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Recently I purchased a book that was recommended to me, "How successful Artists Study."  I haven't read through the whole book but found myself disagreeing with this author on several issues and would love to hear everyones input on a couple of the authors ideas:

 

1.  You must treat Art like any other job you are preparing for in life. YOU MUST spend at least 8 years in art school, otherwise you will not have the skills to succeed?

 

2. You don't have to have any talent to be an artist. 

 

 

I spend a lot of time struggling with these two ideas that the author wrote chapters on.  First off, many of the artist I have spoke with never attended a formal arts academy.  Some participate in groups, where they work on thier art, critiqe it, etc. However, I have found few artist who have spent years at an arts academy.

 

The second opinion of the authors also bothers me quite a bit.   I would like to believe that on some level every artist has some gift or creativity, vision, something that drives them to want to create art,  however I don't think anyone can do it.   I have spent some time recently working with "college age" students trying to prepare them for ART 101.  I have to say that I have bluntly used the phrase "You have no talent, but if you keep working on it you may develop the tools you need (to pass the class).  They want to be an artist but cannot even get past what I call "the egg" (In terms of shading, making something appear 3 dimensional, etc.) 

 

So what do you think about these two ideas, I would love to hear everyones input?

 

-Slone

Views: 179

Replies to This Discussion

I must agree with you on both points. Formal education often helps an artists career in two main ways: It accelerates the developement of the basic skill set, and, upon graduation from a recognized school, it can also fasttrack a young artists exhibition opportunities. However, it is by no means a must for success in the artworld, and the examples are too many to ignore.

Secondly, talent is an indispensable ingredient to a real artist. Many people have become proficient with trainning alone
but their work, lacking talent, is without soul, personality, depht.

Arturo.
I disagree with both statements as well. However if the author was writing this tongue and cheek I would have to agree with him or her....
It does seem to be the state of things right now. You have to be in a program to get any recognition, and there is a lot of crappy art made by individuals with no discernible talent or vision that are making it to the "big time".

Treating it like a job is important in that you "go to work" and practice the craft part of it on a regular schedule.
I also have to disagree with both stements. I have met many very talented and accomlished artists who are self taught. Yes, a formal education provides guidance and it does fast trac developement of basc skills and it does provide opportunities that many of us have to work very hard for but by no means is it a recipe for success. I feel you must treat it as a job, especially if your goals are to become a successful working srtist. I've seen a lot of bad art from those who have no formal education or talent. I've also seen bad art from those with art academy trianing who also have no talent which leads us to the second statement. True, there are artists who I feel have no talent but have achieved success, but as a whole it is the one basic requirement an artist should possess. Some are born with it and some have to work very hard to achieve it, but talent is a nesseccary element.
A piece of paper nor a degree defines anyone as an artist; passion and the will to put in the work will be an essential part in defining an artist. Most of what you learn is from repetition and even being open to critiques from others. Books, galleries, Internet and YouTube have countless tools and resources to help improve. Art should be a love, an experience... not a '101'.

REAP13
I'd hate to think I missed my career potential entirely because I didn't spend 8 years in art school. I've taken instruction over the years in classes and workshops that might equal eight years if I tallied it up. I appreciate the accelerated growth and skill set one gets from being in a formal education setting for years at a time and I wish I'd had that for myself, but it was financially prohibited. I think not having a formal art degree has made it harder but not impossible to succeed. I think education is a lifelong process--not just one that is completed in four to eight years, and I try to learn something new wherever and whenever I can. I think practice and persistence trumps everything else. There is some wonderful art instruction out there,that isn't part of a college degree. In the old days (well, even now for that matter) learning from copying the masters or studying under an artist you admire can hone your skills without breaking the bank.

I'd also like to think that talent is a requirement. The advent of some contemporary art trends as well as computer-generated media had skewed this somewhat in my opinion. (For instance, when I went to design school at FIT there was great emphasis placed on proper rendering techniques, color mixing, drawing, etc. Half the programs in the country now just generate fashion drawings on a computer. I don't know if that means the student doesn't have to have skill, but it is a very DIFFERENT skill.) I think that nowadays students want to run before they can walk and that teachers and galleries encourage this. Picasso's abstracts had a foundation under them. He spent years perfecting his drawing skills and painted very realistically before branching off into his groundbreaking style. Sometimes when I go to a Contemporary art museum these days, I feel that the artist was more concerned with being "edgy" or "provocative" than anything else. I also believe that if I have to read an essay explaining a work to me before I can "get" it, maybe I don't WANT to "get " it. Really good work stands on its own merit. Most of the stuff I see that's brought in ( at great expense, mind you, from nationally-known artists) at our contemporary arts center leaves me cold. It looks contrived, and is "soulless" for me as one of the other commenters stated. It's like the more incomprehensible it is, the more we're supposed to love it. Some artists have real talent--some have found a cool "gimmick" that's commercially viable.
It's harder and harder to tell the two apart these days.
Well I did throw the book out....after a bunch of peps said yeah to that. Now, after time to reflect I know I can answer my own questions but I still think that they give someone a lot to think about. Yes, I believe that if I would have got an Art degree over Business than it would have provided me with a lot of background knowledge that I had to learn along the way or the hard. I do believe that by attending some art training courses in the areas where I need help would be general advice for anyone. I do know that in some circles a piece of paper may mean something but every gallery I have been to recently do not care about that. They, themselves pride themselves in "finding" an artist who needs coaching or mentoring. They love find someone with the raw talent of good and making it great. I didn't go to art school but I do know that my favorite books I picked out in grade school: one was on Matisse and one on Van Gogh; I was obsessed with the Renaissance period and hand plaster every part of walls with pictures of the Sistine Chapel. I never did find anyone like me, none of my friends enjoyed having to go to a museum or being drug here or there by their parents, but they always knew who to take with them! I enjoyed everything happening in the real world at that moment but loved to surround myself with the past and all its beauty. Recently I had the honor of going into the vault of a gallery that had exquisite Asian pieces from the 12 century, 13 century, etc. The history behind all the pieces was amazing but what I found equally amazing was finding beauty in a piece of "art" I personally did not like. It was intricate hand carvings done on petrified mammoth tusk that had taken 20 years to complete. Now, would I personally choose that for it looks? No.however you see the time, care, pride and everything else that this one artist had put into this piece of art. "Not many people see that." The gallery owner told me, "they just see it as what it is, it's such a shame."
Now on to my question about lack of skill...can anyone be an artist. Before I posted the question I had already described to one girl that natural talent is nothing if you don't work on it and build on it. It’s like someone has already been given a plant, but for it to grow into a tree it needs work. I explained to her that she was given a seed. She has a desire to draw but doesn't have any natural ability to do it. (It is almost like a foreign language for her). However, I said that if she puts the time in to reading (about techniques), training the hand (drawing), and working hard on those basics she will have a plant also. She will have to catch up to those people who already have one (which I am trying to help her with right now) but after that it all depends on determined and willing she is to work on her art. It may become easier or not. What might take one student an hour will take her 4 hours but in the end the result will be the same and if she enjoys the process then time shouldn't matter. I have read her poetry and know that if she were to acquire the skills to put them into a picture, her emotions would be splattered all over the canvas.

Now another question posed in the book was WHY DO YOU WANT TO BECOME AN ARTIST? WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL?
I would love to hear how everyone would respond to this....
I think art is a god given talent and everyone can create, but not everyone's creations are appreciated in the the same context. The creative process, is one of ,or to me the most fulfilling act of spending time doing something I truely love! I believe and agree that redundantcy is the key to truely controlling and understanding the end result of your subject , as well as the media in which it was created. The educational process, is one of trial and error, no matter how long you have been an artist! The real difference between a dedicated artist is that they will continue to create no matter what! My gaol as an artist is to become a master colorist . W.S.F
Sloan:


I'd have to agree that you should treat your art job just as you would any other job. You should work at least 8 hours a day 5 days a week until you decide to retire at age 65+. You need to develop a rigourous work routine. Do the math. If you want to make $30,000 a year then you'll have to sell 60 paintings per year for $500 each. Since it's unlikely you can sell everything you make, you'll have to produce more than 60 painting. If you can only sell your work for $200 each, then you'll have to sell 150 paintings per year.

If you'r serious about becoming an artist, you should get formal training. I think 8 years is arbitrary. However, I think it will take most artist at least 8 - 10 years to become successful, but it doesn't take 8 years of formal training. And you don't necessarily need a degree. Target you coursework toward the specific areas where you want to learn more. Shop around. Find out who the best intructors are. Research the school's and art department's reputation. Talk to other students. Being "self taught" is a curse. It pretty well means your an amateur and likely to be one for a long, long time. (Seems to me a lot of people on this site are "self taught" amateurs seeking very simple, basic information that almost any competent graduate from a formal program already knows. And their work shows it.) I read recently that there are 300,000 MFA graduates every year. These are very accomplished, bright young artists who are producing some excellent work and certainly have the skills to succeed. I suspect that New York City alone has several hundred thousand professional artists. If you want to get ahead you'll have to work, work, work. Or marry rich. whatever. If you hope to get "discovered", you have a better chance of winning the lottery.

I'd be careful evaluating other people's talent. It's such an obscure thing anyway. And telling someone they have none, is a bit insensitive. Unless you have a degree in art education, you aren't qualifed to make that judgement. Maybe students didn't display "talent' because the teacher didn't know how to bring it out of them. As an expert in the area of art education, I cans say without hesitation that when students don't learn, its almost always the teacher who is inadequate, not the student. Yes, some students may be more talented than others, but the big difference is usually not talent, but effort.

Most works of art I see don't display a lot of talent, but they do display varying degrees of skill. Some show some creative talent but poor skills while others do the opposite. Art has to answer the "so What?" question. If I was 20 again and wanted to become an artist, I'd finish formal schooling (an MFA) and move to NYC which is the center of the art world. I would go to every gallery opening that I could, I'd network with other NY artists ands work my butt off.

Definiately 2 provocative statements that have provoked a fascinating discussion. I do wonder if the author's underlying message is that ''Hard work and committment are more important than pure talent alone."

Thanks for joining this discussion Alex, I hope the others are still active.  Actually, I do treat my art career as a job. This is how I make a living, and I keep painting whether I'm sick or feel like it. Yes, I have some obsessiveness about it, and it's hard to stop until I like what I see. I wonder sometimes whether I'm talented, or just willing to work hard. But I don't care what the answer is, when I love the end product.

I am self taught and a professional for over 20 years. A few years ago I went to an art college, that supposedly emphasized classical training, to see if I'd missed anything. Nah. For someone who's driven and self-disciplined, I think you can learn what you need yourself. Beyond that, you can look for artists who are doing work you'd like to do and approach them directly for lessons. It still doesn't mean they are able to teach what they know; I think teaching is a gift you're born with also.

I had some helpful life experiences on the business side of art. I was a researcher/secretary for an art appraiser. It was very interesting to learn how appraisers look at art and describe it, as well as how they evaluate the quality of a certain painting within an artist's ouvre. I worked in two very different galleries, learning a lot about marketing and sales. I took many general sales trainings. I volunteered as an art museum docent, and learned about the politics of collection committees. One of my former assistants described to me a temporary job she did. It was in a factory, set up by an artist who was commissioned to provide a few thousand abstract paintings for a cruise ship. No art college that I know of provides this kind of information.

sure you must treat treat art like any other job if you want to be successful and of course you don't have to go to school at all. Talent is just be able and willing to work on something -- so, in that sense, you need to have talent. However you don't need to know from birth how to draw a dining room chair.

I agree, Steen. Am I talented, or just willing to work hard, until it looks right? And sadly, I see quite a few MFA grads whose work is sub-par.

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