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Do you think that artists need to have degrees/ qualifications from art school in order to be one? Did you study art? Does it matter? #5


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issue #5 advice + inspiration from artists/illustrators/ designers on creativity, business and life.

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Do you think that artists need to have degrees/qualifications from art school in order to be one? Did you study art? Does it matter?

For this issue’s question, I went for a question that was simmering in my mind for the past 5 years. I didn’t study art per se. I had a professional degree in landscape architecture, with a small portion of it devoted to fine art and graphics. I’ve always wondered how things would have turned out if I had studied fine art, or illustration instead. Would it be any different? Would I have loved it as much as I do now, and would I be better because of it? Or would I hate it, and would it change my course in life completely? I had no idea that this question would open a floodgate of emotions and opinions; all of those who participated spoke their mind and was clearly passionate about the topic. So prop up a chair and get comfortable – this issue is a loooong one! And me? I’ve learned a lot from them. I learned that I should not let it get in the way of how I want my future to be – wither that piece of paper. Right now, carving out time to learn on my own is what I need the most. And of course, practice, practice, practice. I’m investing in myself after all! Also, look out for a small section at the back: a special compilation from Colouring Outside The Lines zine ( helmed by Melanie Maddison. She generously compiled responses from previously interviewed artists that were relevant to the topic at hand! Thanks so much Melanie! Amy

Cover pattern by

Vicky of

Being an artist in any capacity involves having the natural inquisitive openness (and motivation) for knowledge and experience (the natural “student”) even before developing the technical-proficiency (the literal student) to interpret/communicate one’s unique voice. The varying levels of success on either of these sides, or how well they work together for each individual, defines the ability to accomplish “art.” The first has to come from an innate drive, the second through practice. You absolutely don’t need a school to practice, but the downside to the alternative (trial-and-error) makes for a longer process of getting where graduates are able to get in a relatively short amount of time -- at least in certain areas. Art school grads are better able to set aside time to focus on developing their skills at a more relaxed pace (even under a tight quarter system) than “real world” training allows, and they -- more importantly -- have access to the network of professionals, resources and other grads that come with the territory. The advantage most art school grads don’t seem to have is the more real-world side of client relationships, budgets, prepress/troubleshooting, etc. This also takes practice, which explains why so few artists have much success right after graduating. Art students can also sometimes be too focused on “Design” or “Art” academically than as a worthwhile function of society. (It goes without saying that the burden of debt that art schools can often levee runs completely antithetical to creating art that may not be.) I didn’t go to art school formally, but I would never say I haven’t had to learn what I needed to be an artist/designer

anyway. I have my undergrad degree in PoliSci, but worked in design and did art before and since. I later returned for a two-year degree in Graphic Communications to more seriously pursue what it is I really want to be doing (mostly to tie up loose ends and kick some bad habits), and am constantly on the hunt for tutorials and advice online and from colleagues every single day. In doing so -- while working as a full-time designer, a freelancer, an illustrator and teacher, concurrently -- most of my days run 12+ hours, but it’s what I find necessary to move myself forward. I’ve started teaching design in the past few years, and I see many students with the idea that once they finish their two-year degree (or measly “Career Certificate” -- in some cases only two classes!) that they’re “done” learning. When I tell them what it’s taken for me to get where I am now ... a very mediocre place at that ... they cringe. For them to dismiss learning as “checklist” is definitely evidence of the failure of the school system early on, but also indicative of the level at which consumer culture affects what people expect of it. They expect to “buy” a packaged amount of expertise called a “degree” -- which may work for accountants -- but doesn’t at all apply to the arts. It’s kind of a shame: I’m of the belief that going on to a collegelevel program in any field is valuable because it builds the discipline and research basics needed to succeed in many areas of one’s life. The documented evidence that you can tolerate bureaucracy and boring pre-reqs enough to see something through to the end is an added bonus that employers can appreciate. The coursework becomes forgotten or irrelevant so quickly, its these other two that matter. I know more than a few “artists” that have just ridiculously bad attitudes and no ability to withstand the slightest challenge to their immediate wants or preconceived ideas of what things “should be” like and never finished a single course, let alone a degree program. Similarly, their art careers languish. Others went through the paces at really expensive schools yet can’t support themselves and are going back for post-grad degrees hoping it’ll change things. On the flipside, I also have friends that barely graduated high school and did boat-loads of drugs but have enough of the energetic, open “natural student” in them to be wildly successful ... through a decade or more of hard work and diligence. I’m afraid the time and money invested in a degree might be better spent just making art and meeting people in many cases … but there’s such a mix of factors involved that it’s hard to point to one aspect, like school, as the key element to to one’s success or failure. Aaron Winters

I have never studied art nor have I even taken an art class. Do I wish I did? Sometimes; maybe I would have become an artist instead of an art admirer. I think the greatest thing art students gain is the exploration of all art forms and history, and the support to find their own niche. With that said, those things aren’t restricted in classrooms. The opportunity is in at the local library, an art show, and even your neighborhood. Even with a degree, the exploring of how to express your art doesn’t (well it shouldn’t) end there. I don’t think having a degree matters; you just need the drive to find your desires to express your creativity and then, congratulations, you artist you. Jenny Luu

I didn’t study art formally, but started as a child. Mum always encouraged us to get artsy and crafty all throughout childhood, and I think that’s what really matters! Allowing kids to express their creativity young means they can continue to explore and develop their talent as they get older. So I’ve drawn ever since being a tot, and although I think sometimes “maybe my style would be more developed if I went to art school” I also think “I’ve been free to explore and play with art without criteria set for me by someone else”. Friends that have spent many years at art school have (eventually) appreciated the discipline it has created - get to your studio, projects due in by a certain date, group feedback, etc. But I think that there is a certain lovely something about playing with art with only your own eyes to critique it and your own conscience to push you. :) Jess


issue #5 PARTICIPANTS Aaron Winters

Dylan White

Aijung Kim

Emma Kidd

Alex Keller

Fahd Husain

Amy Blackwell


Amy Cartwright


Anna M. Rosete

Hanna Whiteman

Belinda Kemp

Hollie Jane McManus

Catalina Alvarez

Irit Caspi

Danielle Hornyak

Jen Collins

Chrissy Lau

Jenny Luu

Dolores Wally


Joan L. Phillips Chubby Cat Creations

Jo Williams, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Darren Whittington Erin L. Ferree, elf design, inc.

Karen Preston Katherine Quinn Katie Allen

issue #5 PARTICIPANTS Kimberly Coles

Suzanne L. Vinson

Katie Green

Suzanne Walsh

Kerry Lemon

Tiel Seivl-Keevers tsk tsk design & illustration

Lindy Gruger Hanson Lisa Solomon Myrte de Zeeuw Wing (aka inkdesigner) Samantha Battersby Racheal Anilyse Pupu Sulaiman Andrea Ren Sarah Jane Shawna Stobaugh Nonna Illustration & Design

Tanya Pshenychny Helen Shields

Tigz Vaiva Kovieraite Vicky --------------------------------Special thanks to Melanie of COTL zine ( Maya Hayuk / Rachel Carns / Abigail Brown / Heidi Burton / Irana Douer / Erika Lopez / Leonie O’Moore / Gina Birch / Isy / Kathleen Lolley /

68 pages A5 size staple bound 51 + 10 participants black & white text + illustrations

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Good to Know #5  

Do you think that artists need to have degrees/qualifications from art school in order to be one? Did you study art? Does it matter?

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