From Art School to Game Artist

3 Lessons I’ve Learned From Art School

Educational institutions teach you to develop your artistic abilities and skillsets, but they may not necessarily lead you to nurture your character as an artist.

By reading about my perspective, I hope it’ll help you broaden your views on learning as an artist.

#1 — Focus on the process

@mukukostudio on Unsplash

I enrolled in an art university for my love of games and animated films.

While most of the class had prior experience in art college, all I knew back then was drawing with pens and pencils.

Time went on, and it became apparent that those with prior experience coped better while I struggled to learn how to use Photoshop when a deadline was coming up.

I was impatient and hoped for immediate results. So, I began referencing professionals’ works, but didn’t bother with understanding how or why things worked. My work quality improved, and I continued mindlessly working hard, spending countless hours on something that could have done in an hour or so.

As I moved on to more complicated modules, I became burned out, and the quality of my work went down. I wasn’t able to cope and failed some core modules in my second year.

At the cost of my time and school fees, I was back to square one while the rest of my cohort proceeded to the next level.

I changed my approach. I took learning more seriously and understood that learning was a more intricate process than I had thought before.

When you get too caught up with the results, you begin to take shortcuts. It can help you speed up your progress to an extent, but it comes with long-term implications.

Building up your foundation takes patience and time. Even if you are slow, those steps you take are necessary to progress steadily. It’s better than rushing to take a big leap forward, which may cause you to stumble backwards.

Developing your career should be approached as a marathon, not a sprint. Just focus on the process and techniques used — you will be surprised how fast you will learn, and probably be happier with the outcome.

#2 — Find your balance

Art school has an intense curriculum, and the level of work and commitment expected from students is high. We’ve all been through sleepless nights and canceled plans for less essential activities just for extra time to work on our assignments.

Over time, I became used to the habit of working into the wee hours of the night. As artists, our innate nature is to seek perfection, so all these extra hours of effort may seem necessary. Eventually, this came at the cost of my mental and physical well-being.

As I grew and learnt throughout the years, my mindset on things changed — there will always be deadlines to meet and pressure to deliver in everyone’s working lives. As much as work is important to me, there are also other important things in my life.

@cathrynlavery on Unsplash

I started figuring out what I could get done for that week and had my tasks tracked on a journal. If things did not feel like the right mix, I would adjust my schedule around it.

There are times where schedules don’t go as planned. You may have to overcommit on your working hours, and you have to miss family gatherings for that week — it’s just a part of life’s irregularities. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Where your motivation lies will help you decide how to prioritize your schedule.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to work-life balance. It’s up to you to figure out what fits best for you.

#3 — Self-awareness

@jakobowens1 on Unsplash

When you know yourself well, you will know what you can do best and focus all your attention on your strengths. You also accept your shortcomings and get feedback to make improvements to them.

Self-awareness is cultivated with time through different experiences, be it success or failure.

I used to be frustrated and kept beating myself up over the fact that I wasn’t ‘the best’ at all art modules. I got caught up with my mistakes and unsatisfactory grades and I strayed away from what I was truly good at.

My strength is in the 2D aspect of art, and that is what I love doing. I was also willing to outwork people. When I shifted attention to my strengths, the fruits of my labor tasted sweeter with my new approach to my work.

It’s all about wanting to become the best possible version of yourself, knowing what works for you and how to get there.

From Art School to Game Artist was originally published in Mighty Bear Games on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.