Monday, May 6

Should I Go to Art School?

This is a question I get asked so often, and I have had difficultly giving others advice about it because I was unsure about the answer myself. After much reflection I have come to a conclusion about it. Remember, whatever feels right to you is always best. Deep down you will know what you should do and where you want to go in life. Don't listen to others if they're not supportive. This might be challenging if this is someone that you respect or has control over your situation, like your parents. Just try to kindly reason with them, and most likely they will respect and understand why this is best for you.

Now, I'm not saying go run off to art school and think that it will solve all of your problems. If you do not truly love what you do it will never work out. It will not get easier with time, it only gets harder, and if you're miserable doing something now, then it will never change. Whatever you choose to do will become your job eventually. So if you don't want your hobby that you love dabbling in every once in a while to become your 24/7 job, then it's not right for you. You will unfortunately burn out fast and find out the hard way. One wrong degree later, and six figures in debt.

Speaking of debt, this is not to be taken lightly. It will change your life, and not for the better. I didn't completely understand it when I was a teenager, and thought that everything would be okay and ends would meet once I got a bad-ass job. That's a delusional and naive outlook for sure.

Most artists will not make a lot of money, but that's the risk with any field. I'm not saying that to crush your dreams of becoming a rich famous artist, but in reality, artists in the entertainment industry are always behind the scenes, are lucky to get a credit, have average paying jobs in expensive cities, and are always working in extremely stressful environments. Is this something you truly want? Art can always remain a beautiful hobby, but when you choose to turn it into a career, it will become just that, a job.

If you're unsure about the path you want to take then I recommend dabbling in it first. Practice on your own, take a single class focusing on that particular skill, or go to a related summer camp. These are all great ways to give it your all and see if you still love what you're doing after some time has pasted.

Lastly, going to a university for four years is not always the only option. I absolutely loved my university and all of the social experiences that came with it. But looking back on it, because of financial reasons, I'm a big believer in only taking classes for what you need or funding them a few at a time. In today's day and age, a college degree doesn't mean that you will get work. Any skilled professional is sought after because they do whatever they do better than others and are hard to replace, college degree or not. I'm reminded of three skills one must possess to be successful professionally. One must: Have stellar skills, be punctual, and be a great person to work with. If you have these down, then you're a cut above the rest.

Let me go into it further. So the first skill is pretty self explanatory; you have to be an amazing artist from a technical standpoint. Is your work outstanding, and commercially is it what the client needs? Be truthful about this, and if not then this is where college or self teaching comes into play. If you're awesome, then a degree doesn't matter. I know so many people personally that have gotten a job in the industry and never finished school. There are loads of famous examples too, that I'm sure you can research if you're interested in. On the other hand, I know people that have several degrees and still can't figure out what they want to do. Forever wandering and using college as an excuse to never start living. They're afraid of anything other than school because that's comfortable for them.

The second skill is punctuality, both for deadlines and showing up on time. I have never missed a milestone or deadline with a client, and I'm always on time daily or for meetings/conference calls. This time management skill is so important to have, and makes you a reliable team member.

The third skill is being a kind and awesome person to be around. Are you a pleasant person? Do people smile and light up when you're around? Emotions and moods are contagious and affect everyone you work with. If you're a pain in the ass or arrogant, nobody is going to want to hire you. Happiness is learned just like everything else. If it doesn't come natural, it will in time if effort is put into it.

So these skills can be learned in a variety of different ways. How one chooses to get there is not important; but possessing all three is. That's why college, being the most traditional approach, is not the only way. There's an excessive amount of free information available online for young and/or inspiring artists. So many professionals are sharing their secrets and helping others learn on forums, blogs, YouTube, etc. This raises the bar for all of us, and lifts us up to inspire each other in new ways. Take advantage of this, especially if you do not have the funds for a university. It's all about one's drive and hours of practice. It doesn't matter if that's in a thousand-dollar classroom, or at home watching a video. It's what one does with the information that's key.

In closing, I will say this, surround yourself with like-minded people and move to wherever you need to be. I've heard stories about people jumping freight trains (don't do this please) to get to where they were going. Moving to California was one of the best decisions I ever made because it was where I personally needed to be for my ideal life. That will be different for everyone. Don't be afraid, because you have to go where the scene is. If you don't want to, or your heart is telling you that it's not right, then it's probably not. Perhaps freelancing is in your future. Or working remotely online. Whatever you choose, I wish you the best.  

If you have any questions at all, I'm here to help. Going to university is not the only path
in the art world. Stick with what you love, never give up, and never stop learning.
You will get there, and the world needs you for just that.

~Claudia