Does “Art School” Make You MORE of an Artist?
Someone asked me the other day, “why didn’t you go to art school?” I laughed, because I can’t tell you how many times this subject is brought up to me. Almost daily I’m asked, “did you go to art school?” or “How long have you been studying?” They don’t believe me when I tell them that I have never taken an art class in my life. I don’t know what’s so terrible about that, but for whatever reason, there’s this stigma that unless you went to art school – as in, “paid a bunch of money to learn all these proper techniques and the history of art that you’ll never use a day in your life,” – you aren’t a “real artist.”
I call bullshit.
Being an artist has nothing to do with your level of formal education! Honestly, I think that if you like to create things, it brings you joy, and you showcase it somehow – YOU ARE AN ARTIST. If you create art, that makes you an artist. Children are artists – they make art. How many of them went to a fancy art school? Zero.
Now I’m not saying that going to art school is “bad,” necessarily – it’s just fairly unnecessary for those who don’t need it. Could I have used my talents, gone to art school, majored in something like painting or art history and then ended up in this same position I’m in now…just with an art degree? Sure. I chose to major in music business. And guess what – I’m not using that degree either. So hey, yeah college! Would it have been neat to go to school, learn the history, study the greats, learn to properly paint and draw and lord knows what else? Yeah, of course! But I chose to learn it on my own. See, I had some natural talent, and instead of spending money on an education to better it, I just got to WORK and decided to develop it hands-on. Taking a drawing class where the prerequisite was “drawing 101” or something would have been a complete waste of my time and money.
“I already know how to draw, can’t I just take this advanced class and skip the how-to lesson? No? I have to take this class on how to draw a circle first? Nah, I’ll pass.”
The truth is, I didn’t need art school. In fact, I never even considered going (I mean like, researched schools or anything…) because I never considered making art a career! It was a hobby that I happened to be pretty good at, and not until recently did it become a “career option.” And no, I have no intention of going back. See, to me, art school doesn’t make you “an artist” any more than culinary school makes you “a chef” if you never DO ANYTHING with what you learn. I could graduate from the most prestigious culinary academy in the world – learn the best techniques, work with world class chefs in my classes, read all the books and be the top student – but if I never bother to get a job at a high class restaurant, what was the point? If I graduate from that school and end up working a 9-5 job at an insurance firm, I’m not a “chef,” I’m an insurance broker with a passion for cooking who just happens to know more than most. You see? The schooling isn’t what makes the career! The development of skill, the practice, the work, the grind and the desire to make something out of what you know – THAT is what makes you what you become! Art school isn’t a requirement for creativity! Art school isn’t a requirement for being able to create something that makes people say “I want that!” If you want to be a graphic designer at a firm that requires a degree and that “art school education,” go to school. If you want to be an art history teacher, go to school. If you want to get a job restoring seventeenth century oil paintings or the ceiling of ancient chapels in Spain…by all means, go to art school to learn the proper techniques necessary. Art school can be very helpful if you have that specific, burning desire to do a very specific thing. But if your dream is to just “create art,” just pick up a pencil, a pen, some markers, some paints…whatever your chosen medium…and CREATE ART!
Art is meant to make people feel! People who buy artwork – my work included – are buying it because they like it, and it makes them FEEL SOMETHING. Whether that feeling is deeply emotional, or just happy to have a picture of Patrick Sharp on their wall, they bought the art because they liked the art. Let me let you in on a secret: I have never had a single art customer decide NOT to purchase a piece after hearing I didn’t attend art school. Never. In fact, if anything, it has been the opposite. I tell them I have never taken an art class in my life outside of elementary school, and they’re IMPRESSED, and they’re more likely to come back for more. I don’t know about you, but that’s way more exciting than trying to WOW someone with “how much history I know.”
So look, if you want to go to art school, GO FOR IT! Get an awesome education. Learn from the best. Find a really incredible job and go after it with the tenacity of a tiger on the hunt for dinner. Seriously. Go for it! If you have a very specific dream job that requires an art degree of some sort, you go GET IT. Art school can be exactly what you need! But if your ultimate goal is to “be an artist” and paint, draw, doodle, cut out shapes from colored paper or whatever it is you call your craft – please remember that it is not a REQUIREMENT for you to spend your money on education! “An Artist” is, by definition, someone who creates art. That’s it. No more, no less. If you create art, you are an artist. And the more you believe that about yourself, the more you actually participate in the process of creating art, and the less time you spend worrying about “whether or not you have the proper education,” the better your skills will become, and the more successful you will be. Spend TIME, not money. Invest your time in your craft. And you know what, save the money you would have spent on tuition – buy quality supplies.
So to those who ask me, “why didn’t you go to art school?” Here’s my answer: