Categorized | Job Hunting

Graphic Arts Smarts

Posted on 30 May 2009

Today’s graphic artist needs to be extremely diversified to survive.

“Today’s graphic artist can’t be a singular-focus individual,” says Dominic Crain, an artist with Technologies International Enterprises, in Orlando, FL.

Crain has been in the field for several decades and done it all. In some ways, he can be called a true pioneer. He worked for Disney Feature Animation on Mulan. He ran pre-press, created animation, and was a forerunner in the digital editing field. Most recently, Crain designed an entire graphics studio and helped implement all-digital editing systems for the Fox Network Health Channel.

“This is the hardcore reality of today’s industry,” Crain continues. “Unless you work for a large company like Industrial Light and Magic, where they train people [to specialize], you can’t be singularly focused. Today’s graphic artist has to be extremely diversified; not only do they need to know how to draw, animate, and composite, but they also have to know how to edit video, to understand audio. They have to do it all.”

Artists also have to know how to edit video, to understand audio, to do it all.

Crain points out that a graphic artist in a small firm will take on all kinds of projects and deal with a myriad of different situations. The key to success in the growing number of small firms dotting the market is flexibility.

The Future of Large Firms
As advanced graphics and animation software packages become more affordable and available to small companies, many of the grand graphic firms are going out of business. In many cases, the expense-laden giants are finding it difficult to compete with smaller, more independent firms or individual practitioners. Hence, today’s graphic artist has to be extremely diversified to survive.

Crain says: “I know tons of guys who say, ‘If you ever need a modeler.’ We just like look at them and say, ‘Modeling, that’s all you’re doing? You’re not going to find any work!’ Because if you don’t know how to model, texture map, animate, and then be able to composite it into your piece, people are going to think, ‘Why do we need you?’”

Compete With the Guy on the Street
Crain predicts that the availability and affordability of graphics technology will bring more and more non-professionals into fields like filmmaking. He notes that the drop in the price of DVD players and DVDRs has prompted many people to create their own DVDs.

“Everything’s coming down in price, to the point where working with ‘moving media’ is something we’ll do daily,” he says. “In the next couple of years, you’re going to see a disc, of about the size of a DVD, that’s going to hold 128 Gigabytes–not 128 Megs–of data. We’ll be moving data at such a huge rate. Plus, the interfaces to produce graphics are going to be easier to produce. So now, it’s not just going to be the artists, but all kinds of people who’ll produce graphics.”

Artistic Skill Still Counts
According to experienced artist Anthony Hodge, skilled graphic artists still stand out in the crowd. “You can open up any newspaper or magazine and immediately tell the difference between someone who has artistic and design skills versus someone who doesn’t.”

Hodge heads up Graphicstation.com, which offers Web design and graphic art for print media advertising and website content. “The same holds true for Internet and web designs,” he says. “So many people claim, ‘I develop Web sites, I’m a Web publisher,’ but they’re not graphic professionals,” he says.

Twenty-year industry veteran Max Kroft, of Victory FX and Animation in Orlando, agrees. Just about anyone “can learn the tools,” he says, “no matter what they are, whether you’re creating with a pencil or a mouse. But the artistic talent underneath is what always shines out.” He acknowledges there are thousands of firms today with the ability and tools to create graphics and animation. “But it really comes back to is, can you tell a story? Is your artist able to translate the message?”

Kroft’s firm employs two types of artists: “Experienced all-stars who’ve been in the business a long time and who are working with new tools. Or [we find] some really sharp people with potential and teach them the tools, make them part of a team. In that case, you can help sculpt and shape their talent.”

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