5 Things About Going to Art School
Updated: Feb 26
1. Find your people hold on to them nurture them
Finding your friends or making deeper connections with other creative minds turned out to be really important and I wasn't actually wasting my time goofing off having a laugh with my pals. These relationships turned into life long friendships and they became at times a real support system for navigating the creative path. Spend the time to care deeply–grow with them and help each other. I can't tell you the countless times my friends have been there for me during serious times of need. You might even end up working together or owning a company in the future. Now that is not the reason you hold on to people but the importance of a good inner circle friend net is key I believe. Art school let me find and connect with like minds and we grew together...at times flew apart but in the end found each other again and we provide support for one another when we need it. Of course you find people in all aspects of life but the amazing thing in art school is we were all creative minded people who wanted to live a life for art in some degree and we were all beginning this journey. While yes you come across people your entire life being in a space filled with all kinds of creatives was just a really cool experience unlike work other life experiences. We were all learning and growing together and not competing just expanding our minds.
2. It's ok to change majors and focus
Many of us jump right in to college and art school right after we finish high school. We are so young and knowing now how things went for myself I would say to you if you want to take some time to just live, work, travel and take in life before jumping into academia well by all means do it! I found taking time off from college helped me clear my mind and find the direction I really wanted to go toward. I started off wanting to be a fine arts major mostly romanticizing the notion of living an artist life and even if I do follow that art life path I found being so young in a department that didn't share my visions of what art was just wasn't a fit. Sometimes the ideas we start out with change and we realize the places we thought we needed to be just weren't good for us. The fine art department while I had a few wonderful teachers—it just wasn't a good fit for my growth. I mostly felt isolated and out of place I was told that my work was too representational for the fine arts dept. I felt that was very limiting and was shocked that fine arts wasn't as free spirited as I hoped it would be. The strange thing it turned out that the illustration department at the time I was in school was far more welcoming to exploration and really blurred the line of illustration and fine art. I preferred this approach and eventually went back to school finishing off in the illustration department.
3. You don't have to go right after you graduate high school....
This really fits with the above statement. Taking time in between to just live life explore and grow a bit before jumping into art school can help you make a more informed decision about what you want out your experience. Don't feel bad about it or let people try to convince you otherwise. If you feel you need that space between take the space allow yourself to live and it can really help you figure out your life direction.
4. Take Graphic Design or Art Business classes
This is something I wish I had more of during my time in art school I was fortunate to actually take an art business class which proved to be one of the most useful things in my adult life navigating art jobs this class prepared me to deal with contracts as well as artists rights and just provided many resources such as the Graphic Artist Guild Handbook all freelance artists should own a copy! Had I known that graphic design would really be a source of bread and butter I would have actually taken a few more design classes. Instead I learned as I went along in all my real world job experiences which is fine but if I had a little more solid foundation it wouldn't have been as hard starting out as it was. I went to art school so long ago that I imagine they must have way more practical life classes to help artists navigate the real world whether that be through not just book / editorial illustration but character design, product design, package design, lettering, communication design, branding and on and on... There are so many creative paths to follow now a days it's pretty exciting to have so many choices! You can still follow a fine arts path or gallery artist life and pay your bills with a job rooted in design. Just saying this is a hybrid option it's real I live it and know it exists. Just putting it out there for anyone reading this just starting out on this path.
5. Take some classes where you learn a real world trade or application
In addition to the above I think whatever you are interested in seek out if there are specific deep dive classes to really learn a process. As an example I took print making and this was only for about 2 years over 2 semesters worth of studies I learned about screen printing, etching, mono-prints and lithography. It was helpful in giving me a solid foundation of the range of printing methods and techniques and processes. I do wish I had taken more sculpture related classes during my time at art school I only touched about some things like welding, mold making and wood work. I certainly wish I had a more in-depth learning experience with those. I had a pretty scattered education starting out in a foundation program leading into fine arts then dropping out for a year or two then returning with clear path in mind leading me to the illustration department. It was really in the illustration department when I got to build some strong foundations even if they were for a short time they proved to be useful.
Looking back the classes that taught a process or how something was done proved to be useful in laying a more solid foundation for future explorations or even helped in securing a job. Looking back now I would have definitely nurtured some of those processes a bit more to have an even deeper level of understanding and knowledge under my belt. Aside from drawing painting and concept illustration classes I took book making classes, professional practices business classes and some computer classes which as it turned out proved to really help get me into a more design driven world and that pretty much pays my bills and allows for me to have a greater stability and clearer mind not having to worry about money as much which helps in my creative thinking having it freed up. In closing on this subject of taking specific focused classes I have to say my love of some of the amazing liberal arts courses I took as well such as an art history class about death which explored death and dying throughout art history and cultures. It was one of my favorite classes I know so goth!
Whatever path you choose allow yourself time and the space to explore giving yourself room to make informed decisions for your future.