PK 042: Artist Elise Hathaway on Rejection and Determination

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A personal project by Elise Hathaway

“Art is just a form of expression – it’s our way of sharing a piece of ourselves with someone else.”


Elise Hathaway had one thing on her mind during her final few weeks at Savannah College of Art & Design: her new dream role at Disney. She’d applied, made it through to the final stages, and was convinced the job was hers. What happened next is a timely reminder for all artists…

Things were going well, or so she thought. Disney really liked her work, and she’d even had emails from them telling her about all the exciting projects she’d be working on. Then, with just two weeks to spare before she finished college, they dropped the bombshell. Elise was told she hadn’t got the job after all.

“It was a hard but awesome lesson to learn,” she says. “It taught me never to rely on just one thing. In the art industry, everything changes on a dime and you always need to have a back-up plan!”

This harsh early lesson has served Elise Hathaway well. Now a visual development artist at Reel FX Creative Studios, she’s worked on a wide range of projects including Book of Life and Free Birds. And, along the way, she’s learned many other valuable lessons for artists, including:

  • Why you should get as many eyes as possible on your portfolio – they’ll see things in your work you might not be able to
  • Why it’s always a good idea to research the company you’re applying to and make your portfolio specific to that company
  • How to keep pushing through when things don’t go according to plan

ironmanlores_elisehathewayIron Man – a painting by Elise Hathaway

Developing a confident outlook has also been a key factor in Elise Hathaway’s creative career. After her setback with Disney, she tried contacting as many employers as possible to see if she could get a foot in the door.

But this wasn’t an easy process, either. She learned another harsh lesson at international design agency, The Mill, when the woman she handed her portfolio to said: “What the hell do you want me to do with this?”

This crushing critique would probably have been enough to make many an artist throw in the towel, but Elise wasn’t beaten yet. Seeing this as another lesson to be learned, she picked herself up, dusted herself down, and told herself she’d do whatever it took to get the job she wanted.

Why Artists Need Confidence

So, when an apprenticeship at Reel FX in Dallas came up, she surprised and impressed her prospective employers by making the eight-hour drive from Louisiana to Dallas for her interview. It was this determination, combined with her new-found confidence, which helped Elise get the job.

“It’s hard not to feel dejected after those rejections start coming in,” she explains, “but employers don’t want to see a dejected person – they want to see confidence. That happy, good energy makes a total difference!”

But that’s not to say Elise Hathaway is always 100% happy with her work. Like most artists, she sometimes finds it hard to replicate the success of one piece in another. When this happens, she often refers to this quote from Walt Stanchfield:

“We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.” – Walt Stanchfield

So what’s the most important advice she has for artists?

“Art is just a form of expression – it’s our way of sharing a piece of ourselves with someone else. The important thing is finding that piece of ourselves to give to someone else.

“That’s why you should always have a clear idea of what story or emotion you’re trying to evoke with your art. Work out exactly what it is you’re trying to say.”

People on this Episode:


Mentioned in the episode:

Elise’s Website
Elise on Twitter
Elise on Tumblr

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