Monday, May 7, 2012

So you're graduating from art school...part 1

I don't like to mention that I'm a pretty recent graduate here on my blog. But seeing as I'm just about a year out of school now and I've got a bit of work under my belt, it can't hurt too much to mention now.

As a matter of fact, this time last year my fellow classmates and I were having our work reviewed at Lubinhouse in NYC as a part of our school's senior illustration review. Syracuse University's illustration alumni are invited every year to come by and review the newest graduating class's portfolios and are encouraged to leave feedback in the hopes of helping them start their careers as illustrators.

Tomorrow and the day after, SU's illustration majors of the class 2012 are displaying their work, just as I did, at Lubinhouse. As much as I would love to go and leave feedback, I'm unable to make the trip this year. However I still want to do what I can to help the next batch of wide-eyed hopefuls looking to make their mark in the industry.

I'm only a year out of school myself so there is only so much I can say from my experiences, yet I hope that having graduated fairly recently means I can pass on what I've learned in my first year out of school. So here goes, I hope at least a few people can find some of my words helpful...


The first thing I can say for sure is that graduating may be the end of grades and tests, but that doesn't mean it's the end of learning. It's extremely important to find ways to learn more all the time. This will help you get better and thus stand out more. There are tons of artists out there willing to share their own stories and insight.

Absorb all of it.

Take in as much advice and ideas as you possibly can. Remember that everyone's road is different and not everything everyone has to say will directly correlate to you, but there is always a benefit to hearing about it. Over time you'll get better at sifting through advice and learning how to apply it to your own situation.

A perfect place to get started on this is by checking out a post made by Chris Moeller (fellow SU alumni) on the Muddy Colors blog (this blog is on my personal required reading list so check it out). The post is titled "Life After Art School: Five Years to an Illustration Career". It was originally posted this time last year and I remember it being a really nice insight as to what to expect in my future. Rereading it now it's just as refreshing as when I first came across it. Take some time and check it out.

Like I said, there are tons of helpful people, sites, blogs, podcasts, and whatever out there, and a lot of it can be taken advantage for free. Here are a few of my favorite ways to continue learning (in no particular order...

Muddy Colors -- Blog. A collaboration of some of the industry's finest. Posts are made on tons of topics from tons of different perspectives.

Gurney Journey -- Blog. James Gurney's personal blog where he promotes himself, his work, and gives his insight into technique and application. I also recommend his books Imaginative Realism and Color and Light.

Ninja Mountain -- Podcast. Collection of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror artists talking about different art topics and experiences, along with interviews covering all kinds of fun things. I've posted about them more extensively in THIS past Inspiration Spotlight.

Dave Rapoza & Dan Warren -- Livestreams. These guys both run an online study group called Crimson Daggers. You can watch them work on paintings and are encouraged to work alongside them. You even get to ask them questions and even have your work reviewed. They also run challenges

The Art Order -- Blog. Created and run by D&D Creative Grand Master (his title is close to that at least). Mostly focuses on Fantasy art, but there is still tons of useful information from an Art Director's perspective on this website.

That's just a small scoop of what's out there. Poke around online a bit, see what you can find for yourself. This is all for today's post. I'll have a bit more in a couple days.


  1. well spoken, mike. I especially want to reiterate your statement about how the learning never ends. I thought that I was in a fairly decent place when I graduated and it really only took about a week or two to realize just how wrong I was. After that realization, I kicked things into high gear and began to not just learn more, but I also spent my time painting in a more focused state of mind. Using those above resources, along with a few others that I'm sure you'll mention in your next post, definitely helped out enormously; quite literally a college education and then some for free. And, like you mentioned, everyone's journey is always different from the next persons, so don't try and follow somebody else's journey step for step, be true to yourself and do things the way you feel most confident in.

    I've actually had that Chris Moeller post bookmarked ever since I first read it when I graduated and refer back to it from time to time especially when times are tough.

  2. Thanks for leaving your thoughts Bernard. I'm really glad to hear that you can relate to what I'm talking about. I had the same feeling about my work at graduation, somewhat satisfied, but only because I had no idea how much more I had to improve still.

    That post by Chris Moeller really struck a chord with me back when I first read it and I really hope everyone else who reads it gets as much out of it as I did.