Federal School of Illustrating - Splendid opportunities.

You probably have friends who are artists. They fly around in their solid gold helicopters, eating only the middles of bananas and throwing away the rest, because money is no object to them. After all, their artists! What's their secret? Where do their piles of cash in dollar sign bags come from?

Here in The Future, most working artists can define success as being able to make any monthly mortgage payment. That's a pretty low bar. It's much more likely to see someone indulging a passion for art as a hobby.

In 1927, maybe things were different. Photography is cheap and effortless now. For some reason, looking through magazines as recent as the 1950s, illustrated ads were more the norm than ones featuring photographs. Weirder still, I haven't been able to figure out why. It's probably something to do with printing technology that would be more apparent if I had more knowledge of, uuh, printing technology. Was there a reason that a drawing was easier to print than a photo? Maybe the fact that a drawing allows complete control over detail and focus of attention? This is just conjecture. It may be helpful if some of our printful readers would lend some expertise in the comments.

This ad does have one hilarious line. "Do you like to draw? If you do, it is almost certain that you have talent,". This is slightly not true at all. In several professional positions, I've had access to the stack of portfolios of hopeful applicants. Long story short, thinking you're an artist absolutely does not make you an artist.

Why? Since he introduction of computers around 1987 or so, the old question of "What media do you work in?" can be answered with names of software, rather than oils or charcoal. Art training schools can now promise parents that their child will have expertise in such and such programs upon graduation, like 3D Studio Max, Photoshop, or Lightroom. It's easy to assume this is all it takes. The professional art world is different than most professional realms in that your resume is glanced at for a few seconds, but your demo reel - your proof of what you can do - is carefully studied.

No school can promise to make your kid "get it". They can, however, promise to check all the boxes in the software wish list. This goes on the resume, but the demo reel will show what the applicant is capable of doing with the software. You can teach a business major to use Photoshop, but it doesn't make them an artist. Before the New Technological Dawn, no school would ever promise to make you a good artist. They would only assure you of "opportunities", like this ad for Federal. But now, schools can promise to teach you how to use software... sometimes to the complete neglect of fundamentals like drawing, composition, and balance. Potential can be directed and developed, but not bestowed by any amount of training. Schools can sidestep this awkward truth by focusing on computer training rather than covering the basics of art first.

So what we have now is a certain percentage of art graduates that have spent untold thousands on tuition, know how to use the standard checklist of applications, and are still clueless artists that produce consistently awful work. For the first few minutes of browsing demo reels, it's hilarious viewing, but then the grim realization sets in that so many of the applicants wasted several years and a lot of money training for a career in which they have no potential.

The best digital art houses (Disney, Pixar, Studio Ghibli) focus heavily on traditional art fundamentals. Browse Amazon for books on "The Art of (insert Pixar movie name here)". They're books on how the films were made, and they're full of gorgeous design work. You'll see pages of studies and character development done by drawing the old fashioned way.

Learn to walk before you run. Study your fundamentals, kids.


Steve Miller said...

I've had many art jobs where I've made from $200 to $500 dollars a month -- or more! So that much of the ad, at least, remains true today...

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Rare success stories like yours always blow the curve for the rest of us.

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