Video game princess

Olivia Kowalski graduated from Concordia’s Fine Arts dept. two years ago. Photo by Madelayne Hajek.
Olivia Kowalski graduated from Concordia’s Fine Arts dept. two years ago. Photo by Madelayne Hajek.

“Working at Fido was the worst 8 months of my life and I would not wish it on my worst enemy,” said Olivia Kowalski, a Concordia University fine arts graduate who struggled to balance her desire to be an artist with her need for a stable income following her graduation two years ago.

She has found a middle ground, however, returning to school to study 3D animation for video games at Campus Arts et Divertissement numérique and working as a Disney princess performer on weekends to pay the bills.

“I am not cut out for a 9-to-5 job. I need a certain creative outlet on a daily basis, but I do not think I am cut out to be a starving artist either,” she said.

The starving artist thing might be a common stereotype, but Kowalski felt like that was the road she would have to take after graduation in order to fulfill her childhood dreams of being a painter, a dream which she defined as a “bohemian vision and romantic ideal.”

She painted a couple of things here and there after receiving her diploma but, slowly, realism and disillusion started to creep in. She couldn’t see herself dusting off paintings in an art gallery but she said she didn’t have the self-discipline needed to thrive as an independent artist either. She decided to take time off to reflect and in the meantime took up a position as a Fido customer service representative.

Working on the phone got her so depressed she started secretly perusing online job offers during her shifts. Which is when she found a Craigslist posting for the princess gig, which sounded a bit shady. Luckily, it turned out to be a legitimate job offer and she didn’t hesitate to trade in her headset for a tiara.

So how does a girly girl like Kowalski end up studying in a video gaming program?

“I was never a gamer. My boyfriend is and instead of complaining about it I enjoyed watching because I was mesmerized that people could draw like this on a computer. The graphics were so realistic and beautiful. I knew there were artists working behind that,” she said.

This prompted her to do some research and find out that Montreal is an animation mecca. She got accepted at Campus A.D.N with a last-minute application that required her to produce a portfolio of video game characters in a weekend.

And although she doesn’t regret getting her Bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a major in painting and drawing, she expected to learn more technical skills in the program, which she found too heavily oriented towards conceptuality. Nonetheless, she feels the program gave her some background and credibility.

“I just wish I had found the school and program that I am in, sooner. I have been there for two weeks now and I already see all the possibilities I can have as soon as I graduate.”


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