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I would like to say i woke up one day and decided hey, an art career is what it's gonna be! But no. Eventhough being an artist is all i could ever dream of nowdays, and the fact i couldn't think of any other outcome, this isn't really what i dreamt of, or even studied for when i was younger!

Fun fact: I been told many times when i was really young that i should make a career of my art. But guess what!

I was young! It's not that i had other dreams or anything, i never really knew what i wanted to be or wanted to do, but it definitely wasn't the thing everyone told me to be! Despite me drawing all the time. So, i went to study SPW and specialized in mentally disabled care! Well, we all know that didn't work out, cause else we wouldn't be here, would we!

If you'd like to listen and watch a video instead of reading, click on the video below!

I spent a few years working in the mentally disabled care, decided it was not for me so started a study in animal care. I worked a few years in a pet shop and a luxury doggywalk and moved from a study at a school to a homestudy which suddenly disappeared while i was still working on it. Quite a pain cause now i was 21 and i still had no diploma! Leave alone what step to take next!

Jumping some jobs, thinking of what to do next, i ended up working in the restaurant of my parents, a restaurant that recently launched and i'm still working for to this day! I wouldn't be me though if i would just sit back and do nothing else. I always want to learn more, do more, do new things... In other words: I always want to improve myself and i did my best to do so, first by starting yet another education hosted by the same home study company (after all they were considered to be the best at that time). This time it was the study Graphic Design, yes! My first step to becoming a digital artist! But little did i know, at first, that the education was at least 10 years outdated. I started to notice that after a year or so when i came to the chapter about computers. I was surprised to read in 2014 about how windows '95 worked and what the idea was behind floppy disks! When i called the company for an explaination i was told they were aware of the problem and were working on it. A month later i was told i had to pay for my exams (which were still two years ahead in my study) as the education would end with that very exam and could not be continued. Suffice to say, that was the end of that education! I been spending over a year learning outdated things and again, ended up without a diploma.
You would think one would learn after the first education suddenly disappeared. I wish i had! I continued though. After alot of hassling i managed to get a big discount on the new education on graphic design, which was updated and worthwhile when it comes to the knowledge. But, we all know: Graphic Design is an oversaturated market, so landing a fulltime job was not an option.

I started doing traditional paintings and small jobs for local companies, friends, and the company of my parents. Menu's, commercials, folders, posters, websites, such things. Nothing big, often not even payed, but still getting myself a name. I really enjoyed the freedom of these kind of jobs. Ofcourse there were deadlines, and ofcourse i had my regular job, but being able to plan my own days or even weeks really appealed to me. This was also the time when drawing tablets became affordable. Being able to draw digitally had always been a dream of mine, eventhough i didn't consider making a career out of it. And just like that i bought my first digital drawing tablet, in case you wonder which one: The Wacom Intuos Draw. If you are looking try and see if digital art is for you, this is a really good and affordable device to start with. It has no display but is easy to get used to. If you like digital art you can always upgrade to a bigger tablet or one with a screen! I got my tablet at the beginning of 2017 and little i knew is that my art career started right there! My very first drawing was a scribbly uncalibrated landscape, the kind a child would make. But hey! It was my first time! I to this day regret not saving that project to share with everyone! But i anotherones for you right here:
These in fact were my second and third drawings, the heavy use of texture brushes, stamps, and screaming colors are the tell-tale signs for a beginner, enthousiasm hit me and i played around more and more, i had all these idea's in my head. Landscapes, creatures, wildlife and many more things. I wanted to draw them all! So i went on, i'm pretty sure i got myself some early records i don't plan to ever break again, like the amount of texture brushes i used in the one above, or the amount of layers i used in the one below (103 to be precise).

This was all before i decided to take on some courses, i started off with Hardy Fowler on Skillshare, man this was an eyeopener! I suddenly understood:

  • The mechanics of photoshop
  • The little amount of brushes you actually need
  • How to create different effects
  • Composition
  • Lighting
  • Not using too much layers (kuch)
  • And much more!

The endresult of a creature design i made with his guidance filled me with so much joy that i finally knew what i wanted to become. Not only someone with the most wonderful creatures in my head and the most beautiful landscapes to accompany them, i actually wanted to put them all on paper! Or well, on one's and zero's to be precise. One thing led to another and i found some tutorials of Walid Feghali on youtube, joined his facebookgroup and in 2018 followed his course 'Evenant Cinematic Design" which teached me even more in a short period of time, mostly about landscape art, but also about character design and more in-depth material design, these two artists are really good to start with if you're looking to do more then just draw for fun! And before i knew it i started selling custom made digital animal portraits, recently followed by being asked to start teaching on skillshare. And i'm proud to say my first course succesfully launched in june this year! This course is about contrasts and textures and you draw your own animal portrait alongside my instructions. In the same timeframe i also started my own youtube-channel!

The journey goes on, i'm not there yet! But i know i will get there. Persistence is the key for anyone that wants to start a career in art. You don't need an expensive education or the best tablet ever, i have a huion kamvas pro 13 as we speak, a good brand but not the marketleader (Wacom) and not the biggest tablet either. You do need to educate yourself though. Constantly challenge yourself, get to know your audience and potential customers or employers, get to know the market and find your niche and never give up! Try not to be only creative on paper, but also deploy your art to work for more then just one thing. Your art is worth something, just as traditional art is. The only true differences are the materials you use (and therefor what costs there are) and the fact that digital art can be endlessly duplicated.
If you ever make art on request, like, for example, of a pet or a person, i recommend not ever to use it for anything else but your own promotion on your website or social media and clearly communicate that to your cliënt. This kind of art is personal and is completely tailor made, don't hesitate to charge a hourly or flat fee depending on your hourly rate and be really thoughtful about what you do with the duplicates of that artpiece after!
When you are approaced by companies and organisations the same rule counts. It may be abit less personal, but usually you sell the right to use the work to that company. This all is abit more technical, but here too you charge your hourly rate and sometimes some money on top depending on what the art or logo is used for (is it a big company or a small one, will they go global or not, etcetera).
When you make art for yourself though, for fun, this is a completely different story. Your goal should be to meet your hourly fee but nobody is going to buy a random artpiece you made for fun when you didn't get yourself a name yet. Especially when it comes to digital art. This doesn't mean your art is not worth it! You put hours into making it and that is worth your hourly fee. Don't allow this to keep you from making your own art! You need to expand your visual library, you NEED to practice! It's much better to repurpose your personal art. Make packages out of them and sell them on for example Etsy, or your own website, as digital downloads for different purposes, or sell them as posters, all for a relatively low price. This way your hourly fee will come to you in time after selling prints or downloads through time and through multiple sales. This is called a passive income. And as you don't sell your artwork on an exclusive base as you would do with an animal portrait or a company logo for example, you can sell it endlessly.

We live in a wonderful time, a time where we can decide ourselves what our next move will be. It's a rocky and sometimes treacherous road, but all the information is out there. If you do what you like and you either have the financing to set up your company or are handy enough to do that yourself, there is nothing but yourself keeping you from doing what you love!

Have a lovely day!
- Tess



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