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Career Coach: Keep Up with Technology

In this month's column, Pamela Kleibrink Thompson emphasizes the necessity of learning the latest tools.

Art is technology.-- George Lucas

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

Mr. Lucas made that statement in a documentary about film editing. There is certainly more to art than technology, but Mr. Lucas recognizes that artists can benefit by embracing technology and using it to their advantage. Artists must stay current with new technology to remain employable.

SIGGRAPH, a conference where computer scientists and artists gather to share ideas and art, takes place this month in Los Angeles. It seems like a good time to write about technology and art.

Some artists fight the idea of learning something new -- of adding technology or software to their tool kit. Can you imagine a caveman discovering paper and showing how drawings can be easily transported and his friends telling him to stick to the old ways, there's nothing wrong with cave painting, our ancestors have been doing it for years. It's the established method, tried and true.

It surprises me when I discover artists who have not learned any digital tools. It seems like old news that artists should continue to develop their knowledge of computer techniques and software, but many animators still haven't learned popular software such as Maya. And they miss out on job opportunities when that software knowledge is a requirement of the job.

I recently recruited for Lucas Animation for an animation supervisor position. They wanted someone who knew Maya. A veteran animator, whom I worked with on Bebe's Kids in 1992, got the job because he hadn't stopped expanding his tool kit after learning classical animation techniques. He had learned Maya and had experience on CG projects.

Obviously you have embraced some technology since you are reading this column. Internet access is a tremendous advantage to today's artist and job seeker. Artists without email or Internet access are handicapping themselves when it comes to finding work. Recruiters often contact candidates via their email addresses before making phone calls.

Some artists feel they are too old to learn anything new. The problem with this argument is that no matter what, next year you will be a year older. A year from now, you can still be in the dark about computers and software, or you can be on the way to learning new skills. It's your choice. If you start embracing technology now, by this time next year, you'll be a year older and more technically savvy.

It's never too late to learn new skills. My father teaches seniors how to use the computer and learn about the Internet. His students are excited to learn these new skills so they can send email to their grandchildren and friends.

I recently visited a quilt show where silver-haired women toured the floor admiring the machinery being demonstrated. Quilters are able to use computer-programmed sewing machines to create masterpieces of stitchery and fabric, guiding stitching regulators in swirling patterns to embellish fabrics with designs of hearts or whatever they can doodle.

If you wonder what software you should learn, check out the websites and job descriptions of companies you'd like to work for.

Recent ads on the Internet indicate that computer and software knowledge are required now for many jobs. (I've added the bold for emphasis to the sections of the following job descriptions which recently were posted on the Internet).

Prepress Technician at Dark Horse Comics: Must be fluent in current Mac versions of Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. Freehand and Quark Xpress a plus.

Background Artist at Electronic Arts: Extensive knowledge of 2D and 3D image applications (3D Studio MAX, MAYA, and Photoshop) required.

Disney's career list shows they are looking for freelance graphic artists for ABC7, the number one station in Los Angeles. Advanced level in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects; experience in Final Cut Pro, VizRT, Adobe Illustrator, and Quark. Experience in Cinema 4D a plus.

Crayola in Pennsylvania recently advertised for an Associate Product Manager with these requirements: Proficient in MS Office including Word, Excel, Power Point, Lotus Notes.

The demand for talent and an artistic eye is still keen. Computers cannot replace the human emotion behind art. But artists need to acquire new skills to remain competitive in the marketplace. Those who are afraid to learn new skills and adapt will find it increasingly difficult to find work. There will always be a demand for talent, for a good eye, sense of color and composition, but the skills needed to apply the talent will always change. Artists must continue to acquire those new skills.

Computers are ubiquitous in many studios. Software is just another tool, like a crayon, colored pencil, or paintbrush. Try experimenting with these tools and you'll discover new avenues of expression and exploration.

If you get to this year's SIGGRAPH, be sure to check out design & computation in Hall H, which explores design and digital fabrication technologies, focusing on artifacts from various design disciplines (from jewelry design, textiles, and furniture to large-scale sculptures and architectural spaces) developed with digital fabrication technologies.

When you discover how technology can help you express yourself, you'll be eager to explore new techniques and maybe even new ways of looking at your world.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter and career coach and prefers emailing candidates. She will talk about résumés, portfolios and demo reels during her class at the SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles. Her class called "Get the Job You Want in Computer Graphics" will be on Tuesday, August 12 from 8:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. in Room 406AB. For personal career coaching, recruiting and speaking engagements, contact Pamela at