Thursday, May 9, 2013

College Portfolio - 1992

by Donato

Omega Corps   1992   Donato
The college graduation season is upon us, ushering thousands of newly minted professionals into the marketplace from accountants to doctors, engineers to artists.  Twenty-one years ago I walked such a path with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University into the freelance marketplace.  I was young, motivated, passionate and...nearly clueless about what shape this new career would take.

I remember that first year like it was yesterday - the excitement and dream of breaking in with a new book publisher, being considered for a commission from a comic book editor, or being offered my first gallery show.  The potentials were enormous and fueled my desire to produce as much high quality work as possible in the last days at college.

Luckily the teachers and faculty at Syracuse had provided a heads up as what to expect through their training, visiting professional artists, business lectures, and studio trips to New York City.  Although I was not completely blindsided, it was a real eye opener on how the business of freelancing really did work.  No one was waiting to hire young inexperienced talent when there were thousands of seasoned professionals already in the mix, this was the real wake up call.

I loved to draw and paint, but did not have a singular focus on any particular content or style.  Craft focused, I approached every work of art with a high degree of precision and care, from delicate line work in my inks to detailed renderings in my oils.  I didn't have a 'style' nor was I interested in attempting to create one.  All I knew was that I wanted to create art as a living, the only questions were for who? And what kind of art?

Dracologist   oil on panel   1990  Donato

I share with you here a broad sample of what was in my graduating portfolio in May of 1992.  Looking at the range of what I loved to make as art, you may find three categories into which the work may fit well - surreal gallery paintings, pen and ink comic pages, and narrative fantasy/science fiction art.  All three of these options were in play for me at that time and I could have walked down any one of those career paths as easily as another, for each offered artistic development and passions which could sustain me as an artist.  Looking back, if I had to pick which one I was best at, it would have been the comics penciler!

It is fascinating to think about what kind of artist I would have become if a different door opened to me just a few weeks after graduation... In the next post I will share with you my portfolio one year later and the amazing turn of events in that years time.

 For all those graduates out there, CONGRATULATIONS!!
May your passions, excitement and work lead you to a successful career in the arts!

Knights of the Pawn   acrylic on panel   1991    Donato

Omega Corps Page 2  pen and ink on paper  1991  Donato (figures by Steve Ellis)

Omega Corps Page 3  1991  Donato (figures by Steve Ellis)

Omega Corps  ink on paper   1990  Donato

Surreal Landscape  oil on panel   1990  Donato

Annunciation   oil on canvas    1992   Donato

Charlie Chaplin   graphite on paper   1990  Donato

Various graphite drawings    1988-91   Donato

Crucifixion   oil on canvas  1992  Donato

Diplomacy   ink on paper   1990  Donato

Omega Corps - bridge  oil on panel  1990  Donato

St. George and the Dragon  ink on paper   1991  Donato

Stitched   oil on panel   1991  Donato


  1. Thanks for being so open with your advice and early work! Its almost more helpful for people starting out to see the path established artist's have taken than the work they make when they've hit their stride.

    1. Those oil paintings still hold up, the textures and luminosity are really nice!

  2. Thank you for sharing! Its always great seeing where artists started before they were godlike :).

  3. Thank you for the comments!

    What I want to stress in this post was the lack of direction I had to my career. It is with 20/20 hindsight that the narrative, figurative work I am now known for was not as obvious a choice as we can make it out to be. I was young, interested in many topics, and could have moved almost in any direction, or any where, for the chance to produce art as a living. The passion I have for art was the most important element which lead to my success.

    1. You certainly had your options open with this breadth of work.

      Speaking of hindsight- I like that the "Omega Corps- Bridge" piece takes on an extra meaning here, since it sort of bridges the divide between the comic work and the oil painting you were doing at the time.

  4. Thanks Donato! It is always nice to see your older work and how you have grown as an artist. It helps me to know that if I keep working, I will eventually get to the level that I want and be able to convey my intensions as I would like. I really enjoyed our conversation last night about the different doors that we can take. As I stand on the threshold of my career door, I'm excited to see what the future holds.

  5. Your early work is awesome! It's different, but I really like it. I love this, thanks Donato.

  6. Thanks for this post. I am graduating in August, and it's really interesting to see your early work. I look forward to the next installment of your story.

  7. Donato, your post was equal parts inspiring as well as depressing -- I graduated with my BFA back in 1992. Still not quite where I wanted to be with my illustration career as of yet, but the experience has been interesting.

  8. Thanks for sharing this! I always love to see how my favorite artists started out. I have to say that, man, I only *wish* my college portfolio looked that good.

    I totally relate to the lack of direction, though. I'm still there right now, I'm afraid. I know what I like to do and what I'm good at, but it's still hard knowing which direction to go. My B.F.A. had a graphic design concentration, but I've always been a painter at heart. On the one hand, it's ever so slightly easier to get into graphic design and make a decent living from it (not that I've managed to succeed in it as of yet, know...). But on the other hand, painting, especially fantasy art with a focus on characters, is really my passion. On the other, other hand, I look at work like yours and like my other favorite artists and I never feel like I have a portfolio that can compete. At least, not for now. So in the meantime, I keep painting on my own while trying to get design work. It's...ehhhhh...well, I just feel kind of lost and confused, is all.

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