As an art director at Sideshow Collectibles in Thousand Oaks, Calif., David Igo begins each morning with an inbox stuffed with freelancers’ artwork. Before noon, he sorts through about a dozen sketches from artists vying to work on projects for the retailer that manufactures collectible figures for various movie, film, and television properties, including Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.
The 29-and-a-half-year-old has learned quite a bit about finding success while still being able to laugh at himself. (“That’s how you can gauge my maturity – I add the ½ to my age,” Igo says.) He spews nuggets of wisdom throughout our talk: “If you love something, there’s some way to make it work. You must find joy in your job, not simply use it a means to an end.”
Yet this can be easier said than done. Below, Igo describes 9 ways to get your creative genius on.
1. Don’t be a lemming. In 2004, I went to Comic Con to shoot my portfolio around. There were all these big portfolio review lines, but I skipped them. I went straight up to booths and asked to speak with artists. Sometimes I hit gold and talked to one; other times, I was handed off to a public relations person. I passed out 30 copies of my portfolio that weekend. During the last hour of Comic Con on Sunday, when I’d pretty much given up all hope, one of the guys I had talked to approached me about a job as a concept artist.
2. Find creative balance. A lot of people burn out from being creative on the clock. I’ve worked my way into an art director’s position so that I’m working with amazing artists, but save my personal art energy for my own stuff.
3. Use disadvantages to your advantage. I’m color blind, so I focus more on pose and line art with my mechanical pencil and paper than full-blown paintings.
4. Don’t always feel the need to convey a “deeper meaning” with your product. I’m a huge product of 80s cartoons, like Transformers, G.I. Joe, Dragon Ball Z, and ThunderCats. They are ridiculous, fun, over-the-top stories and visuals. I try to have fun like that when I’m drawing.
5. You can’t make everyone happy. Sometimes, you need to make sacrifices and admit that your idea might not be the best. Don’t sit on your mistakes; find ways to make them better. That said, I try to make as many people as possible happy.
6. Know how and when to assert yourself. If someone screws you over, hold your ground – but not in a malicious way. People will trust and respect you more for it. You just have to put on your daddy pants sometimes.
7. Never say something aloud about someone you wouldn’t say to his or her face. Once, I was venting about one of my bosses, and it turned out he was right around the corner and overheard. But I had that motto in my head, so I wasn’t saying anything I wouldn’t have said to his face. I just wouldn’t have chosen to say those things to his face.
8. Be the guy (or girl) that people want to work with. When you approach someone, don’t make it all about you. Talk with others about what they do and show a genuine interest.
9. Constantly add to your portfolio. Keep improving: working hard and show progress. Then follow up: If there’s a company you really want to work for, you need to stay on its radar. I think there’s a happy medium between a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. Flexibility and dexterous skills will make you that much more valuable; advance with technology and always be on the lookout for what’s next.
More No Joe Schmo tips and advice: 5 rules for finding a job on Twitter and 7 LinkedIn tips for recent grads.
Sample David’s artwork and art direction below. Find more of his on Sideshow Collectibles and his personal art site, Satellite Soda.