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Advice for Surviving Art School

By Joseph, published on 29/07/2019 Blog > Arts and Hobbies > Drawing > How to Get Through Art School

“A picture is a poem without words” – Horace

66.8% of those with a fine arts degree go on into employment, 14.4% go onto further study, 6.3% are working and studying, and only 6.7% are unemployed. These figures will probably ease the nerves of parents whose children are planning to study art and the artists themselves.

Studying art isn’t easy, though. Ideally, you’ll want to study art at GCSE and A Level before studying at university. In this article, we’ll look at the steps you’ll have to take if you want to study art.

Choosing the Right School or University to Study at

Before you even start your studies, you need to choose the right school or university. You should look at what each school offers, what they specialise in, and their reputation.

Which are the best art universities in the UK? While there are plenty of good art universities, some are better for certain fields than others. (Source: stux)

Some schools are famous for animation whilst others are famous for fine art. If you have an idea of what you’d like to do after your degree, you’ll want to make sure that you go to the right school and specialise in the right field.

If you’re not sure, then you’ll want to attend a school or university with a good art department in general. Each school of art is different and a good university mightn’t have the best department of art. Conversely, a university with a relatively low reputation might offer an outstanding arts education.

Make sure you do your research first and check out the university rankings. Make sure you research what qualifications you need to go to art school.

There are plenty of great art schools and universities and a tonne of different qualifications you can do. Don’t hesitate to apply to several places as it would be silly to apply to one place and not get it.

Choosing the right uni once you’ve got your A Levels is hugely important. If you don’t enjoy the course, you’ll quickly lose interest. Make sure that you check out the universities’ websites to get a better idea of what’s on offer.

Why not get in touch with a few of them to find out more about their courses?

Whether you’re interested in visual arts, ceramics, printmaking, digital media and digital art design, or general art education, art students are spoilt for choice in the UK.

Of course, you don’t need to become a bachelor of fine arts in the UK. You could study abroad! There are also plenty of courses for art around the world. You could do your undergraduate degree in the UK before looking for graduate programs abroad, vice-versa, or head abroad for all of your higher education.

Find out more about studying art in school.

Put Together a Convincing Portfolio

To get onto art courses, you’re usually expected to put together a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of samples of your work and can include designs, paintings, sculpture, videos, music, etc. It might be in a sketchbook or on a flash drive depending on how you’re going to show it to people. Even musicians and dancers can have a portfolio.

How do you create an art portfolio? Throughout your entire art career, you’ll be working on and improving your portfolio. (Source: congerdesign)

Portfolios are designed to impress admissions boards or potential employers. At university, it’s not necessarily your best work that will interest them but rather examples of your artistic development and a willingness to experiment and to learn. They need to understand the type of person and artist you are from it.

Once you’re accepted into a school or university, you’ll want to start working on a professional portfolio. This will have a focus on potential employers rather than admissions boards and can have a greater focus on your style and skills.

You’ll be constantly working on your portfolio throughout your art career. Over the years, you’ll tweak and modify it ensuring that it’s current and representative of you as an artist.

Art School: Grades Aren’t Everything

By the time you finish secondary school, it’s hard not to think that your exam results define you as a person. However, once you get into the world of art, people will care less about your exam results and more about your art.

In the world of art, your portfolio is worth more than your transcript and in some cases, it’ll be worth more than your degree itself. This is why self-taught artists can start their careers without having done a degree in art.

Of course, while you’re at school or university, you’ll need to pass the exams to move onto the next year of the course. Additionally, your results will be an indication of which areas you’ll want to work on to improve yourself as an artist. They can be useful for both the teachers and the students.

You should take your studies seriously, of course, but remember that your portfolio is just as important. You’re studying to become a professional artist, after all.

Taking Risks to Become a Better Artist

In school, you’ll learn, practise, fail, and try again. Make the most of your time in education to try out new drawing techniques and step outside of your comfort zone.

Is your pencil work really good?

Have a go at using different media! Once you’re busy working as an artist, you mightn’t have the time for this experimentation.

Don’t worry too much about getting bad results if you know you’re experimenting with something and trying to get better at it. This is the case when it comes to studying art. You’re studying art to become a better artist, after all, not just to get good grades.

Network at Art School

It doesn’t matter which degree you’ve chosen, university is a great time to start building your professional network. Your classmates are also looking to become professionals and they may even be your future colleagues. This is your time to great lasting friendships and professional relationships with your fellow students and your lecturers.

How do you break into the art world? Use the most of your time at art school to make lasting connections. (Source: LubosHouska)

Furthermore, art schools often ask you to do group projects or individual projects that require a lot of work outside of class. Instead of staying locked up in your room, you should work together and stay motivated.

At the end of your studies, your new friends will be important if you become a freelancer or decide to work on your own. Getting out and seeing people is important for your wellbeing and inspiration.

Make Sure You Relax

It can be stressful studying an art degree. The admissions procedure is stressful and once you’re on the course, it only gets more stressful. You’re expected to do a lot of work and you’ll probably be spending a few late nights working on your projects.

However, if you keep working at this rate, you’ll go mad. Your brain needs to relax to remain creative and productive. You also need to take regular breaks and find a good rhythm for your body and mind. Don’t work relentlessly on your projects. Go out with friends, spend weekends with your family, etc.

Explore Your Artistic Sense

Drawing isn’t just technique! Some students are lucky because they are gifted in terms of drawing and painting technique. Rough perspective, live models, sketches, colouring, design, etc. But you can improve your technique. A lot of students aren’t masters of every technique when they start at art school. That’s why they’re at school, after all.

How do you improve as an artist? Make sure that you experiment as an artist. (Source: AlexanderStein)

You can’t start an art career just with technique, though. You also need to have an artistic sense which is why art schools also try to cultivate an artistic culture by studying art history. Without inspiration, an artist is nothing so don’t avoid the theory and culture on your programme.

Develop Your Artistic Curiosity

As you’ll have understood, there’s a lot of work to be done at art school. In addition to all the work you have to do, students are encouraged to attend art exhibitions. Go to your local museum of art regularly, study the history of art, and even expand your understanding of art by broadening your areas of study!

You can develop your artistic curiosity by reading novels, biographies, art magazines, and watching films, too. You should go beyond what you’re asked to do and regularly try to step outside your comfort zone. You can organise nights out with your friends to cultural events. Contemporary art, art and design, graphic design, performing arts, etc., there are tonnes of things to inspire you. Get out there and enjoy the world of art!

You could also learn more with private tutorials from one of the many talented tutors on Superprof! There are three main types of tutorials available.

Face-to-face tutorials are taught with one student and one tutor and are often the most cost-effective type of tutorials since every minute in the lesson is spent focusing on you as the student.

Online tutorials are similar to the face-to-face tutorials but take place either on a call or via webcam. Online tutorials are usually cheaper than face-to-face tutorials since the tutor has fewer outgoings to worry about.

Finally, group tutorials are classes with one teacher or tutor and multiple students. These tend to be the cheapest per student per hour since the cost of hiring the tutor is split amongst all the students attending the tutorials.


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