Is going to Art school REALLY that important?

  • I have been drawing and telling stories all throughout my life. I have been published multiple times. My biggest achievement being my first children's book assignment. Getting there definitely was not easy. Whenever I have questions I seek out the answers myself. Through research I've taught myself marketing, business, Photoshop, color harmony, and too much more to list. I have been watching @Lee-White video on making money in Illustration 1, the 'phases of career' section and keep noticing the 'after school' part of it all. My journey as an artist now is very difficult when also holding down a 58hr/week head chef position. But if I had bit the bullet and gone to school would my chances at getting art assignments from publishers be any easier? Any thoughts?

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  • At School can help but it is not required. Attending college is not only about what you learn in the classroom but also what you learn about yourself and about others. It also exposes you to other thoughts, art and creatives processes that would be foreign to you otherwise.

    Art school does that and business school, med school, law school do that as well. The difference with art school is that talent plays a larger part in the process than the others where ability and book smarts are more important.

    Art school helps many people develop their talent and abilities but it is in no way a requirement. An art director will not care about where you may have attended school, they want quality work from a dependable artist when the deadline hits. 30 years ago there were fewer quality art schools/classes/opportunities than now. With sites like this an artist can be broaden their horizons and develop their talent in ways that were impossible 10 years ago without art school.

    I attended a great art school years ago and would not trade those experiences for anything. If I were examining the same possibilities today, I am not sure I would choose to same schooling simply because there are so many more possibilities now.

  • I think school does 2 things*: it helps you network via instructors and organizations, and it looks good on paper. Both of those things can help, but they don't guarantee employment or success. Plus, with some hard work, you can network yourself and get jobs. Having jobs on your "resume" look even better than a degree after a while.
    So I think your chances possibly could have been better, but it's a several thousand dollar bet that would place you in an inconsistent career with tons of debt.
    In short, yeah, maybe you could have had better connections. But there's no promise you would have connections worth the thousands you paid for school.

    I mean, I doubt a studio or publisher has ever said, "We love your portfolio, and you've done good work for other people, but since you don't have a degree in Illustration, we can't hire you."

    *2 things you can't get by teaching yourself, I mean.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    this is a big topic. And it's a topic that is radically changing right now due to online options. I think what was true ten years ago isn't true today. 10 years ago, I would have said that to truly make it, you would need to go to school. But now, with a disciplined and well planned approach, I don't think that is the case anymore.

    I would suggest local colleges for in person classes, combined with online classes and resources. SVS, Schoolism, Gnomon, etc. all have something to offer and I'm a big fan of all of them. You don't need a dedicated degree unless you want to teach. The big thing is having a plan and following it. Just drawing a bunch or doing fan art won't cut it. You need to be doing assignments that stretch your ability and skill.

  • I went to art school briefly and then had to leave due to financial problems.The thing I noticed was my friends who were able to stay had gallery shows arranged for them when they graduated , If you have a passion for pursuing Arts then go for it...

  • Pro SVS OG

    I think a good art school can offer three elements that are difficult to obtain in other ways: learning structure (from fundamentals to advanced topics), discipline (a drive to continuously produce art over a prolonged period of time) and feedback cycles. All can be obtained cheaper via online offerings today, but it needs self-discipline and planning to make it work. It would have been difficult for me to know what I needed to learn and in which order without a pre-defined course of study, and the value of brutal critical feedback from experienced people cannot be understated.

  • Pro SVS OG

    I would have always answered yes to brick and mortar, until I found SVS.

  • Thanks for the feedback guys. Really appreciate it.

  • SVS OG

    Like many here, I would say that art school offers a LOT, but is by no means necessary.

    Personally, I was able to complete a bachelors degree in illustration (not at one of the big "art schools", just a liberal arts college, but one with an awesome illustration program) and I will say that I grew and learned by leaps and bounds through that experience.

    However, I was able to make it through that WITHOUT GOING INTO DEBT (through a combination of things, there was no "one" solution--going to a school in-state, having a little help from parents my first couple years to find my feet, keeping a part time job during school and working full time in the summers, finally getting a small scholarship my senior year, and finally becoming old enough for a grant in my last couple years as well).

    I think this is a big deal. Art is such a rocky career to start out, and the fact is that we will probably not ever be making the same salaries as a lawyer, doctor, whatever, so it just doesn't make sense to get in the same amount of debt for that. A little bit, maybe. You'd have to decide what you are comfortable with.

    So I will say that my art degree was ABSOLUTELY worth the time and work and money I put into it. I am years (decades, maybe?) ahead of where I would be without it--BUT if I had to go deep into debt to do it, it would absolutely NOT have been worth that.

  • Hi thinking about my reply and just wanted to say all Art Schools are not the same,perhaps if you picked a good school and course which caters to your main artistic interest you would be very happy and learn a lot.

  • '...with a disciplined and well planned approach'

    @lee-white I'm just gorging myself on all the videos at the moment. I've got work behind me but still don't feel that I can be at that point where clearly I can say I know the plan.

    It feels a bit like piecing together a puzzle....there's the video on portfolio....self long it takes... I wonder if there is a place for a real clear plan/timeline thing? Unless of course it's impossible.

    If I was to describe it like a mountain, for those just setting out from the log cabin at the bottom there are those I know who think I've made it (I get commissions...I've been published) but I know I am just arriving at base camp. And it's hard to see the right path to take. Where as many more people have discovered the right path and seem to be near the summit. Hope the analogous works.

    So....what does the plan of action look like from the top?

  • I go to a charter arts high school and I've thought about this a lot. There are MANY successful artists like Jake Parker who haven't gone to art school or don't finish. I think now with the internet allowing for companies like SVS to share incredibly useful skills can give people the opportunity to educate themselves. I do want to defend art schools though. The one thing I think makes art schools a good place to learn is the challenge. Sure you could give yourself personal projects, but there's nothing like being handed an assignment to force you to learn and having a physical and reachable mentor to ask questions or give feedback is great!. There's also the environment of everyone around you working towards getting better, and you can even make friendly rivalries to compete with other artists.

  • @ben-migliore As I read through the comments I see one great reply after another.

    My 2 cents: Keep in mind - I'm somewhat biased as a Co-founder here at SVS...but I also teach at Uni so I have my feet in both worlds.

    Hindsight is 20/20 and nobody can really say that they would be in the same place if they hadn't done this but did that instead.

    Personally I don't think I'd be an illustrator today without art school however I don't know that I wouldn't have found online resources, worked my butt off, and found illustration work if online art school options were available in the late 80's - but my hunch is that I needed the comradery of my peers to help me get my mind around what illustrators actually do and how they get work.

    But I have to agree with some here who talk about the challenge of art school. When you pay those prices that ALONE is often enough motivation to make each penny count. The irony being that in some ways working hard in art school is the result of self inflicted financial pain. Do or die time. With online options being relatively cheep by comparison the consequences of squandering the subscription fees is very small.

    The backstories of professional illustrators are quite varied and no one can definitively answer your question.

  • Thanks @will-terry for your feedback on my reply.

  • @cjones I went to art school and even though I wasn't in debt, I still was in a very terrible place financially for a while after graduation. My school didn't offer any computer classes and it took me a while to have enough money to buy what I needed and to learn those skills. What I am trying to say is that you can go to art school and still not be market-ready.

    If you heard of Lois? Also goes by the name Loish.... She was in art school too but wasn't happy there and switched to a different one. The art school she went to at first wasn't offering what she was looking for. So that's another issue you could have faced going to art school. It can slow you down or make you even hate art.

    Learning online gives you the rare chance of learning from different teachers without restrictions and focus on what you need.

    This is not to say I am against going to art school... I just want to say that going to art school is not a guarantee of success.

  • Everyone has made some great points already. Here are my two cents.

    I can sympathize with your questions and reflections on "if only I had done this. . ." I would say, that if you had carefully selected an art program that was actually good and suited your needs, if you had the time and mindset to work on your studies intensely, and if you had the means to support yourself at the end of your education while trying to jumpstart your art career and keep producing art work to get there without giving up. . .then your chances on getting art assignments may possibly be better today as a result.

    The question is, how does what-ifs help you today? How does knowing that you could possibly have a fulltime career in art today, if you had made all the correct choices back in the day, help you at this moment in time?

    Here are how my reflections of my past has helped me today.

    Reflection: My decisions in the past were based too much on other people's validations and approval, and as a result I tried to take my art in a direction that was not "me".

    How does that help me today: Do the kind of art I want to do and know that it's worthy.

    Reflection: I could have gotten a lot farther if I had worked harder when I didn't have the responsibilities that come with a family.

    How does it help me today: Work hard for my goals, with the little time I have now. Shift priorities so I can have more time for art.

    Reflection: If only I knew how to use the internet for my benefit in the past, I could have discovered the drawing fundamentals I needed to make my art better. I would have learned that you need a lot less talent than you think, and you actually need to know what to study and then work hard.

    How does it help me today: Use the resources the internet has to help me improve. Work on my fundamentals now, and my work will progress.

    So anyway I'd encourage you to use your past to help you now, and not just to dwell on what could have been. What you can learn in knowing your career in art could possibly be better if you went to school, is for you to answer as I don't know your life or your situation enough to help you find those answers.

    I wish you the best of luck.

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