Last night, I got asked a pretty blunt question, one which I’d expect to have been asked by now, but never took the time to come up with a good answer for. Until now. A friend asked me, “Why did you choose to go to school for art?”
Now, I could answer by saying, I like drawing, and wanted to become better at it and find a career in it. However, I know a handful of people who are fantastic artists who either didn’t stay in school for art, or never went in the first place. I don’t NEED art school to get better; just motivation and the will to learn more about my practice. It wasn’t until today that I really thought up good reasons for going to school for art.
I’ll admit, when people ask what I’m studying, and I tell them “fine arts,” I’ve grown accustomed to the looks of pity people give me. Probably thinking, “You’ll never find a job in that in Ohio, or anywhere else, ever,” which I can understand. I’ll have people tell me they admire my artistic talent, but I can tell what they’re thinking. Or rather, some people vocalize what they’re thinking. It’s generally accepted that artists have to really know their stuff to get anywhere in life (which is why I’m also a writer, ‘cause that’s one of those ambitious occupations people seek too, yes?), and I’m not offended by the notion. It makes sense. One doesn’t just draw pictures and sell them to people, although that’s what I’ve started with as an art career, so to speak. You have to develop your own style, figure out who wants to see it, what you could use it for or who else could use it, all that stuff that goes into making a business of any sort.
All that to say, I definitely understand why people might look down on an arts degree, or why any art students change their majors and/or drop out. Making a living off art is tough, hence why I’m also in food service and, again, writing novels. So, thinking on all the cons of being an art student, finding a specific, logical reason as to why I chose it is actually kind of hard.
But here’s what I’ve come up with, so hear me out.
Art school isn’t just about painting pretty pictures, or learning how to paint pretty pictures. It’s not all about methods or style. And it sure as beans isn’t about picking an ‘easier’ degree to aim for just to make a name for yourself, because trust me, everyone I know who went into art school expecting it to be easy was thoroughly disappointed.
The things I’ve learned as an art student, people don’t just pick up on in whatever daily life routines. When I tell people some of the things I do or think on, they look at me like I’m an alien, because people just don’t do those things. For example, being an art student has turned me into an all-out detail-nut. I pick up on things about people that they don’t even notice about themselves. Facial features, smells, mannerisms, BONE STRUCTURES. I remember my friends by all kinds of little things that I’ve begun to look for in reality the way I would look for details in a piece of artwork to find meaning or message.
Oddly enough, being an art student has given me a passion for learning about a lot of stuff that I went to art school assuming I could avoid. Science, philosophy, history, there are a handful of subjects I didn’t expect to WANT to learn more about, not that I ever hated them. But now, after spending night after night conjuring images with paper and pencils, my brain grows restless, and I crave new information, about totally random stuff! As a writer, I research specific things in order to compose a seemingly-authentic story that people can relate with, but as an artist, I’m stuck with whatever my brain comes up with, and I NEED MORE.
One last great aspect of being an art student, at least, one for me personally, is that I can express my love for God and Bible stories in ways that have been around since people. God’s message used to be spread through art by nearly every well-known ‘master’ artist such as Michelangelo and Caravaggio (my personal favorite), and people don’t seem to think about that anymore so much as, “Wow, artists back then were crazy-ambitious.” I can change that, I can bring back God’s message through art, and I can do it my own way to reach out to all kinds of people. To non-Christian art students, the equivalent is simply, one can reach out to people with wonderful, meaningful messages that are just as useful in life as any doctor, policeman, scientist or construction worker. Don’t go to art school just so you can get better at drawing stuff, go to discover a message within yourself that needs to be spread!
I hope this is informative for anybody wanting to pursue an art career or become an art student, and that it encourages my art-student-friends. Although art school is a bit difficult, it’s worth it to learn all the non-art related things that sneak into your mind. Thanks for reading, cheers and God bless!
Luther D. Powell