Need some career advice/suggestions/comments...


First, thank you for taking the time to read my post and possibly commenting. This is an inspiring community with a wonderful vibe.

To give a little glimpse of my background, I graduated college in Fall 08’ with a degree in Public Relations and Minor in Television - Radio - Film. Since 2007, I’ve been working full time for the government. I’m 27 years old, and realize that I don’t want to be working here for the rest of my life. Since last year, I’ve been doing some serious soul searching and extensive research, to find that I truly want to be a 3D animator, of course, working for the big name companies like Pixar, Dreamworks, or any game studio. Should you have it any other way?

That being said, I understand nothing comes over night. I know I’ll have to work my butt off and be very dedicated to this new endeavour.

Now, what do you guys think of my plan(s)?

Before I jump into any 3D related courses, I want to take the time and harness my traditional art skills, specifically Drawing. I believe the better you are on paper, the better you’ll be when you translate it on the computer. I don’t believe in spending tens of thousands of dollars in art programs, especially Drawing, but one program that caught my eye, is U.C. Berkeley’s Extention program: Post Bachelor degree in Visual Arts, which from I read, is a decent program, and cost less than $5,000. Here’s their website:

Now, I’ll be still working full-time, this would be done at night. So, I give myself about a good 1 1/2 years to complete this program.

Upon completion, I want to start Animation Mentor next. I’ve already applied a few quarters ago, but decided to save up money and pay this straight out of pocket. My current salary allows me to do so, as I also don’t like accumlating debt. From what I’ve seen and read, Animation Mentor seems like a perfect fit. Now, around this time, and AM being an online school, I thought about knocking two birds with one stone. Here’s what I mean…

I’ve always wanted to travel the world, and one of my plans, after graduation, was to teach English in Japan - JET Programme - if anyone’s heard it before. Would it be too much if I were to teach English in Japan, WHILE taking courses online with AM? Working and going to school full-time is nothing new to me, except, if I do this, I’ll be in a foreign country. Bad idea?

Give or take, I say my plan will take me roughly 2 1/2 to 3 years. At first, it seems like a long time, but as I’ve gotten older, 2-3 years go by as fast as Rosie O’Donnell’s eating a McDonald’s happy meal. Also, when I come back to the States, I’ll be around 30 years old.

So, what do you guys think? Is this a good plan? Any suggestions or advice? Should I just focus on being an animator and forget about teaching English in Japan? I understand, not too many people are as fortunate as me to even have these kinds of options, to which is why I’m very thankful and very blessed to even consider it.

Again, thank you for taking the time to read this. :slight_smile:


I’ll post my 2 cents.

I can not comment about the U.C. Berkley Program as far as feedback goes, I haven’t looked into it as much as I’ve heard about Animation Mentor’s feedback. With AM I know you get feedback and get weekly homework from your professor and you can get critiques from your peers as well. I mention feedback because I did spend a lot on (and still am paying for) college and the feedback that I was able to get in realtime I felt was beneficial. After I graduated from my college, I heard about AM and wished it was there when I had gone off to college. Turns out it wasn’t there yet and didn’t start until the year I graduated (go figure!)

As far as drawing goes, I’m surprised nobody has said it, but DRAW. Draw everywhere and everything and as much as possible. For me I spent 3 quarters drawing (10 weeks a quarter) and just drawing that much improved my ability. Again the feedback I recieved also helpped improved my skills.

My only comment on the JET program is this - It seems more like a personal want to see Japan. While it will provide a good experience, I question how much of what you want to do will you have time to spend on doing it. Japan is also EXPENSIVE to live in (I knew someone who did a similar program…later on went to live in somewhere in China, Chung Du I believe.) If you want to see Japan, I’d say stay and focus more on what you want to do and see Japan on your own time and dime. If you have the flexibility to move around, why not look into getting into an internship with an animation studio or two? At least that will provide some experience working in the field.

Don’t think I’m don’t know your feelings, I’m currently 32 and was in college when I was your age. HOWEVER, I did meet someone who was starting art school AT your age as well. While we were both there we had a blast. Ironically he did a stint as an intern (and later moved onto working for Radical Axis)

In my understandings of things, the paper is good, the portfolio is better. If you have the talent and the passion people will pay you. If you have the paper to back it up, they can (and should) pay you more. The experience you get around that period of time only makes opening the doors easier. If any of this makes sense.


Thank you Tegre for your comments.

“My only comment on the JET program is this - It seems more like a personal want to see Japan. While it will provide a good experience, I question how much of what you want to do will you have time to spend on doing it. Japan is also EXPENSIVE to live in (I knew someone who did a similar program…later on went to live in somewhere in China, Chung Du I believe.) If you want to see Japan, I’d say stay and focus more on what you want to do and see Japan on your own time and dime. If you have the flexibility to move around, why not look into getting into an internship with an animation studio or two? At least that will provide some experience working in the field.”

Now that you mention it, you’re right about the whole Japan venture, it is a personal want. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, not just visit, but be fully immersed into their culture and people. Plus, you get paid, by joining the Jett Programme. Maybe I’m just being too naive to believe I could do both? My train of though in this whole situation, was that I’ll be working full-time, no matter what, when I do AM. So, I might as well do both while I still have that time and youth.

“In my understandings of things, the paper is good, the portfolio is better.”

What I meant was, to be a skilled 3D Animator, you must have skilled Drawing abilities. Although, I do agree with you on your statement.

Thanks again!


Jo3ism, that is a total misconception that you have to know how to draw to become a 3d artist or animator. I have been in the industry for 2 years and 3/4 of the amount of artists that I have met don’t have any background in drawing whatsoever , including myself. Now yes it is useful to have a drawing background but it is definately not necessary. I would say save your money and invest in an education that is going to teach you strictly what you want. Whether that be character animation, modeling, texturing, etc. Now there are schools that teach you to be a generalist which is totally fine and there are schools that specialize in certain areas like you said Animation Mentor. I just wouldn’t advise wasting time in going to a school to draw if you are intending on becoming a 3d artist… Just practice on your own time and your drawing will get better… but again it won’t be a necessary skill to have in the industry.


[color=white][color=white][font=Arial]JulesFitz, thank you for commenting, and the fact that you’re working in the industry, speaks volume; not to take any advice away from beginners, such as myself - I’m open to all advice. I just always had this feeling that being a good animator required to have adequate drawing skills. Truly, you’re starting to make me feel otherwise. I’m not a very good draftsman, I just thought maybe taking a few drawing courses to improve my drawing skills, would better me in the long run. However, I am about saving money and investing into this venture the best possible way. I have a lot of good training videos on drawing, so I guess practicing on the side would be best. Thank you for the advice!



Well if you want to be a character animator… the 12 basic principles of animation is a good place to start… it all originated from 2d illustration so maybe thats why you think its good to have a drawing background. What part of the industry are you looking to get into?


Another thing I’d like to add is that since you want to do 3d animation specifically, you can get a pretty good start with that at home in your spare time without schooling in 3d. Assuming you haven’t used a 3d package before, you could become familiar with it pretty quick, at least as familiar as you would need to be for animation. Sure all 3d packages have a steep learning curve, but luckily animation is relatively easy to pick up as you don’t have to manage very many windows, tools, etc - especially when getting started. Also there are tons of free rigs online so you could literally just spend a bit of time getting acquainted with a 3d package (free tutorials are alright, digital tutors and such have really great tutorials as well for a reasonable price), then just get your hands on a couple free rigs, do a few tutorials to get familiar with the basic work flow of animating, and try to really get a feel for it in these early stages before you’ve invested a lot of time and money in your endeavor. If you like what you’re doing then by all means go for it, the reels coming out of AM have been great from those who are really passionate and determined.


I think the point of learning how to draw is to develop the artistic eye. I always recommend that people who are interested in 3D art learn traditional art first to develop their eye and then move onto 3D. Ive noticed that in most cases, people without traditional art training or some natural artistic talent do not put out 3D work that looks that great. Ofcourse there are exceptions but this is what I have noticed.

Id also suggest learning traditional animation (assuming animation mentor doesnt cover it). One usually cant learn traditional anim effeciently if they dont know how to draw.

Traveling to Japan does not sound like a good idea. You should focus your energy on drawing/school work/career. Being in Japan would just be a huge distraction (atleast for me).


Well, I’ve researched all the possible professions, and character animation is what I’m set on, but that could always change. I’m still a bit on the exploring side. Right now I’m learning Maya and I’m really enjoying it.


Thanks for commenting Weez… It’s pretty much what I’m doing right now. There’s a lot of dead time at my work, and every chance I get, I’m watching tutorials and familiarizing myself with Maya, baby steps… but I just feel this is what I’m meant to do, and as challenging as it is, I’m loving it so far.


Hi Sanjay, thanks for the advice. This is what I originally thought. I’ve read many articles about companies saying the same thing. I think students get so caught up with the technology, that they don’t practice/focus as much on the traditional aspects of animation/art; this is what I’ve learned. It only makes sense to be, at least, proficient in traditional arts. Plus, I thnk it would be a great way for me to start.


Yea, I guess it’s more wishful thinking. I guess I’m just trying to do too much in so little time. I need to focus on more important things now, like my career! Thanks for the advice!


Every single one of the best modellers I know are good at drawing, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Quite a lot of studios these days are asking to see traditional work alongside reels for certain positions as well, because now that schools are churning out button pushers by the bucket-load, studios refer to artistic skills to separate those button pushers from those with more rounded and expanded skill sets. I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s compulsory or absolutely necessary to have traditional skills, but it’s certainly beneficial. Drawing is a really great way to learn anatomy and it teaches you to study your references carefully and improves your ability to recreate what you see accurately.


I think that traditional art is much less important to an animator than a modeler. You can understand animation arcs and bounce and stretch more easily in 3d. But I think that if you do traditional animation you’ll have a much greater appreciation for 3d and not having to draw every frame.


I figured I would add the perspective of a student that is currently about to hop into the industry. As a representative to the grad students at our program I have the opportunity to talk to recruiters and employees all the time about what they want to see in reels and how to get into the field. This is what I’ve picked up from them:

Companies constantly ask to see traditional work in our reels. They absolutely LOVE to see “traditional” work because it shows off your artistic eye outside the crutch of the computer. Whether it’s worth it to spend the time going to school for that is more of a question about you and your abilities. If you have decent skills already and just need to develop them some more to get to the level of a demo reel - I would say draw all the time everywhere and you will just naturally reach that point. If you have a severe lacking of understanding of composition, form, and movement then maybe it’s worth your while.

I agree with what was said earlier about drawing - it’s not absolutely necessary to get a job. However, to get a job at a really great studio it requires some level of artistic ability. Even for animation - you have to understand composition and what looks good in frame in addition to fluidity of motion.

From what I’ve heard about AM - it’s definitely a great place to go to for animation training. I have a friend that got a job at Dreamworks Animation after going through AM who was very supportive of it, and I know an animation sup over at Disney who is very high on the program. They like it because they teach you great fundamentals of cinematic animation. The added bonus is - it’s taught by industry folks who are always on the lookout for talent. You better believe recruiters are asking the mentors who’s who amongst the students.

The one caveat to all of this is - you have to be absolutely sure it’s animation you want to do. While learning rigging will help with modeling and shading helps with lighting…animation has no cross pollination with another field. For the studios you listed - getting an animation job is all about showing you can animate. They could care less if you’re are the best lighter, shader, & rendering TD in the world all rolled up into one little package - if you can’t animate you’re not going to be an animator. Likewise - being able to animate doesn’t help you in any other fields (except maybe rigging since you can make slick animations for your rigs). So once you choose the path of animation you’re pretty much glued to it. For smaller studios being able to do multiple things is a plus, but for larger studios you get pretty much shoved into your specialization. I’ve heard rumblings over the past few months that studios are starting to look for generalist skillsets a bit more, but it’s not currently a major movement (and not a given that the trend will continue). It’s safe to assume that learning animation and switching later is a fairly big waste of time (and money!).

I do want to stress again that I’m talking about bigger studios (Pixar, Dreamworks, ILM, Blue Sky, EA, etc.). Smaller studios are a completely different story.

As for Japan - I would say that’s probably a major distraction. CG is a timesink - you tweak and tweak and tweak some more. Then when you think it’s done and you come back 2 days later you hose the whole thing and do it again. It’s about details, time, and hard work. The best thing about where I go to school is it’s SO INCREDIBLY BORING here so I have the extra time to pour into my work. If you go to Japan - look at it realistically and realize that something will suffer. You’ll be choosing between traveling the country, doing your job, and working on your projects. I doubt you can do all 3 to the fullest extent that you want. Added to that - you’ve chosen the specialization that is probably the hardest to break in to. Everyone want’s to be an animator, so you really need to focus on developing your demo reel to be the best thing they’ve seen that day. I would save the trip to Japan for when you can truly enjoy it - in between productions when you don’t want to be anywhere near a computer!

In any case - I wish you luck and hope you make the right decisions towards having a bright and happy future. Hope to see you out west someday man.


Your willingness to hone and develop those traditional skills is a solid approach imo… as it goes a long way. Technology and such will change, those fundamental Art and Design principles will not. My 2…

Good Luck :thumbsup:


Hi, leigh… thanks for your comments. I agree with you with everything you’ve said. I took a drawing class, last summer, and they covered a lot about anatomy. I believe it is very beneficial because animators mostly animate human beings. And I just don’t want to be a button pusher, I want to be much more than that.


Thanks for the comments DoctorMoneyFist… and great name btw… Yeah, you know, I’m the type that… if I’m going to spend so much time on something, especially this being my new career path, I want to learn/know it all. So, if learning every aspect of traditional art will not only benefit my skill sets in animation, but also give me a much greater appreciation for 3d… then I’m all for it. :thumbsup:


Wow… first, i want to thank you for this very indepth response to my post. You’ve covered a lot of my personal questions and concerns going into this.

Thank you for sharing the valuable information you received from recruiters. Last summer, I got a chance to compare my drawing skills to other art students, and when I think about it now, I don’t think I’m as bad as I once thought. I think with enough practice, I’ll eventually become really good at it… at least proficient enough to do quality animation work.


You make a very good point on this… I’m a person that likes to have options. I don’t plan on doing AM right away, maybe a year from now. I’m going to continue to self teach myself Maya, and definitly take the drawing courses effective this Summer. Hopefully, throughout this adventure, I’m going to find my niche, but for now, I’m pretty much set on animating. However, I’m keeping a very open mind on CG, and things can always change.