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Career Coach: Honing your Skills

Make a plan; staying sharp is your responsibility.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
-- Abraham Lincoln

Are you making yourself ready for the next fabulous opportunity? What are you doing to prepare? What are you doing to hone your skills?

To become adept at anything you need to put in the time and practice. Recently, I was in Santa Cruz watching surfers riding the waves. Athletes of all kinds know they must not only put in the practice, but do it every day. 

Tiger Woods practices the fundamental skills of golf every day. He sticks to a strict daily routine, waking up at 6 am, exercising for an hour, eating breakfast, and then spending the rest of his day focused on golf.

Professional artists create every day to keep their skills sharp. Are you focusing on your art all day? Perhaps you have a job that is not art related. When you get home do you dedicate some time to your art every day? What about the weekend?

Companies that employ artists offer opportunities for them to hone their skills. Visual effects companies like DNEG, Technicolor, Rodeo FX, and Framestore all offer options for continuing education.

Whether you are employed by a company or work for yourself, keeping your skills sharp is your responsibility. Have a plan to do so. Life drawing is an example of a skill that all artists should master. If you want to practice life drawing, how many hours a week will you devote to that?  Do you have a plan on where you will go to do life drawing? The park? A zoo? A life drawing class? Disney believes in life drawing so much that they offer free life drawing classes to all their employees.

If you want to learn life drawing, what resources do you need? Do you need to find other artists you can learn from? Experts you can study with? You can find free life drawing classes online.  Ask for feedback from other artists and instructors to discover how you can improve. Learn from other artists by analyzing their techniques and trying new styles, approaches, and media. Seek guidance from experienced instructors by taking life drawing workshops or classes. Understand the fundamentals of drawing, such as perspective, proportion, and shading. Practice will build your proficiency. Evaluate your progress. Expand your creative abilities and develop your own style.

If you keep your skills as sharp as Lincoln's axe, you'll always be a cut above.


Pamela Kleibrink Thompson was production manager on The Simpsons and manager of art at Virgin Interactive. She coaches individuals and consults with companies in creative industries.  She also recruits artists and others for visual effects, animation, and games. She can be reached at Pamela thanks all of her recruiting and career coaching clients for the opportunity to work with them, as well as AWN, for providing this forum to share with the animation and VFX community. Thanks for taking the time to read this column.