist/animator faces we keep going because we have a goal and a passion to be storytellers. Artists and animators are some of the strongest people I have met. As a community these people give me hope and continually encourage artists and animators to keep on going for their dream. I am thankful to be part of this amazing community of people. Thank you for posting this and for encouraging all of us to keep on going.

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Alysse!

Sorry you got disappointing news from CalArts. I didn’t get accepted when I applied back in ’97.

I, too, find artists to be strong spirits. That’s one of the many reasons I just want to hang out with them 24/7!!

Thanks for coming here when you had to process the disappointment. It’s a blessing to hear that you’ve found some peace of mind here.

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ciro

thanks Chris, so inspiring
I just want to share a little thing.
I live in Brazil and animation industry here is nothing comparing to US and others countries, we have a few studios but almost all are focus on advertisement.

I have been for 2 years trying get a job in animation industry here in Brazil ,but until now nothing. (to be true when a reply happens , saying …. Thank for send your portfolio but we don’t have positions right now…… this make me happy lol, really almost anyone reply my e-mails)

but my dream is work at animation industry, but i don’t have money to study in an art school in another country, and I’m not fluent in english yet.
I am self taught, so what I do is search for information on internet and buy books

so, I had a decision in 2012, I saved some money and did a travel to La, and went to Burbank at CTN-X
that was the happiest moment of my life ,so many talent people together, real professionals,but at that moment in CTN-X was kind of happy and sad at the same time
I just realized, there is a long way for me yet to get a job in animation industry in another country.

it’s sad what is happing in animation industry right now, but I have a question
What is the reason for all this layoffs? bad adminstration?

so guys When in doubt, draw like Chris says, just remember your good situation and how lucky you are , than me

sorry for my english mistakes

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Chris Oatley

Ciro – I’m so glad we got to meet at CTN-X! Professionally speaking, it is always the highlight of my year!

I don’t know what the whole story is about the layoffs. I only know what I’ve read on Cartoon Brew and Collider etc.

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Adam Hartlaub

Chris is so right. I cant explain how long it took me to understand this concept. But he is right ! I feel that animation artists should be using their vast skills for other jobs while jobs are very few in film vfx. Work in advertising, television or motion graphics. It may not be what you imagined but you might like it better than you thought!

Personally I’ve been out of art school with my illustration degree nearly a year now. I got so sick or trying to find illustration Jobs. And coming so close to getting into dream companies only to be turned away at last chance. I wound up just getting a side job waiting tables while working on my stories. I also started teachig private art classes. Youd be amazed at the honor you receive from people that appreciate your artwork. Hell i even hAd my local newspaper write an article about me and my stories and artwork. And that has gotten me so much free advertising practically! People come up to me all the time at my side job or wherever and are all omgosh you do art!? You make stories? That’s so cool i want a copy when its published !

Seriously folks. Make stories.
Make art for your stories.
Just make art.

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Chris Oatley

I love seeing that you’ve made steady progress so far. That’s how careers are made. This is the kind of thing that really tests your character and commitment.

That’s one thing that has been evident about you since we first met – that you are really committed. I look forward to seeing where the next couple of years take you…

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Mark Keller

Such inspiring words, Chris!

I’m a technical person by day (my day job) and an artist by night (where my true passion lies). I too have been affected by the cyclical challenges that most industries go through.

Here is my story (I’ll try to keep it brief and hope it helps those affected by the current situation):

While working and living in LA (Long Beach area) as an engineer, I took an engineering job in NY. My wife and I moved and was ready for the next chapter in our lives. After almost two years, I got the notice that I would be laid-off – and we just recently had a baby (then 7 months-old). The industry was bad in the area and we had no family. We decided to move into a basement of a friends house in the middle of winter (we froze our tails off most of the time) to save as much as we can – to move back to LA with no job (a costly move, in more ways than one).

However, though this was one of the toughest times, it was also the most rewarding! Once back in LA (and becoming a stay-at-home dad while my wife worked, barely making ends meet), I decided to crank up my skills by going back to school to finish my B.S. in Engineering (even taking student loans and using my credit cards to pay for school). I knew that if I worked hard on improving my skills, it would also improve my position. Yes, it put me in more debt but I had to gain that extra edge over the next person applying for the next job. It worked – I ended up getting a better job than I could have if I hadn’t worked so hard.

Yes, I could have just sat there and done nothing, but that wasn’t going to get me the next job. You have to put “one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking through the door…”

Yes, I could have said to myself that it was my fault for losing the job and feel like a failure to my family, but that is not true. We are not failures. We all have talent and that talent is within us. It’s what makes us unique! Makes us stand out! Makes us wake up in the morning! Makes us want to tell a story that only we can tell!

Don’t let the industry define you! Don’t let it try to put out your fire! Instead, add fuel to that passion.

No, it isn’t easy, but I tell you, it is worth it.

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Chris Oatley

Inspiring, Mark. Truly inspiring.

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Grey

Good advice for any kind of artist in any entertainment industry. Thank you so much for your words =D

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Chris Oatley

1.) You’re welcome. 2.) I LOVE the name “Grey.”

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K King

Thank you for writing this.

Last year was the first complete year that I was out of school and not interning (I completely finished school around 2011 and interned most of that year). I had an internship that I loved and people are always asking why I didn’t ask them for a job. Haha that would have been the dream, being 15 min from home, surrounded by awesome people doing what I love. A lot of factors led the owner of the studio to move his company (and his family) to Canada. Lately I almost feel like I need someone to tell me I’m awful at what I do because it would give me some reason for all the radio silence and form rejection letters.

I work at an apple store, so that occasionally gives me the opportunity to talk to people about what I want to do, or help kids getting ready to go to school. People who see my work and friends who have worked with me tell me they think I have what it takes, or the even more secretly painful “Oh man, why do you work at the apple store??”. They mean it in a nice way, but it makes me feel like I’m letting other people down and myself.

What you wrote is just one more thing helping me rethink what I need to be doing and how I need to be working. I need to keep trying, and try not to get so down on myself or my work. I know that I have a TON of work to do, because my animation education has been largely self driven for a long time, and I don’t necessarily have the name of a big animation school behind me. I just need to push myself to keep doing it…

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Chris Oatley

I worked at The Guitar Center for two years. I was on commission and I was TERRIBLE at sales! It was REALLY fun but SUCH a financial struggle.

On two different occasions I had to sell my own guitars to the store in order to pay my rent.

I experienced years of the exact same radio silence from studios. Before I broke in, I did receive two rejection letters from Dreamworks and I think one from Nickelodeon. I think the rejection letters are actually better than radio silence because at least you know they saw your work and didn’t think it was good enough.

But I just kept moving forward and eventually broke in. …and when I did I didn’t even see it coming. Everything just finally clicked together…

I understand what you’re saying. But it’s worth honing your craft regardless of the external conditions – if for nothing but becoming a better artist and storyteller. Know what I mean?

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Random

Hey, nice article. I just graduated OSU and met with Maria Palazzi a couple times trying to build an undergrad animation program through ACCAD. She basically gave me similar advice of “grind.” So nowadays my motivation is “draw, draw, draw; draw, draw, draw.” I say that to myself whenever I get clouded about the path. Cheers, hope Burbank’s nice.

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Chris Oatley

Maria is awesome. She’s so intense and inspirational. I’m so happy to hear that you were able to connect with her. It’s amazing how good teachers always seem to find the exact right words at the exact right time…

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Joe

I didn’t read all the comments, my apologies if this is redundant. These words of encouragement are welcomed and the advice to stay intrinsicly motivated do not apply only to the field of animation. They apply to every creative profession, indeed, ANY profession that someone practices with heartfelt sincerity. The economy has affected all fields, including mine, which is architecture. Many people from all walks of life and all lines of work are worried or struggling. With Chris’ advice and pep talk we can all feel a little more hopeful and fufilled until the tides turn, and they will!

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Chris Oatley

Wow, Joe, you have really pulled out some key words and concepts here: Intrinsic motivation, fulfillment and hope. I love that those are all connected and potentially unshakable in a tough economy.

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Knight Ayos

Thank you for this Blog Mr. Oats!

Reading this blog and some comments made me realize that ‘We’ artists are versatile people. Our Creativity is our Edge. We can do other jobs while pursuing our dreams. All we have to do is to keep on creating Artworks, our dreams. Just like Walt Disney said “Keep Moving Forward”.

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Chris Oatley

Walt certainly knew what he was talking about! Good stuff.

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Sarah

This is great advice for all creative people, not just artists. I am an aspiring writer and these words are helping me.

Thanks.

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Chris Oatley

Thank you for the encouragement, Sarah! I’m so happy that this post was able to encourage you.

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Amine Rastgar

Wow thank you Chris Oatley, what an inspiring read!

“and you don’t need a job in the animation industry to validate your calling.”

Love this quote.

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Chris Oatley

Thank you!

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Charles B

Nice article! I would add two things. 1) It doesn’t get any better with age and layoffs hurt more when you more responsibilities such as a children and a mortgage. 2) Save your pennies for a rainy day, some times those days last over a year.
I’ve worked in the television animation industry for 9 years now and contracts usually range from 3 months to 8 months and you are lucky if you can get all your ducks in a row or move from contract to contract. It’s hard work keeping the work going but it’s what I enjoy and while I can I will keep doing it. But the most important advice I’ve heard in this industry is “pay yourself first”. Make sure you can afford to live because a starving artist maybe an artist but they are still starving, it’s better to be fed. Thanks for your positivity Chris it helps remind me of the better times when my ducks are all marching!

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Chris Oatley

Great advice, Charles.

Everyone should read this comment.

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Kimberly M Zamlich

Chris: Beautiful and encouraging article! Yes, there are a lot of things you can do: first off, it is true; you just keep drawing and creating. Encourage and inspire others. Organize a local group to teach what you know, organize sketch trips to the zoo, museums, share what you have learned and help others. Ask yourself: What can I do to ad value? I used to work at Disney Feature Film until all the layoffs hit there. I’ve never looked back. Since then, I have started a blog, took a few painting classes (Nathan Fowkes and Sean Cheetham) to learn how to turn the figure with warms and cools to then, to teach myself how to tell the story in one screen shot, by composition, layout, attitude, emotion, etc. I am also writing a graphic novel, learned Illustrator, so now I do very beautiful complicated vector inks for Disney Consumer Products from my house. Improve your skills. Let everyone know. Contribute to your blog every month, talk about what you have learned and how. Invite people to converse; surround yourself with driven, passionate artists who feel the same way you do and something will come up~not because you are drawing for a career, for a great portfolio to show a potential employer, but because YOU LOVE IT and that love will show in your work. That’s one way of making a big impression. I’ve been painting from screenshots from films in a sketchbook and can’t believe the leap of skills I have now, because I do this for pure pleasure. Those skills are going to translate BIG in digital; because I’m doing all the traditional footwork, and then too, I will be taking these small paintings to a bigger scale this year~that’s right~to canvas and it’s going to rock! No matter what the environment throws at you, it can’t take away what you have hard earned in skills, in experience. This year, as bad as it is economically, will be a great year of advance in my skills and my enthusiasm~I just know. Thank you, Chris, for allowing me to rant! Kimberly

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Chris Oatley

Wow! …and an inspiring rant it was, Kimberly!

So much practical advice here. I love it!

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Kimberly M Zamlich

Thank you, Chris! And those artists who do not let the environment dictate their success or happiness, and who keep going, keep building their skills, those who really want it, will find a way to succeed. The Industry becomes stronger, more skilled, esp. if we can leverage off each other. There is work out there; there is more opportunity then you may realize. Good luck, everyone! OK, I’ll shut up now~Kimberly

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MissRose

Wow Chris I must say thank you so much for this wonderful article. I love art and aspire to be an animator, but the recent job situation has discouraged me an I have been thinking about pursuing something “practical” that I don’t love… reading an article like this really helps to put things in perspective. It can be hard to remain positive amidst a lot of personal set backs and terrible industry news about all the job losses. I just want to say that you are a gem. Your words are truly encouraging and inspiring -as are a lot of the comments here. I hope the best for all of you in this forum and for those affected by the industry downturn…it will be temporary but in the end things will be ok! Heads up my fellow artisans our canvases await…

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Chris Oatley

Thank you for the kind words.

I hear you on the challenge of pursuing something “practical” that you don’t love. While you might have to work at jobs you don’t like in order to pay the bills, it doesn’t mean you have to let the creative fire die. …or that you have to think of the non-creative job as your eternal fate.

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Norbert Kausen

Great article and so pertinent to the entertainment industry as a whole, It is the creativity which keeps one going. I had worked in film back in the 80s for a while, in Canada. There was a crash as the government had rescinded the tax breaks it gave to production companies and a lot of people lost their livelihoods. I hadn’t been working in the industry too long, maybe several years as an FX technician so I was in that boat. I ended up enlisting in the military, finding a career in the army, and rarely touched a pencil to draw for over twenty years. I did some photography and videography as well as being the battalion graphic artist all the while being in the infantry. Then I transferred to intelligence and maintained a semblance of creativity there. Now, 25 years later, I have retired, am back in school, studying animation, courtesy of a grateful government and drawing once again, without the worry of a lack of income as I am collecting a pension. Anyways, there is always something coming along that can change your course in life, you just have to seize the opportunity and you are never too old to go back later. You never forget how to draw!

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Chris Oatley

Amazing story, Norbert! Fantastic!!

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Glenn Holberton

Great words of wisdom, Chris. I liken working in animation to skiing. It can be cold and painful when you fall over but you just have to get up. Dust yourself down and carry on. Most of the time its fun and exhilarating.

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Chris Oatley

Brilliant! …and so true!

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Anthony Hary

Very well written, and a very balanced view. I have to agree. As a Comic Book, Character Designer, and Concept Artists there is a lot of self motivation that takes place. We recently talked about this need in a podcast over at http://www.comiccrossover.com

Some who are unfamiliar laugh it off, some roll their eyes, those who are familiar with me have come to expect it, but I’ve addapted a mentality and the personal moto which appears on my facebook posts, my tweets, and its a quite simple point statement.

“Keep it Creative”
“Never Quit”
and
“Make IT Happen!!!”

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Chris Oatley

Love that positive attitude, Anthony!

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R. Teancum Horning

Anyone who may need some encouragement

Life still has color even in it’s dark times. I generally hope and pray for the best but just like it’s said up in the article, continue to animate because you can animate.

Teancum

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Chris Oatley

Thank you, Teancum.

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Rachel Hansen

Thanks for posting this, Chris! It was really encouraging and so what I needed to hear right now. And I’m sure I will need to hear it again in the future, but yeah. Hard work and perseverance. I can do that. I love how encouraging you are to those of us trying to break into the industry :)

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Rachel. I’m glad you found the post encouraging.

I hope I’m able to provide practical empowerment as well.

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A

It is weird,
after so many disaster happens in animation and VFX studio,
nobody consider it might be the issue of privacy and copyrighting.
people in the internet sharing our hard works and contribution in games and movie for free!
and that is why the studios is getting unreasonable profit!
ya, and i wonder why people always avoid this topic :*)

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Britt Anderson

“When the external validation of success replaces our spiritual sense of purpose, things get messy.”

When I read this quote in your article, I knew exactly what it meant, because I had come to this same place in my artistic life about a month ago. I got to a private art school here in CA. I pay out of pocket, work a full time job on the side to afford my class supplies, I take between 5-6 classes per semester, and I work as a Resident Assistant in the student dorm halls to ensure free housing for myself to lower the cost of school. I’ve been a straight A student my entire life until this past month, when I got my first “C”. Ever.

I felt like I had failed, and that the grade I got on my midterm was a direct reflection of worth as a person as well as my vision as an artist. But after a long, hard talk about it with a co-worker over coffee and stale chips, I realized that this wasn’t it. My life and my vision is just as important as anyone’s in the industry, and I have to stop trying to change how I work, see, fell, and experience art and life like all my superiors want me to. If I changed perspective for anyone who taught me how to animate, draw, etc., then I’d just become their clone.

I have so much respect for people like Eric Goldberg, Don Bluth, James Baxter, Stephen Silver, and Joe Sandstrom (http://vimeo.com/joesandstrom). And I follow their efforts and many others as often as I can. But the world has seen them, and all the people who mimic them. To animate like them is the highest form of flattery, which I have been slowly trying to get to. But the world has seen all of them before. If I want to do anything, it’s to have someone look at my animation one day and say, “Whoa, that Anderson girl knows what she’s doing.”

I might not be there yet, but trust me when I say this – the animation world can go through as many corkscrews and loop-dee-loops as it needs to keep re-inventing itself…and I will be there.

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Rose

Thank you for writing this uplifting and reassuring post. I’m not in the animation industry but I’m a fan of beautifully-animated and well-written films and tip my hat to everyone who works hard to create them. I was upset to hear how Dreamworks’ “Rise of the Guardians” didn’t do so well at the box office and after hearing about layoffs, have worried that they wouldn’t make another movie like this again. “ROTG” touched my heart and made me feel there was magic in the world just like the “Harry Potter” and “Narnia” books.

I do know that life moves in cycles and there are ups and downs in a competitive market. The film came out recently and giving the amount of time big studios work on these projects (3-4 years I’m told) I’d hate to rush a good idea. I will still keep hoping that someday the Guardians will rise again.

And to all of those writers, artists, computer programmers, and designers, I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. I anticipate seeing what beauty you will create to brighten our days.

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Angela Entzminger

Thank you Chris!

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Jessica Lohse

Thanks for this post. I didn’t see the date on it, but I know it can’t be that long ago that it was written.
I graduated from Animation Design BA (1st Hons) after taking a 1 year art school course (Foundation Art & Design Level 3 with Merit) in the U.K.
I have always been creative and have always struggled with depression. Since I was told my contract as a Runner at Dneg wouldn’t be renewed in 2012, I’ve been unemployed for over a year struggling to find work *any*where.
Having a degree is counting against me in unskilled work or in the ability to obtain scholarships toward a different industry so I can have a career and survive. I’m on U.K. Benefits and my husband is the only one working in my household. It is even worse for other grads from my course, who aren’t doing anything. I don’t even feel like looking at Maya anymore, because it hurts to even think about how I’ve been and will be chewed up if I give it everything.
I took a risk, I went to London, I tried my best and failed. I still write studios saying I’ll be a runner or work for no/low pay. I feel like giving up. If I can’t retrain, get an everyday job, or get into the industry what can I do? Your blog gives great advice. I know that I can express myself creatively, but I’m frozen inside with fear that I can’t cope with another let down. Any advice on moving past that?

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Cialis

With havin so much written content do you ever run into any issues of
plagorism or copyright violation? My site has a lot of
exclusive content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my authorization. Do you know any methods to help prevent content from being stolen? I’d truly appreciate it.

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Ariane

Hello Chris!
Thank you for this post, you answered some of my questions.. And I have a lot of questions. I’m thinking about changing my career. I have always been passionate about art and technology, and for some reasons in my life I ended up doing business school. And now I just finished, worked a little bit and realized that what I really want is to work with art.. be an animation professional.. But I have a long way.. But I know I’m capable of. But for me, it is still and abyss because I have a lot of job oppotunities in business administration. Then I’m reasearching how good (or bad) animation industry is going today… I got a little frustrated … But I didn’t loose my hope.
In every career you have to be really good in what you do. No matter what you do. If you want the best available job, you must prepare to be the best one. I’m 22 years old, and I know I have a chance. If I got a chance, the professionals in animation are closer than me to live their dreams. So, guys, please do not loose hope in doing what you think you are good at, because what you do is amazing!! It’s beautiful and inspiring!
I’m sorry if I made any english mistakes, my language is portuguese, from Brazil : )

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Miriam

I am well aware of the ups and downs of the Animation industry, that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t even try to go to college; I cannot imagine getting into such debt without a guarantee that all those years will pay off… I’m glad we nowadays have instructional books, affordable online training and social networking to promote your work. So many options that weren’t available back in the day! The good thing about being an artist is it doesn’t require a 4 year diploma, only requires tons of practice and dedication to build a strong portfolio and of course, professional feedback which you can get anywhere online…
They hire talent, not diplomas. We cannot rely on these big studios anymore; In my opinion, the best thing to do is to go independent or work in small studios. I believe it’s also important to expand your skill set in case you can’t find work in your expertise area.

Thanks for the great post. Very encouraging.

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Issac

Chris,

Thank you for this. Sadly I quit my animation dreams in 2010 after I struggled finding work, and since then work and passion have been a struggle. Today my wife suggested I try animation again to at least work towards something. I was critical since I know the animation industry has been shrinking ever since, but I have to say this just the thing I needed to read. You can’t go wrong in any industry with your advice: “I don’t think you can guarantee success with a great attitude, hard work and persistence, but you can guarantee failure without them.” Excellent quote, I will never forget it. Thank you.

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Saber

This is very inspiring and I’m glad to have come across this. I was actually trying to research about the animation Industry and how I can ever be in a Job as one. I wanted to be an Animator preferably in Japan, but I am a Foreigner and it dawned on me that it will be very hard without the knowledge of their language that will take years and years of mastery, their pay is miserably poor and your reputation among them is low, you need quite a unique talent that most Japanese are not able to posses but you, and even I do believe that I have something different, there are others who seem to be better and I respect that. But still I refuse to stop and I want to continue what I really wanted to accomplish and dream so much about.
“If your dream dies, what will you do?”
That was a question that rang in my mind ever since. But as you said.
“Draw, paint, repeat
Finish personal projects.
Pursue mastery.
Read and read and read.
Go to CTN-X.
share your work online.”
Now that will forever be an inspiring quote that will carry inside my heart. Your advisor sure is awesome to have given you a quote like that, its really moving.
Right now. All that I have been wanting to pursue since then falls on me like tons of weighing bags on my shoulders, those bags that were actually my sign of hard work, but now I seem to see it as a drag after reading such news about the Animation there.
My plan now is to find Animation in the US. I love Disney, I love Pixar and I love Dreamworks Animation. But my passion is in Japanese Animation. I really just can’t throw away what I believe was a gift to me, all those things I concentrated on and what I learned just because I found a sad truth behind the Industry in Japan. I find it heartbreaking to have another view and another set of options with the hardest decisions I must make. It’s so hard to find a Job that would fit my interest and my strengths.
USA is my first objective now, despite the lay offs you mentioned, I will continue to strive and remember your words.
I wanted to know what companies are available in US that I can apply to. Anything Anime related. Whether it be Character design or simply Key animation or storyboard.
So far, this is a great Advice I have read. For 2 years have I tried to find something worth reading, though there are a lot, this by far is most meaningful and the comments are strikingly positive. I hope things on your side goes alright.

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NamGiao

I have recently graduated from a Fine-Art School in my homeland, I am intending to apply in Gobelins four years later. This is a terribly shock news for me. Should I keep my dream of being an animation artist, especially an animation artist from Gobelins?

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Priyankar

Hi,

Love to see at least someone in the earth thinking in the same way. Disney was bankrupt his Laugh-o-gram studio, John Lasseter was thrown from the Disney, They didn’t stop themselves. The choice is always you whether you want to stop or continue “WORKING” .

Regards,
Priyankar

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Melissa

I have a question for you! Say you live in an area where there is no animation industry. Would it be worth taking a road trip to California to network and learn more about the industry first hand and get inspired to further one’s knowledge? A lot of people have been telling me to take the risk and start at the bottom, while still developing my skills. There is some sense it what they say and I do love a good adventure. What are you thoughts?

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Dave DK

I couldn’t agree more with this post. I was one of those people who was stuck in an office job and I felt I deserved a job where I could draw. I spent every evening for a whole year dedicating myself to getting better at drawing but in the process I truly fell in love with drawing that by the end of it it was no longer about getting a “job”. It’s about having found something that you enjoy, and drawing is one of those experiences we can share with people. Life drawing and outdoor sketching have replaced getting drunk on weekends for example :P I was fortunate to have found a job in the industry, but even if I had to go back to a normal desk job, I wouldn’t mind..since nothing can stop me from drawing. I just get to do more of it while I have a creative job :D

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Mayur Patidar

Hi,

Can You Kindly tell me what is the role of a creative writer in the Animation Industry and how can a Person think on it and seek a good career in the Industry ?

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Hannah

This was a great read! I am currently making a paper, for school, which is strongly based on this topic. This really helped!

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Saujanya Sunkarwar

hello everyone here,

i m in final year of computer engg. aftr my gradutaion i dont want to work in IT sectors, i want to pursue career in animation industries. i love painting , drawing, can sing and dance well. i dnt knw what made me to get into engineering colg. i m really confused for how to convince my parents about what i actually want…

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Timothy

I am a newly graduated student from a small college in Southern California and I just wanted to thank you for writing this. It has been rough starting out into the world only to find out that things are going to be much harder to achieve than you had previously thought. However reading this article and hearing your voice calmly and intelligently reason for hope and persistence in the rough state of the industry is giving me all that much more hope. Thank you.

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Sam

Good read. I graduated with an animation degree almost 10 years ago now and although I never had the chance to work in the field and grow professionally I came to the same conclusions written here, to still create stories. I love animation and wish I could get a job in it but that does not seem like it will happen. Putting together my demo reel animation was one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable times in my life, even if I never got to work in the industry.

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