art school

What Was Art School Like?

Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA

Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA

The other day, a family of five came into my art studio in Asheville. They’d been browsing in and out of the different art studios in the River Arts District and had a lot to say about the artwork they’d seen and artists they’d met. Super nice people. This couple’s son said he was interested in pursuing art as a career and Jim (the dad) asked me if I’d been to art school for training and if so, what was it really like? Was it worth it? Oooooo. Good blog post idea!

So, I’ll try to condense what was a half hour conversation into a short blog.

I really think that if it’s the “right” art school, it can be really valuable to an artist. “Self-taught” is fine, don’t get me wrong. No one taught me the technique I’m known for in my artwork. I made it up. But…I made it up using the tools I got from my education. I went to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. It was extraordinarily challenging but was definitely an amazing experience. I absolutely loved college. One of the things I learned there was to be organized with my time (a valuable tool I’ve used ever since). The work load was so intense and the pressure on the students was incredible. The years I attended, Art Center was ranked #2 (right behind Harvard School of Law) in terms of stress level on the students.

“Crit time” reduced us college students to tears…”

This was also the place I learned to take artistic criticism. I had to either learn to take critique or emotionally crumble! See, upon completion of our assignment, we would post our work on the walls around the classroom. Then we’d each present our assignment, and each of the other students would take turns expressing what was right and what was wrong with what we’d done. There was none of this “now remember, with art, there are NO MISTAKES”. Don’t believe it. “Crit time” reduced us college students to tears. It was brutal and really, really helpful (if you opened up to listening).

The other really helpful thing we learned was about the correct way to compose a piece of art. Did you know there are good and bad color combinations and good and bad compositions for a painting? Oh yes. We learned color theory and we learned about the laws (google "the Golden Section” sometime) that govern makes a pleasing composition of a piece of art. When I got to this point, Jim (the dad in my now captive audience) asked “What about abstract art? Would those rules apply to types of art other than landscapes or still life?” Oh my gosh, YES. Color and good composition are all you have with an abstract painting. Knowing the rules is even MORE important in an abstract.

My time at art college was amazing. I so appreciate the instructors, the brutal critique (though I didn’t enjoy that at the time) and the awesome life-long friends I made there. Because of all that, I’m able to now paint full-time and live in an awesome place like Asheville (and talk to nice families coming into my art studio asking me about my experience at art school. :)