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Old 09-11-2003, 12:13 AM   #1
Susan Ballinger Susan Ballinger is offline
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Going back to school




Hi everyone!

Its been quite a while since I've posted anything on here. I'm a part-time artist working full-time in retail.

I would like to go back to college to get a formal education in art. Mostly I'm self-taught. I would like to have a career in art, but I'm not sure what's out there, so I'm looking for some direction. From what I've seen, artists are either teachers, graphic artists or work at home (portrait artists, free-lance, or other artists creating enough work on their own to sell full-time). Is there something I'm missing, or does this encompass the basic types of jobs artists can fill? Is a BA or BFA going to get me a job anywhere?

Growing up, I thought that I would be an artist. As I got older, I decided I needed to find a more 'sensible' job. I just didn't think there was much out there for artists, so I spent a few years pursuing a math degree. Now my heart has turned me around and I really want to go after my life-long passion of art.

If I were to stay in Iowa, I don't know that I could be a full-time portrait artist. It must be more of a southern custom, because people here just don't appreciate the time spent on this. Besides, I enjoy trying out several different forms of artwork. (Just ask my husband how many 'hobbies' I've got going on!)

I'm not opposed to moving to another state if it means I can do portraits full-time, but I would like to know what are my other options as an artist? Also, would the college I attend make a big difference- say University of Iowa vs. an art college in Chicago or Minneapolis?

I appreciate any advice!
Thanks!

Susan Meierotto
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Old 09-11-2003, 07:53 AM   #2
Lisa Gloria
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Hello Susan

I applaud your drive! I think it's very courageous to go back to school mid-career and give it your best shot. Good on ya!

I know lots of people here have degrees, so I'll let them speak to that part. I didn't finish art school, left after 2 years for financial reasons mostly, but I probably could have worked those out if I really thought that the art school was creating great artists. It wasn't. I don't know about now, but back in 89/90 modern art was still a very big whup, and students weren't "taught" how to paint so that their budding creativity wouldn't be stifled.

If I had it to do again, I would spend the money on workshops and an extended atelier program. That would have gotten me to this point faster, as well as looked nicer on a resume than the U of Illinois degree I would have gotten. It's pretty specific, though, and a nice background in realism probably won't help you find a day job in commercial art.

By the way, jobs in art are everywhere. While there are relatively few fine artists, there is a huge number of commercial artists working on everything from illustration to web design (I did that for 9 years now) to advertising, to package design, to industrial design, to interior design/decoration, to decorative painting. You can do any of the things you mentioned and loads more. I look at art like a trade, not an ethereal calling - almost like being an electrician or mechanic. Once you have mastered the skills, there should be jobs to be had. (Of course, I know a few out of work electricians, but you know what I mean.)
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Old 09-11-2003, 08:15 AM   #3
Jeff Fuchs Jeff Fuchs is offline
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Quote:
Is a BA or BFA going to get me a job anywhere?
Sure. It got me a job with Child Protection.

Universities are good at turning out well-rounded graduates who are adaptable in the workplace, but they aren't where you go to be a serious realist artist. When you think of all the time you spend studying for your exams in French, Literature, Calculus, and World History, where do you squeeze in the time for art? You might spend six hours a week in art classes. You can spend that much time drawing at home without going to school at all. Plus, university instructors won't respect someone who wants to be a portrait artist. Tust me on this.

If you're serious, go to an art school (atelier). They are 100% art, 100% of the time (or it seems that way to me. I've never been to one).

Quote:
I look at art like a trade, not an ethereal calling
HERESY!!! (but a good practical approach). You don't need to break your back to learn an ethereal calling. A trade is work. People don't care how inspired you are when they see a bad painting in a gallery. They want quality. Quality with inspiration behind it... even better.

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It must be more of a southern custom
It's not "southern". It's "Southern"
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Old 09-11-2003, 10:00 AM   #4
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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Your first step should be to decide what kind of work you'd like to do in the field of art. The education you'd need to be an interior designer is totally different from what you'd need to be a realist painter selling in a gallery or doing commissioned portraits, and different again from what a packaging graphic designer would need to learn.

Lisa Gloria wrote:

Quote:
Once you have mastered the skills, there should be jobs to be had.
Unfortunately, this doesn't mean there are "jobs" for those who have the skills. I studied realistic illustration in college and that field has all but disappeared as an occupation for artists. Once you've got some idea of what kind of work you'd like to do, then you can start your research into employment opportunities and the training needed.

If you want to be a realist painter (which means self employment, by the way) those of us on this Forum can give you some tips. For background on what you should study for those other fields, you might want to do research into the colleges that train people in those areas.

For realist painting my first stop on the web would be the Art Renewal Center. Go to http://www.artrenewal.org and check out their approved ateliers section. That will list schools in various states and countries that teach realist painting.

You can also look around this Stroke of Genius site for artists who teach workshops. There are also many highly recommended books you can start with on your own that are listed on this site.

If you want to consider a university art program, one that will give you a BA or a BFA upon graduation, you should thoroughly check out what kind of art their students are doing. It is my understanding that those programs are still firmly in the grip of modern art and you're more likely to learn how to make grainy videos of people climbing trees in their pajamas than you are to ever learn about painting using correct color temperature or rendering the form of a model.

Good luck to you in whatever path you choose!
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Old 09-11-2003, 10:50 AM   #5
Lisa Gloria
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Yes, upon re-reading it I think my post this morning was a bit garbled. Michele's right, you do have to pick a course of study and stick with it. I was responding to your list of "painterly" jobs which included graphic design, and sort of went off on a tangent. I've had some coffee, so I feel better now.

I may be an optimist, but I do think that there should be jobs, i.e. clients. There are relatively few people who can do what the real geniuses around here do, and I think their relative success is a "build it and they will come" natural sort of thing. I wonder how many people with Marvin Mattelson's ability languish in the welfare lines, or under a paper hat and nametag? I think (maybe wish) that there aren't very many. I know there are loads of wonderful singers driving desks for a living - is a great painter more rare?

Then again, not everyone who gets an atelier education is going to be able to rise to that level, sometimes no matter what.

I know it sounds like I'm being glib, but it's an important issue and I wonder what everyone here thinks.
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Old 09-11-2003, 12:32 PM   #6
Lynn T. McCallum Lynn T. McCallum is offline
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I Lucked Out

When I went back to art school way back in 1992, Connie Erickson was teaching at Watkins Institute. Michele is right about checking out what the students are producing. When I saw Connie's work and what her students were doing, it was all I needed to know to start taking classes at Watkins Institute in Nashville.

Shop around, going back to school for a degree may not be what you need. If you have a good strong art background, think about a few really good classes to concentrate on your weaknesses and a couple of workshops, then if you feel that isn't enough, then consider the BA or BFA. Take a look at your work now. How are your drawing skills? Every good painting starts with a great drawing as a base. Maybe just find a good instructor in your area and explore drawing for a while. It really is up to you. Personally, UGA was sort of a waste (Go Dawgs). Evaluate what you want to do and where you want to be in three years from now and go for it. This is just from my personal experience and there is tons more out there for me to learn. There are other folks out there with even better ideas, but your the one doing this, so do what feels right in your heart and mind.

A recommended read that may help in your recent pursuit is, 'The Artist's Way' and it was written by Julia Cameron. It is a great book and it will keep you focused on your art when the turkeys get you down. The turkeys will get you down and this book is a good defense against them.

Good luck and keep us posted.
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Old 09-11-2003, 12:36 PM   #7
Jeff Fuchs Jeff Fuchs is offline
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Lisa,

I agree with you. I've always said that if you can paint a good portrait, you'll never starve. You may not get rich, but someone will buy your wares.

Portraiture is different than, say, literature. If my manuscript doesn't sell, lowering the price won't help. An artist can adjust his prices for the local market or his desperation level. He may be cheating himself, but the bills will get paid (assuming he's good).

But it all comes down to skills. Susan is asking about how to best build her skills. This is the right attitude. Take a Tiger Woods approach. Drill yourself on basic skills until they're not skills anymore... they're reflexes. We see Beth trying to make a living AND build skills at the same time. It can be done, but it's all uphill. If Susan has the luxury of being able to attend an atelier, or museum school, before trying to make a living at it, she should go for it. Personally, I can't even take a workshop, since they won't let me away from the office that long (Vacation? What's that?). I have to take the self-guided route.

What bothers me about Susan's question is that she's asking about employment as an artist. I don't know if that's a realistic goal. You'll have to accept the feast and famine lifestyle of the lone wolf. I'm looking forward to that, more than employment.

Go for it, Susan.
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Old 09-11-2003, 05:11 PM   #8
Susan Ballinger Susan Ballinger is offline
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Wow! I'm certainly surprised by the number of replies I've received so quickly.

I won't say I have the luxury to attend an atelier. I can't afford anything much - I figured I could get a grant to go to a college based on my current financial situation. I'm not opposed to moving if it means I can get better training. I have wondered if the schools are focused on modern art... I'm very much a realist. I've seen where things that used to be done by hand are now done on computers, and that's just not me. I want to get my hands dirty!

I actually am a Furniture Sales Manager. I enjoy decorating the department, but I'm not sure that I want to be an interior designer. I have even thought about designing furniture, but I haven't really looked into it. I just know I need something that is always a challenge, that I can use my creative talents on. I love to watch the show (can't recall the name) on HGTV that showcases different artists. Some are metalworkers, some do pottery, some are painters... its always something so different from anything I would have thought of.

I've always enjoyed drawing, and it has just been within the last few years that I have started oil painting. I'm certainly not opposed to learning a new trade. I do enjoy painting portraits, but there is a lot I have to learn. Sigh. Maybe I'll just have to ask for a trip to a workshop as a Christmas gift. lol

Susan
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Old 09-11-2003, 11:43 PM   #9
Marvin Mattelson Marvin Mattelson is offline
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Talent alone?

Quote:
I wonder how many people with Marvin Mattelson's ability languish in the welfare lines
It would be nice if people were rewarded based on talent alone. Unfortunately we live in a complex world and to survive an artist must be more than talented. One needs to be a self promoter, heavily networked and sometimes, just plain lucky.

When I graduated from HS in Phila. the board of education gave twenty scholarships city wide. My HS won 10 of those and I was first runner up (number 21). They may have been more talented at the time but I had the desire to succeed and that was my fuel.

Even though I went to Art school, it took me thirty years to scrounge together the education I needed to fulfill my ambitions so that my "talent" could be recognized. Talent alone without proper training cannot be manifested. I feel very fortunate to have been privy to the knowledge I have received and I derive great satisfaction by teaching others.

There are many Sargent wannabes who churn out painting after painting and make tons of money. I spend as much time as necessary, to satisfy myself through each and every painting I create.

I also spend a lot of my time doing non painting activities in order to promote my work and build my reputation. I enjoy being hands on and taking responsibility for my career. I'll never be rich doing things my way but I sure am happy.

There are no easy answers if quality work is your goal, but if you long to be an artist, you do whatever is necessary to reach your goal. First off, start with good training.
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