Once upon a time, I was a communication design student at the University of North Texas. The semester before I withdrew I took a career development class and as part of my final project had to choose someone in my intended field to interview. I spoke with my friend Ryan Eyestone, who at the time was a working artist and new media student at the University of Maine at Orono. He is an amazing artist and found the time to answer my questions (which were standard for the project; I didn't make them up), giving me some insight and inspiration from The Field. This interview is about two years old but I think Ryan's words hold a lot of weight still and are a good reminder to me... make art every day, no excuses. I'm working on it.
1. What is your name and where do you work?
My name is Ryan Eyestone. I work for the health center on my campus doing graphic design, and in my free time, between work and classes, I do freelance illustration for bands and labels.
2. What is your current title?
At the health center, my title is Student Consultant Level 3 or something like that. For my freelance work, I [am] an illustrator.
3. How long have you worked in this field?
I've been getting paid to do graphic design since 2000. I worked for the Digital Graphic Arts program in my town's Vocational Center. I even got to design the Welcome sign for the town. Skowhegan, Maine. Check it out.
4. How did you become interested in this field?
I've been drawing since I was born. I have drawings saved from when I was 1.
5. Describe your typical work day.
Well, the health center where I work just went through some major internal-restructuring, so my job will no longer exist in 2 weeks. I am only working there now because my boss is a good friend, and he kept the job around for me...but the health center is doing all of their GD/Print work out-of-house now. So I do some little jobs for whomever, but things are pretty slow. As for my freelance work, I have 2 jobs going now, which I work on when I don't have homework or studies.
6. What are the educational requirements to work in this field?
For my job at the health center, I got in with a solid portfolio of my illustration work, and a really good interview.
7. Besides a formal education, what other training or experiences should I pursue to help me better prepare for the work field?
For illustration, draw every day, study, draw from life, and absorb as much artwork as you can. Find artists you like, learn from them, and grow and grow. If you find it difficult to draw regularly, you're in the wrong field.
8. What are the professional skills and personal characteristics you possess that make you successful in this field?
For freelance work, it pays to be able to work fast, have good communication skills, meet deadlines (still working on this one) and just be real with your clients. A diverse set of skills and styles helps too.
9. What are the characteristics, expectations, or aspects of the job that you like the most? The least?
The thing I like the most is when a client sees the finished product and loves it. That is an amazing feeling. The least favorite thing is when you're working for someone that doesn't appreciate/understand art or are just not creative. Working for bands in the punk/hardcore/metal community brings a lot of requests for skulls and zombies and guns and stuff like that, which is really starting to get played out. I love drawing zombies, but I really love bands that are willing to be the first to try something new with their art/image.
10. What are the job prospects for new people entering this career field?
Well, struggling/freelancing, or working for an agency are the initial options. If you have some experience under your belt, you can go from job to job pretty comfortably. That's my goal when I get out of school.
11. What are the opportunities for advancement once you have entered the field?
Better paying jobs come along when you get your name out and build a solid portfolio.
12. What skills and personal characteristics would you look for if you were hiring a new college graduate for a job in this field?
Good art. Humility. Legitimate creativity and skill, not just photoshop bullshit. If you can actually draw, you have the upper hand. And a good work ethic.
13. What are some of the future challenges professionals in this field will face and how can they best prepare to handle them?
The digital age presents a potential shift in what defines art, but there will always be a need for illustration. Truly amazing art cannot be made just by pushing a button. Anyone who says otherwise is probably a hack or charlatan. Integrity is always important.
Please take a look at Ryan's art: Ryan Eyestone Illustration