Art Discussion

Has anybody switched from a non-creative career to art/illustration? If so, did you go back to school to get there? Do you think further education is necessary to build a creative community around yourself?

By Victoria Jane Hughes


  • Phil Conner artist
    Phil Conner (@pcartistry)
    02/06/2019 @ 4:15pm

    I am in the process of switching from a non-creative career to a full time art career. I had some formal art training when I was much younger and I have always through out the years continued to work at my art. I would say though that I could see education in marketing, sells, some of the business aspects of the art world would be beneficial. I have not necessarily taken classes but done research on what it takes to make a career with ones art, and how to get yourself known to the right people and organizations. I live in rural Colorado, so not much available with brick and mortar education, but I wish I still lived in a more metropolitan area for just that purpose of taking classes and networking.

  • Mandy artist
    Mandy (@McManduke)
    02/12/2019 @ 10:37am

    You should definitely check out Lisa Congdon's story and books! She did exactly that and at, what some consider, a "later-age", whatever that means. :)~

  • Kimmo Oja artist
    Kimmo Oja (@Kimoja) Plus Member
    02/14/2019 @ 2:07am

    I'm not about to change work to creative arts. I love idea of it but it’s not possible ;) I am just intrested do you mean ”back to school” as art schools or business education?

  • Victoria Jane Hughes artist
    Victoria Jane Hughes (@victoriahughes)
    02/14/2019 @ 5:13am

    @McManduke Thanks Mandy I will definitely get one of her books! Just had a look at her website and she looks very inspiring :)

  • Victoria Jane Hughes artist
    Victoria Jane Hughes (@victoriahughes)
    02/14/2019 @ 5:14am

    @Kimoja That's a shame you think it's not possible - how come? By 'back to school' I'm talking about a BA Degree, for me that'd be Illustration but for others I suppose they might study Fine Art or Design.

  • Kimmo Oja artist
    Kimmo Oja (@Kimoja) Plus Member
    02/16/2019 @ 12:14pm

    In this economic state where i am i cannot change to live with so unstable way. But still it sounds nice :) @victoriahughes

  • Stubby Toes artist
    Stubby Toes (@godwheel) Plus Member
    02/22/2019 @ 6:30pm

    I'm still keeping my existing career. To be a successful illustrator/artist, is a lifestyle change. I'm afraid I'll "hate it " if it becomes my full time job.

  • Marta Anna artist
    Marta Anna (@martush33)
    02/25/2019 @ 3:03pm

    I am super interested in this topic too !! Need a formal qualification in arts (understood broadly) to be able to teach it.... but I actually have other objective in mind -- switching to art career would be much more interesting. I have one of Congdon's books - very worth reading! Any tips will be welcome ;-)

  • Jim Romer artist
    Jim Romer (@Arrrggghhh)
    03/02/2019 @ 4:03am

    As a 25+ year Creative Director who hired many artists, I can honestly say I never look at a person's education history. The only thing I'm ever interested in . . . is the portfolio. I'm not just looking at the level of talent with artwork; I'm looking at the entire package. What the portfolio itself looks like, its arrangement and flow, does it tell your story. It's not only what's put in, but what's left out. Editing one's portfolio is probably more telling than the artwork itself. Remember, going to a top art school for years doesn't mean a thing unless you present yourself the best you can with your portfolio. I believe anyone with a polished portfolio can get work without spending a day in Art School. What Art School does offer is exploration and discovery of one's abilities, social interaction, and finding more ways and different approaches to creating things never thought of before. (Sidenote: I never went to art school - or - took an art class during high school. Studied Electrical Engineering and became a Creative Director. Go figure.)

  • Jessica artist
    Jessica (@JrPyxlnaut)
    03/08/2019 @ 6:31pm

    A career in illustration takes a lot of connecting and networking and a good fanbase takes a while to build. Education is not nessecary for this but does help and it looks good on your resume. The only thing that really matters is your art and the message(s) you are trying to convey through it and that you have your own unique style that helps you stand out from the crowd.

  • Mark Lane artist
    Mark Lane (@MarkLane)
    03/10/2019 @ 8:07am

    I have a day job but draw portraits in my spare time. I’ve practised daily over the last three years to get to the level I am today, completely self taught. I draw to try and make myself and other people happy, You like one of my drawings by all means take a screen grab, print it and hang it. I’d love that. I’m scraping by with my day job so I don’t need the extra cash. I would hate it if sketching was my day job, that would be too much pressure to have to succeed to create a portrait I would consider worth selling.

  • David Martin artist
    David Martin (@Zippy)
    03/15/2019 @ 12:54am

    I was a mechanical engineer for nearly 20 years serving in the merchant marine. I started drawing and painting though at the age of 12 by (please don’t laugh!) enrolling in Art Instruction Incorporated’s correspondance class. And you know, in those days ...the early 1950’s, they did an honest, credible job of teaching. I can judge that quite comfortably now because after i recieved my MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, I taught at the university of New México for 15 years. I’m nearing my 80th year now and have Parkinson’s Disease so I’m not as able to do the studio thing like paintings ran large, 10 to 12 ft. Long...4 to 6 ft high. But like my friend David Hockney, I do almost everything on my iPad Pro. Marvelous machine.

  • David Martin artist
    David Martin (@Zippy)
    03/15/2019 @ 1:10am

    @Arrrggghhh Kudos to you for your interest mostly in the portfolio. However...(There’s always a however, no?) however...I’m not down with diminishing the returns that can be had from going to a good art school. For one thing, exposure to artists working in their prime, and getting to understand the way that the art world this...where in the world, other than an art school is a young (young in experience, not necessarily in age.) person supposed to build a credible portfolio? Certainly not isolated at home in the bedroom or some such. It, it DEMANDS feedback, communication. Serious instructive help to be successful. If I had not gone to SFAI, I would not have had the opportunity to form the lasting relationships with many important West Coast artists that i have had for years.

  • Ulrike Liebetrau artist
    Ulrike Liebetrau (@Uliunique)
    03/15/2019 @ 5:17am

    I transitioned from working full time in an office to being a full time artist in 2017. I mean I never stopped being an artist, I created while working full-time every free minute. After a few years that took its toll and I was drained of energy as I did not rest enough. Well I am not resting much either these days, but creating gives me soo much energy and I do sleep 2-3 h more a day. I studied Occupational Therapy which also has a basic arts and crafts education, analysing and practising methods and materials. From childhood I educated myself trough books, others artists and online courses. I believe you don't have to necessarily study art to become a good professional artist. However seeing my peers that did study art they have it easier with their portfolio, artist CV and statement as they developed that during their studies and got constructive feedback for it. There is also a lot of grants for new graduates and residences available. If you studies art or not it depends on you to make it work and you can choose your teachers, mentors and subjects yourself going forward, to give yourself creative freedom.

  • Dyna artist
    Dyna (@dynaaa1)
    04/15/2019 @ 1:26pm

    For someone that went to art school, I'd say you do not need higher education for illustration. Reason being is because illustration and art careers are all self made. You teach yourself. I went to art school for 5 years but I taught myself everything else when it came to actual drawing. Plus you can get all the lessons and skills you need from YouTube and the internet. You don't need to waste your money and get in debt with an art school. I took small steps to transition into illustration such as building up my portfolio, updating my website, and researching what kind of illustrator I wanted to be.

  • Darrell Orndorff artist
    Darrell Orndorff (@Darlorndo)
    04/21/2019 @ 12:42pm

    (I only have an associates) I think school is important to people who have either hit a plateau or want a more structured approach. My little bit of school taught me one really important thing and it was how to learn. I mostly studied 3D digital media (too scared to follow a BA) and it was creative enough to keep my interest but just far enough off from what I wanted to do to keep me from feeling satisfied. I want to make a living doing what I love but pursuing art is terrifying.

  • Leighanne artist
    Leighanne (@AbstractHuman8)
    01/14/2020 @ 3:53pm

    I really liked your reply. Thank you for that. @Arrrggghhh

  • Krystal-Ann Melbourne artist
    Krystal-Ann Melbourne (@KAmelbourne)
    05/20/2020 @ 9:39am

    I've done this, and am very happy with it :) I did not go back to school for it (although I had a tiny bit of art schooling -- high school and 2 classes in university -- but it was irrelevant) I've done it in the video game industry, which is relatively unique in its ability to encompass a wide variety of professions. One can work for the same company all their life and flit between sound design, architecture, programming, marketing, psychology, linguistics, ergonomics, writing, and of course, art. The process was this (although at the time of each step, I had no idea where those steps were leading xD) 1. Having just arrived in Montreal, be desperate for a job that does not require fully being bilingual. Montreal is a very video game heavy city, but I did not know this, actually, at the time of moving, and had never thought I could join the industry, though I've always enjoyed games. I got the job almost as a fluke, by just applying to everything I found online. 2. Be hired at a 3rd party QA company, working for a well-known 1st party game company. Meaning that, a lot of large video game companies outsource their QA (bug testing, etc.) to other, cheaper, 3rd party companies. These 3rd part companies often have very little hiring standards. You can certainly get in without any education. Some people got in without even knowing how to turn a computer on. So if you're even somewhat competent, it's easy to move up. 3. While working at this third party company, gather skills and contacts from its 1st party clients... until you're qualified for a first party company 4. Get hired at a 1st party video game company (though still for testing, as that was my current skill set -- between working and writing novels (my then-side project of choice) I'd only touched art occasionally for many years) 5.a. While testing for this company, drown in the infinite learning resources available. 5.b. (And this is where the luck comes in) Happen to be assigned to test a thing that the artists in the company are all currently learning to use. Become an expert at this thing. 6. Get transferred to an art team in order to teach them this thing. Simultaneously, survive the trial by fire that is learning AI, PS, a game engine, and several other things fast enough to qualify as an actual artist, and be kept on :P Now, I'm happily doodling my days away both at work and at home ^-^ I haven't found it to burn me out at all. If anything, the constant use of the same skill set has lead to fantastic improvement and inspiration. It probably helps, though, that the art I create at work (a shooter game's UI) is vastly different than the art I create at home (a fantasy web comic, and surrealist ink paintings on canvas)

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