This week after three (four if you count foundation) years at art school – well, university, I received my final classification and lo and behold I got that illusive First Class Honours.
I have to say it has not been breezy, not that I ever anticipated it would be, even though it’s not medical science or mathematics I knew it was going to be hard work. And boy oh boy it really was!
Looking back over the past few years I have been thinking about why I ever went to art school in the first place, it was always because I wanted to be better, I wanted to get smarter, learn more, and improve every aspect of what I love. However, over the years it stopped being about that, you want to get better at drawing? Well that’s easy… Just keep drawing. The degree didn’t make me a better artist, actually it made me a better business woman, I learnt how I fit into a huge industry, how I can market myself smart, not quick, and how I can approach a career with confidence and a strong personal identity. I’m still working on all of these things, that’s the challenge with illustration, it’s a long old journey to get to full-time freelance (and a little bit of luck too), a journey I’m really excited to continue.
So, on to the truth of it all, here why I think you should go to art school, or not…
(I would like to add, this is completely based on my experience, and my experience alone, this does not speak for everyone and everyone’s experience will be completely different)
Learning about the industry from lot’s of different guest speakers and professionals.
People skills and interpersonal skills, you will learn how to work with lots of different people and how to work with people you might not get along with so much…
Public speaking, I can’t speak for all art courses but there’s a fair amount of presentations in front of quite a lot of people, as someone who literally crumbles in front of more than five people when speaking this has helped me a lot.
Different ways of making art, processes and access to some state of the art equipment.
Learning to deal with a high volume of work in short space of time, this is important, a degree will allow you to show prospective employers you can handle deadlines.
Dealing with criticism (sometimes very negative criticism). In the art work there can be some nasty critics out there, and taking criticism on board in a healthy way is invaluable.
Getting a bloody good grade at the end of it all (whether it’s a 1st or a 2.2, if you get what you wanted that’s more than good enough).
Making friends & expanding your social circle (plus, student house parties are by far the best experiences, from staying up all night playing poker to discovering the true extent of some people’s Halloween costuming abilities)
Dealing with completely negative feedback, this is a pro and a con for me, as much as criticism is much a part of creative degree’s it can be a little soul-destroying.
Intense stress, it can all get a little too much sometimes, and it definitely did at times for me, looking back I wish I had paid a little more attention to how much I was putting on myself.
Life balance. This kind of follows on from stress, balancing everything at the same time can be really really hard, I prioritized my studies, my two jobs and that was about as much as I could handle. Luckily my boyfriend was in the same position as me and we managed to make one hell of a good team, from going over each others work to check for gaps to fill, to staying up for two days straight when Jack lost his dissertation just before hand in and we had to piece it back together. My heath however, that really suffered, I lost a lot of weight, and then put a hell of a lot back on, ignored things I should have checked up on, and I’m really paying for it now. If you take one thing away from this post, your health, both metal and physical are your priority – you can get another job, you can resit modules, you cannot fix health issues as easily. focus on you, and give yourself time.
Negative opinions on the industry from professionals in the industry – there was more honestly than expected sometimes and quite a few home truths, which takes away the magic sometimes. But, it is also valuable to know these things.
Realisation of how many people on your degree maybe don’t care as much as you do.
The importance of high grading. This I feel is a major issue with the education system in general, but if there’s anything you should know going in to your degree, NO ONE CARES WHAT GRADE YOU GET.
Lack of/ limited consistent feedback, to a point left to your own devices you are an adult.
You may read this and feel a degree is not for you, you may feel that it is. One thing I do think is that you should base your opinion on what you think will better you, not what is considered the standard progression into a career.
Overall, there have been times when I have regretted every decision I have ever made, doubted my abilities and whether I really should have just done an English Literature Degree, or no degree at all… but, if you enjoy something, if you want to make something of it, just do it, put the work in, do the late nights, work all day and study all night, if you want to make something of yourself you can do it and no matter how much you may doubt yourself, whether you do a degree or not, all good things come to those who work hard, and you can do it.
If I can, anyone can.