Advice to the Art Graduate: Life after College

CONGRATS! You just graduated from art school (or with a degree in Art or Design)! First of all, give yourself a big pat in the back for pursing something and getting it done! Hopefully your degree was not a waste of your time and you’ve made the most out of it!

So last year around this time I graduated with a degree in Entertainment Design and concentration in Comics and Sequential Art. I was happy, my family was happy, and life was good. I took a few months to reorganize my life and readjust back to the “real world.” I was no longer in school, which meant no more late nights, homework, and classes! Although this meant a ton of stress off my shoulders it didn’t mean everything was set and good. Unfortunately, being out of school meant that you were given “other responsibilities”—some of which you have to learn to manage and maintain over the years.

After graduation I had a mini postgraduate crisis about my next steps in life. What do I do next? Where was I going? Was this really it? Then I remembered some advice that were given to me from professors and peers about what to expect after college. I reminded myself of these and here I am a year later feeling on track! So, here’s a list of advice I’ve come up with to help a postgraduate:

1) Get a job: As much as we would like to stay in our rooms and make art for the rest of our lives, we know this won’t happen unless we pay for rent, food, our student loans, and other expenses. You have to get a job, ANY job really; it doesn’t even have to relate to art (although it might be nice if it does)! What matters is at the end of the day you don’t mind working there and it pays you enough to live!

2) Make work: Yes, making work or having personal projects is WAYYYY harder to manage outside of school. Besides the fact that there isn’t an evil professor overlooking your shoulders and having deadlines for you, YOU have to be the person planning and making these decisions. Plus, you have to work around your job and other daily priorities. Sometimes you just got to sit down, turn off your distractions, and make stuff!

3) Put your work out there: This means posting it online, making a website, opening an online shop, going to conventions, applying for residencies or call for artists, etc! Anything to get your awesome stuff out! In an ideal world, it’ll be nice if a client or employer just found us one day and gave us our dream job, but that won’t even happen unless we have stuff to show!

4) Stay connected: Being an artist can be a lonely occupation, so why not surround ourselves more with like-minded individuals? In college we had our art peers and professors there to support and guide us. If you can, try to stay connected with those who you’ve already made connections with; however, even if you didn’t made much connections in college, there are local and online communities out there to support individuals just like you. Find one that fits. Surrounding yourself with supportive individuals will hopefully aid your growth and remind you to keep making art.

5) Be patient: Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a children’s book illustrator, but is stuck flipping burgers 5 days a week. Keep in mind that “success” does not come immediately and that it’ll probably take time (maybe years) to get to where you want to be. What matters is you work at it everyday and remind yourself what your purpose is.

6) Enjoy life: Take this time to enjoy life! Making art is important, but also remember that the stuff we produce comes from our experiences and everyday life. Don’t spend your entire day in a room drawing. Take the time to go for a walk, go to the movies with your partner, catch up with friends, travel, and whatever else you want to do. Give yourself a break once in a while and be ready to go back to the studio refreshed!

That’s all I have for you. Hopefully you guys found this useful as it was for me after I graduated. Pass it on to someone who may be in need of some post-graduate advice, or advice in general. Until next time!

Duachaka Her