Today, I am super excited to be continuing my month long series where I interview some amazing women of different majors and fields! If you haven’t already read the first interview with Carissa, a psychology major, click here! For this week, I interviewed my best friend Tran who is an illustration major. As you’ll see later on in this post, Tran is an extremely talented artist who is passionate about using her art to spread awareness of important issues such as mental health. If you are wondering what it’s like to major in a fine art or illustration, keep reading to learn more about this field! Some of the things Tran talks about include her experiences as an illustration student, why she chose this path, and helpful advice for those still deciding if this is the right major for them!
Meet my friend Tran!
Here are 30 Questions With Tran, an Illustration Major:
1. Where is your hometown?
Born in Saigon, Vietnam and grew up in San Jose, California!
2. What are your hobbies/interests?
Reading, podcasts, makeup, Netflix, Youtube, nature walks, hiking (no incline), video games, politics?, procrastinating
3. What’s a fun fact about yourself?
I have double jointed arms.
4. What college do you attend?
San Jose State University ‘17-’19, Cal State University of Fullerton ‘19-present
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5. What year are you?
Incoming fourth year (Senior)
6. What is your major?
7. What is your future career goal?
Animation (background, character design, visual development, storyboard), and to make art for children’s books
8. When and why did you pick this major?
I picked this major in freshman year of high school because I was inspired by my Biology teacher’s speech about choosing your career early in life. I didn’t know if it was right for me but I picked it because I liked to draw and I always loved watching animated films as a kid. And as a bonus, it has a pretty good salary ;).
9. Do you have any advice for those still deciding whether to become a fine arts or illustration major?
The advice I have for those exploring is to try anything that sparks interest or excitement. High school is free so don’t be afraid to experiment or even meet with guidance counselors.
10. What do you love about your major?
What I love about the major is the wonderful teachers that I meet along the way who have inspired me to aim higher. Surprisingly I’ve met some pretty friendly people who are artists, as we’re known to be quiet. The other thing that I like about being an art major is that my homework is actually fun… sometimes.
11. What are some things you don’t like about your major?
I don’t like that the classes are so so so so so impacted and it’s very hard to get into classes you need for your major. The waitlists are long and fill up quickly, but persistence is key to getting in the class you want! A lot of the art classes ask you to buy your own materials, and they can rack up a hefty bill because of how expensive art supplies are. The last thing I don’t like is that outside of the CSU system, schools such as Art Center or CalArts are very expensive and hard to get into. I would recommend art programs from the CSU system. If you put in the work, then the program will be worth your time and money.
12. What classes do you normally have to take each term?
Usually as a freshman, you would take the foundation classes, such as 2d design, 3d design, color theory, etc. Depending on which major you are, for me in Illustration we are required to take illustration classes that deal with traditional work, digital work, and finally background painting. Those are just some of the classes.
13. What is the most challenging thing about being in your major?
The most challenging thing is keeping up with the workload that each studio (art classes that require activity) class gives you. CSUF requires us to take 3 studios per semester, 4 being very difficult to keep up with and 2 being easy to keep up with.
14. What is the hardest class you’ve taken in your major?
The hardest class in my major depends on the professor, the workload they assign, and the expectations they have. The hardest would probably be special studies for illustration since you have to have a gallery opening to display your artwork but that’s for graduates.
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15. What is your favorite class that you’ve taken in your major?
Favorite class in my major would probably be figure drawing for animation with Barbara Malley because she teaches you so much about anatomy, age, gender to help you do character design. Her humor makes the class entertaining as well.
16. How do you study for your classes? Is there a lot of homework or mostly studying for tests?
If I take GEs I would either rewrite my notes or make flash cards. There is a lot of homework for studio classes and a lot of studying for art history classes.
17. Would you say people in your major and classes are competitive or supportive? What is the community like?
I would say people in my major are very supportive and the atmosphere is everyone is here in it together. All of the professors say that one day you will work with these people or they could be your boss or vice versa. The community is very friendly and everyone is willing to lend a hand to help each other.
18. Are your department/professors supportive? What are they like?
Our professors and department chairs are very supportive. They are very knowledgeable in their field and have some kind of experience in the animation field! There can be professors that are less caring but most of the professors I’ve met are caring, humorous, and are ready to help if needed. Some people in the administration and/or advisors aren’t very helpful though. If you ask the professors to provide any resources, they will definitely be happy to help you and are very nice about it.
19. What is the most defining thing you’ve learned as an illustration major?
Being an art major has taught me that failure is okay and that it’s okay to make ugly art. Struggle is a part of the journey, and it only helped me elevate my art skills in the end. I also learned that I have zero patience and that art requires a lot of patience. The irony!
20. Have you ever felt like switching your major or just giving up? If so, what made you stay? What keeps you motivated?
I felt like giving up multiple times throughout these three years but I’ve made it this far and have invested so much time and effort, I might as well go through with it. There are moments where I create art, and it’s one of those moments where the light bulb appears above your head and it just clicks. Those moments help ground me and make me feel like “yes I do belong in this field”. What motivates me is the desire to be the best artist I can be and the yearn to improve. My peers also motivate me with their amazing art. TIP: If you’re feeling de-motivated, I always look at my old art and compare it to today and see how far I’ve gotten.
21. Do you feel like there is a certain stigma being in your major or career path?
There are many stigmas when it comes to being an artist. The biggest one is probably that artists do not make lots of money or that it’s a hard career to live on. Even though sometimes that may be true, an art career may also be very fulfilling as a trade off.
22. Has being a female affected your experience in this major?
No not really. I’m lucky to be living in California where equality is strived here than in most states so I feel like I don’t experience much of sexism here.
23. Is there any advice you wish you had when you started college?
I wish someone was there to help me choose the right colleges for art, such as the ones with the best art program and the most affordable pricing. I had to do my own research, and at times it was very stressful. Some mistakes I’ve made were when I messed up my GPA in high school and had no clue that Animation was a very hard major to get into. I ended up not getting into the Animation program at SJSU, but it did make me try harder in school from then on.
24. Are you involved in any extracurriculars or student organizations?
At SJSU, I was involved with the shrunkenheadmen club for the animation students. They watched movies together, drew at cafes, did pleinair painting, and invited speakers from the industry to the school. They were probably the most friendly group/club/community I’ve encountered. At CSUF, I joined Pencil Mileage and Women in Animation. Later on, I became more involved with Women in Animation because I tend to gravitate towards smaller clubs and found that the people were very genuine and welcoming.
25. Do you currently have a job or internship? What do you do?
I currently work as an Assistant Illustrator at the Daily Titan. The Daily Titan is the newspaper at CSUF that prints daily (not counting the weekend + Friday)! What I do is I basically work with the writers in order to carry out illustrations or drawings that narrate their article.
26. What is the work environment like?
The work environment is pretty chill and lax. The team is like a family and everyone is in it to make the best paper everyday. I’ve met some pretty cool people from the Daily Titan.
27. What advice do you have for those looking for a job or internship in the fine arts or illustration field?
My advice is to never give up, and keep practicing daily to improve because hard work pays off. Even when you feel like it isn’t going anywhere, keep pushing because when you put hard work into whatever you do, it shows and people notice it. Your work will speak for itself and it can take you places IF you put in the work. I always wondered if this was the right path for me but I realized that the passion I have to keep learning new things about art and to be a better artist than I was yesterday lets me know this is right for me. Knowing that I am willing to struggle to get where I want to be lets me know this is right for me. I am willing to deal with all the crap that this path comes with, and if you really want to be in this career you’ll do anything it takes.
28. What advice do you have for people on the same career path as you?
Having a big network is very helpful in this industry because a lot of people hire whoever they know. So be social and talk to your peers! Don’t talk to them as if they’re just another follower to add but as a person that you want to get to know and be friends with.
29. Are there other career path opportunities for people in your major?
Yes, you can be a painter, a traditional artist, a graphic designer, ceramics (pottery), illustrator, or animator.
30. Are you planning on attending graduate school? If so, what should people keep in mind to do to prepare for applying?
I haven’t decided yet and have nooo clue on anything about grad school because I haven’t done any research.
Conclusion on 30 Questions With An Illustration Major
As Tran’s friend, I can tell you that she has worked really hard to get into her illustration program despite having many obstacles along the way. Her advice on never giving up truly comes from the heart and her own experiences. I hope that Tran’s interview helped you in deciding your major, even if it’s not in the fine arts! It’s nice to know that although we are all studying different things, we can all relate on similar college experiences such as learning from our mistakes and pushing ourselves to the limit in order to make our dreams a reality.
If you want to see more of Tran’s art or ask her for advice, reach out to her on her Instagram @traniellart. She is also taking art commissions in case you ever need personal art, illustrations, and/or posters! Check out this illustration she drew of me! 🙂
Thank you so much for reading! I’ll see you next week with my friend Brandy who will be sharing her experiences as a computer science major!