How to survive art school

How to survive art school

If you’re brave/crazy enough to be a professional freak, art school may be for you. Artists and designers essentially rule the world. Every object in your environment was invented or redesigned by someone. However, a key to being taken seriously in art and design is being able to endure art school boot camp. Quite different from your standard college or university, art school requires a whole new set of coping mechanisms…

1. Don’t try to ‘out-weird’ everyone else. When you get down to it, everyone in art school is a stereotype. Just be you: Nothing more, and nothing less.

2. Make lots of connections! Have smoke breaks with your classmates, go out for coffee, talk about your art work, anything, just communicate. When you get into the real world, you are in fact alone. No one understands you, and you are stranded without your cosy art community. Who knows, maybe post graduation you’ll hook up with some old classmates and embark on a project together, or give each other good recommendations.

3. Experience the world outside your school. If you’re in a fairly large city like me, it’s easy to visit local galleries and even check out what the other schools are doing. This will ground you, make you aware of the world outside your niche, and keep your head from getting too big… which brings me to number four.

4. Don’t get a big head! The art world has enough pompous know-it-alls. Don’t join their club. Collaborating with other students and combining your ideas into one work is also a good way to get outside your head.

5. Keep your chin up. The first couple of years are meant to be difficult. It may feel like your instructors are discouraging you, (okay, some might be) but it’s just a part of the weed-out process. The faint of heart don’t belong in art school anyway. Listen to criticism, and try to learn from it, but don’t beat yourself up if your piece gets a bad review. Oh, and don’t viciously tear other students’ work apart either. It will come back to bite you in the ass, and you’ll lose friends.

6. Explore techniques and find your own voice. Most of your instructors know what they’re talking about and are willing to guide and facilitate your learning experience, but they can’t give you your artistic voice. That comes from within. It’s not learned.

7. Understand the difference between your personal work, and your classroom practice. Don’t get emotionally attached to class work. It will get ripped apart. Just suck it up, go home and throw some paint on your apartment wall, Jackson Pollock style.

8. Drink lots of coffee and smoke. (I’m not promoting emphysema, just sanity).

9. Keep an open eye and an open heart.

10. See beauty in dreadful things.


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