#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

Academic Value

Taking the tour at SAIC

Taking the tour at SAIC

What’s all the hubbub about accreditation?

For art and design schools, accreditation is through NASAD, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.  Membership, made possible only through an in-depth peer review process, equates to a stamp of authenticity for art and design programs across the country. Whether you’re interested in an independent, free-standing college of art and design or a program inside a larger college or university, accreditation ensures a comprehensive education that meets academic standards leading to graduation.

Guidelines and principles for art and design programs cover a wide range of issues including: admission to undergraduate study, art and design curricula, liberal arts degrees with an art or design major, combination degrees in studio and art history, baccalaureate degrees in art education … and the list goes on.

The benefit to you is academic value; standards for educational quality are set and met.

Accreditation initially came into popularity as a guide for transferring acceptable credits from one institution to another. There needed to be uniformity; the coursework and education at each school needed to be comparable. In today’s marketplace, where cost is often the driver that moves students from one program to another, comparables are as necessary as ever. However, each institution has its own requirements for transfer credits, so you’ll need to confirm what is acceptable in each individual program. If this is a concern, contact the admissions office. They’ll help you out.

I often think accreditation comes into play for for-profit institutions. Different in name and mission from non-profits, their goals are not just the altruistic education of their students.  For them, accreditation provides a level playing field on which they can market themselves equally.

Whatever schools you’re considering, my suggestion is to add accreditation to your research list. While visiting college websites make sure they’re accredited.  I usually find it in the “About Us” section.

Summer Tours

College is a time for exploration. A four-year opportunity to throw caution to the wind; to try new adventures, expand your horizons, test yourself, and dream where your future might lead you.  A time to take classes in subjects you’ve always dreamed of, and never dreamed of. However, especially in this day and age, college is also a time to be practical and pragmatic. Rising tuition costs and student loan debt are a reality, and must be considered when making a college choice.

Easels awaiting freshmen at AAC

Easels awaiting freshmen at AAC

Artists need to carefully consider their undergraduate options. Deciding to study art often leads to questioning and criticism about practicality being thrown out the window. Where you study can have a large impact on your career after college. That’s just one of the reasons why I think college tours – and the limitless questions you should consider when touring – need to be an essential part of every student’s decision process.

Jeff Selingo, editor at large at The Chronicle of Higher Education, recently wrote an excellent and detailed article about the pros and cons of summer college tours. They are the best of times and the worst of times. Summer tours provide families freedom from high school and sports schedules to walk the walk, yet unfortunately they’re at a time when fewer students are on campus, giving a possible inaccurate image of what student life is really like. However, they’re still definitely worth the effort.

Jeff offers a “to do” list of questions to explore while on campus. For artists I’d add: make sure you tour studio spaces, inquire how many professors are working artists, inquire about working internships, and make sure to visit the career services office. The first of these will show you where you’ll spend most of your time on campus, and the latter three will help you better understand how the college will help connect you to a career after graduation.

Selecting where you’ll spend the next four years of your life is not an easy endeavor. Wherever you choose, you’ll want to make sure it provides you with lots of opportunities to dream, and then well-worn paths to apply those dreams to reality.