It was a strangely nostalgic trip to Agawam High School on the morning of February 5, as I drove from my parents house after staying in my old bedroom. They still live in town, so it saved me some extra morning driving and added to the odd feeling that I had traveled back in time.
I was asked to visit the art classes for the day by art teacher Dianna DeCaro, one of my old AHS classmates. I jumped at the opportunity, hoping to offer some guidance or inspiration to budding creative minds. I talked about my work, travels, illustration project, and job with the students, and also did my best to give some real-world advice about pursuing a career in the arts, including the following tips:
- Be ready to work hard against the odds.
- Understand your goals; understand your market.
- Don't be afraid to THINK BIG.
- Be humble. You won't always be a big fish in a little pond... but balance humility with a dose of confidence.
- Get ready to be criticized. Keep in mind that criticism is about your WORK, and not about YOU.
- Keep an open mind. You never know what may inspire you.
- Start presenting yourself professionally now.
I also shared one of my favorite quotes by Ira Glass:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone had told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting our or you are still in this phase, you gotta know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you finish one piece. It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You just gotta fight your way through. - Ira Glass