Hi I am Andrew Chow, a comfortable White Collar worker turned struggling artist in the world of Computer Graphics (CG) and Visual Effects (VFX).
My story is not unique, I am just one of the many people who chose to pursue their dreams in this age of rapid development and advancement in human civilization.
Inspired by how animation can bring stories to life in ways words cannot, I took the leap of faith in my mid 20s, opting to study what it takes to become a professional artist and that journey took me on a whirlwind journey through 2 different media/art schools and culminated in my all rounded but still rough round the edges education as a CG/VFX artist with a specialisation in 3D Modeling and texturing (because I really love creating characters that give hints of a deeper story from their physical appearance).
The Animation and Visual Effects industry are not necessarily the same. Although there are many interrelated skills like Lighting and Rendering and 3D Modeling, and et cetera.
Some might assume that to do Art, one must have talent. Talent, is implied to be an elusive trait, hidden within certain unique individuals. However, experience tells me that no one gets really good at anything they set out to do if they have only done it a short while and stop doing it in the long run.
In short you have to be really interested in honing the set of skills you want to get good at because ultimately to be a successful artist (or any other profession/vocation) in the long run, you got to be able to first earn a living getting paid work as an artist. Part-timing or doing it as a hobby or as a side-line sounds possible but in practice, unless you can find a decent 9-5pm job with weekends and public holidays free for you to practice your craft, you will be sacrificing valuable time to effectively improve on your craft.
How would I know? Because I used to have a stable job working in a local bank. It was hectic at times and lacked promotional prospects but the pay was decent. However, there is a catch, there is always the odd inclusion of additional duties aptly delegated from upper management in an effort to “empower” their staff and other mandatory company activities.
In light of the ever increasing working hours that most professionals in Singapore’s Private sector face, there really isn’t much personal time to spare and additional sacrifices must be made if you want to do something different and not just merely work to fund your next holiday, buy the latest tech gadget or hang out with friends and family.
Thus, it becomes really easy to merely conform to societal expectations to get a decent paying job and perhaps make a career out of it and settle down, buying your own home and start a family.
Unfortunately, the new reality is that after the numerous financial crisis since the 80s to the late 90s and the more recent double recessions in 2011 and 2013, no job is permanent and the corporations you may have spent half your life working for, be it in the Civil or Private sector, do not owe you a living.
Before I sound like a wet blanket, let me give credit where it is due. The Founding Government of Singapore and the last few generations of hardworking Singaporeans have forged a society where there is relatively enough food and shelter for most people. If you are not one who craves a life of luxury, you can probably get by till the end of your life (if you remain healthy and relatively fit).
However being a small nation, our economic fate is largely determined by geopolitical and economic forces beyond our control. With our fate increasingly in our own hands, we cannot merely depend on the various Businesses and the Government for long term employment. Many young professionals I know, Accountants, Insurance agents, various other white and even blue collar workers are actively involved in activities that may generate passive or additional income to supplement their lives and add to their savings. I have met an Accountant, doing a business related to Competitive gaming because it is his passion and interest and he of course he hopes to be able to turn his passion into a money making venture. Comic Artists who work long hours as Café staff and spend their after work hours drawing/doodling away, slowly working towards becoming a better visual storytellers.
Will they succeed? No one really knows, but if you don’t at least try, you will definitely not improve at all.
The so called “dream job” may never exist simply because so long as we are working for others, quite often we will be at their beck and call. We will often probably face unforeseen circumstances that will inevitable affect our personal schedules. However, what we can do to get closer to attaining our “dreams” will be to work on them during whatever time we have left after work and familial duties.
I am not the only one preaching about this (lookup “finding the time to practice art”) but I feel the need to address these concerns from a Singaporean context. Living in a cosmopolitan city state means there is always high human traffic and this results in many forms of services (manned by people as well) created to assuage the many needs and wants of the people living and working here.
This means most people work long hours apart for those fortunate and/or privileged enough to getmore suitable work arrangements like flexitime and working from home. On the flipside, the living conditions here are good, better than most countries around the world, with good sanitation and easy access to daily essentials.
Compared to other countries like India and China, where people work just as hard to pursue their dreams, but face poor sanitation and a general lack of essential services, we have it a lot better than them and should not take this privilege for granted. It’s time to rethink how we should live our lives and not give up chasing our dreams.
Contributed by: Andrew Chow
The author is currently working in the Social Service sector. Apparently the skills he acquired over the years and good words from some character referees aided in his transition to serve the needy.