For Art's Sake - № 3: Why Should I Go to Art School?

The term “starving artist” is more often related to an amateur artist. Yes, everyone has talent in art, but not everyone will have a successful career without a good education in art. Your talent and passion is one thing, but you also need to be well-educated and have knowledge about your chosen field. Art school is where you can receive the education as well as see beyond what you think you know and be able to communicate and execute your creativity into reality. It’s a place that can help you push yourself.

For athletes that want to win Olympic gold medals, they need a coach to push them beyond their abilities. Painters choose to paint realism, impressionist or abstract, using their knowledge of color and drawing skills to express their subject. Sculptors sketch their ideas and master their craft and technique in order to execute their creativity. Architects and designers alike all begin by sketching their ideas. Drawing is an extension of words. 

Art is a form of communication as much as speaking or writing. It’s a skill that needs to develop and grow. Sure, you can speak and write, but can you speak and write well without guidance from instructors’ expertise from school? To be an artist and have a successful career in your chosen discipline today, one needs to learn and catch up with the ongoing development of technology that has opened plenty of new opportunities for art in the workforce. Art school is the place where you can learn innovative technology and receive the education you need for a future in the world of art.

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Art school teaches you to see beyond what you think you know and be able to communicate and execute your creative visions. At school, artists are able to learn about the latest technologies and the opportunities that they present. Photos by Bob Toy.

I recently had a conversation with School of Graphic Design Associate Director Tom McNulty, who teaches brand and package design at Academy of Art University. He shared his thoughts about the importance of learning design in school. 

“I think going to school gives an individual the right tools, and I think bringing up research is part of the process. It’s understanding that when an instructor gives you a problem, without research, you can’t intellectually solve that problem. You need to understand who the company is, what their positioning is, what their brand speaks to, what’s the essence of that company; all those play out from a business structure that may not be apparent if you were to do that on your own. You cannot achieve that. So, school’s a vital entity to being taught the right methods and right ways of approaching a problem.

“There’s a different analogy to look at, as designers. In school, it’s a we. We learn from each other, we learn from our classmates. Many times when I’m working on a collaborative project, I allow students to learn from one another, to come up with solutions that they all feel complete about. Because when that happens, you create an environment that becomes very successful. It’s not an isolated situation. If you can learn by yourself, it may take you years, and when you work in groups, it’ll cut that in half.

"You can work in months or weeks to come up with solutions, so I think it’s very, very important that an environment, like school, to work in collaboration, whether it’s in a critique in a room, your idea may see something that he or she is not viewing. And I think the wonderful thing about school is that it allows you to see that. And I think the instructors that are strong in the discipline of working in critiques sees that and has to be sharp and understand that if an idea is dime-sized, how can I make it much larger and echo that idea further, you need to really be able to articulate that clearly. 

“[The] important part about schooling today is allowing a student to be creative, but also allowing students to learn and understand what they create has meaning. What they create, words, pictures, has meaning—that’s something that you can’t do on your own. You can do that while you’re in school.

“[I] think that’s important for parents to know that the opportunities are there. If you may not notice it or may not realize it, with the right training, and the right confidence and the passion, you know, their son or daughter could do great things. So, as a graphic designer, I think it’s a wonderful business to be in, because I think parents today all want to know that their son or daughter will succeed in graphic design, but you got to give them the chance to work with the right people.”


Coming up: No. 4 Why should I choose the Academy for my art education?