“The starving artist” is a cliche component of virtually every argument against pursuing an education in the liberal arts. “There’s no employment”, “when you do find work it’ll be for peanuts”, “will that $75k education make you a better bartender?” Anyone with any dreams aimed towards a creativity-based career is undoubtedly told these points over and over. But what these naysayers aren’t taking into account is how much creative thought goes into much of what we see today online and in software – where the big money can be found.
It’s true those seeking a career strictly in sculpture or the study of 12th-century bookbinding are going to have a bad time in today’s job market. Fortunately the path to finding a way to incorporate these interests into a high salary lies literally at your fingertips. The digital realm is where the frontiers of professional creativity exist today. A fascination with sculpture can lead you to a career in 3D-modeling for movies and games. A niche appreciation for illuminated manuscripts can be your launchpad for professional graphic design.
The Right Time and Place
High-paying employment opportunities for creative people have never been this plentiful. It’s the perfect time to get cracking on a career in the digital arts. But are you in the right place? The digital playground covers the globe but truth be told the equipment all still gets made at the same handful of places. It’s important to go where the culture and environment caters to technological creativity. This is true of both school and work. Studying digital graphic design in Flint, Michigan is better than not pursuing an education at all. But it’s important to be where the opportunities are.
California – the world capital of tech – is probably the smartest place to establish yourself in the digital design world. It’s a certainty that Platt, a San Diego college, will have a much larger network of online marketing professionals than other places because of the city’s major role in the industry. The same dynamic exists in the Bay area, only more towards the social media end of the tech spectrum.
The growing demand for digital artists is only going to increase as we get further into the 21st century. This is a reflection of the fact that the “spaces” we’re spending the majority of our time in are increasingly virtual. It isn’t bombastic to assume within a decade there will be classrooms where the majority if not the entirety of the lesson plan is delivered in a virtual, digital way. In the world of media, it’s a guarantee that even your more modest local programs will be produced with a heavy hand toward the digital makeup.
Don’t file away your fantasy of making a living as a painter, sculptor, calligrapher, or decorator just because someone is telling you how impossible it will be to pay the bills and get fed. There are a growing number of well-paying opportunities for these skill sets to flourish. Just know that you may be painting, sculpting, and designing in code. You may also find yourself leaving an old home behind to make a new one where the jobs are. Truly creative spirits will be ready and willing to take on the challenges to have their skills translate into solid careers.