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Should I go to art school?

I'm a senior trying to decide on a path in life, and art is something i'm interested in. I have heard very mixed feelings about how art is great and a totally viable path, but i've also heard that it's a crowded industry that's much too saturated. Which one is right? Help! #art #art #artist #art-education #college

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Andy’s Answer

Hi Morgan,

Glad to hear that you're thinking practically about school and the arts. I think that the other answers are very valid and on point. I thought I would take this opportunity to give a first hand account. One caveat is that I went to art school over 15 years ago and the landscape of education and the arts industry was much different back then.

I do feel that art school is important in several different ways. It gives you a community of other artists, peers and instructors, who can give you a very creative environment and help you flourish. Good classes will help you to become a better artist by building your foundational skills as well as learning to work on a deadline and within certain constraints. Critiques by peers and instructors will also help you to get used to taking feedback and criticism as well as looking at other art with a critical eye. And finally, good art schools will have placement departments that can help you to get internships and jobs after graduation. Just be aware that some institutions work on a for-profit basis and while you can still get a good quality education there, they are generally more expensive and not necessarily better at turning out successful artists after graduation. Do your research.

That being said, there are also quite a lot of online learning resources available these days. Online resources can vary widely with everything from websites to post your art and get feedback (think artstation and deviantart) to tutorial videos on YouTube. And with so much work being done remotely these days it wouldn't be bad to work in this kind of environment. You may miss out on the opportunity to meet people in person and to get face-to-face instruction and interaction with other artists. And the college experience may not reflect real life but it can be a great experience on its own. It can also give you exposure to other disciplines that you may not have considered before.

At institutions that aren't explicitly art focused you might have the opportunity to broaden your education beyond the arts. Being in a community of like-minded people can be great but it's also worthwhile to meet and interact with others outside of your bubble.

To address the other part of your question, yes, it is very crowded in the art industry. Fortunately arts are valuable across many different industries: advertising, video games, tv and movies, industrial design, corporate branding, etc. Also, as I said before, working remotely is growing a great deal and so not only will you have to compete with other local artists, you'll also be competing with artists from around the world. So it's important to be honest about your skills and to work hard to make sure that you continue to make good and interesting art.

It is definitely a viable path to pursue. Just know that it's not a simple or easy path. You might have to work as a freelancer or work at an outsourcing agency before getting a more stable career. It can be hard at times but it can also be a very rewarding career.

I highly encourage you to pursue your dream job and follow your passion.

Andy recommends the following next steps:

Research art schools, especially their placement programs and success rate of graduates
Continue to practice your skills
Look at free, online resources to help you learn and get better as an artist
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Ellen’s Answer

Hi Morgan
You've already gotten some good answers. I entered art school after college, and though I did not graduate, it eventually led me to art education, which I loved. Before becoming an art teacher, I tried my hand at graphic design, and my heart was really not in it: I saw it as just a job to help support me while I worked on my painting, so I was pretty unsuccessful and pretty unhappy. My competition was people who really wanted a career in graphic design. My sister in law, on the other hand, just retired from a career of being a graphic design for a large pubic utility company, and she loved her job and made good money. So what I learned is that you need to have a true passion for whatever area of the art world you choose to go into, and to be ready to put your all into it. Your first order of business is try to identify specifically what type of art you like to make, what you are good at, and where you would be happy. Do you like to draw? Are you a photographer? Do you enjoy computer graphics? Interested in interior design? Would you like to work on your own, or with lots of other people? I loved traditional studio art, and being an art teacher was a great way to share my experience and skills in drawing, painting and printmaking with kids.

Once you hone in on what sort of art you really like to do, and the sort of art you are good at, (do not skip this step!) then you could research art careers and schools where you could obtain the type of degree or training that would make you successful in that field. Talk to or email your art teacher or your guidance counselor for some ideas. Ask around family and friends to see if they know anyone working in the area of the art world you are interested in. Do some research on the internet. You are correct in thinking that art jobs are competitive, they are, but they can be wonderful if you work hard, have a good portfolio, have the right skills for the job, are flexible, and are ready to learn.
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David’s Answer

Hi Morgan,
Good question. In today's society, things have changed a lot (particularly in animation), yet a lot of things have stayed the same. Some things that haven't changed are the need for talent, drive, and ambition. In the animation industry, talent is always a pre-requisite and then it comes down to who-you-know. Connections are key for this industry as with most other industries. For me personally, I made a lot of connections in Art School and it served me well when it came time to seek out employment. If you have the talent and can make the necessary connections without going to Art School then more power to you. If you are interested in a certain school, then before you make a final decision, be sure the school is recommended by the graduates who went there. Still not sure? Then talk to some financial advisors and also track down some of the educators who teach there. You will feel good about doing due diligence and your comfort level will go up exponentially.

I hope this helps and good luck!
David
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David’s Answer

Hi Morgan,
Good question. In today's society, things have changed a lot (particularly in animation), yet a lot of things have stayed the same. Some things that haven't changed are the need for talent, drive, and ambition. In the animation industry, talent is always a pre-requisite and then it comes down to who-you-know. Connections are key for this industry as with most other industries. For me personally, I made a lot of connections in Art School and it served me well when it came time to seek out employment. If you have the talent and can make the necessary connections without going to Art School then more power to you. If you are interested in a certain school, then before you make a final decision, be sure the school is recommended by the graduates who went there. Still not sure? Then talk to some financial advisors and also track down some of the educators who teach there. You will feel good about doing due diligence and your comfort level will go up exponentially.

I hope this helps and good luck!
David
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David’s Answer

Hi Morgan,
Good question. In today's society, things have changed a lot (particularly in animation), yet a lot of things have stayed the same. Some things that haven't changed are the need for talent, drive, and ambition. In the animation industry, talent is always a pre-requisite and then it comes down to who-you-know. Connections are key for this industry as with most other industries. For me personally, I made a lot of connections in Art School and it served me well when it came time to seek out employment. If you have the talent and can make the necessary connections without going to Art School then more power to you. If you are interested in a certain school, then before you make a final decision, be sure the school is recommended by the graduates who went there. Still not sure? Then talk to some financial advisors and also track down some of the educators who teach there. You will feel good about doing due diligence and your comfort level will go up exponentially.

I hope this helps and good luck!
David
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Gloria’s Answer

HI Morgan.

My nephew is an artist who looked into practical routes to a job. With this in mind, he went to an Art Institute mostly because the school had a record of providing job placement support after the program was over. I think that the challenge you will have with being an artist is how you apply that talent. There are a lot of career roles that can use your artistic talent from animation to graphic design to marketing. Avoid limiting yourself to being an artist in a more traditional sense of painting on canvas or murals. Find a way to get into a digital medium and I think that you will have a long future using your talent. Being creative and having creative confidence are competitive advantages in the work place today. I know a lot of people who do not have either. That makes it hard for them to see change and provide innovative new ideas to traditional office challenges.

I wish you good luck finding your vocation.

Gloria
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David’s Answer

Hi Morgan,
Good question. In today's society, things have changed a lot (particularly in animation), yet a lot of things have stayed the same. Some things that haven't changed are the need for talent, drive, and ambition. In the animation industry, talent is always a pre-requisite and then it comes down to who-you-know. Connections are key for this industry as with most other industries. For me personally, I made a lot of connections in Art School and it served me well when it came time to seek out employment. If you have the talent and can make the necessary connections without going to Art School then more power to you. If you are interested in a certain school, then before you make a final decision, be sure the school is recommended by the graduates who went there. Still not sure? Then talk to some financial advisors and also track down some of the educators who teach there. You will feel good about doing due diligence and your comfort level will go up exponentially.

I hope this helps and good luck!
David
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Esther’s Answer

I just heard this podcast from The Indicator on NPR, and this seemed like a good rule of thumb when thinking about college:

https://www.npr.org/transcripts/928322838

SYDNEY: I think it's kind of stupid that we have to go to college and spend thousands of dollars just to get a good enough job to pay off the college. Like, why is that the cycle?

....

GARCIA: That is Jill Schlesinger, business analyst for CBS News and the author of "The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money."

SCHLESINGER: A college degree is worth it. There is no doubt. A college degree pays dividends in the future in terms of your earnings, and it's great. However, it doesn't mean that you should go into debt so that it's taking you decades to pay off that college degree. Students should borrow total for four years of college - the total amount should not exceed what you think you can earn in your first job out of school.

So if you are going into some super-duper engineering program and you're going to be a coder and life's going to be great and you'll probably make 75 or 80 grand the first year you come out, fine, borrow that much money. But if you're an art history major and your first job out of school - if you're lucky to get one - is a minimum wage job as you are, you know, basically, a free docent somewhere, you cannot borrow a lot of money.
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