The Not so Sparkly-Bubbly Happy Side of Animation School

Today I am opening up about what I experienced transitioning from art as a hobby to art as a computer animation student. Back in the day I was quite the fan artist. Beginning in middle school when I discovered Neopets. You can view my old DA account here for a look into my past.

No matter how elite the school or college claims to be, art schools take people from all starting points. Which is great because it gives you the opportunity to show them how much you can grow. It is not their job to tell you if you are ready or not. It is not for them to say who can grow and who can’t. In my case I felt like I was not to the point of being only 4-years away from studio quality work. I still believe that I wasn’t. That is where the issues I had began.

College Degrees: What Do You Expect?

The way I was raised to think about college was that it was the step you take that gets you the degree which gets you the job. In many traditional jobs, a degree is proof that you are qualified to do the work. I believe this perception misrepresents what college really is good for. It explains why so many graduates are unhappy and unemployed in their field of study. So what is it that you are expecting after college?

I am now at the point where I believe that college is a way to accelerate your growth as an artist, not a way to get you a job. This is a much healthier mindset for me to live in. It allows me to feel happy with the investment that I made in myself, rather than looking at it as a situation with a failed outcome. In a sense I got everything I could from studying art at the point where I was. Unfortunately I sabotaged much of my momentum by feeling inadequate as an artist due to my ticking time bomb of expectations.

Panic Attacks & Nightmares

Within the last year of school and for 8-months after graduation, I began having panic attacks. These would typically come when I was overexerting myself. I was trying to take leaps forward when I still was only capable of baby steps. Again, time crunch and expectations are what I feel was the issue.

For years after graduating, 5-years actually, I had nightmares of going back to college. It wasn’t as if I was trapped in my same experience. It was as if I knew that I didn’t reach the quality of work that I thought was part of the promise of the program. I had dreams where I finished my thesis and would then go back because I didn’t learn the things I wanted to learn. After years of feeling like the programs had failed me, I began to really question why I wasn’t growing to the extent that I desired to.

Accelerated Pace

One of the main reasons I feel that I didn’t succeed in the way I wanted to was because school is an acceleration of your development. I had gotten very comfortable in the easy pace of communities like Deviantart. I was used to feeling good about my art and I had not yet been in a situation where my self confidence would be tested. Comments were always positive and the community was so large that you could almost always attract followers who were working at a similar pace with similar skills.

This was different. With the mindset that we were all fighting for the same goal, I was not able to be happy with small improvements. I worked around the clock to allow the magic to happen and when it never did I was pretty devastated.

Different Community

The intentions of the criticisms that I received in college were always good. Always for my own development and to give me the tools to improve if I would let them. However I had big goals and a short timeline. By subconsciously accepting this programmed understanding of college as the means to the end goal, I had put myself in a time crunch that was simply too short to allow myself to be happy throughout the process.

The community of artists who surrounded me blew my mind. I wish that one thing had been different. I did not thrive in the competitive mindset that they encouraged. I didn’t want to compete. I believed that we all could succeed. To this day I still believe that we can. However, it was not fair to compare myself to people who were years and years ahead of me. I was in a community with people of all cultures and ages. While many of them were as young as I was, Ringling attracted people from all over the world. I was not mentally equipped to compare myself to others.

Moving Forward

It’s been fun moving forward freely with the mindset of a more confident human. I’m so glad I gave myself time to heal, grow, and learn. I hope anyone who is going through these things in school can give themselves the gift of time. Love yourself first and your art second.