You're an artist? You're hired by someone? Then you're a tool for that someone.
Especially in corporate structures. You may have tons of experience, more sensitivity to a given field of interest, and dealt with tons of different situations that make you have a better insight, in the end your employer or client hires you for HIS/HER purpose.
In some rare cases they will hire you for what you know. But in general, they want your ability to apply lines, colors, codes, maybe even words to THEIR creative vision. It doesn't matter that your employer is competent or not, skilled or unskilled = they paid you money to do a task. Some don't even care about what edge you can bring to their ideas = they just want someone who paints stuff like a construction worker piles up bricks. They may let you do some creative research for the parts they can't envision, but they WILL use that as a springboard to input their opinions and ideas = you helped them put a tangible base for THEIR creativity where before it was too abstract for them to form them. Your ideas and theirs rarely match.
WHY AM I WRITING THIS? Over the years I've noticed this scenario repeat itself:
Artists come into this business with glitter in their eyes and dreams of working together to push forward exciting material to a project. They are surrounded by all these visually exciting material and co-workers who are skilled who created all this stuff. As the months pass by they realize that whatever they do will be reworked over and over. Fair enough = some artists have this approach to their own material. Except this time it's someone else who judges; it can even be 10 different people, as you climb up a chain of hierarchy, fixing your material on every step you make on your way to the one who ultimately has the final decision. Things that would take you a day to make may take weeks. There's also the opposite where things you would want to do in 3 days have to be done in half a day. etc etc It really depends of the size and pipeline structure of the studio you're working in, but in the end things will rarely go at a convenient pace for your creative juices to flow properly. But hell, many artists are hellishly slow (lazy, procrastination, lack of vision) so it's not always the employer who's to blame.
After a few years those artists realize that finally, they don't really have much say in a project. THEIR CREATIVE CREDIBILITY ISN'T ACKNOWLEDGED. Sometimes you get these tiny little nuggets of creative freedom where they actually use one of your ideas. You're happy and finally feel as if you got some recognition, but it is a nugget, swallowed in a sea of other little nuggets. Sometimes you stick around, connect with the right people, and get to call shots over the years. You probably don't actually make art at this point and have some sort of managerial role instead. You become "part" of the employer and use artists to do some of your bidding, always with people on top calling the final shots. Otherwise some jump to another studio to repeat the same pattern in search of some corporate Eden, others stick around in their jaded routine while perhaps putting their REAL creativity into personal projects in their free time, and some start out their own company so that they may finally be able to call the creative shots they always yearned for.
Working on big titles for movies and games may provide you with some PRESTIGE that looks good on resumes but there is a catch = the creative noose tends to be tighter. A franchise for example has a visual language and conventions that prevents you from going out of prescribed bounds. It makes sense. Creative changes on a franchise will understandably be made by the higher ups= they can't risk alienating fans because of some artist with wild ideas with no understanding of a "whole".
Some companies manage to have a culture where most artists get their fair share of creative credibility and recognition. Their input actually makes a difference on a project. Those companies tend to be smaller, or the work philosophy is one that is different than the typical assembly line approach you see in offices or manufacturing plants. Good luck finding them or getting a seat in them : )
Am I bitter? Yes and no. I'm a storyboard artist. I sometimes get to input creative ideas into a project, but I'm the guy that starts where everything's blurry in everyone's minds. I set a few of those first stepping stones people can set foot on and in the end it becomes a sidewalk many people contributed to build and looks nothing like what I envisioned. When I get to call how a cutscene will be filmed, I feel like a fish in water and love my job like I'm at the right place. Usually though what I do gets so reworked that they might as well have hired a regular artist to illustrate the boards instead of getting someone who understands visual story flows to do it. But I come in with that insight I wrote above = I help my employers visualize what they couldn't before. It's a foundation, a sandbox if you will, that will allow them to play around with their vision.
It IS harder to put your heart into your work in this manner = you don't raise a farm animal to be your pet with love in the same way that you raise one to be slaughtered over and over soon. But that insight removes the bitterness. It is what it is. I can decide to leave if I feel the pay doesn't properly cover the cost to my creative freedom. In the end I'm not surprised that the entertainment industry tends to be populated with young hopefuls = apart from smaller wages, we all start with this ambitious delusion and slowly realize it isn't quite what we thought it was. Still, if you have skills that matches this industry, you're probably better off working there than in one where you don't quite cut it. But in the end those corporate structures transforms dreamers into chained conformists as they rise the ladder and end up imposing the same approach down the path they came from. And it works. They just haven't found a better answer. At some point I want to use artists as my own brush set too ! (suuure. I'll give you "some" creative freedom)