If you’re considering art school, you’ve probably decided to pursue art as a career.
If you’re not sure if you want to pursue art as a career, I talk about it in the previous article, here.
Should You Go to Art School?
The answer to this question is one that only you can answer. However, here are all the things in my experience that you must take into account.
Does the School Have a Good Reputation?
There’s a lot of art schools out there that aren’t worth the money. Schools like AI (Art Institute), Academy of Art University, etc in my opinion aren’t.
Art schools that aren’t part of a state university are for-profit institutions. A lot of them try to enroll as many students as possible. More students requires that they get more teachers.
They will tout that their teachers have industry experience, and they probably do! They’ll hire almost anyone that has industry experience. But just because someone is a great artist, that doesn’t make them a great teacher.
It’s a very expensive gamble whether or not you will get good teachers at these schools. Do a lot of research into specific schools, look for good reviews of them and more importantly bad reviews.
Read their website. Read the entire program that you’re interested in. What do they claim they’ll teach you?
Read the curriculum for the program, some schools even list what the assignments are in each course.
I’d take art schools that require a portfolio more seriously than those that don’t. Limited enrollment means a smaller more dedicated group of teachers. Much better odds of getting good ones!
Can You Afford It?
If you found a school that you’re interested, look at the cost (tuition, housing, etc). Is it in your price range? If so, great! If not you will need to look into financial aid and scholarships.
Or find a cheaper school.
For example, check State Universities. Some have excellent programs. I’m always hearing great things about the animation program at San Jose State University and they cost far less than most art schools.
It’s a bad feeling to not be able to afford the school that you’re interested in. It’s a big part of why I never finished getting a degree.
I never attended my first choice, and I couldn’t afford to continue my second best choice. But even though the curriculum wasn’t great, the short time I spent in art school I did improve. But that’s because…
You Get Out of It, What You Put Into It!
If you go to art school or attend a college for art and don’t try, you’ll barely improve. The goal isn’t to barely pass your classes, and just attending doesn’t make you a great artist.
To do that, you have to try your hardest on your assignments. You have to supplement your school work with other materials. Drawing books! Personal projects! Online tutorials! Whatever you can find.
You should surround yourself with students that are better than you and learn from them. Be willing to teach what you learn to less skilled artists, if you can’t teach someone else what you’ve learned then you don’t fully understand it yet.
However, you could always teach yourself with these supplemental materials at home for free instead! Really though, not all of us have the discipline to do it alone and NEED to be fully immersed in it. It can make learning art much easier, just as learning a language in a different country where it’s the national language is easier than at home.
Don’t Choose a School Because of Convenience!
This is a big mistake that I made starting out. Because I lived in the Bay Area,though it wasn’t my first, second, or even third choice, I attended the Academy of Art University. I did one semester there. One semester at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco cost over 10,000 dollars. Over 800 dollars per unit (3 units per class). This doesn’t even include housing.
Hands down the biggest waste of money I have ever spent.
The teachers I had were good artists, but they weren’t good teachers. Even the teacher I liked, wasn’t a great teacher.
My entire experience there was bad. They had me and my classmates copying pages out of Andrew Loomis’s books that I had already copied in High School for free that can be downloaded here.
After the Academy of Art fiasco, I took some courses at my local community college, Las Positas.
In some states here in America, community college is expensive. Where I live it is not. It was about 80 dollars per class at the time if I remember correctly.
Right now it’s 138 dollars per class (46 per unit) which is still affordable. The community college courses were far more useful than the Academy of Art for a fraction of the cost.
However, I wanted to go to school for animation and that isn’t something my community college had.
Be Willing to Move If You Have Too
Afterwards, I went to Sheridan in Canada. I took their Art Fundamentals program with the goal of building a portfolio to get into their animation program.
The American dollar was weaker at the time, and they cost more for international students. But the cost of the entire one-year program ended up being about 25k.
This includes the courses, the art supplies, housing, food, etc. All together, 25k. For art school that’s cheap. It’s even cheaper if you’re a Canadian citizen.
Not all of the classes I took there were useful, and some teachers were certainly better than others. But the experience I had was great, and being surrounded by other students trying to get into the same program created a fantastic learning environment. Very competitive!
It was hard work getting the portfolio made in time, time management is a very useful skill that I didn’t get good at until recent years. But I got it done in time and scored high enough to get in!
I scored high enough to get in, but not enough Canadian students did. As such, they had to lower the score to get in as to accept more Canadian students and I along with other international students got put onto the waiting list…
Not that it mattered, I couldn’t afford to continue attending anyways. But the experience there was one of the best I have ever had. Plus, some of the people that I taught while I attended there, DID get in!
Through them I later found out that the first two years of the Animation program were quite useful! The last two years, not so much…
That was the last of my formal art education. Overall, I don’t believe I learned anything there that I wouldn’t have learned myself as I was very motivated to learn and studied drawing for hours on end every day all through High School AND through my college experience. But attending Sheridan in such a competitive environment certainly accelerated my progress in a way that on my own and community college did not.
The other students at the community college were mostly middle-aged housewives that spent most their time talking about drinking wine and senior citizens that had picked up art as a hobby. It wasn’t competitive. The courses there were useful. but the actual art school experience, at a reputable art school, was a MUCH better experience.
So Should You Go?
I would say that if you find a reputable one. One that you can afford. If you’re willing to put in the work and make the most out of the experience.
Only Then, I would recommend trying it.
Even if you don’t get a degree out of it.
Being surrounded by other artists, better artists. In a highly competitive environment. It’s a taste of what you’d experience doing art for a living, and if you attend and complete a degree program, they have job fairs for the industry and most studios require that you’re enrolled in a 4-year program to get an internship. Both of which can open doors into the industry for you.
I hope that this article has helped you in making this decision, it’s a big decision when you’re young. But ultimately it’s just one experience of many that you’ll have.
You might not finish art school (like me). But end up making some great friends by going (like me). And learn a lot (like you know who). And still do JUST FINE.
But there’s only one way to find out! So if you’re still thinking of attending of enrolling, get researching and good luck!