Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is Art School Worth it?

In case you haven't seen my post over on Muddy Colors. I think this is an important issue to consider. There are also some great comments to read. Would love to hear your thoughts.

First off, I'm not downing formal education. I'm just asking if it's worth getting into $120 thousand dollars worth of debt not to mention the interest for four to six years of college. Especially in our current economic state.

So what does school offer us? Hopefully, teachers and peers who can assist in pushing us to be better than we are(ultimately we have to be our hardest critic). There's also access to facilities and opportunities to produce and experiment in. But these are really just opportunities the student can take advantage of not. You can't force someone to get better. It's a choice to pursue, a decision to push ourselves, to be on time with assignments, to stay after class to finish the still life or do extra reading etc. There's an intrinsic incentive for us to master the craft of our choice. We all know of self trained painters, illustrators, and musicians who are amazing at what they do.

Today we have more access to information than ever before. Let's list some:

- illustration tutorials on dvd that deal with technique process, business aspects etc
- illustration workshops like "Illustration Masters Class" where you may pay a fee for a professional ass kicking and intensely constructive experience.
- art books, the library is free
- video demos online( learned a lot about Photoshop from CMYKilla)
- all types of online art forums where one can get critical feedback from the art community of the world(take everything with a grain of salt}
- art blogs, personal and collective... I'd list some but I'm blanking out right now.
- attending conventions, lectures, and demos to observe, ask questions, and get feed back from professionals
- taking advantage of museums and galleries to view original works
- online classes such as "Schoolism"
- private internships
- You can also find the contact information of your favorite artist and ask some specific questions. I try to answer as many as I can fit into my schedule as well as email others for advice.

Thankfully, there are scholarships to help kids with paying for school. I could be wrong but I would assume the kids who get the scholarships are the same kids who are drawing and producing art even when they don't have to because they want to get better.

Even if you were interested in a Masters Program you could look up the list of professors that you would be learning from and read up on literature written by said professors.

My point is there is an abundance of information out there. You have the same options you have in art school. You can take it or leave it. The choice is yours. We all know people in school who didn't take the time to do the work. School is only as good as you make it. Going to the best art school doesn't make the best artist.

Is staying at home or even with some of your art buddies and learning/practicing via these alternative methods(the same methods artists use even after graduating college)as good as going to an art school? Maybe not. Maybe so and it's just a different learning experience minus the debt. Again, it depends on how much the individual is putting into mastering their craft. The art school environment is great and if art school wasn't so expensive I wouldn't be writing this blog post. Can you get educated for a lot less than it cost to attend art school? What are your personal school experiences/regrets? Would you do it differently if you could?


Stuart Ruel said...

I debate this a lot since I hated art school because I went to a bad one. BUT I wouldn't count out art school, however bad it is, it depends where you go as to how much you gain from your teachers, nevertheless you gain a lot of personal growth from your time there. I think you do have something to gain going to a good school and that is that it can have an impact on how motivated you are to further yourself. I was completely demotivated and I wish I went to a better school where I could have got some guidance and taught something by real teachers. If I was smart I would have worked hard of my own back to learn and work out the theory and practice it from the get go, but such is life.

Batterie said...

Oh my goodness, this is so relevant to me right now. I'm going to graduate high school soon, and the idea of art school...well, it's been flip-flopping in my head for quite some time. My parents are very willing to pay for me being there, but I couldn't stand myself putting them through such an expense, especially if it won't pay off. I also fear I'll be way behind everyone, meaning the last picked for any jobs to work off the insane debt I created. I'm also wondering if what will be assigned or talked about will even be useful, as I've heard that the place my parents are pushing so much is a bit...odd, supposedly. I really am low on the connection side, though. I'm sure going to a school with hundreds of other artists would fix that up if I play my cards right.

So, do you mind if I ask your opinion on said school: KCAI?

EricFortune said...

Hi Battarie,

I am not familiar with that school or the program. Also, I did not get my MFA. Just my opinion here, school will always be there for you. Esp if you have help paying for it. I personally think if I went to get my mfa today I would be better prepared and would know how to apply it to my life in more relevant ways. Does it hurt to wait? Perhaps hold off on the debt and try to get some real life experience? Or even try some of the specialized illustration classes ie The Illustration Masters Class? You'll have to do your own research and make your own decision in the end. But the better informed you are the better your decision.

Unknown said...

"You have the same options you have in art school"?!
I dont's think so. You have to be aware that school pushes you to the limit. Makes you think/learn about yourself through others... and ultimately gives you the knowledge and awareness of what's happening in post-contemporary art. Which is culture in it's theoretical field. I really believe that's crucial. Schooling makes artists.

Randall Nichols said...

I think a lot of this has to do with how good you are about reaching into things outside of your comfort zone. I went to art school [though to be a writer], and I think the most valuable stuff I got was from places I would have never sought out myself, or even known where to look for. School pushes you in a way that a lot of people aren't comfortable doing, and if you're relatively isolated [I grew up in rural West Virginia, and suddenly found myself surrounded by people with like-minded ideas who didn't think art or poetry or screenwriting was a waste of time when I should be getting a computer science degree], it can set you up in an environment that's going to help your work grow, and introduce you to ideas that you probably would have never come across, even if you spent every day on the internet, or on Amazon buying every book on the subject.

Still, you make a very good point. I've only been out about two years, and can't help but think how much more I could have gotten out of school now than I did then... but the cool thing is that the option is there to go back, or to go later.

But I think this is still a fairly good discussion to be having right now. The economy is in the shitter, and there will always be those who feel more comfortable being practical than chasing their dreams, and there will always be writers and artists who have no interest in being exposed to things outside of their wheelhouse [a misstep in my opinion, but not necessarily wrong], and pity knows there's a lot of people younger than me, who didn't go to my school or any, who are wildly more successful in my field.

Quite like the article. Love the blog.

As a side bar, I will say, financially speaking, a little pragmatism doesn't hurt. The debt can get serious, and if you're not the type able to dig up the grants, scholarships, and other monies, there are a lot of people who are not con-artists, who are willing to find you said money themselves. I came out of a four-year bachelors program at a relatively expensive liberal arts college with less than half of what most of my peers owed. Don't have to pragmatic about your education, if you're willing to be pragmatic about the financing.

Shayla said...

I actually wanted to go to art school more than anything, I just do not have the money or vehicle to do so. People I know that weren't very good artists in school were able to go to the Art Institute here in Indiana and I just don't really see their work advancing. I go online and find tutorials, buy books, and watch some how-to's on youtube. I don't really see the point in going if more than one person attends art school and is not advancing in their skills. I am teaching myself a lot more than they know...hellooooo they had no idea what was the difference between hues and tints and I always thought getting the terms down in the art world was a big thing...I guess not. I would still want to go to art school as long as they didn't have to re-teach me everything I already know how to do.

aprice said...

I'm currently in my 2nd year in art college, (MICA), and I feel like it's so been worth it. I've improved very quickly because of the help of my teachers and peers and I feel like getting connections can be really important when getting started in the art world. Plus, at MICA, (as said before), I'm constantly being pushed to the limit. Instead of getting frustrated and taking a long break, I'm forced to solve the problem right then and work it out, with maybe a short coffee break in between. Which brings you to one of the other more important things art school teaches you; DEADLINES!!!

EricFortune said...

Again, the issue isn't is formal education bad. It's really if formal education worth the tremendous debt. Esp if you're half hearted about it. If you try some of the resources listed, esp the programs with peers and teachers(professionals at the top of their field) ie Illustration Masters Class and can't handle it...well, maybe try it again or another class. If it's still too much than maybe going into debt isn't worth it. I wish everyone could attain formal education in whatever it is they are interested in. I personally had a great experience in school. But the cost then was $11-12000 not $30,000. and the internet/resources we not as robust. It can be advantageous to test the waters before diving in.

quechapadamenino -
Thanks for pointing that out. that quote is a little out of context and I should have clarified my point more. "You have the same options you have in art school. You can take it or leave it. The choice is yours. " The "options" being "take it" or "leave it" What I meant to say is you get out of education what you put into it. Taking advantage of opportunities or not. Which ever route you choose.

Aprice- good point. External deadlines are a great motivator.

Great Comments. There are also good comments on Muddy Colors for anyone interested.

Unknown said...

Very nice reads! :) And as I read them I was wondering the main purpose of going to Art School. My thought is If you want to be just a comercial artist with the skills advanced, it's ok if you don't go. And today, more than ever, you'll be fine if you have the drive.
But if you want to enter the unknown (as Randall said) push the motivations, aesthetics, and everything that art involves forward, go to school. Because you'll have to think like an experimentalist and be amongst them. You have to work more from the mind than just thinking about how to mix hues like Shayla pointed. Of course, once again, you need the drive for what you're aiming for. Want to aim to the elite?... go to school. Don't have the money to do so?... try to work your life out so that someday you can.
As you may notice i'm a defensor of the academic part of an artist's life. And I'm not even an artist. But i love Art. I'm a graphic designer and I value college education because it brings up more or less the same questions.
So what you need is to ask yourself: Do you, or do you not, want to be part of the elite?

Unknown said...

i think it is important to take a step back and take a constructivist approach. college isn't for a career, but for personal, HUMAN, betterment. a solid, challenging and exciting college education will assist a person in growing in every direction, taking their creative and artistic abilities along with it.

never discount college, even if it doesn't make sense financially or in a direct short term way.

MJC *-* said...

No, i don't think it's not worth it. In the Netherlands 4 years of education will cost you €6.800,- or $6800,-. Of course you have to pay for all the materials yourself. The goverment give us around €450,- each month and you can loan money (everybody does this), BUT if you don't get your diploma... you will have to pay everything back. You'll take the risk because you think: I will work my but off, because i want to push myself to the limit..right?
I expected some good teachers or at least ONE good teacher, like you Eric, that would be worth all the money! But instead.. i got a bunch of assholes with their brains up in their ass! Sometimes they just didn't show up, or you get the wrong assignment because they are chaotic, they don't give critique that will build you up but burn you down. Students have breakdowns because the teachers act like fucking Idols and your on the spot. One week they will say something different than last week, it's totally pointless. And beside that: They aren't good illustrators! They don't know how to paint! So it's like i'm giving singing lessons. But when i sing the windows will spontaneous crash. You get what i mean?
They don't give you practical lessons how to draw or paint, or give instructions how to use oil/acrylics, or how to prepare a canvas, or how to handle clients, or how you build your portfolio.
They teach you how to think, well i can do that pretty well on my own.

Although i worked my ass off and pushed myself to the limit, they didn't appreciate my art and i had to leave school. Goodbye investment, welcome loan!

So if i would knew this a couple of years ago it would safe me a lot of money because i went to different artschools. I could work a whole year on art and watching videos and visiting workshops, buying a whole artbook collection! And i think that the quality will be better, so it's a better investment. Sorry for being so negative, but my experience leaves me no other option.

soutchay said...

Great post and comments here and also on the Muddy Colors blog Eric! I attended CCAD back around 96/97 for 1.5 yrs but left to pursue music. College taught me what I was unknowingly searching for so looking back it was worth it to ME. Luckily, scholarship money helped as did family and friends. There's an abundance of informative material easily accessed today that can be beneficial. Take advantage of it. Ultimately, your life experiences will guide you in choosing whether to attend school or not. Do some soul searching, find a vision and work hard towards it. I paid off my accruing debt and got into my current position through my surrounding experiences and by working hard towards my goals and I'm STILL working hard, always learning, striving to be better at what I do. Good luck everyone! Happy New Year and I wish you all the best in whatever path you choose. Thanks for the post!

Quidfish said...

I just had to comment to this blog as well. This is pretty much something I have been thinking about the last couple of years.

I took a big leap and went to a new college that promised a lot of things, I moved country to attend. The first year was great, I learnt a lot, my art progressed in leaps and bounds, I worked my ass off.
The second year came in and I felt very emotionally and creatively drained. I didn't feel like I was getting the stuff I wanted out of the school, not to mention there was some faculty drama throughout both years that didn't help ease my nerves.

I dropped out and this whole time I've been kicking myself if this was the right thing to do. I would like to add I was not a slacker, I had high grades through the majority of my classes. I just didn't think I could handle the pressure as intensely as the other students could and I wasn't finding art fun anymore.

Despite my concerns about leaving college, I know this was the right decision for me. I learnt a lot in the time I was there, and with that knowledge I feel I have enough to improve and progress in the right direction by myself, at my pace.

I think that so long as you are very driven, you are willing to seek help from reliable sources and will take on board criticisms in order to improve you could probably make it without art schools. However that doesn't mean you should opt out on classes all together. I think the information that your teacher says off handed can be just as important as the actual class content. It all depends on the teachers and your willingness to learn and improve, and even more importantly... ASK QUESTIONS!!.

Sometimes you need a push or kick in the arse in the right direction, to learn discipline. Like I did. I don't think I could be doing the things I do now with such confidence if I didn't at least spend the first year at this college.

I think it really all depends on the person, their dedication, and who they involve themselves with. For example I would recommend everyone at least to Lurk in the conceptart.org forums as there is so much information that everyone can use there. As well as keeping an eye out for such useful and informative blogs like this one ;3

I read a great quote the other day for artists just starting out.

''Build up your self esteem to the level that might seem unwarranted. This will help you ignore both positive and negative responses to your paintings. Both are usually misguided, since they come from the outside. Be your most severe and devastating critic, while never doubting that you are the best thing since sliced bread. ~Alex Kanevsky ''

Edel Tripp said...

the fact that i live in my parents basement is MY fault.... HOWEVER, if I had 75 grand in my pocket instead of having gone to art college I'd be MUCH better off.

I learned more from art magazines, online tutorials/communities and the FRIENDS i met AT SCHOOL than I ever learned from any professors.