Thursday, January 16

Freelancer!

High time I checked in after what has been a year both testing and triumphant, weary and wonderful!

After merging my previous blogs I got stuck into some folio artwork and was posting about that until I began to organise a trip to California. I have made good friends with a number of concepts artists (and plenty of others!) who were working with my friend at Blizzard. Since then many of them have moved on to other companies and I've done my best to keep in touch. They have been hugely helpful and supportive in my efforts to improve my folio and garner attention from the international gaming community.

Then my blog went dark. Well, what happened?

After garnering attention with some fan concepts, art comp entries and submitting my folio I was offered some freelance work from Riot Games on the skins team. It was such a huge breakthrough for me and the opportunity of a lifetime and I devoted all my time to the work. At the same time I already had a trip to the US booked so, rather than cancel it, I took the chance to visit Riot's office and even volunteer at PAX for the LCS NA Finals.

When I returned from the US I found the company I'd been working for had fallen on hard times and I was retrenched immediately. This gave me time to focus on my work from Riot but without a day job I've been struggling a bit financially. At this point I had a fair amount of money saved and decided to try and pursue more freelance art as a primary source of income (here comes the Ramen).

The freelance work from Riot is going well and I'm going to be doing some work for the champion rework team this year. Obviously I can say much more than that. But once some of my work goes live I will request permission to share some of my concept work here.

So what I will talk about, as we enter 2014, is exactly what I'm doing to avoid having to get another 'box factory' job and live the life of a freelance artist.


1. Have a Buffer/Support: I'm happily married to an awesome supporting wife. She works full time and we don't have kids so I have financial security and tremendous moral support. In return I've taken on the household chores, cooking most of the meals and massages on-demand! I also saved up enough money to pay the rent for the next 6 month because I don't expect to make much money at first. I saved up that money to give myself an honest chance. Younger artists might still live at home but whatever the situation I make sure the people who support me know how much I appreciate and respect them.


2. Be Prepared for Failure: Just because I have and idea, and because other people make it work, doesn't mean it will work for me. I strongly believe that anyone can do anything with enough dedication (and getting work from Riot cemented this in my mind) but I have a time limit on this. If the lifestyle doesn't suit me, I can't get enough work, or it's too stressful then I am prepared to return to a 'box factory' day job and keep doing choice freelance work after hours.


3. Get a Coach: This is something I would never have though of but a good friend of mine told me she really enjoys helping people with their passions and I'm more than happy to let her. As it turns out this is one of the most valuable things I have done. Once every couple of months we have a meeting where she helps me lay out short and long terms goals, teaches me how to network better and get exposure (just learned how to Tumblr last night), and gives me a pat on the back for giving it a go. These first three are the major factors, aside from my own skill and drive, that have made all the difference so far.


4. Make it Your Job: I'm sure everyone has heard this one but working from home is impossible. I've made myself a routine so that I take work seriously and don't procrastinate. Each morning I do exercise, eat, take a shower, get dressed then 'go to work'. When I'm in work mode I am ONLY working. This also helps me relax because I can 'leave work' and not spend my evenings half-working or feeling stressed.


5. Network/Advertise: There is no shame in keeping in touch with or reaching out to people who you want to be connected to. I'm particular bad at this because I like to be honest with people and feel like this is a little slimy/rude just emailing people from out of the blue. But my 'Coach' insisted; if you are honest with people and let them know exactly what you are asking for you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so why not? She started me off easy with the task of adding people on LinkedIn. But even then I feel hesitant to impose on people unless we have worked together before. In terms of being noticed I'm slowly building up my online presence with my own website, Deviant Art, Twitter, Tumblr and some forums (Facebook to come). So far this has been the primary source of the work I've managed to get and I'm working on a pricing chart for commissions in the new year.


4. Keep Learning: I think the worst thing for an artist is to get comfortable. I never agree to do paid work that I'm not confident I can complete quickly and to the expected level of quality. However I always make sure I have hard-basket projects on the side that keep pushing me out of my comfort zone and learning as much as I can. When I do a personal piece it always takes a long time because I don't waste my time churning out art below my skill threshold.


5. Be Inspired: I was reading Mark Merrill's blog recently (because I eat up any and every bit of insight into Riot as I can) and he mentions that he always asks people who their role models are during interviews and if they hesitate it's a bad sign. While everyone can be inspired by the lives of others I think this is doubly important for artists. Making friends with other artists and sharing their trials and tribulations is not only motivating but makes me feel like I'm not alone. The second time I was in California I made friends with a guy named Paul. I didn't know much about him but we really got on well and shared similar outlooks and attitudes which I find pretty rarely with others. Well when we got onto art it turned out that he is something of a concept art jedi  master and I've been learning from his wisdom ever since.

*

6. Art Appreciation: If I want people to pay me for my art then I need to make art that people want. I need to know what others are doing and how successful they are. It might sound arrogant but the art I take my time to look at is the art that wows me because I can't do it myself. I don't feel guilty spending time looking at galleries because I'm basically trawling for new tricks and techniques. It's not just google searches for 'digital concept art' either. It's everything from a Baroque Art Exhibition to walking past an interesting piece of architecture.


7. #YOLO: This is it! This is what I've always wanted to do with my life! I'm going to enjoy every second of it. However long it lasts I'm proud of myself for making it this far and so lucky to be where I am in life. When people ask me how I am I tell them: "I'm happy" and it's absolutely true.

BONUS COOL SHORT FILM:


*Art School Confidential is an awesome film, particularly if you love art. See it!

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