Grind is the Game: What Every Art Graduate Needs to Know

Once again, Graduation Season is upon us.

And though many of you might be excited getting photoshoots done, renting your graduation gowns and receiving job offers from companies already, I know there is a good portion of you that is anxious and unsure about life after school – and understandably so, I don’t blame you at all.

It’s universal knowledge that the Art Industry isn’t the easiest to pursue and get into, let alone thrive in. I’m sure now that you’ve gained your 4 or 5 years of training from your major of interest, you’ve learned a lot more about your field of choice but also, i’m sure your lecturers and professors have made it clear that securing a job in the industry isn’t a walk in the park. Job positions are scarce, difficult to navigate and a good majority may not even pay that well, especially if you’re working for a smaller or often local production company. Which is why it’s not uncommon for Art Graduates tend to opt for finding a job in something outside of their major altogether. Though, an alternative and far more recommended method that is gaining traction amongst artists of all fields would be for you to pursue it as an independent business owner, in other words, to be an Entrepreneur.

Though this is uncharted territory for most. After all, it’s a bit of a wild card if you choose the Entrepreneur option. It understandably might leave you a little uncertain if abandoning the security net of a job for the unruly jungle treks of Entrepreneurship is for the best. Hopefully, as someone who’s done both, I can shed a little light for you to best decide if it is the right path for you. As Mr. Vaynerchuk has said so in his video, “The Ultimate College Graduation Speech” as linked below, this might just be the golden piece of advice that you’ll need to jumpstart your new leap into adulthood:

“Don’t Play It Safe.”


The video above says it plainly and perhaps, it might’ve made you take a step back with the advice that your elders and parents may have advised you against but trust me, Don’t Play It Safe. After I watched this video, I felt that Gary might’ve offered the most sound advice that any Art Major could receive at this pivotal moment of their lives and having heard so many of my fellow Art Majors ridden with anxiety as graduation comes closer, I knew I had to share his words and my experience with you.

Click play to the video above and listen to what Gary has to say about this.

The Power of Delayed Gratification

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

I’m sure that I’m not the only one when I say that it seems that these days, talented artists are a dime a dozen. Just scour through Instagram alone and it seems you’d find an artist with technical skills and art that would surpass the ones you saw before. It’s like throwing a pebble into a crowd of people and you’ll probably hit a few of them; they’re everywhere. They also come by younger and more talented as the year’s past and, I’m sure at one point you’ve struggled with the envy of wishing you had the skills that these people have.

But I am here to assure you that it is not talent that would bring you to success, but rather the skill of knowing ‘how to market it’ that will.

After all, talented artists are a surplus right now, but a good chunk of them struggle to break the mould of the “starving artist”. This can be attributed to their lack of knowledge on how to make a living out of it. I, for one, think it’s very important to learn that skill, especially in an Industry as unpredictable as the Arts.

Photo by Tina Floersch on Unsplash

One of the first things my parents made me promise to do, when I told them of my decision to be a serious artist, was to learn basic business skills and learn how to chart out a basic plan on how I can make a living out of what I love: Comics.

They made me sit down and show them my research of how I can best make money out of making comics. And mind you, I was merely 12 years old at the time.

It was tough at first but, understandably so as they are not only investing into my emotional well-being as parents, but they are investing financially as well. It took a year or two of constant convincing on my part but, looking back, i think it was a marvellous way to teach me the understanding of a win-win situation and learning how to plan ahead. I learned immediately that I have to work to get what I want.

But I’m thankful they spoke to me as a serious adult because this has helped me tremendously through my years. I may not be the best artist out there yet, but I at least, now know the importance of being creative and knowing how to use my passion as a career to make a living out of it.

Needless to say, I may not be as successful as Gary Vee (yet), but comparing my experiences of when I was working in a 9-5 job versus pursuing the Entrepreneur life; it’s safe to say that I most definitely agree with Gary when it comes to a post-graduation plan of action and juggling between a stable life and pursuing your dreams. The price tag of not going with the norm is something you should prepare yourself for. It’s the grinding, the hustling, the hard toil work you have to put in; living your life in pursuit of a dream is neither glamorous nor easier than having a job at all, but it will be worth it because of the end goal you have in mind.

You can probably guess by now, especially by how my parents handled my yearn to pursue Art as a career, that my upbringing wasn’t anywhere close to normal. (Thankfully so). And one of the many things that they have drummed into me was the term “delay gratification”. It means, you “Pay now, to Play Later”. This principle proves especially useful, in a world where luxuries are made far more reachable to use than before, thanks to the internet. My parents, served me a great deal, when they taught me how to say “no” to immediate luxuries and learn how to be comfortable with discomfort in order to achieve success, because being able to do that has helped me learn how to persevere against whatever came my way.

Materialistic things you can live without can wait but Time and your dreams, do not.

I’d also credit my parents for being the type of adults that walked the talk, because it help me to quickly understand that to do something extraordinary, it has to come with the willingness to go through what wasn’t in the norm, which is often daunting but certainly worth it in the end.

And truly, to me, pursuing a career in Art is definitely within the spectrum of extraordinary. Though with that being said, I think there’s nothing wrong with pursuing art as just a hobby and instead find your calling in another field altogether. Just bear in mind, that if you want to pave your career as an Art Entrepreneur, making sure you have the will and passion to make it through is another key to deciding if this is the game plan you want for your Art career.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

The idea is to understand that it will not be easy.

This is also with caution that this should not be a ticket to work yourself to the bone and ruin your own health! I learned this the hard way but I hope you’d be wiser than I was when I graduated and understand that nothing should come at the price of healthy living. Work hard but keep your mental and physical health sharp! Remember that you can balance your prioritisation between responsibilities to your health, family and your career. The key to adulthood is learning how to balance both working hard and your personal life well.

But, What if I’m not sure if Art is what I want to do after I graduate?

That’s completely okay!

Trust me, coming from someone who is sure ever since I was 12-years-old, that knowing what you want accumulates to a mere 2% of the entire journey itself. It comes with its own set of challenges to face and it is hardly a pass to make your journey any easier than it is right now. I’ve had so many conversations with fellow peers where they verbalise their mild envy to the clarity I’ve earned with my goals and I’m given the impression that the envy stems from their opinion that knowing what you want to do equates to instant success somehow. Though it does help crystallise where I want to go in the future, it does not make it anymore easier to achieve success in what I choose to do. Knowing what you want is not an instant winning ticket to life after all.

As Gary stresses in the video; If you don’t know, you need to spend time trying new things and deciding what works for you. If you haven’t discovered what you want to do, that just mean you haven’t tasted enough in your life. It does not start unless you start it. It might sound obvious but it really is that simple. Think about the last time you were sure you wanted to be something. Start from there and search as you go along.

One of the ways you can do is to ask yourself this question:

If there was one thing I would do every day, for the rest of my life (and not grow out of, not be bored of and will always light the fire in my stomach), what would it be?

This was one of the questions my parents asked me that has helped me solidify and determine what I wanted to be. As a child I had so many passion and interests but the process of elimination came when I studied and consciously vetted what I was both suited for and what I was most passionate about.

For example, I knew, despite my love for animals, my inability to take animal deaths; let alone put them down even for their own good would not suit my ambition to be a Veterinarian. Nor was I sure that my partial interest in martial arts would sustain me to pursue it in the long run to become a National Representative. Despite that being said, I still enjoy having pets and going for martial art classes as a side hobby, but I find that being self aware enough about my capabilities and balancing them out with what I want to do as a career has helped me keep my mind clear so I can pursue the right path for my future.

Remember that your plan of action and your dreams should be realistic and tailored to you. Balance out understanding yourself, your future plans and what you want to be without cutting yourself short.

I’ve had many classmates who went into something completely different from their Art major and they are definitely happy people because they are aware of their choice between treating it as a hobby or a career. I’ve also had classmates who equally went into the Arts Industry and pursued a 9-5 job and are comfortable enough where they are with no complaints. No one can know for certain what can give your life the piece of mind you seek but you. After all, there’s no such thing as ‘One Mould Fits All’.

If you’re unsure, just go out, seek your calling and pursue it.

Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash

Keep asking yourself that question I mentioned as you’re discovering new things and trust me, when you finally decide for yourself; you’ll know it. After that, it’s merely charting a plan of action to bring whatever you’ve decided into fruition. Easier said than done, but truly, “if the Dream is Big Enough, the Facts Don’t Count”.

And this is truer than anything I’ve been taught, especially when you are in the pursuit of any dream.

Where do I go from here?

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

If you think building your own business with your art is your calling but you’re hesitating, I have a few steps for you to start with that you can do to help solidify your game plan for your Entrepreneurship.

  1. Decide your branding and think about how to best market your art.
    • Remember that there are many out there who has the same skills at you so you have to know how stand out. How are you going to set yourself apart from the rest? What can you do with your art to bridge yourself to your potential consumers and appeal to them? How can you add value into their life with your art?
    • Get Creative. Do your research and search up other entrepreneurs to see how they tackle handling their art. It will get your mind jogging on some ideas.
  2. Chart out a definitive plan of action.
    • I’m talking about a realistic path of action with deadlines. You may need to think about having a stable income on the side or a way to fund your business. Detail them out as much as you can.
    • Work on your 1, 3, 5 and 10 year plan.
    • Write it down where you want to be within those time frame and detail your plans on how to achieve that.
  3. Your road map to your destination might change, but your destination shouldn’t.
    • Remember that though your end goal stays, the ways of reaching it should be flexible. Give yourself room to be able to change plans as needed but never let go of what you want to be.
    • A primary example I can give you is how, initially, I wanted to be a comic artist for a very famous Japanese magazine. But after several events, including how prior to recently, Japan was extremely strict with granting student visas, I decided to be a webcomic artist. This gives me more leeway and freedom but the same gratification I seek with my passion.
    • Rerouting your roadmap does not equate to a step back. Be realistic but never let go of your dreams. Keeping checkmarks for your journey is important for your progress but be flexible with how you get there.
  4. Remember to keep yourself accountable.
    • No one is going to kick you to keep to your game plan but you. You’re your own boss but that means you have to be responsible enough to keep yourself in check.
  5. If you’re unsure if your plan would work, ask people who are living the lifestyle you’re pursuing.
    • Cross reference, check, research and google things you don’t know. Don’t be hesitant to open up communication to those that can give you the answers. Shoot them and email or two, read interviews of them if available.
    • As a generation that lives on the internet, make full use of its potential by using it for what it was built for: knowledge and communication.
  6. Remember that “talent” is nothing without hard-work.
    • Skills can be attained with experience and developing good habits. Talent will only take you part of the way so remember not to be too dependent upon them.
  7. Keep pessimism out of your dream plans.
    • There’s too much work to be done for you to fit that in between. Just plan and execute!

If you don’t think the entrepreneur life is for you, then your next course of action is to perhaps make sure you ask yourself what other methods will allow you to make your art major your career. This, of course, is with the knowledge that you want to pursue it as a career. If it is not, then you’ll have to do a little soul-searching and decide on what you want to do.

Tailor your plan of action to the kind of life you want to pursue. Be prepared to be uncomfortable and especially if you’re pursuing Art, entrepreneur or not. Be prepared to be different from your peers if they’re pursuing stable jobs and putting dollars over what you’d prioritise. Everyone’s life is different and not everyone will understand what you do. Follow through with your plan and find out what you want to do and pursue it.

Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

Gary has definitively mentioned throughout the video above: “Too many people view post-university as “this is now real and now I’m lost”. They don’t put it in the context of being alive for 100 years and realise that they’re only about 20% of the way done. Almost everything is perspective. I think I’m just starting, so imagine what I think for the most of you.”

It’s easy to compare yourself to others and be disappointed, but take it from me, you’ll be happiest if you work on yourself, to better yourself everyday and follow the path for your own life goals. This is holds true, even as I’m learning to navigate life with clinical depression and other ailments, my journey has been all the same rewarding because of how I decide to balance it. Only you know what you want and it’s not going to just fall on your lap, no matter how much you want it. You have to translate that into action before it becomes yours.

You will be okay, my fellow graduates. You will most definitely be embarking on the craziest, fun and wonderful 10 years following this moment and its all in your hands to make sure those are the more prevalent themes that conquer your next 10 years.

Hustle Hard and Congratulations! I wish you all the best in all your future endeavours!


Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash
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.Ryu from Leupus

When she's not busy being half of the webcomic team, Leupus, .Ryu spends her time writing and indulging time with her family. Comics, Animation, Music and good stories are some of her many weaknesses though she'd admit, being a romanticist with all of these subjects may be her biggest weakness. Her favorite sayings include "Kindness First" and "Knowledge is only ink in a bottle until you use application as your quill." A proud Muslim hijabi to boot.

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