I want to be a professional artist; Do I need art school?
One of the most pressing question for artists; “Do I need art school?” I think this is such and important, but also a personal question. I can not give everyone a yes or no answer. The undeniable truth is that art school can be a great asset for you. However, there are also
The undeniable truth is that art school can be a great asset for you. However, there are also workarounds and things to consider before you decide if you really do need it.
That is why this post is about getting a lot of the information, and different peoples opinion, so you can make the decision yourself.
So should you go to art school?
Art school basics
Art schools can be great for many things. For one they offer a structured lesson plan. You don’t have to figure out what you need to learn to get where you want.
You get loads of experience by being there as well. It can help you building drawing habits and a work ethic. You get college experience which translates to life experience.
While being there you also build a network of professors and other students who all work in the same field. They might help you find your next client or job when you need it. They are also a great source for support and critic when you finish your school.
What do others say?
There are many people who love art school and stand by it and there are people who don’t agree with it at all.
It is a very personal choice that only you can make for yourself. But listening to others opinions and journeys can help you decide on what you want.
There are many professional artists that never went to art school.
“It is a matter of preference.”
Other people like Ross Draws, might have been to art school, but they too acknowledge the costs.
“But if you can, why not?”
A very interesting perspective to look into is that of Will Terry who teaches both at an art school and online. I think this is a well-rounded view on the subject.
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- Gives you structure
- Builds habits that you can use later in life
- It gives you life experience
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- They are expensive
- They offer no guaranty
- The quality varies from school to school and from teacher to teacher
This article by Giuseppe Castellano does an amazing job of outlining the reasons you should go to art school.
My thoughts and tips
Art school definitely isn’t for everyone. I think it is a very personal choice. However, there are some things to keep in mind if you do think you want to go to art school.
Every art school has different styles of programs and teaching. Finding the one that fits you, will immensely help you get out of the experience what you want.
Going to art school?
If the full college tuition is too expensive for you but you can spare a little money, you might also invest in separate courses. Find the skills you need to work on and find a course that can help you out. You can find classes in your neighbourhood and online for specific topics. Think painting, anatomy, colours etc.
A platform like for example Skillshare (* This is an affiliate link, meaning I get a small commission when you sign up using this link. And you get a free premium month! ) offers classes on so many different topics that the one skill you might want to learn is probably there.
If you have no money at all or just a limited amount of time you can find loads of stuff online as well. With the internet you have most kind of topics and classes covered. The only problem is structure and finding the right resources.
The most important thing is that you find a way of learning that works for you. Finding your own way in a manner that gives you the knowledge and skills you want is important. This means the right courses, the right art schools and the right information.
Always check out as many sources as possible if you can. The more sources the more rounded your education.
Having goals can also help you decide which is the best for you.
Which resources are there for self-teaching
When you decide you go with self-teaching there are many places where you can find the info you need.
Free places include Youtube, blogs, sites, tutorials. On Pinterest for example, I have a board full or tutorials.
Find resources you like and keep links and more to look them up again.
Art is one of the few fields where getting a degree is not a must. While it will certainly help in some field or categories of art. But most jobs lay more emphasis on your portfolio.
The body of work you can show is the most important thing for your clients.
Of course, art school does help you build a portfolio. Plus they can help you with how to present it and how to make the best portfolio possible. But, again, for this as well there are resources online.
However, when you work in a more technical side, like design, a degree is more of an issue.
The three main questions
If you are still doubting the question if you should go to art school or not, you can try asking yourself the next few questions.
1. Where are you in your art journey and what is your goal?
Does it fit your skills level and goals to go an art school? Are you at a place in your life where you can afford to spend the time?
2. Do you have the means?
Again it can be very expensive. It is a decision that you should only take if you can afford it to yourself.
3. How self-motivated are you?
Deadlines and grades are great motivation. They can help you build the skills that you might otherwise not build. But if you are very self-motivated and good at building habits yourself, you might consider self-teaching instead.
Deciding on art school is a soul searching experience. There is no right or wrong answer. As long as you know that there is always a way to become the artist that you want to be.
And whatever path you choose it will always be hard work and it will cost time. There is almost never an easy route.
I would love to read your opinion about art school in the comments down below.