Today the Dragon Wins

"Today the Dragon Wins" offers information from Fantasy Author and Professional Editor Sandy Lender. You'll also find dragons, wizards, sorcerers, and other fantasy elements necessary for a fabulous story, if you know where to look...

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Sandy Lender is the editor of an international trade publication and the author of the fantasy novels Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings, available from ArcheBooks Publishing, and the series-supporting chapbook, What Choices We Made.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Megan Offers School Advice
Or…here’s how Megan became successful

As part of our week of hosting Megan Kissinger, artist extraordinaire, she’s answering some questions to help aspiring artists see some of the ins and outs of a career in this field. Whether a person is interested in graphic or fine art, the path isn’t an easy one to clear. Sandy Lender has hired and worked with her share of graphic artists over the years in the magazine publishing industry and can offer one viewpoint to an artist who wants to ask questions, but Megan offers a better viewpoint: the artist’s viewpoint. Megan can tell you how she selected her course of study and how she worked her way into the fulltime position she has now. Megan brings a wealth of good, solid information to visitors of The Dragon this week.

The Dragon: Let’s start off by finding out how you got into art. It’s obvious this is a gift you have. How did you discover it and how/when did you decide you liked it?

Megan Kissinger: I was an artist from as far back as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is drawing a house with the obligatory M-shaped birds in the sky and the happy sun face peeking out of the corner. Except for that short time of wanting to be an EMT (don’t ask!), I never wavered from art as a career. It’s just as well…I would have been a terrible paramedic. Art can’t kill a person…well, except for Van Gogh and all of that cadmium in his paint. They say that was what made him go insane and commit suicide.

I am primarily a visual person. An artist needs powerful observational skills because the eye is the artist’s true tool. I took all my notes in high school and college in illustration form, drawing out all of the diagrams and concepts because I could remember them easier than when they were just written down.

The Dragon: What year did you decide to go to school for your art degree? What point were you at in your life and why did you feel the art degree was the right goal to pursue?

Megan Kissinger: I started at the University of West Florida in 1984 but only had two years before I relocated to South Florida. There was no four-year school here at the time so I worked as close to art as I could, in galleries as a framer and manager. After my kids began school, I finally had the time and money to return to school. I only recently finished my degree 20+ years after beginning it.

The Dragon: What advice would you give to students (both traditional and non) who are just getting ready for art school or an art program this fall? What can they do this summer to get a head start on the right attitude and the right mechanics/technical angle for entering a program at the university level?

Megan Kissinger: 1. Think about the type of art you want to be involved in. Fine art is a completely different animal than graphic art. They require different mindsets in order to pursue them successfully. Tailor your education toward the type of artist you see yourself as in the future. Finding the right program for you is more important than going to a certain “name-brand” school. Smaller art departments mean more one-on-one help from the professor and better access to studio equipment for the fine artist. Technical schools will have the technology and design know-how for artists seeking work as graphic artists and designers.

2. The art world isn’t like the business world. Your career as an artist will depend more upon how good an artist you are, not what school you graduated from. The first thing a prospective employer wants to see is your portfolio, not your GPA.

3. Don’t be too practical. Even though I felt I was a good artist, I didn’t seek work as an “artist” right away. I was too practical; I got a job at a sign company silkscreening real-estate signs and routing letters and logos. I had another job as a framer in art galleries thinking that I should find some tangible use for my ability. I regret spending so many years in that sort of work because it wasn’t until I began to use my more creative side that I became more successful. The one good thing that came from those jobs was the work experience. The real world doesn’t grade on a curve; it’s strictly pass or fail and you learn stuff more quickly when your job depends upon it. Take every internship you possibly can; it will get you farther faster.

The most important piece of advice I could give to anyone considering the field is that the dreamy, creative part of my job makes up about 10 percent of the total work involved in bringing a painting or a design to a successful finish. Craftsmanship, precision, and dogged determination to push through indecision and fatigue are what separate the serious artists from the posers. I guess it makes it sound kind of boring, but art is a career like any other and it requires work. The payoff for me as an artist is when I sell a painting or finish a successful illustration; it’s a wonderful feeling.

The interview with Megan continues tomorrow…
“Some days, I just want the dragon to win.”

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