9 Things You Won’t Learn in Art School

9 Things You Won’t Learn in Art School

Today, I want to share a few thoughts on 9 things you won’t learn in art school (probably.)

I add the “probably” because it’s been over forty years since I went to art school in any way, so things may have changed.

Let’s get started.

9 Things You Won’t Learn in Art School

One forewarning before I begin my list. There are forms of art school where you will learn many of these things. What I’m talking about is the fine arts, not graphic or commercial arts. I have no personal experience with education in those areas, so if you are or have been a graphic or commercial artist, please share your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you!

1. Individualism

I know what you’re thinking. Art students are told to be individuals, aren’t they?

Yes. With words and as a group.

Then come the reactions to the choices some individual art students make.

Doubt me? Just choose to work in a style that is outside the current popular trend and see what happens. The sort of individualism that puts you outside the popular crowd isn’t always very well received.

Trust your instincts. Find what you like to paint and how you like to paint it. If it doesn’t fit into current market dynamics or trends, you may have to choose between following your God-given talents or following markets and trends. The choice is yours, but be advised that no one else can paint what you paint the way you paint or from the wealth of your personal experience.

2. Business & Marketing

Artists are encouraged to learn about every possible medium, every possible style, every treatment of every subject, and self-expression.

But unless the student makes a concerted effort to find it, there is nothing taught about running a business, balancing a studio budget, meeting payroll, or turning art into a successful living.

If you don’t care about making a living as an artist, then this is a satisfactory situation. But if you do want to make a living with your talent, look up some good business courses and take them. You will not be sorry.

3. Sales & Customer Service

Let’s face it, most artists are introverts by nature. We prefer the company of our work to the company of others. Most of us are doubly uncomfortable selling our work.

Learning the basics of customer service and sales provides the platform for selling your work and dealing with customers face-to-face. Making sales and dealing with customers may never be easy for you, but with solid information on sales and customer service, you’ll at least know how to do it.

4. The Value of Time Honored Traditions

Time honored traditions are time honored for a reason. They work. I don’t care what medium you work with or how or what you paint. knowing the traditions of your medium benefits you and your work. It also gives you a foundation on which to build your own body of art.

5. Respect for the Work of Others

In other words, treat the work of other artists as you would have them treat your work. It’s awfully difficult to respect the work and talent of someone who has bashed your work.

It’s also difficult to get others to respect your work if you’ve bashed theirs.

6. Integrity

Talent is no replacement for character. Making your word your bond goes a long way in establishing yourself as a credible artist and trustworthy business partner.

And make no mistake, your customers are your business partners.

7. Drawing in the Classical Style

Drawing is becoming a lost art. Yes, the pun is intended. Everybody wants to slap paint on a canvas and call it good. That’s fine in some cases, but it never hurts to know how to draw. What better way to learn how to draw than by practicing the classical techniques? Learn to draw well and no subject will be outside your skill level as an artist.

8. Appreciation of Traditional Beauty

Whether in nature or in art, you don’t need to explain beauty. Everyone can appreciate a beautiful sunset, the intricate design of a single snowflake, or the loveliness of the first flowers in Spring. Find the beauty in your chosen subjects and paint them and you’ll never lack for fans.

Or the joy of painting.

9 Things You Won't Learn in Art School
9. Find the Subject, Medium & Style You Love

Much can be said for basic, across-the-board knowledge. But not every medium, subject or style is going to appeal to you. In the end, find the things that you most enjoy painting in the manner in which you most enjoy painting or drawing them. Then be the best you can be at that subject and medium.

That’s where the true treasure lies.

The Bottom Line

Art school is good for some things, but if you want to be more than just an artist–if you want to earn a living from your art–then you need more than just art lessons.

These 9 things you may not learn in art school are a good place to begin adding to your overall education.

And if you did learn these things in the art school you attended, wonderful! You’re nine steps ahead of the game!

Got a question? Ask Carrie!

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