3 Ways Art Students Often Hurt Their Own Chances of Success


Are you going to Art School?

Did you decide to go to Art School to follow your dream of becoming a professional artist?

I firmly believe that Art School isn’t necessarily for everyone, especially with the growing amount of resources and alternative forms of self-education to be found online.

However, whether you’re taking the more traditional route or teaching yourself by other means, your education is an incredible opportunity that you might not be taking full advantage of.

There seem to be 3 main ways that Art Students unknowingly decrease their own chances of finding success after their actual or virtual “graduation”.

1. Not Considering Themselves Artists

There’s something very peculiar that happens when the average person begins to attend Art School.

Before their attendance, they likely considered themselves to be artists in one form or another, because it was a passion that they pursued on a daily basis and hoped to one day turn into a career.

After becoming an undergraduate student, however, many people insert the term “aspiring” in front of the term “artist” for some mysterious reason. It’s not that they are all of a sudden less of an artist, but there seems to be some sort of psychological reason for changing their perception of themselves that I’m not qualified to explain.

When I was in Art School, I couldn’t help but notice how many of my fellow students talked about themselves as “aspiring artists” or talk about how they hoped to be artists some day.

To my mind, this is a mindset that can do a lot to stunt your creative growth.

Instead, I think it’s extremely important to realize that you are an artist if you create art.

You may not be as experienced, or talented, or successful as other artists, but one of the best things you can do for your creative life is to declare yourself as an “artist”, not an “aspiring” one.

No one else is going to give that title to you, nor should they. You are an artist as soon as you decide that you are, no matter how much you feel that you still have to learn.

It’s a well known fact that even in your professional life, you will always have more to learn about art and illustration, and there is no known threshold to cross, other than the one that you set for yourself.

2. Not Taking Advantage of Resources

I’ve heard from a lot of professors and Chairs of Illustration programs that there is usually a small percentage of students who take full advantage of the resources and information available to them in Art School.

While I feel that some Art Schools have some room for improvement as far as their education on the business side of things, there are a great deal of resources available to students in the form of the guidance of highly knowledgeable and experienced instructors.

If you’re not making the most of this opportunity, you’re not getting the full benefit of your investment, and we all know that Art School is expensive.

If you are taking initiative and shooting for the moon as a student, you’re one of the determined few who will have a much better chance of making a living as an artist.

3. Depending Solely on Art School for Their Education

No matter what quality of education and resources a particular Art School provides, and no matter how well a student is engaged in their education, there still remains another common practice that serves to hold people back from their success as a creative professional.

Some students become so dependent on their Art School that they forget about the wealth of resources and information to be found out in the “real world”. This may refer back to the idea of not yet considering themselves to be “artists”.

However, it’s never too early to do everything you can to round out your education as much as possible.

Don’t fall into the trap of seeing your school as the only source of guidance.

Books, websites, podcasts, tutorials, and yes, even artists themselves are all great resources to mine for further information and inspiration. This is, after all, where you’ll likely pursue your continuing education after you graduate, so why not start now?

If you’re an art student, you will likely notice many of your peers holding themselves back in these ways every day. The good news is, avoiding the pitfalls listed above will set you apart from your fellow students and increase your chances of success as an artist.

The choice is yours.

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Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at thomasjamesillustration.com.
Thomas James

Posted by Thomas James on 07/20/15 under business
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