#1 Tip To Succeed As An Artist

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A common joke in the 1950’s is often attributed to comedian Jack Benny.

“How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Practice, practice, practice.”

Although the joke didn’t originate with him, the comedian did actually play in the famous Manhattan concert hall. And the message of the punch line is true to this day, no matter the instrument.

The same idea holds true in the world of visual arts. The more you do your art, the better you’ll be. And the better you are, the more chance you’ll have of attaining your artistic goals. Whatever your chosen art form is, it requires patience and dedication, attention and repetition.  Painters, animators, ceramicists, costume designers, architects and printmakers alike, all need to pay focused attention to their craft, over and over, and over again.

I think that’s why I love this quote from Ira Glass, story-teller, host and producer of This American Life.  We’re never too young or too old to learn this lesson.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Go forth!

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Photo courtesy of RISD

Decision Time: 5 Tips To Help You Choose the Right School

SAIC Dining Hall

SAIC Dining Hall

It’s April and spring is in the air.  Finally!  Better yet all those offers are in.  If you’ve been accepted or wait-listed at more than one college then decision time is almost over.  As the expression goes, the ball is in your court.  And that’s a good thing.

So, how do you decide?  There are many factors that can – and should – influence you.  Here are a few tips I found helpful when my kids were going through the process.

1 – Try to identify what it is about each school that entices you.  Is it the location?  Cost?   Studio space?  The feel of campus, or something else?  I think all these factors fall into two basic categories: right fit and finances.  Make sure the programs available fit your wants and needs.  Re-visit each school’s website and contact the school with any unanswered questions you still have.  And DO let the financial package impact your decision.  If the weight of paying back future loans feels oppressive now, it will feel even heavier later on.

2 – Go back to “walking the walk.”  Visit campus, especially if you haven’t done so already.  I’ve said it before; there is nothing like a stroll around campus to see if it’s the right place for you.  Take the tour, check out the studios and dorms, eat in the cafeteria, and talk to students and professors.  If you can sit in on a class, great; if you can spend the night, even better.  Both will give you a better understanding of what it feels like to actually live there.  Maybe I’m repeating myself here too, but my oldest son thought Tufts was a funny name for a university.  Then he visited campus and exclaimed “wow, I love it here.”  End of story.

3 – Trust your gut.  This is easier than it sounds.  Sometimes the answer is right in front of you but there are too many distractions for you to see clearly.  If you can narrow your choices down to two or three schools then flip a coin, and mentally accept which way it lands.  Whatever the results are, you’ll feel joy, relief or perhaps a bit of anguish.  Those feelings will tell you what is the right choice for you.

4 – If you get wait-listed don’t get too discouraged.  You still have a chance to get in, even though it may be a small one.  My first recommendation is to accept an offer from one of the schools that accepted you.  Pick a place you’d honestly like to attend.  Then congratulate yourself; you’re going to college!

Believe it or not, that does remove a lot of the pressure.  If you’re still focused on a wait-listed school then let them know as soon as possible; schools like to know they are your top choice.  Try to contact the school’s admissions counselor for your region, and express your interest.  Tell him or her why their school is your top choice, and if you’re accepted, you’ll attend.  (Otherwise why are you trying?)  I’d also suggest sending additional information that can tip the scale in your favor.  Examples might be an achievement or acknowledgement you’ve received since you applied, an award won, or even a mentor’s recommendation about an atypical experience that relates to your future studies.  To take it one step further – if you can hand-deliver additional materials to a counselor you’ll have a chance to make a personal pitch for acceptance.  I always believe you’ll be better off if they can get to know you as an individual, rather than just a name on a sheet of paper.

SCAD sidewalk arts festival

SCAD sidewalk arts festival

5 – Breathe.  Don’t forget to take a moment to sit back and congratulate yourself.  You’ve worked hard to get to this point and you’re about to begin another great adventure.  You’re in the midst of a very exciting time of your life.  The future is a big unknown, with lots of exciting opportunities before you.  It’s unnerving and thrilling, all at the same time.  There are lots of new friends to meet at college, and so much art to discover!  Enjoy!