Your Guide to Art School Resources and Information

Interview with Michael Mattesi

Read our interview with Michael Mattesi, the director of Entertainment Art Academy.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your artistic background?

I have been interested in art since childhood. I loved cartoons, comic books and films. As I got older, video games came out and so did a new focus for me. My first job was at Walt Disney Feature Animation. I was lucky. I got into their internship program during production of Lion King, which I later worked on. Since then, I have worked in video games, comics, television, advertising and teaching. In those genres, I worked as an animator, character designer, environment designer, prop designer, art director, storyboard artist, director and probably some other occupations I am forgetting. My point is, I was always flexible and used my training and thinking to keep me working. I used to work in New York, so I found out that if I wanted compelling work, I had to do a little bit of everything.

You are the director of the Entertainment Art Academy. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

I have been thinking about owning an art school for at least the last six years. The opportunity came to me, so I took it. While working in all of the fields above, I was also teaching at different schools and animation companies. That led to the publication of my book "Force". An art school is the next step for me. Teaching is one of the most invigorating jobs. I love it when a student "gets it". When I see that enlightenment in their eyes and them executing after a discussion or demonstration, it makes me want to see how far I can take them. It inspires me to inspire them! I have learned a great deal about art from teaching and from my fellow instructors. I want to pass that on to the new generations of artists. Who knows what they will be capable of? I want to see the envelope pushed beyond what it is today!

What are some of the common questions art students have when looking for an art school to attend?

I would say that they want to know how to get in, and if we would help place them with jobs. Oh yeah-- "How much does it cost?" and "Do you have financial aid?" are also common questions.

What qualities should an art student look for in an art school?

Well, pertaining to the last question and its answers, I think the first question should be "Who is teaching at this school and what is the maximum student count in a class?" Teachers make the school.

Is it important to meet the instructors and staff or tour the campus before making the decision to attend?

I think so. Again, I think the smartest thing a student can do is sit in on the classes they will be taking. Know the instructors. They will be your mentors in a very important part of your life!

What level of technical proficiency should a potential art student develop before applying to attend an art school or academy?

I went to The School of Visual Arts and I still don't know how I got into the school! My portfolio was terrible. I keep that in mind looking at student work. I would prefer to see a portfolio and meet the student. I want to see enthusiasm and fire in their eyes. Some students don't have great opportunities for art guidance before they hit a vocational art academy or college. I can say that now that I am in the Los Angeles area, specifically Pasadena, I have high school students that draw as well as I did in my third year of college! They are the ones that get scholarships to art colleges. If you love art, focus on it and you will get better. Experiment! Try photography, drawing, painting, sculpture. Create your own comic or cartoon idea! Stay alive and enjoy the challenges of art.

Should pre-art school artists focus on any particular skills prior to attending classes? What skills will help them get the most out of in-class instruction?

Most of this is answered above, but when it comes to other skills besides art-- learn to be hungry! Figure out how YOU learn best. Focus! Stay open to new ideas. Be mature enough to not throw your money away and get the best education you can from your mentors while you are in school. Be aggressive, ask lots of questions! I always ask questions. What better way to get answers?

What types of careers are available to art school grads?

Wow, where to start? Well, at Entertainment Art Academy we focus on entertainment. That alone has countless occupations. Some of them cross over the four genres we instruct-- Film, Video Games, Comics, and Animation. Just to name a few careers-- animator, character designer, layout artist, storyboard artist, writer, director, environment designer, prop designer, concept designer, comic book artist, colorist, background painter, art director, creator, production designer, modeler, cg animator-- those are some.

A lot of schools tout the careers and accomplishments of their most successful graduates in their marketing materials, but what type of employment can the average art student expect to obtain after graduation?

Usually a student will start at an entry level job. I have to say though that many of those jobs pay $60k and up.

We've all seen the stereotypical art school environment in the movies, and we each have our own idea of what it may really be like. Can you give us an idea of the 'real' art school experience?

I think this is an extremely subjective question. The art school experience depends on the art student. I can speak of my own experience and what I want students to have at Entertainment Art Academy. Here goes nothing-- You finally feel like you have found out where you fit in! Everyone around you loves the same hobbies and interests as you do! You are surrounded by great mentors that inspire you to new heights emotionally, intellectually and artistically! You create new friendships with other students that will last your lifetime! These are fellow people that love what you love. They will move through life with you in and out of work. You may find the love of your life. I met my wife in art school. It will be a great and challenging time. It will mold you for the rest of your life! To play the other side, what you don't want is isolation, unenthusiastic instructors, an un-engaging curriculum, overcrowded classes and disinterested classmates and an insurmountable student loan. That would be terrible.

I hope this helps all of you out there looking for a career in art. Art should be your life. No matter what else you do you see the art in it. Your life feeds you, so do lots of things and be alive. That is how your art becomes great, because you are great! I hope to meet you someday and good luck!

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