Whether you make it or not is never about talent. message to the aspiring artists
“Can you tell who’s going to make it in your class?” I sometimes get this big question. And my answer is YES, I CAN. Their eyes open up twice as big. But wait! I need to explain a bit more.
Recently in my class, a students, who is very talented, but lacking a bit of focus, and hasn't been creating work up to his talent, said “I always wanted to be a concept artist, but not anymore”. I asked why. Initially he didn’t give me a good enough answer, but after talking for a few minutes, he finally said this:
“I find there are always people who are better than me, and I don’t think I can be as good.”
Now, this is not the best answer, but at least a good enough answer in a way that solving a problem starts from admitting the problem. Right?
So, going back to WHO MAKES IT.
The answer is this: those who dream big, and those who work hard toward it. Those are the ones, I can guarantee, who make it at the end. It's that simple. It is never about how talented you are.
I have been teaching for 12 years now. I have met many students and aspiring illustrators. And let me reassure you, talent is NEVER the key to how one makes it or not. Of course, if you have the talent AND extremely hardworking, then, congratulations. You are unbeatable. But the truth is, most us are not those very rare few. And that is totally OK.
I have seen many extremely talented students who ended up never making it. Because they relied too much on the gift they were born with, and never learned to work hard, because they felt they were just too cool for school, stopped listening to professors’ advices, etc, etc..., while others who are not as gifted worked their ass off and get better slowly but surely.
I think one of the best things that happened to me when I was still a student was the fact that my roommate was one of those very rare few. You know, that one person who was extremely talented AND hardworking, that you know you would never be.
The reality was, after that initial intimidation slowly faded away, I was able to just accept the fact there are ALWAYS going to be people who are better than you, and that is totally OK. It is an unnecessary distraction you should never focus on. By having that genius roommate, I was actually able to, from early on, not worry about looking at others and getting intimidated, and rather spend that energy focus on my work and my own strength.
I had a classmate who’s dream was to be a kids’ book artist. She started art later than most of her classmates. Thus her work at that point definitely looked that way. I asked an another classmate, “Do you think she will one day get a kids’ book deal?” The classmate answered without even hesitating for a second, “Oh yeah, for sure! She is so damn determined; I have no doubt she will! ” One thing she did was she worked really REALLY hard. She listened and applied every advice and criticism instructors and classmates gave her. Sometimes things worked, sometimes things didn’t, but she never gave up. Her work got better slowly but surely each and every single day.
And guess what? More than a decade after graduation, while many of her classmates ended up going onto different paths, she is THE ONE with multiple kids book published, with more on her way, and teaching the next generation of aspiring kids book artists.
She had never stopped, for more than a decade, to have focus, work ethic, and a big dreams always close to her heart.
life after art school, now what? conversation on JUXTAPOZ
The latest issue of JUXTAPOZ Magazine(September 2013) has a big feature called Art School 101, where recent graduates from four different US art schools ask questions to their professors about life after art school.
I had an honor to represent School of Visual Arts where I have been teaching illustration classes since 2003. One of my former students and very talented young artist Jensine Eckwall and I had a conversation which is featured in this article.
The whole conversation took place in my studio earlier this summer. We probably talked and talked for more than an hour. JUXTAPOZ editors did a great job condensing the essence of conversation into just three pages. Since there are a lot of you out there, some outside of the US where you can get this magazine, who have the same questions Jensine has, I wanted to post the whole conversation here.
*correction: my friend is an 'art director' at Victoria's Secret, not a 'director' as in the article.
How I Got My First Job, a lecture at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) will be held tomorrow evening, March 24th.
I will be a part of it together will fellow Drawgers: Marcos Chin, Fernanda Cohen and Zina Saunders, along with Fred Harper.
The lecture will be open to public.
Fashon Institute of Technology: 7th Avenue at 27th St, New York City Robert Lagary Board Room 9th floor (C Building)
March 24th (Wed) at 6:30PM
Venice was HOT. I mean, really...
While I was teaching a six day illustration workshop in the last week of July with a local illustration organization Teatrio, the city recorded “the hottest day of 2009”.In Italy, people don’t really believe in air conditioning. Summer is hot and you just sweat, like good old days. But with 13 students in a classroom? At first, I was not sure if I was able to survive.
It turned out to be one of the best teaching experiences I had ever had.
How much can I teach in just 6 days?
I was a bit nervous at first. My job as a teacher is to let them get their money's worth. But soon, I realized, sometimes short intensive time together can be a lot more effective than teaching once a week for one full school year.
How I try to teach is to work on each student’s strength and weakness. The crucial part is how much students and I can get to know each other in a short period. And this intensive time worked to our benefit.
We spend all 6 days together. Other than class time, we had morning café latte together, had lunch together, ate dinner together and sometimes had drinks late into the nights. Not that we had to, we just wanted to. And by the end of the course, we all felt as if we were the oldest friends! It was really sad to leave.
Thank you everyone. You were not the only ones who learned in those six days. You all taught me a lot to be always be passionate and love what I do, work hard, and also trained me to be a better teacher. Hope to see you again soon. And, I hope to go back to Venice again for another workshop.
The students were mostly Italian with one Canadian and one British, age and level all varied, from some in middle school all the way up to professional illustrator level. Everyone was just so nice, motivated,hard working and helpful to each other. A few of the students even decided to stay in the school whole night before the last session, so they can finish the assignment.(I did not make them stay, everyone!) The assignment I gave this year was “create a superhero who saves Venice from sinking underwater”.We didn’t have good internet connection, but with this project, they were able to find inspirations and references all over the city!
Ilaria Grimaldi saw an old woman on the street, imagined her llong life in Venice, then turned her into the superhero.
Ruggero Asnago got addicted to Venezian sandwitch Tramezzini, suffered from tight curfue of hostels, and turned a ghekko into superhero who has lots of 'useless' powers.
Beatrice Naomi Davies' heroes use bottles and cans to rebuild the city's old base. By the way Beatrice just finished high school and hoping to apply to art college in the US next year. What a talented young woman!
Peter Diamond used old plague doctor mask and San Marco. Peter is a Canadian now lives and works in Vienna, Austria.
Flavia Soprani's idea was vain-like canals turning into a big tree with bridges. I love that everyone's work and styles are so different!
Kalo Chu made herself into Chinese acrobats, balancing and lifting the city as well as all things she experienced during her stay in Venice. Kalo is Chinese from Hong Kong now lives and works in London, UK.
Michele Boscagli turned signature Venice architecture into a monster of his own creation.
all the students (and me) with their certificates of finishing the course.
School of Visual Art’s MFA Illustration Thesis Project show will open tomorrow, and there will be a reception next Tuesday, May 5th.
This is the program I graduated from in 2003, and now I personal-advise one student a year. As a lot of the peers know, it is one of the best illustration programs out there, and it is getting better and better every year. (I doubt I would even get accepted now that it has become so popular and competitive!)
Spring is here in New York, so come out, come out to Chelsea on Tuesday night. I will be there!