Your job and your art work

I talk to a lot of animators and what they talk about is not being “fulfilled”. We might need to think differently about what purpose our work serves. This video from Liz Gilbert explains this very well.

What Liz talks about is the difference between having a Hobby, a Job, a Career and a Vocation. How those are not always the same thing. What it really gets to is that your work and your art work don’t have to be the same thing. They likely will not be. You will probably always find yourself working a job to make a living. Then making art because you’re compelled to say something.

Derek Sivers also wrote about this. When people ask him, “How do I make a living from my art?”

“…I prescribe the lifestyle of the happiest people I know:

  1. Have a well-paying job
  2. Seriously pursue your art for love, not money”

The hard part about this is that we might have chosen the wrong work. By working in a creative and demanding field we have little left when we get home. We’re not only not fulfilled but empty. Very few people get to make their living from their artwork. The more important things is that it might be better to not make a living from arout art. Derek Sivers goes on to talk about the benefits of separating your job from your art.

“You don’t need to worry if it doesn’t sell. You don’t need to please the marketplace. No need to compromise your art, or value it based on others’ opinions.”

Animation is not a bad job. I want to make animation. I want to work in animation forever. You work with amazing people to make amazing things. And good cartoons are worth making.

The point I’m trying to make, is that working in animation is a choice. Being frustrated with the work is a choice. Maybe if we expect less of the job and see it more for what it is, it might get a little easier. Maybe the fulfilment of work is just doing good work. There’s no magic either. It doesn’t get better the more well known or successful you get. You’re still going to need a job. You’re art will be there for you when you need it.

Where are the animation unions in Canada?

An interesting conversation on twitter came up this week. Animation artists from across Canada started talking about the state of animation work in this country. Pay discrepancies, credit, and overtime. The conversation kept coming back to the fact that Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, or Montreal don’t have an animation or vfx union.

I have to admit that I’ve been a bit skeptical that union would change much. I believed the line that if Canadian animators were to unionize that the work from LA studios would get up and move somewhere else. That by not having a union we remain competitive. There is little evidence that creating an animation union will have long term negative effects on work availability in Canada. It doesn’t take into account that there are many existing trade unions in the film and television business.

I think we’ve grown skeptical and distrusting of unions. Rates of unionization are falling in Canada. A trend that seems to be catching up with us. I’ve been skeptical that the added bureaucracy of a trade union would make animation better. I was worried that rules could negatively affect innovation and creativity. I’m worried about good intentions having unintended consequences. The power of unions is collective bargaining. By negotiating as a group the workers have more equal position to the employer. Unions advocate for making fair working conditions. Setting fair wage minimums, paid overtime, and ensure labour rights.

The real power of unions could come from the sense of community. The investment in skills development, and hopefully more career longevity. I’ve started to like the idea that an animation union might improve productions in Canada. If we lose some productions that studios and artists will need to become more resourceful. My vain hope is that a little outside pressure could spur homegrown productions that compete because they have to compete.

There’s a conversation starting. The Art Babbit Appreciation Society is a pro union group working in Vancouver. And conversations are starting in Toronto. It’s exciting because a conversation and community can lead to interesting things. Organizing unions will take time. It’s not certain that this is the solution to the issues we face. It’s one potential option for making animation better.

Indie Animated is best enjoyed as an Email Newsletter. Released every Friday morning. Indie Animated inspires you into the weekend. Subscribe here.

Why I’m staying

Why I'm Staying Toronto

I love living in Toronto. Honestly, and unabashedly. I’d be happier if my rent was lower, and had more windows in my apartment. I still  love Toronto. I like the cold, I like the summers. I like the energy and pace that Toronto has. I like the attitude that Toronto has where it feels like it has to prove itself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about choosing a city you live and work in. I was reading this article by Derek Sivers. It talks about the sad truth that the best decision for your music career is to move to the big city. You move to the city not for the big job but for this.

“It has a serious energy, because the stakes are high. It’s not casual. It’s not a place for a comfortable work/life balance. It’s fueled by ambition. People go go go.” Derek Sivers

I don’t have big ambitions about moving to LA. I can’t help wanting that “serious energy”, to be surrounded by people doing their best work. Pushing the limits and making really cool cartoons. There are other cities like Paris, Tokyo, but I don’t know enough to know if they compare to LA. Let’s face it, Hollywood is practically the center of the universe for film and television.

I love Toronto, and I feel like we have to prove ourselves, so I’m going to try and defend it. I think a lot of the world is more like Toronto than LA. Toronto has it better than a lot of places. We have a strong and mature industry but so far to go. Here are the reasons I’m excited and optimistic about Toronto.


My peers and colleagues are amazing. There is so many great artists, designers, animators and producers. Talent is not the problem, we know we have it. I want to be able to give these people the productions they deserve.


While a place like LA might have a serious energy, they also have serious competition. The stakes are high, and everyone is trying to do something big. Here, a great production could attract amazing talent. We have the advantage of scarcity.

Animation Production

I love that the Canadian industry does full productions. We can make animation from storyboard to final animation all in same building. I think this a big advantage of Toronto, something we ought to pay more attention to. One of our advantages is that we are still animators. We are connected and embedded in the process. This is where we can grow.

I want to experiment with organizing production. Focusing on collaboration and small teams. Where storyboard, layout, and animation work closely together to produce cartoons. I don’t think this kind of structure can be built in many places but we could do it here.

Those are the reasons I’m optimistic. I think optimism is really the key, you need to put in the work to make your local community better.  The one thing that worries me about the Canadian industry, is the pessimism and hopelessness that gets into animators. We don’t have that serious energy fueled by ambition. The ambitious people leave. If you stay, don’t lose your ambition. It’s one of the reasons that I started this newsletter. I saw that this conversation was happening out there in the world. The same conversation that I have with my friends. I realized that this conversation has probably been happening the same way since the industry began. I figured if enough of us can connect we might have the start of a community.

So reach out. If you have a reason you’re staying, where ever that is. Or if you have a reason you want to get out send that too, share it in the comments.

Indie Animated is best enjoyed as an Email Newsletter. Released every Friday morning. Indie Animated inspires you into the weekend. Subscribe here.