A few months back, a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook, about the Education secretary, Nicky Morgan, warning young people that choosing to study arts subjects at school could “hold them back for the rest of their lives”. She later goes on to describe maths as “the subject that employers value most”. Where as this may be true for many career paths, it isn’t a path everyone can realistically achieve.
Throughout my time in primary and secondary school, I was fairly good with my grades. Usually getting B’s and C’s. But the one thing that held me back was that I was a bit of a day dreamer. So sometimes I wouldn’t do as well as I probably should have, but the one subject that always had my full attention was Art. Since I was a little boy I always knew I’d want to pursue a career in Arts or Graphics, I couldn’t really imagine myself doing anything else!
I have been hugely fortunate to have amazing parents who always encouraged me to pursue what I wanted to do, not what they thought I should do. I remember my Mother once explaining to me that a career in Art and Design isn’t a walk in the park. Rather than being able to prove you can solve an equation, you need to have enough creative flair, confidence in yourself, and patience to find a way to make money doing what you want to do.
A lot of creatives don’t make money pursuing their career, and have to have less desirable, and often, minimum wage jobs, taking up their time and making it harder to continue being creative! After scraping by for many years I now have the privilege of working for Manto. With fantastic roles such as camera work, video editing, motion graphics, storyboarding, 2D and 3D animation, it’s the career path I have always wanted. If my parents had pushed me into a career that I wasn’t confident in, or interested in, I wouldn’t have been able to excel. Although, my studies didn’t really bring me many skills that I required for this job in Video Production, editing and motion-graphics.
What I have noticed amongst others in the same, or similar, fields of occupation as myself, is that having a degree in video production doesn’t make it easier to find a career compared to those who do not. I studied Fine Art at Leeds Metropolitan University, which was great fun and full of challenges, but my BA Hons feels rather unimportant on my CV. Despite this, I don’t regret studying Fine Art, because I hugely enjoyed it. It got me to move away from my home town in North Wales, and to Leeds, where I met many like minded people, many of which I collaborated with. My practice included producing bizarre, mechanical sculptures, outlandish public performance art, and some installation and interactive art pieces.
But as much as I loved my time at university, I did struggle to find a career after graduating, which was inevitable! Fine Art probably does offer the fewest possible paid jobs out of all university subjects. I was fully aware of this, but still wanted to give it a shot. After doing a few small jobs here and there, I decided I wanted to work in Video and Animation so I spent a lot of my free time learning Video Editing, Motion Graphics and 2D and 3D animation. One day I simply emailed many companies and people involved in Video, Film and Animation production, offering my services for free to anyone who may require my skills.
Eventually, someone did get in touch, a chap who produced Science Fiction and Fantasy films, great! So I met up with him and he told me about the film he was working for and what he needed, so for a few months I helped him with green screen backgrounds and animating aliens! It was unpaid of course, but I was fine with that. However I was on Job Seekers allowance at the time, so I may have struggled to give him all the time he needed if I had another job. But it got me on my feet and I started to build a portfolio.
Another stroke of luck came when I got a 6 month paid placement with a social enterprise, teaching video and animation to young people. Whilst there I met lots of interesting people, many of which I started working with after my placement. I eventually had enough money to get myself a Canon 550D and a 50mm lens. From then it was official, I had become a Video Production and Animation freelancer!
And to cut a long story short, after freelancing for a few years and just about scraping by financially, I eventually found a full-time job here at Manto. So even with the support from my family, and some good luck, it still wasn’t easy and took a long time. I would agree that parents should let their children know that finding a ‘creative’ career, or a career in the arts, is extremely competitive and is going to be very challenging. I would also agree that, if the parents saw that their children were perhaps very good at other subjects other than art, they should encourage them to pursue them too, keeping their options as wide as possible. It is very difficult making this life changing decision at such a young age, and many don’t make the right choice and have to back track to get back onto their career path. But, I hugely disagree with Nicky Morgan, that art subjects hold anyone back. Although extremely competitive, studying art allowed me to embrace my creativity, and I like to think that that shows in my video, motion-graphics, and animation work.
I hope this blog post helps shine some light for those considering seeking a career in a similar field, or are currently attempting to. Much of the work I found, paid or unpaid, was from being in the right place at the right time. But it often involved the people I studied with or worked with in the past. However, you don’t need a qualification to find your desired career. Mostly, you need the determination, and enough interest in what you do to learn your craft. Research how the professionals work, and try to be creative as well as practical. With video and animation at least, there are tons of tutorials on the internet for you to learn. If your work doesn’t seem to be generating much interest, how does it compare to other peoples work? Be prepared to take criticism, because there are a lot of people out there who want your career just as much as you do. But don’t be discouraged, work to stand out and be confident in your work.