Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Education of an Artist - Part 1

Lincoln- by Greg Newbold circa3rd grade
"I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday"
-Abraham Lincoln
I was recently interviewed by an Art Education graduate student as part of his MFA thesis paper. Below are the questions that he asked of me as well as my thoughts.  It's a bit of a snapshot of what my experience has been as well as my thoughts on the whole process of gaining an artistic education. Part 2 will follow tomorrow.

     Q: What mediums do you use?

I paint in acrylics, mixed media, oils and Photoshop depending on the project. For illustration, I have used mostly acrylic or mixed media in the past, but these days, I do mostly digital illustration using Photoshop. For my gallery work, I use oil paint.

     Q: How long have you been a professional artist?

If you count my first paying jobs in high school, almost thirty years, but as a full time freelance artist, almost twenty.

     Q: What schools did you attend and what training have you
           had to become an artist?

I have a Bachelor of Fine Art from Brigham Young University and I earned my Master of Fine Art from the University of Hartford. Both with an illustration emphasis.
 Q: What did you learn in your training that has been the  most valuable to you as a professional artist?
That hard work will get you much further than talent will.
  Q: In what ways did your art education help you succeed?
In my undergrad studies, I learned the technical skills of picture making and problem solving. In graduate school, I learned more about personal expression and the how important it is to experiment, to create self initiated projects and to follow my heart.
 Q: What areas, do you feel were lacking in your art education?
Not so much for me, but for many art students what is lacking is an emphasis on developing the ability to draw well. Drawing seems to be marginalized in today's art culture, there is somewhat of an attitude that drawing (or at least observational drawing) is not important to art making> I believe strongly that drawing is the basis for all art. Picasso learned how to draw well before he chose to "unlearn" it.
Q: What things did you have to learn on your own, through personal experience, that you did not learn in school?
Though school provided a lot, I learned far more on my own that through any formal education. Of course there are many things about the business of art that I learned at the school of hard knocks. Things like negotiation and learning to pace my projects in order to finish them on time. I learned to always do my best and deliver more than the client expected and to always deliver on time. One especially important thing I think I had to learn how to truly "see", rather than just look. Many students can copy well by looking a photograph, but fail to interpret and truly "see" their subject. Such looking must be coupled with familiarization, absorption, dissection and intimate study of the subject at hand. Individual expression only comes after you learn to see.
 Q: What are the most important skills, attributes, habits, etc. that you think are essential to become a full time professional artist?
 I think that discipline, humility and hard work are golden aspects of artistic success. If you are dependable and do decent work, you will never disappoint a client. They will come back and give you another chance to work with them. When you get another chance to work, you have an opportunity to improve and do better than the last time. If  you are humble you will realize that you can always improve and you will strive to increase your skill and expression with each new piece. If you always give your best effort, no matter the assignment, you will get better. When you get better, you will get more and better work and the circle will continue. It's a magical thing how that happens. The more I learn about making art, the more I realize I don't know. I try to learn new things all the time. I am always trying to make my work better.
Q: Are there habits that you created for yourself on a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule that have helped you to become the artist you are today? What are those habits?
I just love to create art, so I work at it a lot. I try to work regular days, but schedules seem to spill into other hours and weekends. As time goes on, I try to keep a more regular schedule though,  it's healthier that way. I religiously take Sundays off. For a long time, I only worked on paying jobs, never making art just for fun or for the exploration. Lately,  I have tried much harder to mix in work that is just for fun or just  to try something new. I think drawing something every day is a good  start.
Q: What are the biggest problems or obstacles that you have encountered as you worked your way from student to professional?  Could any of these problems have been avoided or lessened if you had more knowledge or different instruction at your institution?
I think there is a big gap between expectation and reality. Many students have been coddled and had their ego stroked all their lives. When you hit the real world, nobody cares that you were the best in your school, only whether you can deliver good work and  compete with the aesthetics of other professional artists. The shock of not getting work and the reality that it may take a long time and a lot of sacrifice to make a career in art is a big shock to most students as it was difficult for me. I try to make it pretty clear to students what the realities of an art career are, but it doesn't sink in until reality smacks you square in the face.

Read part 2 of this interview here     

1 comment:

Rob Colvin said...

Learning to see rather than just copy, very true! I'm still learning that.