Eliott advises on the importance of focusing towards one goal vs. becoming a jack of all trades.

Q My name is Kyra and I’m  an 18 year old freshman in college studying art and something else; I intend to double major, and my dilemma is thus: Art and Theatre vs. Art and Mathematics. My father says having a mathematics degree along with an art degree will make me more attractive to employers, because it shows versatility and the potential to learn programming languages with greater ease later on; and I suspect that he’s right. My heart, however, is really in theater; performing, screenwriting, and costuming. Which second major should I choose?

A Neither. My main feedback to you is this: you can’t do it all.  To be ANY sort of professional artist requires you to be the BEST artist you can be because the competition is so high. There will be dozens of art students in your class, but only a handful will land a job as an artist, let alone have a career as such. Longevity in this field requires commitment, focus and dedication. It’s also worth mentioning that to be a GREAT artist, requires one to sacrifice even more (This can be your free time, personal relationships, socializing with friends, etc). Regardless of the type of artist you want to be, If you ever want to get paid for your talents, then you will need to put in the work now.

Let me put that into perspective for you. From a very young age I have always wanted to be an artist (and only an artist) so it’s all I’ve ever studied for. 17 years or so of art training later (elementary to graduate school) and I’m working in the field of my dreams, doing what I love doing.  My other classmates however haven’t been so lucky because they either started learning about art too late in life, or didn’t take it seriously enough. Either way, their art training has left them ill-equipped to compete on a professional level.

Therefore, double majoring, in my humble opinion may seem like a good safety net, but may actually hinder your artistic growth because it divides your focus. It also means you will have twice the workload, but only half as much time to do it in.  (There’s a whole section in my book that covers what you should be learning in college and how).  Ultimately, my concern is that double majoring may result in you being a mediocre artist and/or a mediocre actor (when you could  have been superb at either one). I suggest you choose wisely.

Q I want to be a concept artist (specifically creatures and costume character designs, though I’m well aware a concept artist has to be more versatile than that), and I intend graduate school to get a masters in either sequential drawing or illustration. I’m equally capable in the performing arts and mathematics, though I greatly prefer the former. Which is the wisest degree combination for an aspiring Concept Artist? Art and Math, or Art and Theater? Or, assuming I’m any good at this by the end, do I need to be concerned with that at all?

A I honestly don’t know because every professional artist that I know (both concept or commercial) ONLY has an art degree.  I have not heard of anyone holding a split degree.  I HAVE, however heard of students who studied a specific major in school, graduated and realized they hated it, (or just loved art more) and decided to abandon that skill set and go back to school for art instead. That’s kind of like a double major… right?  (As a cautionary tale I’ve also heard the reverse of this: where a student studies art, can’t find  job, inherits huge debt, now works at Starbucks….)

At the end of the day you need to understand that whether you decide to be an artist, an actor, or a programmer, you are up against incredible odds. Within each of those industries the competition is high, and job availability is low. The chances of you succeeding (finding full time employment) are exceptionally slim. The best advice I can offer (all cheesiness aside): DO FOLLOW YOUR HEART. Make the most of your college experience, soak everything up like a sponge and apply yourself in one area of expertise.  If you wake up and decide that you are an actor, then make that your ONLY major, and crush it!  Keep art as a hobby.


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