"I mentioned before that I am currently attending a school called ------- University. So far, my first semester of a Junior year here has been bad. Art history classes (which I think are somewhat necessary) a Physics of Light and Color class. A web design class and a video and audio class which was essentially a film class after awhile. But I've been recently looking into CGMA and have been hearing how useful it is for people not on the coast. The classes look wonderful, pricy, but great, and I think I would be far happier doing those assignments than writing an essay.
This is not a cut and dry decision, it feels like to me. Drop the opportunity to finish out my school in another year and a half? Or roll the dice and throw myself into CGMA, paying my way through it by any means possible?"
Formal Education (Tertiary level art study, University, College etc )
- You are actually buying time, full time study dedicated to learning your craft. Not just a piece of paper at the end of 3 years.
- The curriculum is structured. Focus on building important fundamentals logically.
- You work in an environment of cooperation and competition with your peers (pushing you more than you might on your own),
- Having a good teacher really makes a huge difference on your work if you are lucky enough to get one.
- Depending on the curriculum and course you will likely get to learn a variety of things that broaden your horizons and you might not have thought about yourself.
- Support structures are built into the system if you experience troubles or down times: counsellors, teachers, peers.
- Deadlines. Yes these are good, and kick your ass to do the work.
- You have opportunities to develop networks with other students, local art initiatives, even affiliation with industries where companies come look at grad's work for potential talent. (A school with a good reputation may really grease the wheels to you getting your first job)
- Can be really expensive!! Debt is not cool.
- Quality of education totally depends on the institution and the teachers. if you pick wrong, you can really get a dud that is a waste of the money.
- Bad teachers may actually hinder your progress.
- You may not be able to focus on what interests you most.
- Changing your mind isn't an easy task and may cost you time and money.
- Distractions of University life means you spend a lot of time partying way too much. (could be seen as a pro by some...but it's not if done in excess )
- No additional help given to grads to get work despite an expectation this will happen.
- Going to university and getting a piece of paper is NO GUARANTEE you will succeed as an artist
Self teaching, online workshops and courses
- Most likely much cheaper than a full degree at a tertiary institution, dependent on how many workshops and online courses, ateliers you do.
- You can focus on what interests you most.
- You can tailor your learning to what you feel you need.
- You can spend a larger amount of time focusing on your folio than you might get forced to do if you were at a school.
- You can shift focus quickly, jump into short courses or try new things and approaches whenever you want
- No stressful deadlines (or not many)
- Networking doesn't suffer: If you use the internet smartly, you can make contact with almost anyone and reach a wider audience than ever before.
- There is no curriculum, no structure: You have to make it up yourself from a jumble of online resources, books, groups, videos etc.
- Lack of efficiency & focus: If you don't know what to focus on you can just waft around trying whatever you feel like at the time, and not working on what would help you the most.
- You need to be ultra self-motivated. No one will force you to do things, you won't have deadlines to meet. You can easily end up doing nothing for months on end.
- You need to be ultra disciplined: You will need to stick to a balanced routine that works for you and that is sustainable. Being laissez-faire about doing the work consistently will mean you won't make as much progress as you could.
- Easy to get isolated: You will need to be comfortable working on your own with little support for the most part. You can get some feeling of camaraderie from online forums with people in similar situations and even on hangouts and Skype, but it's rarely face to face.
- Support may be hard to find: You may find it hard to get the support you need in downtimes. This is about making sure you have a good network of people around you who truly understand the self teaching situation and can help you when you hit hard times of self doubt (and they will come)
- Parents may not understand: If your parents are paying for workshops or letting you stay at home, they may not understand that self teaching is a valid option for artists nowadays. They may feel you are just using self teaching as a way of slacking off, that is, if they even view art as a valid career choice to begin with!
- Paying your own way: If you will need to juggle a job and daily life with your study: This will be hard! Very hard. If you have a family to support, double the hardness level again. I have been doing this for 2 years myself (no family to support) and it is still very easy to burn out by trying to do too much in the small amount of time you have away from the job and paying the bills. It is also very easy to fall into the trap of living an unhealthy lifestyle, having no down time or social life. Balance is everything in self teaching.
- Networking can be hard work: Depending on your personality, you may not find it easy networking and hooking into the right groups without a more formal arrangement through job expos, internships and expos as may be arranged through school. It may not come naturally to all but building up a good network is very important especially when you are getting nearer to the quality of work that will start to get you applying for jobs or approaching clients for freelance work.
- Try and figure out what you want to do beforehand, and then figure out if what they offer is actually what you want! A fine art degree may not help you build a folio to do concept design.
- Really look at the curriculum in detail and what is offered and find out more about what things are if you don't know by the descriptions.
- Look at the calibre of the teachers and what they have accomplished.
- Talk to older students, graduates and alumni before you join or even if you're already at a school to discuss their experiences.
- Look at the folios of older students and recent graduates. Really look at them. Are you impressed? If they look rubbish in general it might be a warning bell. (Thanks Ellixus for suggesting this great idea)
- Talk to the companies you want to be hired by! Why not? Find a contact and ask them what they think of the standard of graduates of so-and-so school in the area or if they would recommend or have affiliation/internship/grad programmes with any particular schools.
- Bug established artists doing what you want to do or art directors for companies you want to work for. Ask them what institution they would recommend or what they might pick now. PLEASE be respectful, courteous and brief if you do this and preferably use email. Facebook and the like now gives us unprecedented access to people, but just because you can message them without thinking doesn't mean they'll appreciate being approached this way. A well thought out concise email demonstrates you put more thought into asking them and are serious, and if you're polite, you will probably get a reply. It may be brief but they will be more likely to bother to help you.
- Always be open minded when you gather your info because people tend to develop really subjective opinions based on their experiences so give weight depending on who you are talking to and just try and look at everything in total and see if it boils down to a more general message overall or helps narrow down options.
- and to give credence to the unnamed artist mentioned, yes, cost and debt will have a lasting impact so should be given adequate consideration in your decision.
what you put in, you get out.
"Ways to improve painting? Paint from life, draw often, study masters, amputate your social life? As far as I can tell people improve in a lot of different ways, but the common thread is work ethic."
Your folio is what will get you work.