Illustration by Casey Webb
Though education is very valuable, traditional schooling is not the best learning environment for everyone. To each their own and, therefore, there’s no definite answer on whether or not one should or shouldn’t go to art school. However, there are a lot of factors to consider when deciding if it’s right for you and it never hurts to hear different perspectives on the issue.
We revisited past interviews of artists previously featured on Jung Katz in search for how they answered the question: “What are your thoughts on art school?” and curated a list of the ones we found the most informational.
‘Getting a degree from an art school has its advantages. Art school gives you a lot, it gives you the tools to actually make art, it also allows you to experiment with a wide variety of media and techniques. You also immerse yourself in a community that supports and understands art.
But there is also a downside to art school, It is too easy to be influenced by teachers and fellow students, that can make it more difficult for you to find your true self as an artist. In the long run it is your talent and originality as an artist that will get you through this business.’
-Painter, Leticia Banegas
‘I have always been jealous of people who study art, because I only discovered/accepted it into my life so recently, and my university courses have very little to do with it. With that said, the only benefit of art school is networking and technical ability. You can’t teach somebody to be an artist, you can’t even teach somebody to express him or herself…all that stuff comes from within. But if you want to be hired by some shitty restaurant to make some shitty canvases to pay for your shitty apartment, maybe it’s worthwhile. If you want to become an artist… just be one. That’s what I did. I woke up one day and decided: “Today I am an artist.” And if it’s true to you then that’s all that matters. A piece of paper won’t serve as any kind of proof, and as a matter of fact if that’s what you use to justify the title ‘artist’…. then you may not yet be one.’
-Photographer, Charles Mackenzie
‘Art school works only if you work for it. Too many people go into art school thinking “I’ll just do what’s asked, get a decent grade and then I’ll be an illustrator”. It’s a dream within a dream. If you don’t push and expose yourself to new things, you’ll graduate with a similar portfolio that you came in with. In the illustration business no one cares about how you came out with a 1st Class degree with Honours from so-and-so university. Also, use all of the facility available to you – after university access to a laser cutter/printing press etc is going to be hard to come by and expensive. You can learn so much from technicians and it is in your interest to take some time to get to know them. The print room technician was like a second mum to me and we still stay in touch.’
-Illustrator, Ken Iizuka
‘Pretty much a waste of money. Experiences with people you meet are priceless. Connections are alright but not great at my art school but I know some schools are better about Alumni/ Undergrad relations. I would say in America they may not be worth it if you have the drive to succeed.’
-Illustrator, Llew Mejia
‘I came out of the National School of Fine Arts of Paris, and the practice department, was great, where you could try all the techniques that you could not do on your own, like mosaic, forge, etc. Receiving advice from other students and of course opening your view to other’s work was great as well.’
-Embroidary artist, Julie Sarloutte
‘Art school helped give me a space and environment to produce. It was useful in the sense that all I really needed to focus on was my work and trying new techniques and approaches. It was harmful in the sense that it forces one to over-think natural inklings that could challenge one to get better.’
-Painter, Jonathan McAfee
‘Art at A-Level was a soul destroying experience. I felt it killed off some of my creativity and made me extremely uptight with the work I was producing. I was probably unlucky with where I was, but I felt if I stuck to their generic criteria for too long – I’d lose all sense of identity with my work. A-Levels were not for me, but things changed when I entered an actual art college which was equipped with some of the most inspiring teachers I’ve ever known. They knew how to handle aspiring artists individually, and would encourage experimental behavior within illustration. The whole thing was really refreshing and I felt I was learning something valuable, which still stays with me. Art College really prepared me for University, where I started to develop my visual language a lot more and make connections. The teachers were so wise and crazy, and I felt very honored to be a part of it. I’ve generally had a great experience within education, and was lucky enough to study at some great institutions.’
-Illustrator, Sophie Filomena
‘Art schools can only provide the environment, equipments and professors who can guide us. But it would be foolish to think that just by attending an art school we’ll become a better designer/artist. The motivation has to come from within the person attending an art school. I’ve met a lot of brilliant designers/artists who’ve never attended art school. And I’ve also met people who have spent a lot of money in art school without the willingness to learn.’
-Graphic Designer, Shantanu Suman
‘I think studying something that you are really interested is never a waste of time. At the same time you have to find your own way.’
-Photographer, Marton Gosztonyi
‘I say go to it, you’d be surprised what you learn there. It’s really handy in finessing your technique and for what you want to in the future. I’ve also learned so much about printing and getting work and experiments done. Also there is loads of fun resources in my university which has Screen printing, Laser cutting, Risograph printers for example.’
-Illustrator, Marc Burnett
‘I honestly think its a good thing. It really depends on not just the school but the professors themselves. Because art is considered a subjective thing you’ll be getting a lot of conflicting ideologies but that is a good thing for a budding artist and I feel that gives you more of an idea on what kind of artist you want to be.’
-Illustrator, Eric Fabbro
‘It sounds fun. I haven’t gone. I went to a public high school with an arts focus. It was a great experience. From what I understand the value in art school is in the connections you make there. Any way you slice it you got to put in the hours if you want to be good.’
-3 Diminesional artist, Tripper Dungan
‘I think a solid education is great, and if you have the opportunity to go to school, you should. Your experiences throughout life are a wonderful way of learning, but school is that extra cherry on top. Everyone is different, though, some people may be perfectly fine without it.’
-Photographer, Cara Harman
When deciding if art school is right for you, ask yourself these questions: Do you learn best in a school environment or on your own? What are you hoping to gain from school and could you still gain it otherwise? What resources do you have and what resources do you need? Which sounds scarier: a mountain of debt, or taking on all of the responsibilities of educating yourself? Do you have a plan as to how you would teach yourself, let alone figure out what it is you need to be learning to be successful? What’s your plan for after you graduate school and how would that differ from your plan if you decide not to go to school?
Feel free to also ask other artists, maybe reach out to your favorites ones on social media and ask them where they went and if they’d recommend it.
Regardless, with great imagination and drive, you can succeed either way. So be honest with yourself and what it is that you’re capable of and what it is you need help with. Whether you choose to go to school or not, we at Jung Katz are here for you and will continue to post informational content such as this to help you succeed as an artist.
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