Dear Daisie, is art school necessary to become an artist?

Dear Daisie

Dear Daisie, is art school necessary to become an artist?

Dear Daisie is a new series of articles where we select the questions you want to know the answer to and examine the best advice out there. This week we will be focusing on the importance (or unimportance) of art school in becoming a successful artist. If you’re finding yourself at a crossroads when it comes to heading into further education or jumping into the career-world head on, read on for advice and experience from our community, our established creative-friends, and what the internet has to say about it.

The question

@ClaritsaZambrano Is art school worth it?

You’ve decided you want to be an artist, or pursue another creative career - now what? How do you go about it? Do you apply to art school, or do you go down your own path?

Whether art school is necessary, or even helpful, in getting a career in the arts is a topic that has been debated upon for decades (as we will see a bit later on). With such a huge amount of conflicting information out there, and the fact that it’s getting harder and harder to get into the industry, it’s difficult to know what to do.

We will be examining all the advice out there; from our community, our friends in high places and the internet, and breaking this down to give you a better idea of what is best for you. Whilst, this question refers to art in particular, we’re going to open it up to every field.

The advice

The community:

I don’t think there’s one right way to do it. Some go to school and don’t become successful and some don’t have a degree and do.

@mariajandersen “Yes and No. In 2019 you can learn so much online through courses and tutorials. School will teach you discipline, and provide you with a social network where you can learn from other students and work on projects together. I don’t think there’s one right way to do it. Some go to school and don’t become successful and some don’t have a degree and do.”

@graceb “In my experience art school has been incredibly helpful. I left A-Levels knowing I loved and wanted to go into the creative industry, but what exactly, I didn’t know! I applied for a 1-year diploma where I could learn set design, animation, architecture, fashion, fine art, illustration and graphics, etc. If I had gone straight into work I would have never found what I love doing now. It was this year of play and experimentation that opened my eyes to a whole new set of skills, contacts and friends.

That being said, it is scary to think of debt and employment after the degree. I think it’s important to consider yourself and your strengths. If determined and driven, the online courses, self led briefs and work is the way for you. But There is no right or wrong. It’s a subjective experience for all.”

@naila “Art schools have too many boundaries. If you research enough on your own and keep practicing you would get the technical part of it anyway. The vision: you either have it or you don’t, university won’t give you one. I am currently in the last year of my studies in visual arts and I feel like I would’ve been much further in my career if I had more free time to develop it rather than go to classes that I personally find mostly useless. There needs to be a radical change in art universities to fit students more.”

All extracts have been taken from the Daisie Discussion. To read the whole discussion, or to join in yourself, click here

The established creatives:

Do not be afraid to contact people anywhere.

Alina Zamanova, artist: “I have a BA Fashion Illustration degree from University of the Arts London. It was the most life changing experience for me, as I found my style during my last year of studies. But collaboration and putting yourself out there is just as important. Focus on creating your “passion” projects, collaborating with people, and going out with your portfolio to your local brands, or with who you wish to collaborate. Also look into competitions and residency opportunities, they are a great way to expand your circle of people.”

Source: Daisie Question Time. Alina answered your industry questions. To read what else she had to say, head to her Question Time

Grace Helmer, illustrator: “When I graduated [university] I was really lucky that I was doing an internship at a publisher and they kept me on as a freelancer. I was really lucky to have that opportunity that guaranteed two days of work a week, so I could support my personal work and know that I could pay my rent and develop illustration work on the side.

I was really lucky that I met a lot of people [at university] that were into the same stuff as me. After we graduated we stuck together and formed a collective called ‘Day Job’. We did a lot of exhibitions and installations and helped each other as our individual careers have got going. If I’d just been by myself, without this community, I would have found it a lot harder to carry on.”

Source: Grace Helmer | Spotlight. Read our interview with Grace here.

Leah Abbott, stylist: “I was in my second year of studying English Language at university and hating it. I was starting to worry about what I was going to do when I left because my heart wasn’t in it. I’d always been into shopping and thrifting from a young age, finding pieces that other people didn’t have, and people would ask me about what I was wearing. I then discovered that there was such thing as a stylist, so I found an established stylist on Instagram and sent her a DM asking if I could help her out whilst I was at uni. From that, I became her assistant and learnt everything from there.”

Source: Leah Abbott | Profile. Read our interview with Leah here

The internet:

FOR

“My arts degree hasn’t made my fortune – but its value is incalculable.” Max Lieu, journalist:

“I was able to study an arts degree, without considering my subsequent earning potential, for the same reason I could commit myself to building a career as a writer: my family. My parents are not wealthy by any means, but they instilled in me the confidence to play the long game, focus on what mattered to me, and believe that things would work out eventually.

With reduced fees and shrinking newspapers, freelance writing isn’t getting easier so my earnings are unlikely to accelerate between now and then. Should the university I attended, and lecturers who taught me there, be blamed? No. The lessons I learned from them have helped me bear the hardships, and enjoy the rewards, of the path I’ve chosen. That’s one of the many ways that I use my education.”

AGAINST

“Don’t go to art school” Noah Bradley, creator and Art Camp founder.

“There has never been a better time to be an artist. I’m inspired by the sheer quantity and quality of internet resources available to artists.

But I encourage all aspiring artists to think long and hard about their options. Student loans are unforgivable through bankruptcy and can wreck your financial future. Establishing a career while under the unceasing brutality of student loans makes an already difficult task nearly impossible.

Find another path. Art is a wonderful, beautiful, fulfilling pursuit. Don’t ruin it with a mountain of debt.”

The Stats

“Fine art has the lowest number in full-time employment at 36.4%, Media studies graduates had 50.8% in full-time employment and performing arts were at 41.8%. These figures are comparable to other graduates from subjects across social sciences and humanities although in some cases, quite a bit lower than the overall average for graduates who were employed full time at 55.2%.”

Source: The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services.

“This low full-time employment rate is due to graduates of creative arts courses having portfolio careers: *“having a variety of jobs, often related to their degree on a part-time or freelance basis, as well as having employment elsewhere in order to secure a steady income.”

Source: ADCAS.

“33% of graduates of creative courses earn less in their first salary than graduates of non-creative courses.”

Source: Creative Graduates Creative Futures.

The verdict

TL;DR - Is art school worth it?

Yes and no.

Sorry, we know that’s not the short answer you’re looking for - but it’s more complicated than that. As is with all disciplines, you will have people who says the experience they got from further education was invaluable, and those that say it was a waste of time and money or have gone on to have a successful career without it.

Art school is good for building on your skills and defining your style, but it’s not the only way to become and artist, nor will it guarantee you a high flying art career. The common theme throughout the thread is that you will need more than an arts degree to get yourself a career. Networking and collaboration is essential in getting your work out there and finding clients.

So, should you go?

Yes, if you feel that learning about a topic in a class is helpful and you have the resources and support system to do so. But having a degree is not the end of it.

If you can’t afford to go, it’s not the end of the world. There are a lot of resources out there to get you the skills you need. Noah, gives some great options in his article “Don’t go to art school.” After all, creativity can’t be taught.

If you really want a career in the arts, focus on doing what you love and finding other people that share your passions. Art school has its benefits, but no one can decide for you if you think those benefits outweigh the cost.

Want to ask us a question and have it featured in our Dear Daisie series? Start a discussion here.

Title illustration by Areeba Siddique