$80,000 knowledge

May 13, 2014

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As I get closer to graduating from art school, I’m thinking more and more about the way I felt and thought about art education before I entered college. I think of all the things I’ve learned and how much of them came from teachers and how much of them came from my own initiative and experimentation. 

First, allow me to start with a bit of back story. After being certain that I wanted to be a professional artist my entire life, during my senior year I suddenly became afraid of becoming a “starving artist” and decided to study English instead. However, within my first semester as an English major I became terribly depressed and realized my need to create wasn’t something I could turn off and on. I made the difficult decision to leave the university I was attending for a small private art college in town. 

I paid my way through with loans, grants, and scholarships—mostly loans. I’m left with a debt of about $50,000. I’ll have six months after I graduate to start making payments. To avoid feeling the enormity of it all, I tell myself tons of other people have gone through this and tons more will after me. It’s not a bid deal.

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The thing is, though, I’m not sure that the things I’ve learned from college are worth $80,000.

After almost five years of attending art school, I’ve realized that almost all of my learning has been self-taught. The most important thing I learned is that you learn by doing and making mistakes. Teachers can explain things over and over but you don’t truly understand what they mean until you experience it. Only when you’re actually spreading paint on a canvas do you realize what it means to “bring out the form” or “push things back”. Only by doing do you ever have that a-ha! moment. 

What I’m saying is, did I really need to be paying someone thousands of dollars to learn things on my own? Aren’t there enough resources online that could have told me the same basic things I was told by my teachers? If there aren’t, why shouldn’t there be?

I didn’t go to CalArts or Ringling or some big-name art school. I don’t know what a big-name school education is like. Maybe going to one of these schools has greater value because of the exposure you get or the fact that you can add that big name to your resume. I can’t say. I’m talking only from what I’ve experienced from going to my small no-name art school.  

There are a few things I did learn from art school, though. These are simple things that can make a huge difference in your work. The basics, really. 

I don’t think anyone should have to pay $80,000 to find out what these things are.

So, I want to share my $80,000 knowledge with you for free. 

I also want to share some things that I’ve learned from trial and error. I’m not a professional yet, but I do know some things that I wish I’d known back when I was seventeen and ready to take art seriously.

I’m calling these Simple Art Tips and I’ll be posting a new one every week. I hope these will be helpful to you. Whether they are new to you or not, it’s always good to reinforce the basics. 

If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or anything you want to share with me, feel free to leave me a message :)