Increase your Value as an Artist by Increasing your Skill Set.


THE SIMPSONS NEWS – Increase your Value as an Artist by Increasing your Skill Set

I’ve been asked to speak about things artists can do to keep their jobs, and get more work.

This is a big subject, and I’ve got a lot of thoughts on the matter.

Besides doing what my friend Chris Oatley advices, which is:

“Do great work and be great to work with.”

I’d add this:

“Make yourself more valuable.”

There are many ways to do this and I’m only going to talk about one this week.  In the upcoming weeks I’ll write about other ways.

You can watch the video or read the “transcription” below it. It’s actually not a direct transcription, it’s a cleaned up clearer written version of what I say on the video. It’s a little more to the point.

Please forgive any redundancies in the video and the pointless rant at the end:

Increase your Skill Set

One way to increase your value as an artist is by increasing your skill set.  I know this because I’ve actually done it.

Why make yourself more valuable?

Simply put, it will give you more opportunities to keep your job or get more work.

It’s also a very competitive industry. The more skills you have the more value you’ve got.

If you’re already working in a studio and they need something you can provide, why not offer those extra services once you’re already there.  That way they don’t need to go looking for someone else.

What I’m NOT Saying

I’m not saying that your portfolio should have EVERYTHING you can do.  If your getting into the industry for any reason, such as storyboarding or animation your portfolio ought to be focused on those things.

So a storyboarding portfolio should have storyboards. An animation portfolio should have animation. For character design only have characters designs.

Don’t be putting background painting or animation if you’re trying to get a job as a character designer in your portfolio.  It’s a bad idea.

When to Show Your Other Skills

Once you’ve got the position, once you have the job, once your in the studio or have the freelance job, THEN you can offer these other things. Then you can show you can do a little bit more.


If you’re a freelancer, please take this with a grain of salt, because I only live off working purely off of freelance once. And it was only for a year. I don’t have a lot of experience with that sort of life.

Any other time I did any freelance work, I did it while still working at the studio on The Simpsons. My experience of living off of freelance is limited.

How to Increase Your Skill Set

One of the things I did while working on the show, was take classes on the side.

So after work, after working eight hours, I’d go and take a two, three or four hour class. I did this for about four years.

I was fortunate enough that, at the time, a lot of art schools had popped up that taught animation disciplines. Disciplines like character designs, animation, development art…things like that. And the teachers where actually, industry professionals.

So I took animation classes from Disney animators and Warner Brothers animators. I was TAUGHT by ANIMATORS how to animate.  I was taught characters design by professional character design artists. I was taught feature development art by feature development artists.

I’ve taken painting classes, sculpting classes, a TON of figure drawing classes. And I STILL go to figure drawing to this day.

I’ve taken Storyboard classes, clean up classes, Maya classes, Photoshop classes, ACTING classes.  I’ve taken classes for just about everything I could think of, just to increase the value of my skill set.

Doing this actually made me better at my job.

As a Character Layout artist on the Simpsons, I saw my work become so much better.  My work started jumping levels. It was incredible.

It was money well spent, investing in myself. That’s one thing that you should never quit doing: investing in yourself.

My Advice to You

My advice to you is, don’t be like I and my friends used to be. When we got in the industry we wanted to be animators so we didn’t want to DEMEAN ourselves by doing clean up or “finished our drawings”. We were ANIMATORS.

We just wanted to do gesture drawings and ACTING. We didn’t want to finish a drawing, that’s GRUNT work. People BELOW us do that, right?


If you can’t finish a drawing, you don’t know how to draw. You’re just pretending to draw.

My point is, don’t be arrogant and simply learn the minimum amount of skills to get by. Learn to do as much as you can. You never know when the other skills will come in handy.


Alright, I hope this helps. If it does, leave a comment, if it doesn’t leave a comment. If you have follow up questions, guess what, you can leave comment.

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BOOKS – Dark Rift

I managed to finish editing my wife’s book this week.  I had a few more notes for her to take care of and it was off to the “printers” (a.k.a. Amazon and Create Space).

It’s such a good read, I can’t wait to see the reaction of the fans to this new part of the story.

Alesha put in a bit more of what people have been asking for, some background information of some of the characters in the story. More background information on Isabella (the protagonist). AND you get an up close and personal look at the Grey Tower itself.

This book gets epic and some nail biting stuff happens.

The book will launch soon at Amazon and the Kindle.  When it launches, the Kindle book will be free for a limited time (about two days). If you want to know when this will happen, Click Here and opt in.

You’ll also get a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift certificate PLUS a signed hard copy version of both, THE TOWER’S ALCHEMIST and DARK RIFT. The offers ends on Nov. 27, so hurry up. Your chances are REALLY good right now.

WEBSITE – The Drawing Website

I had a heck of a tough time getting these posts ready to publish this week.

I thought for sure, I was going to miss my deadline for this week’s new drawing site post.

I drew the header picture on the right at the last minute. It’s one of those drawings that you finish whether you like it or not.

And then there’s the post itself.

Color is difficult and complicated.  I had to find just enough info to make it worth reading without going so deep that it would get confusing.

It was tough.

I eventually settled on what I would write about and began making the examples long before I wrote a word.

This ended up stressing me out more than I thought it would.

“Gotta write the color post.” “Oh man, I haven’t written the color post yet.” “When can I get to color post,” it was driving me crazy.

It was relief when I finally got to it. But then I still need to do the header drawing…stress again.

BUT I made and it got published on time…and then I forgot to promote it till mid afternoon.

Turns out, an awful lot of people liked it. YAY!
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