“I really hope this doesn’t come off as inappropriate but I’ve got some burning questions for you. I recently dropped out of a politics major in favor of a visual arts degree and I’m very curious - How do your teachers and peers react to your style, given that it’s heavily derivative of anime? Also, how do your parents/family feel about you pursuing visual arts instead of something more academic? Genuinely curious.”
I was told once, by a professor in college, that in order to make myself a success I would, and I quote, ‘need to stop drawing faces like that’. Everything else was a solid effort, but the face had to go, and you can probably guess why. There was just far too much animes in that face!
At the time, I wasn’t at all surprised, but I was still disappointed. Mostly in myself, for not being able to surpass that stylistic barrier that kept me very distinct from my fellow classmates, and not in a flattering way. Most of my efforts to integrate more western stylings into my work came out butt ugly, but I kept on trying anyway, hoping to broaden my skillset so I wouldn’t fall by the wayside once I graduated. But no matter what I did, I was always the guy who drew ‘anime stuff’.
Now this isn’t to say I was some kind of put-upon reject in the school. Not even close. I loved the college I went to (University of the Arts in PA), and the friends I made there, though I never hear from them now that we’re all on different corners of the country, were some of the best folks I ever had the pleasure of spending those years with. No one in class looked down on me for the style I had. That would be a remarkably petty thing to do, as catty as some of the relationships in art college could be.
If someone DOES look down on you for an art style, they aren’t a friend, they aren’t a viable critic, and by FAR they are not worth your time. Receiving critique from someone interested in improving your work is a vast world apart from being told you need to change your style in order to be accepted or taken seriously as an artist. One of those two can help you grow, and can nurture you as an artist. The other is noise. But I’ve said so much in earlier posts.
Now more specifically, the funny thing about having a style ‘heavily derivative of anime’ as you put it, is that there’s a good chance it’s going to be labeled as one or the other by different folks. I’ve asked quite a few people who were very much into anime before whether or not they thought my style WAS ‘anime’. They gave me a resounding no. And when I asked a number of my friends who were not really into anime, they gave a resounding yes. Haha. That’s just how it works, I suppose, when you’ve got influences across the board.
And that’s how I think it should be. No one should limit their influences depending on what others think of it. That’s the antithesis of what it means to be an artist.
What really matters is the quality of your work. If you have any amount of skill, any amount of that nebulous word we like to call ‘talent’, or just a hell of a lot of drive, you can make quality work with whatever style you lead the charge with. YOUR style, really. That’s the thing to remember. Make it yours. Nobody can tell you otherwise. There will always, ALWAYS be people that dislike your work for what it is, but you aren’t drawing for them in the first place, are you?
Regarding the question about what my parents/family think about my pursuit of an art career. I could not have chosen two better people to support me than my parents. From the very first time I picked up a pencil and filled the stacks of paper my dad brought home from work for me with drawings, to shipping me off to a good school for art, and to seeing me off when I left for the first studio I began work with, they have never, ever faltered in their confidence in me.
One day when I was feeling very down in the dumps about trying to seriously pursue art as a career, I confessed to my mom that I didn’t think I could make it, and that I was embarrassed for them, having to admit their son was trying to be an artist. Not the most well respected station in life. And she told me one thing.
The world has enough lawyers, enough doctors, enough businessmen, billionaires and bus drivers, but the one thing the world DID NOT have yet, was me, being myself, an artist. So why in the world would you waste time trying to be someone else? And then she smacked me upside the head.
In case this isn’t obvious by now, I love my folks very much.
And, well. It’s not like they can give me any guff for avoiding a more “standard” job and earning the moneys. I’ve been working for the past six years in the game industry, and I’m about to buy a house. I think things’ll be okay.
Even with them there anime faces.