Dear Art Graduate Part 2

Dear Art Graduate,

Make a series.

Now that you're waiting for employment, what are you going to do with all that time on your hands? This is a good problem to have. You can stay proactive with your job search and still be invested in your personal projects. 

Post-graduation, my personal projects spanned a gamut of themes and narratives. Some pieces were developed for contests and others were just for fun. All were valuable in providing artistic growth, but they lacked memorability. If you want to be a commercial artist, memorability is essential to standing out among an ocean of highly-skilled fishes.

Think of your favorite artist (or any "famous" artist) and you will find that they occupy a certain niche. They are not limited to one subject or medium, but they make a lot of one thing: Monet's lily pads, Mucha's swirly-haired women, Keane's big eyes, the list goes on. Once that clicked for me, I realized the potential that a series of related pieces has. A series is far more memorable, especially if your stand-alone art typically runs the gamut like mine does. Furthermore, a series gives you more exciting monetization options: art books and zines, collectible card decks, postcard packs, and more!

You can start fairly small with a series. One of my more successful series is just three pieces. The idea started with my Monocle Mantis illustration, which achieved a fair amount of memorability on its own. I enjoyed the painting enough to create three more anthropomorphic insect humanoids. The enjoyment factor is huge because a series can burn you out otherwise. My Gentlebugs combined my love of insects and victorian fashion. The steampunk aesthetic doesn't hurt either, which made the artwork more marketable at conventions and art shows. 

If you are having trouble finding where to start, look at your sketchbook first. If your sketchbook is lacking, you can look at your existing body of work and see what content pops up most frequently. This is also the point to decide what the end-product will be. Think of the application for your series and how you might need to format your artwork accordingly. Next, set yourself a deadline and get started! 

Here are some illustrators who are seriously killing it with their current projects. Watch them like a hawk and learn their ways:

Stephanie Law's Descants & Cadences (You can learn her secrets here)

Peter Mohrbacher's Angelarium

Wylie Beckert's Wicked Kingdom Deck

Iris Compiet's Faeries of the Faultlines

Chris Seaman's Cameo Creeps

Just Browse the "Most-Funded" Section on Kickstarter


Dear Art Graduate Part 1

Dear Art Graduate,

It will take a while.

"Patience" from my Virtues series. It bears repeating: patience is a virtue.

"Patience" from my Virtues series. It bears repeating: patience is a virtue.

One piece of wisdom I received from an illustrator mentor was that it would take about 5 years to establish a freelance art business after graduating from college. I thought, ambitiously, it would take me less time--maybe 2-3 years. Since I had graduate school under my belt and some experience with private art commissions, I thought I would start gaining clients. As long as I maintained my website, social media presence, and regular submissions to art annuals, I thought I was on the path to success. Rarely does life go according to plan.

It took me about 2 years to find a day job. By "day job", I mean an hourly position that pays the bills as I develop my freelance illustration career. At this point, my personal/freelance artwork does not provide a source of income. I wanted to beat the 5-year trajectory for establishing a freelance business. I went into a master's program believing it would be a fast pass to employment, but such is not the case. For me, building a freelance career boils down to employment experience. I dove straight into graduate school from undergrad and put my priority on academics, portfolio-building, and school-related activities. I ended up with a Master's degree, but my ability to find employment was far from mastery.

The struggle for employment is a reality for many, many recent graduates, but it can still feel like you're the only one failing at employment. I would like to show you some of my own statistics, which I hope won't be depressing for young job-seekers, but rather provide a realistic outlook:

Candice's 2015-2017 Somewhat Accurate Employment Statistics

Percentage of Application Rejections/No Response:


Percentage of Applications Resulting in Interviews/Art Tests:


Percentage of Applications Resulting in Employment:


Total Number of Job/Internship applications: 102

Application Positions Types:

Graphic Design/Illustration: 66

Food Service/Retail: 15

Concept Art/Production Art: 9

Teacher/Faculty: 5

Internship: 5

Art Director: 2

Looking at these statistics and knowing what I know now about job applications, I would give this advice to my younger, recently-graduated self:

  • Apply to local positions as much as possible

    • This is especially true for walk-in applications.You have a far greater chance getting a temporary position locally than on job board websites where your application could get lost among the thousands that apply.

  • Send more Thank-You Letters to Interviewers

    • Seriously, I got two commissions out of sending a thank-you letter with an envelope that had a little illustration on it. More importantly, interviewers are people too.

  • Apply to more portfolio-only applications

    • While it is important to submit a carefully crafted cover letter, look for applications that only require emailed portfolio submissions or a "One-Click" application. If you have a solid portfolio, you will find more success with those applications since the position will depend more on your ability than on your job experience, which you simply don't have if you are like me. Also, these applications are super fast. Once you have an account set up (and filled out), websites like Linkedin and Ziprecruiter often have one-click apply options. Of course, make sure to read all of the application guidelines to see if a cover letter or resume is required for a given job.

  • Think of a day job as your first step toward a freelance career.

    • There are plenty of artists who quit their day job and lead successful freelance careers. This is reasonable for those who have been working their day job for at least 3-5 years and have a decent following for their art outside of their day job. I would not advise this for recent graduates. I think any job experience is good job experience. For me,  a handful of part-time jobs and being currently employed with a day-job is bringing me closer to my goal of a self-supporting art career. I'm learning valuable skills that can transfer to running my own business when the time comes.


What was your post-graduate employment experience like? How long did it take you to find a long-term position or are you still searching? Feel free to leave a comment below!


Steampunk Shenanigans

This past month I had the pleasure of holding a workshop at The Orange Space in Redlands where I talked about concept ideation and composition. The recently opened space is host to rentable work tables and monthly guest talks by creatives and entrepreneurs. It's a cool place to stop by after you've grabbed your à la minute ice cream.

There are two upcoming adventures this month for the time traveler and art collector! The first is the Iron Horse- Family Steampunk Carnivale on March 18-19 from 10am-5pm. It is on the grounds of the Orange Empire Railway Museum, which houses many a historical locomotive, including ones you can ride during the event. There will be live entertainment and Victorian-inspired vendors, which is where you will find me! I will be bringing signed prints, originals, and other collectible items. Both modern-dressed and Steampunked civilians are welcome!

Just a week after will be the bi-annual Downtown Redlands Art Walk on March 26 from 12pm-6pm. The art walk is always free to attend and continues to grow in size. It's a great time to grab a bite to eat and peruse the local artists on State St, Citrus Ave, and 5th St. I will be among several artists exhibiting indoors at the Cope Building, so come inside and find us!

CTNX vs. Designer Con

There are two California conventions taking place this weekend in close proximity: The Creative Talent Network's Animation Expo, and Designer Con. I've made the crazy decision to attend both.  

Designer Con is relatively new and one of the fastest growing shows in the design industry. While it can be seen as a rival to CTN, it clearly represents a different facet of the commercial arts. CTNX caters more towards the entertainment industry (animation and concept art for film and television) while Designer Con features art and design for physical products (toys, art prints, apparel, etc,). My plan is to experience both as a casual attendee and compare the two in terms of educational value, vendor interaction, and general observations. 

Let the show begin!


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