How I made a career in art. Part 2
By Steve Benton


So after blowing the interview with Stormfront Studios I ended up getting an interview with Silvervision Entertainment which was a small boutique in San Diego, California. It was a strange interview, and the guy who ended up being my boss was into the whole ‘goth’ scene at the time in 1998. I’m not going to do him any service here by naming him, or praising his abilities. He started my career, and that’s all I remember him for.

Of course 2 weeks before I’m set to move across the country from Savannah, Georgia to San Diego, California I get another phone interview with a small company named Computer Café. Computer Café was much more up my alley. They were a studio that was unbeknownst to me at the time, getting ready to make a HUGE impact in Hollywood. Their original claim to fame though was having created the Energizer Bunny ads popular at the time.

I was loyal. Silvervision was paying for my relocation. I set up an ‘informational’ interview with Computer Café a month after I arrived in California. I went up there and immediately realized I had backed the wrong horse choosing Silvervision.

DO NOT BACK THE WRONG HORSE!


Years later a friend told me that I shouldn’t regret my decision. I hadn’t ruined my career he said. I had simply chosen the wrong horse. My reason for mentioning this is that during my schooling I had been smashed over the head with the notion that you must remain ‘loyal’. It’s a tight knit industry. Don’t make waves. Don’t tarnish your name. Never screw over your boss.

BULLSHIT! This is all about you.


Do what YOU need to do, and make decisions. ALL OF THEM, in your own best interest. If your work is good, you’ll never have trouble finding work. Don’t be an a$$hole to everyone, but never turn down a better opportunity if it presents itself.
I remained at the Silvervision job for a year before I saw the wheels starting to fall off. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I couldn’t understand how we were still in business. All the projects were vanity projects. It did allow me though to continue to work on a top tier PC, with the latest programs.

Eventually, I tried to go back to Computer Café but that ship had sailed. They asked to see what I had been working on the last year. It was all pretty weak stuff because I was art directing everything by myself, so what ever I wanted was accepted. For better or worse. I was trying to do numerous projects at once, so they were all fairly weak in retrospect. When time is money, you don’t have the luxury to fine-tune everything every time. No excuses. My work wasn't top-notch, my reel didn’t improve, and Computer Café felt like I had wasted a year without seeing any improvement.

I couldn’t afford my own in-house computer and excuses, excuses, excuses. I missed my shot with them.

Silvervision taught me a valuable lesson for the future however.

ALWAYS TRY AND SHOW YOUR BEST EFFORT!


If it’s a pitch for HBO with ridiculous bear faced butterflies, or a storyboard for a wannabe MTV video shoot always do your absolute best; you’ll need that work for a future reel. Just because your company is an embarrassment, doesn't mean your work has to be!

NOT EVERYTHING YOU DO WILL BE IN YOUR WHEELHOUSE!


And just because you’re not a fan of hip-hop music doesn’t matter. At the end of your time with that company you’re going to want to have relevant material to pull you into your next job.

If you can convince them to use superheroes in their ad; do it! You'll want to always be close to the equipment you need. You wouldn’t move to Nebraska if you wanted to be a deep sea diver right? So take whatever you can job-wise, to get into the field you're pursuing.

I did this for a few years, always annoyed because it was never what I expected when I'd accept the offer. I was always annoyed that the business would change their plan 3 months after my arrival. It was bad timing, and eventually I lost it all.

DON’T GIVE UP!


So in 2001, a bunch of historical crap went down, and the Internet bubble burst as well.

I ended up going back to NY to live with my parents, and eventually over my dad’s woodshop. I declined taking a job at a local TV Station based on a close friend’s recommendation. He had worked for them, and told me the horror stories. I should have taken that job regardless, as it’d have kept me close to equipment I could've used to keep my career going at that point.

Instead I learned how to make cabinets. A great skill, but I wanted to be a professional artist again.

DON’T SETTLE FOR LESS!


I met a nice woman in NYC, and moved down there with her. She saw my career struggle and eventually went on craigslist and sent my resume to a few companies looking out west.

TAKE THE GAMBLE!


I took a gamble on spending $300 for a red-eye flight out to Las Vegas for an interview. It’d been 3 years since I had worked professionally as an artist. I did use all my skills to help my brother with his record label, which was nice because it fills in the gap on my CV. I also did some contract work and got my name in the credits of Saturday Night Live. (Thanks John)

I accepted the job in Las Vegas working for a small up and coming art supplier to slot machines.
Things truly were great, I had finally found a job, in a place where if needed, there were MORE jobs to be had.

BIG CITY - BIG OPPORTUNITY


I moved to Las Vegas after receiving that job offer. Later, I began working with a much larger company after applying there 3 different times. I’ve been here for 7 years now. 10+ years in this industry. It’s not Hollywood, but my career is stable and I feel like I’m one of the luckiest people I know. I had forged a career using my artistic talents.

I really can’t stress this enough. If you’re working in Middleville,SD, you’re going to struggle having a career in art. Those days may be coming to a close however. Nowadays, you could get a job creating artwork anywhere in the world; which of course creates a new problem. You’re not just competing with people from your town or even country anymore. You’re competing with people from all over the world; which has driven salaries down, everywhere.

I can’t help you with any of that, and I’m sorry. What I do know though, is that if you maintain a solid focus on your skills, and maintain a solid portfolio or demo reel, a company will hire you to work for them.

GAUGE YOUR WORK


Based on the samples from other people you can see on DeviantArt, Instagram, Facebook, or any multitude of media sites. You should be able to assess your own skills.

Most importantly though.

NEVER GIVE UP!


You’ll never know if you had the chops if you don’t try. Maintain a good persona online. You never know when you might run into an Art Director for a company you’d want to work for when your complaining about copyrights, or politics.

ALWAYS PRESENT YOURSELF LIKE A PRO!


And that’s what you’ll be considered.

Go create.
-Steve