As an art student I recognise how difficult the path is that I have chosen and yet I still continue to struggle down this yellow brick road of madness each day. There’s always something new and exciting! One day you could be drinking paint water and the next you could be literally watching paint dry! There’s never a dull moment!
I’ve been studying art since beginning secondary school with my weekly art class which was then compulsory. I then chose to study Art and Design for GCSE and then A-Level and finally made the choice to study Fine Art at university. The road hasnt been easy and it’s been super challenging so I’ve gathered together a list of need to know points that you need to be aware of if you’re planning on studying art that sadly most teachers don’t tell you.
Workload: If you plan on taking art because it’s the ‘easy subject’ think again! You will spend more hours on your art homework and coursework than all of your other subjects together! You will be practically pooping out pieces of artwork in the days up to hand in and the same goes for uni! You’ll find yourself sat late at night, half asleep, drunk on exhaustion fighting through dust storms from soft pastels while simultaneously drinking your paint water instead of your tea. Art is a serious commitment.
Types of art and techniques: School teachers often forget to mention that there are other types of art than straight up recreating a photograph in paint or pencil. Photo realism is only one small dot on the spectrum of art. There’s abstract, sculpture, painting, figurative drawing, performance, installation, mixed media and heaps more! Do your research if you plan on studying an art subject and see which one suits you best or try all of them to find out what you like and what you’re good at!
Money for supplies: As an art student you will spend almost every penny on supplies from paint to canvases, chicken wire to clay and in particular mountains of sketchbooks. Even the smallest supplies cost a lot of money so bare this in mind. Framing even costs money! You will also run out of storage space for the heaps of materials you have so your room will look like a landfill site.
Drawing naked people: No matter how much you object, if you study art you will have to attend life drawing classes on a regular basis and yes you will have to draw penises of all shapes and sizes. There’s nothing like getting up in the morning and heading into uni to draw a beer belly and a wrinkly old penis! Worse still is you will actually grow to enjoy these classes and learn loads from them!
Making a name for yourself : Art is a hard area to get into you so you have to take it upon yourself to get your name out there and show people your work. It’s rare that someone will spot your work out of their own accord so set up a Facebook page, tweet about your work, make a blog to show your work, tell family and friends, take part in exhibitions, send portfolios to galleries. There’s nothing like a bit of self promotion!
Being open: being open to trying new techniques is very important as an art student and so is being open to criticism. Spending hours on a piece of work and then having someone tell you they don’t like it is soul destroying and often leaves you in tears with said artwork laying in tatters at your feet but ultimately criticism is how you learn and you need to be able to accept it and move on. Art is very subjective and not everyone is going to like it so listen to why they like or don’t like your piece.
Research: You can’t get through an art course without doing extensive research into your subject area. Borrow books from the library, get online, join forums, and most importantly go to galleries and exhibitions! Research is possibly even more important than your finished outcome and can teach you so much more to add to your practise and improve your own work.
Importance of peers: It’s sometimes quite daunting to show a classmate your work but you should place value on the opinions and views of your peers. No one will have the same artistic practise and style as you and can provide you outside information right at the tip of your fingers so use it!
Failure and mistakes: Sadly most pieces won’t turn out perfect first time so be aware of this and place value on your mistakes. Sometimes that accidental blot of paint can add a new dimension to your painting or that crack in the clay can help illustrate your thoughts better than before. Embrace failure and remember that it will happen so you might as well enjoy it and work with it to improve your work. Don’t be afraid to fail as often fear of failure can hold you back and prevent you from taking risks that could really improve your practise.
Reflection: Keeping a reflective journal is my most valued technique I have learned in my short 19 years. Reflection helps you think in detail about what you want to achieve, what you have achieved and how you will improve upon your work. Give yourself titles to work under or split it up into points to reflect in detail. Start by describing what you did, how it made you feel, why you liked it, why you didn’t like it, what other questions you have etc and before you know it you’ll have a whole new door of ideas opened for you.
Difference between school and uni : University is a massive jump from secondary school or college. In school you are expected to be able to copy images in quite a small range of tecniques. University challenges how you think and completely disregards any work of this style. You will be expected to try a very wide range of techniques and types of art even if it’s just placing an object on a plinth. You will learn art is everything and you are free to do what you choose no matter how subjective or taboo instead of sticking so tightly to realism that you can’t tell the difference between the source and the artwork. Exam boards are much more open at uni level and allow you much more freedom and thinking.
I may have rambled on a bit but I hope this list can help those aspiring artists out there and prepare you for the years ahead. Studying art is challenging but it can be one of the most rewarding experiences if you let it and know what you’re getting in to!
If any of you are interested in seeing my artwork or what I get up to at uni you can check out my art page!