I had a great time in art school. Not only did I learn much which I don’t think I would have learned otherwise, I made many friends and met many artists. I have no regrets with getting my degree in fine art. It had a great effect on the direction of my art, and helped me develop my personal style.
But with every good thing, there seems to always be bad points. In some ways art school did not live up to my expectations. There was no real preparation for the “real world” of being an artist. It was only about creating art, and selling art was not discussed.
I think young artists should make an informed decision on whether an art education is right for them. Do you think the cost and time away from creating your own art will be worth it? Are you willing to take the good with the bad and stick it out to the end? Do you want to possibly develop and grow as an artist faster than you could by going at it alone?
If you have not read the counterpoint to this article yet, please do so before moving on:
These are some disadvantages of art school (from my personal experience) which you should know about before making your choice.
Bad art teachers
There is nothing worse than being stuck with bad teachers, especially if you are looking to get a quality art education. Every art school seems to have at least one or two who make the entire art school experience an unpleasant one. Some go into teaching having a negative outlook against upcoming artists. Because of their failure to be accepted in the art world, they sometimes push this negativity onto students.
Believe me, I’ve seen it happen. These teachers often pick their favorites, and criticize the artists who are filled with talent. I had certain art teachers who had such a negative impact on me that I stayed away from the art world for awhile after finishing art school.
You will be expected to conform.
This is very ironic actually. One would expect that artists would have more freedom in an art school environment. Quite to the contrary in my experience. One of my professors actually stated once that in the art school environment we had to play by their rules.. when we finish art school we could choose to do anything we wanted.
There were certain things that were spurned upon by art teachers. One of them was selling art – although some sold pieces while in college, they were often criticized.
Another was that we were expected to abide by certain styles. A certain professor expected paintings to be expressive and show texture. In the teacher’s words “anything else would not show our inner self”. (I think I’ve proven him wrong!)
You will have to start from the very beginning.
I’m not sure if all art schools have the same basic curriculum as the one I went to. At my art school, even experienced artists had to start out with basic design courses. There was no painting at all in first year. Everything involved techniques, experimentation, and following painting, sculpture and drawing conventions.
This is ok for the absolute beginner, but experienced artists may have to be patient and look forward to the time when they have more freedom.
Limited freedom of expression.
In my art school, there was no real freedom of expression until the fourth year. Everything was based on projects, limited materials and certain themes. In my experience, certain teachers expected us to create art according to their taste. If it was not created in a certain way, we were often criticized.
Do not teach about art promotion or the business of art.
There were some teachers who shared little bits of advice at times, but there were no specific art marketing courses offered.
Art education alone will not prepare artists for the real world. They have to learn this information themselves. A good art promotion book, such as one one at the right, is dramatically cheaper than paying for college tuition anyway!
Art School can be Expensive
Tuition, living arrangements, food and art supplies can be very costly. To cut cost, students are often asked to work with student grade materials. Many of the projects I have worked on in first year involved materials which can be found almost anywhere – things such as cardboard, wood, wire, etc. For painting, we often got together as a class and ordered painting tubes in bulk.
Student loans were not a worry of mine during art school, but afterwards I was faced with a grim reality – a $50,000 loan, which took me years to pay off. Was it worth it? For myself, it was – for some of my classmates it may not have been. Only 2 people went on to become working artists (I am one of them!). The rest went on to other careers and gave up art altogether. This is the stark reality of going to art school – you may end up deciding it’s not the life you want.
Now, I hope I didn’t frighten any young artists from pursuing their education. You see, in spite of these drawbacks, art school was still one of the best choices I ever made. I have no regrets at all, and it has been a very rewarding experience! It has been a place where I found inspiration, developed my own personal art style, made many friends and met many artists.
Young artists thinking of attending an arts college should weigh the good with the bad and make an informed decision of their own.
To learn more about the advantages of an art school education, you can visit this post:
What is your opinion of art school?
How was your experience?
Will an arts education help to become a good artist?