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Attending workshops and events: how useful are they?

Images courtesy of Industry Workshops & IAMC

Images courtesy of Industry Workshops & IAMC

Ever wondered if workshops & events are for you? Or how useful they really are? Concept artist and illustrator Sebastien Hue answers your questions...

These days, the internet is truly the backbone of many industries and the CG industry is of course not an exception to the rule. The best way to enter, share and spread the word for anything in a particular community worldwide, is the internet and digital media. As an artist this is where you can digitally grow, learn, get from and give back to the art community online. Sharing digitally has never been so easy to grow a community for yourself, to network around your art and the others; maybe sometimes to the detriment of human social and physical connections.

You know a lot of artists all over the world, admire them but how many of them do you actually know in person and have shared cheerful moments with? How do you get in touch with big studios and big names in the industry if not personally, shaking hands first and having a moment to talk face to face? You may ask how useful it is to attend workshops or art events for your career, as you have access to a lot of free tutorials online, whereas an art event would cost you a fortune. Well, it really depends on your achievements and goals, but lets share my experiences so you have a clearer idea of the benefits it may give to your career, or not...!

Networking, community and friends

As a self-taught artist, I never had the chance to enjoy what an art campus could be like. This is maybe what art school is all about, apart from class and hard work, learning and practicing all the time. Having friends and classmates makes you grow as a person for sure, but as an artist too. It was the first goal of Facebook when it started. To relink with your classmates and group them online into your network.

That is exactly what I wanted to experience when I started to follow artists online. I wanted to meet some of them in person. I discovered through social media that there were actually physical events taking place where all those passionate people were meeting together, to share art, practice art, have fun and experience the positive side of what an art campus used to be when they were students.

This is the way I was able to put a face to many avatars I had chatted with. Attending such events will definitely make your network a lot stronger because you share experiences together with people in the industry you digitally connected with, who will become friends and support you later on. Having a beer with your art heroes is a pretty tough challenge online that such events can fulfill easily in a cheerful spirit.

Hang out, chill with friends we are human beings after all, we need that. It will make your network even stronger, because this is all about sharing experiences and good times too

Learn from high-level artists and portfolio reviews

Another issue many artists are confronted with today is to find good artists able to provide useful constructive critiques on your art and portfolio. Forums and collectives were there to initially help the art community in this task but, with the growing number of digital artists on the market and more powerful tools, and more artists found in social media, those helpful CG platforms are more and more out of breath. That is why these kind of events are precious as you can not only have critiques from your close network in person, but also priceless portfolio reviews with big CG stars coming to the event to share their experiences, techniques and what they learned from other great artists too.

Listening to such high-leveled artists feedback on your work gives you the chance to become better and better. Be ready to get punched and accept the critique because the punch you get is from a solid heavyweight artist who is there to give you some directions to enhance your art, and avoid the punch you would get from the studio you want to apply to. Since you get multiple reviews at once, these events give you food for thought on your art, and so you need to process all the different points of view you get on your art that you wouldnt get anywhere else online.

You grow faster because you know now what you need to improve

Self-artistic pilgrimage and experience at conferences

Just like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, its important to have a guide, a mentor, a wise man who can show you the right path and share his experience so you avoid traps and mistakes during the artistic pilgrimage of yours. You are a student, or just in the beginning of your career; you are already experienced, a junior-senior artist, it is always precious to get good advice from more experienced people. Conferences with experienced speakers are there for that too.

Going to these events will help you make the good choices or at least avoid the bad ones by listening to professionals who have probably already been confronted by the bad or uncomfortable situation you are actually going through. The lack of confidence and self-esteem in your art, no inspiration, no clients and no income, a stressful job, stressful moments and so on all those kinds of situations we Artists have been confronted with are obstacles that inspiring speakers can help you get through, thanks to their own story, tips and inspiration. It can comfort you that things are possible if you really want it, and travelling to an event like this can pave the way to the right direction where your gold mine is.

This is what a community is made for, to help each other. Still, there is no secret recipe to making a living from your art. But there are good or bad experiences that could help give you inspiration and guidance to succeed and survive in the jungle. Workshops or events can answer the questions you have probably made up the answers from your own myth and imagination because your artist idols are human beings after all, and they experienced very bad times themselves, just like you. They hated doing such and such a job, and so you are feeling on the same level somehow and fancy the dream job in the end around the corner, just like him. It happened for him why not for me. Some would say good fortune is part of the success in a career, professionals would say that you need to provoke it in the first place.

Attending can provoke a chance to trigger a career more easily than behind
your desk

Get an interview with big studios and companies present at an event

Imagine the number of CG artists there are now all over the world. The flow of artwork on the web has become really insane lately so the competition is worldwide with countless fish-hooks in the ocean web to catch the big fish. Even though we are a community we are nonetheless competitors, so all opportunities to get an employers full attention is priceless in a world where everything should go faster and faster. Events can bring you that attention, as companies and big studios are attending as well for sourcing and open positions. You can even pick who you want to apply to, they are there for you crazy isnt it? Prepare your folio, print your best business card and go for it; you will always learn and get a good experience from interviews because you have nothing to lose, but maybe provoke the good fortune I talked about earlier.

Workshops and learning from a mentor

Thanks to the numerous online resources to learn on your own, for instance a new software, or new techniques in Photoshop, it is possible to achieve a very good level with a lot of practice. Tutorials are everywhere and will definitely help you grow as an artist if you know what you want and what you are looking for to serve your art. That is sometimes the limit you will be confronted with, because you miss a motivation factor from a person above you, a mentor-teacher. Even if for a short period of time, a mentorship or workshop with a great figure in the industry will considerably boost your abilities and level-up your art. Motivation will be your motto to work hard because you admire your teacher, you respect him and you dont want to disappoint him. As a Padawan, you will grow faster to honor your Jedi in order to be a Jedi one day as well.

High-quality has a price to pay

It costs money you would say yes it does but you cant have your cake and eat it too, time is money and with hard work you will save a lot of time in trying to be the best artist than trying to save money and waste a long, long period of time to level-up your art on your own and start a career. High-quality workshops are worth paying for because you have supposedly chosen the mentor or teacher you follow, and so you know the quality of his work and what he can bring to your art.

What is important is to know what you want to achieve in your art, because if you dont really know, you will undoubtedly lose money in bad workshop investments, because this is an investment to get a future job or gig

Money, money, money, sing ABBA! Yes money is always at stake here since going to events or attending a workshop needs a high budget (tickets, hotel, transport, and food ). But this is a journey where you will meet many people, have memorable moments, and live a unique experience that your current or future work would benefit from. This is a business trip, at your expense for sure, but believe that this will enrich your career, that this is for you and you only, not for any employers of any kind but yourself. Your employer probably wont complain if you go there either because you can become a representative of the company in those events, this is business too right?

Choose wisely

Your money is precious too, so try to get information on the event you are interested in attending as it may not be the perfect fit for what you are looking for. Too big for you because you are too fresh in the business and you will be swallowed under the pressure of the event.

Too far away from your country and it would cost you a fortune just to fly to the event considering the rest you have to pay. Too orientated in this or that CG field may make your event experience a big disappointment as you are not entirely engaging with what is presented most during the festival. For instance, you are attending a VFX festival event for special effects and animation while being a noob in 3D programs as an illustrator. You will be stunned by the techniques, but it wont really help what you decide to follow in your training.

The best option is to seek for more generalist events where every CG field is covered. Below you will find a bunch of them in no particular order :

Trojan Horse Was A Unicorn in Portugal, IFCC in Croatia, IAMC in France, Industry Workshop in England, Concept Art NonStop in Spain, Playgrounds Festival in Holland, CTN Animation Expo in the US, SSGM in Canada.

To conclude, workshops or events are options to multiply your chance to get your dream job or simply reach out to people you idolize. This is like going backstage at a concert, or playing the guitar live with your idol; these are precious moments you wont get anywhere else but at the concert! So enjoy with your friends, eyes wide open, be all ears, and make the most of it!

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