Are you a creative who would like to break into the industry? Would you like to make more money from your art sales? Does starting at a blank canvas intimidate you?

If so, then Lift Off Art is here for you!

Creating art is hard. Creating art for a living is even harder. Artists and creatives are weighed down by crippling self-doubt, fear of rejection, and impostor syndrome. Add on a lack of solid business advice for artists and even less information about what it's like to be a professional artist, and even attempting to make it as a creative professional can seem like a Herculean effort. No wonder people believe in the myth of the Starving Artist.

Despite these obstacles and the downturn of the economy, in 2007, Rick Kitagawa and Eve Skylar made the best decision of their lives and decided to go pursue art as a career. After meeting each other at UC Berkeley at a theater club (Rick was studying Biology and Asian American studies, Eve was studying Narrative Theory and Acting), the two graduated and promptly decided to enroll in art school. While in school, they started vending at local art and craft fairs as Monkey + Seal. To keep in touch with fans, they started blogging.

At first, the blog was mainly about their art, but as they developed as artists and professionals, the content evolved to the emotional hurdles that plagued them as creatives. From artist's block to business mistakes, from fear of failure to the fear of the blank canvas, Rick and Eve began to shed light into the challenges and obstacles faced by artists trying to create and live off their craft.

Fast-forward to 2015. Although he couldn't paint when he started art school, Rick holds down sponsorship deals from multiple art material companies, paints for gallery shows, runs a successful screen printing business, and teaches business and entrepreneurship at universities across California. Taking inspiration from the animated films of her youth, Eve's artistic talent bloomed as a successful visual development artist, working in both the game and film industry with clients such as Paramount Pictures, SEGA, and Nightwheel Pictures to help create award-winning, internationally acclaimed films.

After unfortunately taking time off from blogging to build their careers, this dynamic duo is back. While there are many venues to learn the technical aspects of creating art, Rick and Eve found an absence in solid, research-based, tactical advice on dealing with the psychological demons that prevent artists from being their best selves. Just as sparse was any specific, tactical advice for breaking in and making it in the art world and how to present oneself to the industry.

After mixing first-hand experience with research in business, psychology, biology, and personal development, and sprinkling in an emphasis on intersectionality, identity politics, and empathy, Lift Off Art was born. We honestly believe that everyone is an artist at heart, and whether you want to create more or if you want to be a professional artist, we're here to help guide you. So join up today and let's change the world with your art.

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The Number One Tip to Get A Job in the Art Industry

If, like me, you graduated (or will be graduating’s that time of year) from art school with a metric crapton of student loans, you’re probably concerned about getting a job.  Whether it’s in the animation industry, or games, or whatever, you’re probably getting your portfolios all ready and your cover letters written and hoping you get picked up at your school’s portfolio night, or whatever (assuming your school even has an industry event).

However, the single most important thing I could ever stress upon any of my students is this single tip.

Always look at yourself from the company’s eyes.

There, that’s it, now go and get a job. (Drops mic).

Just kidding, dropping the mic makes a loud noise and it’s pretty rude.

Seriously (all bad jokes aside), most people forget that companies have no idea who you are.  They don’t have the intimate knowledge that you have about yourself.

If you’re looking to hire someone for a concept art position, and you see a portfolio with 9 awesome pieces and 1 sorta mediocre one, what would you think about the artist?  If you’re looking at it from an art student perspective, you might think “Well, that artist probably just had a bad day, or ran out of time and only had 9 good pieces to put in their portfolio.”  Sure, we’d all like to be given the benefit of the doubt, but do you know what an art director thinks?

“Hmm, this kid has potential, but if they can’t pull of 10 awesome pieces, maybe they have crap time management.  Or maybe they’re too slow to do production work.  Or maybe the 9 were a fluke and really they’re gonna be giving me all mediocre stuff like that one piece in the back.  Eh,time to move on.”

The sole concept of business is that your employees have to make you more money than you pay them.  It’s a very simple idea, but one that, as employees, most of us forget.  If you create $10/hour of value for the company but your salary is $20/hour, every hour they employ you, they’re going to be losing $10.  This leads to the company eventually shutting down and you being out of a job.  Thus, art directors and other hiring managers need to make sure that their art team has the speed, skills, and ability to maximize profits.  If profits are maximized, the studio stays alive and you get paid.  If the person doing the hiring isn’t 100% confident that you can make money, you’re not going to even get an interview.

Lesson: having a portfolio that is strong all the way through is super key.  Also important is making sure that your portfolio fits the studio’s style.  You should actively be creating portfolios that show that you can produce work in the style that the studio needs you to produce.

Does that mean that you need to have a different portfolio for Dreamworks than you do for Blizzard than you do for Cartoon Network?


Is that a ridiculous amount of work?  I never said it wasn’t.  But the key is that you need to tailor EVERYTHING to whatever company you’re applying for if you really want to maximize your job search.  From your resume to your cover letter to your portfolio to what you wear on your interview, you should be crafting what the company is going to think about you by making it was easy as possible for you to fit in with the company.  Remember, as a company, it’s easier to find someone who can already do the job the way they want it done, rather than have someone talented who they have to train.

If you want to work a studio that has realistic and terrifying monsters, a company culture that is super relaxed, makes MMORPGs, and is looking for a concept artist, you should be shaping your application to show the company that you really do fit in.

Your resume should feature creature design or horror work that you’ve done.  It should focus on all your concept art work, and if you don’t have any, it should focus on anything that would highlight the skills a concept artist needs (hint: you can find things like this on the job descriptions).  Your cover letter should talk about your experience playing their past games (haven’t played, you should start now), and show that your familiar with their work and the world they’ve built in past MMORPGs.  Maybe you’ve even researched the leadership team at the studio as well as the recruiter.  You should dress casually for the interview – jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt with a character from their past game, or from a horror film that’s inspired them (you know this because you’ve read interviews with the lead artists there).  Finally, your portfolio is filled with other nightmarish creatures that are rendered in the same style as the studio’s past work, but has your own unique design sense and flare of imagination.

It’s one thing to say that you’d be a good fit.  It’s a whole other level when you show them that you’d be a good fit.

You’re giving them everything they could want in a possible hire – from your personality to your portfolio, you are figuring out exactly who they want and are showing them that you can be that person.

I know this is a lot to handle, especially as you’re dealing with finals, getting ready for the commencement ceremony, and doing all that other stuff in your life.  However, if you keep the company’s perspective in mind, you’ll find yourself being more and more successful in business, which means getting that dream job quicker.

Good luck and congratulations on making it through.  Now the real game begins.

Make the World a Better Place By Being Happier

Many times we wait for permission from some authority figure to tell us that we’re good to go to start a project, or work towards our dreams. In reality, we’re really looking for validation. While I will be the first to admit that validation makes me feel all awesome inside and reminds me that my work matters,  and that external approval is really what we’re all after most of the time, it doesn’t mean that it is necessary.

It is not necessary because no matter what your dreams are- whether they are to rule the universe or to just live a quiet, simply life – your dreams matter. They matter because they are your dreams. Whether you want to be a baker or a banker, a civil engineer or construction worker, an artist or an astronaut, your dreams are important. While you might be thinking that there are no objective reason why you should follow your dream, I say that there is. That reason is that you’ll be happier.

By being happier, you’ll make the world a better place. Seriously.  I will thank you for it.

If you are grumpy and hating your work, you’ll be a big downer for other around you. No one likes the constant pessimist/whiner/griper. While I acknowledge the benefits of venting and being allowed to complain (which we all should at times), dwelling on what is not working is like dragging a raincloud around with you that gets water on the floor and makes people’s socks mushy – not fun at all, and people will ask you to leave. By following your dreams, you’ll be much happier and that will pass on to the rest of the world.

If you are happy and totally crazy in love with what you do, it will show, and it will affect how you do your work. If you love to paint zombies, your zombie paintings are going to be much more awesome than if you painted flowers or puppies. Your work will appeal to other zombie fans and they will be happier because of it. If they are happier, they’ll spread the happiness through their work, and so on and so on. Happiness is contagious, so unleash the happiness plague by doing the work you love.

Don’t wait for others to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. If you have something to contribute to the world, then do it. If your heart says make a zine, then make one. If your heart says go into corporate law, then start studying for the LSAT. If your heart says you should travel to Australia to nurse sick wombats back to health, start shopping for plane tickets (and please send me your photos – I love wombats). Know that your dreams matter, put aside all that bragging and looking for validation, and go out and make the world a happier place.