What They Don’t Teach You in Art School

Lately, I have been reflecting a lot of my art school days and what they didn’t teach you there. It was so great to have 4 years of uninterrupted focus on the fundamentals, technique, and attempting to master the skill set of art making. It was so great to be in this little bubble where the world revolved around art. Every day I struggled to improve and my entire focus was achieving that technical and aesthetic improvement. My entire focus was on excelling at my craft. Sometimes a secondary focus would be on trying to figure out what great art was and studying the history of art. We had art history classes which some days intrigued me and other days bored me or even angered me. We had classes on perspective, printmaking, drawing, painting, sculpture and we had one class – ONE! On career development.

I remember in my second year of art school reading the book, “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Mostly, because making art for me at the time was still a major battle of a fear of failure. Something in the book stood out to me at the time about how many art students left art school and never made art again! Whoa, I thought…why? Why would you do that? Go to art school for 4 whole years, get a degree, go into major debt for only to not do it? Most of the students graduate only to go back into the system to get their Masters degree and eventually become professors themselves. I remember being so struck by this at the time and thought to myself, “But I don’t want to be a professor and get a masters degree. Can’t I just be an artist?” Sure enough by my fourth year the professors were trying to push me towards that path and I just refused. At the time, however, I didn’t really have a clear understanding of how you could be an artist by selling paintings. Although I wanted to teach I knew that the college system was not for me and I wanted my career to be as an artist not as an art professor making art in my spare time.

There were some useful topics covered in our career development, most of which were how to get into galleries or how to get grants. Both of these are viable paths and options, but there are so many more, at least now 6 years later and I would think then too. It’s just they didn’t know how to do it themselves (any other way) so how could they teach us. They would bring in visiting artists that seemed to perpetuate the belief that this is the system and if it doesn’t work for you well you’re just somehow not genius enough because the genius artists get all kinds of success and opportunities thrown at them. So we all hoped to be geniuses. And somehow this is acceptable in degree granting programs that they are sending their graduates out into the world without any real business skills. I mean business and art just don’t go together right? Again, I don’t totally blame them. None of us want them to go together. The whole point of being a bohemian artist is to be painting when the passion strikes, struggling, broke…or totally so hip and cool that we don’t care about money. Somehow the not being concerned about business side makes us a purer artist in most of our eyes. We’re pure. We want to paint what we want to paint. We don’t even want to take on commissions. We don’t care what the public wants and that is why we are not selling art. Even Michelangelo cared what the Pope wanted and gladly accepted the money for it.

I’m saying all of this to say that if you are an artist there is another way. It’s okay and frankly you owe it to yourself to learn how to handle your art business in the right way. Last fall, I took a course with Alexis Fedor called the Profit Canvas and I am still benefiting from the ongoing support there. I wish they would have taught us ½ of this in art school as it has made me feel like I am worthy of the art I create. The course is geared to artists specifically (in any field) and gives concrete applicable steps to creating an art business that still aligns with your values and helps you investigate those values too.

She is giving a free pre-training right now if you want to check it out. I’ve been telling all of my friends because I want no one to miss this opportunity that needs it. If you are struggling I recommend you get in there and find out if it’s for you.

Here is a quote from Art and Fear:

“Not many people continue making art when — abruptly — their work is no longer seen, no longer exhibited, no longer commented upon, no longer encouraged. Could you?”

Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

And I would add no longer buying art (see again that gets left out). If you are struggling I recommend you get in there and find out if it’s for you. Here is the link for the free training: CLICK HERE to enroll now (it’s free!!)

Love in Light, Kelli

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