I do not regret my choices in pursuing formal art education, and I'd like to share what this pursuit has actually added to my life, in hopes of presenting a realistic alternative to the naysayers, and provide an alternate opinion. This said, I will share one salient piece of advice:
Do not go into debt for an art education. It will never pay for itself.
If you're interested in purusing art education and cannot afford to attend schooling, keep an eye on the blog for a follow up post sharing affordable options to pursue art education.
My Art Education History
Education: Self motivated, self directed art study for almost a decade, at a time when such information was scarce and I lived in an art poor area of the country.
I've regularly written, thumbnailed, and drawn comics since I was thirteen- art school did not make me draw comics. I am self motivated, but lacked access to information, and needed guidance and critique that self study cannot provide.
Education: Bachelors of Art from a small university in Louisiana- the University of New Orleans. Digital art, painting, illustration courses at my local university- full ride scholarship, left with no debt and a degree. Minor in Earth Environmental Science.
I attended a small local university- the University of New Orleans, after hearing the painting professor speak about the new illustration department, which would focus on watercolor. Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina destroyed these nascent plans, but I was stuck at this university and had to make the best of it. I opted to major in Digital Media as our options were limited to Digital Media, Painting (acrylic), Photography, or Sculpture, and UNO's digital media focus was on video effects and editing.
Education: SCAD- wanted that MFA as well as an art school experience that actually catered to illustration and sequential art as legitimate artforms. Partial scholarship- academic. Rest was paid out of pocket, by the inheritance money my father left after dying of lung cancer. Graduated with an MFA with no debt.
Continued to pursue art, this time my passion, comics, at an accredited art university- the only one at the time to offer an actual legitimate masters degree in sequential art (comics, storyboards, children's books). An MFA is 90 credit hours, an MA is 45 credit hours, but an MFA in sequential art is a terminal degree, meaning I am qualified to teach at any level, including undergraduate and graduate. During my time at SCAD, I completed two student teaching internships and one TAship, teaching comic craft to students ranging from elementary school to undergraduate.
What Art School Did For Me
- Structured lessons, objections, and classwork in such a way that I could make measurable progress extremely fast.
- Gave everyone an even playing field education- we all had a basis of knowledge- vocab, books, ability
- Opportunities for structured, intelligent, and educated critique based on drawing skills and storytelling
- Classes in concept design, storybuilding and scriptwriting, storytelling for comics, maquette creation, hand lettering and more-specialized and taught by people who had worked professionally in the field
- Access to professionals- artists of all types at Comic Art Forum, Editors through Editors Day, professors who had worked in the comic and animation industries
- COURAGE to pursue portfolio reviews, additional critique, and to defend my choices
- STRUCTURE although I never lacked for this, having someone with an experienced eye guide my work and studies helped me improve greatly and fast
- Network of other artists
- My first two good job opportunities were because I was a SCAD kid- working at Doodle Studios-doing contract work for Lego, and doing bit and piece work for Viz Media
- First opportunity to have work in an anthology (SCAD Travel anthology)
- I learned what comic process worked for the type of comics I wanted to make, and I learned my own limits and how to set schedules trying to pull everything together before finals
- Professional mores and values
- Tabling at conventions regularly and professionally because I met Heidi through SCAD, and to be honest, without SCAD leveling the playing field between us, we probably would never have gotten past our initial biases to become real friends
- The grace to respect the differing experiences and educations of others around me and learn from them
- Multiple student teaching and TA opportunities, giving me the chance to regularly teach art and comics to a variety of age groups from elementary to undergrad
- That MFA piece of paper. Although it hasn't worked for me here in Nashville, I am qualified to teach art at a college level. I worked damn hard for that paper, and am very proud of my efforts.
- Confidence to record and share my journey
I acknowledge this access to education put me in a place of privilege- that's why I share it every chance I can- on this blog, on my YT channel, through workshops and panels that I generally produce free of charge, with materials I've purchased out of pocket.
People assume learning through the resources made available online counts as 'self-taught'- it does not. This is self motivated, self directed informal art education, and I champion it because it's a fine way to learn the ropes without breaking the bank, but to insinuate that you taught yourself without outside assistance diminishes the work of those who freely shared their knowledge and experience with you.
If you can't go to art school and need to pursue art informally for awhile, that's ok. If you can afford to go to art school, or pursue a formal education in the arts, that's also fantastic. Your journey is up to you- the only thing that makes you less is when you diminish the journey for others to lift yourself up.