PK 071: How Grey Jabesi Hustled His Way to a Rewarding Career as an Artist

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Grey Jabesi moved countries and seized upon ever opportunity to create a rewarding career for himself as an artist

“There is always opportunity, but you have to take risks as well”

~ Grey Jabesi

Grey Jabesi has come from humble beginnings in Malawi, Africa, to working as a digital artist for major design and animation studios.

In this podcast, he talks about his fascinating journey as an artist, and how he has to overcome all kinds of obstacles to carve out a rewarding creative career for himself.

Grey Jabesi: His Journey as an Artist

Growing up in Malawi, Grey Jabesi didn’t always find it easy to follow his true passion. Art wasn’t considered a viable career, and school didn’t present many opportunities for an aspiring artist.

So, at the age of 16, he persuaded his parents to buy him a computer and he began to develop his skills as a digital artist.

He says: “I spent all my days indoors trying to learn how to use Photoshop. At first, it was more like photo manipulation, but my early work looks really bad when I look at it now!”

“A lot of my friends couldn’t understand when I told them I wanted to become a digital artist. A lot of people also confused me with an IT guy because I was into computers. So, I decided to sell my first computer to give me the money to move to South Africa and join my parents who’d moved there previously.

“I didn’t know enough at that time to land me a job as a digital artist. I was super bad, but I was also super confident! When I got to South Africa, I went to a few animation schools but they were too expensive for my family to afford.

“So, I took a job in a laundry to raise the money to buy a new computer. I was so open to everything, and I started learning more from online tutorials.

“I looked for an unpaid internship and found one at an online fashion shop. There, I was doing a lot of video and photo editing, and I got to meet a lot of people who could help me in my career.”

How Grey Jabesi Found a Mentor

Eventually, Grey found someone who was offering a course in 3D Studio Max. And, although Grey couldn’t afford to take the course, this tutor saw potential in Grey and offered to take him under his wing as a mentor.

After four months of working with his mentor, Grey managed to land his first paid job for a horse racing company as a camera technician.

He says: “I had a general knowledge of how cameras work by that stage, and luckily I got the job. I wasn’t making good money, but I felt I was getting closer to something. When that job ended, I looked for another unpaid internship, and was lucky enough to find one at one the best animation studios in South Africa.”

Eventually, Grey Jabesi’s hard work paid off, and he was offered his first full-time job as an editor at a casting agency. And, although it was a tough emotional decision to leave the animation studio, Grey knew he had to do this to further his creative career.

Grey worked there for about a year before going freelance and learned a wide range of new skills that would stand him in good stead for the future.

He says: “Lots of things changed. I could now afford to pay rent, so I was able to move out of my parent’s house and find somewhere closer to work. I also learned a lot about interacting with clients, and how to become more confident when talking to people.”

Grey Jabesi on How to Find Opportunites

Grey Jabesi’s story is one of finding opportunities…even when there often didn’t seem to be any opportunities available.

So what’s his advice for aspiring artists in the same situation?

He says: “There is always opportunity, but you have to take risks as well. You have to follow your passion and try not to listen to people who are negative. A lot of people prefer to stick with something comfortable, but it’s not going to kill you if you just think for yourself and follow your passion!

“We take a lot of risks in everyday life anyway, so why not take a risk which might take you to what you want to become? Just be open to opportunities….many of the limits we place on ourselves are just in our own minds.”

Listen to this week’s show and learn:

  • Why internships can help open doors for your creative career
  • How to follow your passion for art and stay determined
  • Why taking risks can help you find new opportunities

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Mitch

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