As you may have heard, I am an art student at an art school. The kind of school whose core curriculum includes courses such as “Color Theory” and “Survey of Western Art.” The kind of school where public speaking isn’t called public speaking, it’s called “Speaking of Ideas.” The kind of school where architecture is the nerdy major.
All this said, it would make sense for one to assume that, even though I’ve only just started my second quarter, I know a thing or two about art. Well, you’re not wrong. I know literally one thing, maybe two, about art, and I would like to share what I’ve learned at art school so you don’t have to go.
Art is subjective and arbitrary. SURPRISE! Bet you didn’t see that coming! Honestly, though, as soon as I came to terms with this my life became so much easier. As long as I followed the instructions for various projects and put in at least seven hours of work (that is not a joke, that is for real) into each project, it didn’t matter if it was “good.” As long as art exists and there are people to discuss it, no artwork will be considered universally good, so I came to base my analysis of my work on two questions: “Will my professor give me a good grade on this?” and “Would it make a good Facebook cover photo?”
And, now that I’ve accepted that art comes from a thousand different places, all of which are impossible to qualify, I am a happier, more carefree person. Which, as it turns out, is wrong.
Art is serious. Okay, yes, art is an important part of humanity and the world and of course there are viable careers in creative fields and SCAD is a premiere university for the study of art and design. I know this. But come on, isn’t it a little funny that my legal status is “art student?” At “art school?” While my non-SCAD peers are studying “engineering” and “other practical matters?”
After just one class, I realized that I came here with the wrong mindset. What was I thinking, laughing at myself? There is a plethora of jobs out there for artists like me, and they are all competitive as hell. Anyone who doesn’t take art school seriously at every single twist and turn just “doesn’t get it” and needs to reevaluate his or her life or drop out. I’m still deciding which course of action to take, because I’m not sure I will ever stop laughing at art school and how ridiculous it can be, because I am here to write comedy and not to paint my feelings.
Art is hard. It may be subjective and arbitrary and made largely by people who take themselves far too seriously, but make no mistake: Art is a lot of work. This state of affairs is exacerbated by the simple truth that we are all our own worst critics. That shade of blue might look right to your roommate, it may even look right to your professor, but it doesn’t look right to you and it definitely won’t look right to any of your unapologetically cutthroat peers during critiques. To spend anything less than 20 hours on a project is to turn in art that is less than perfect, and that is unacceptable. If your assignment doesn’t make you cry and/or consider dropping out, you’re not working hard enough, and that’s all there is to it.
Art isn’t a choice. Honestly, it would be a lot easier for any of us to just drop out of art school and become the doctor our parents always wanted us to be. But if you’re the kind of person who decides to wear the title “art student” like a badge of honor, you’re the kind of person who is incapable of living life with any label that doesn’t include “artist” in one way or another. There are times that it seems unfathomable to me– how could someone possibly love drawing so much that staying up until 3:00 AM animating a falling sheep makes them say, “Yes. This is the life I have chosen.” and be at peace with it? But the fact remains that art is not a choice, and I know this because we’re not all studying somewhere where we could get a degree without “fine arts” in it and look forward to a future of job security. We’re studying here, united by our love for creation and expression and our unmitigated hatred of gouache.