Lessons from Art School that I Apply in my Life

While people always talk about artistic/design skill and technique, equally important aspects of being a professional in the creative industry like attitude and character are rarely addressed. Art school has a reputation among some for being ‘impractical’, maybe because of a bias against art or creative work in general. However, I found that it was quite the opposite and art school really helped to mould me as a person. Here are some life lessons I gained:

Show up every day

Since art school is so expensive, the cost of each lesson alone was a motivator for me not to skip it. Regardless of how tired I was, how little sleep I’d gotten, or whatever excuse I could muster, I still showed up and was ready to learn. This “always present” and “no excuses” policy has served me well both at the workplace and in my freelance career. It’s easier to keep going and maintain a steady rhythm instead of trying to get back into the groove after you’ve lost your pace. Besides, it speaks volumes about your attitude and professionalism as a designer/ artist.

Process criticism and improve

The practice of beginning each lesson with a critique was instrumental in developing not only my skills but also my critical eye and mental fortitude. Being able to handle criticism and gauge your work in relation to others are essential skills for any professional designer/artist. Designers/artists do not create work in a vacuum- you will constantly receive feedback from a boss/superior or your audience. To continually improve, one must know how to process criticism and apply it to make the work even more stellar.

Dress and behave appropriately

Though dress codes in the creative sector are usually more relaxed, this does not give you license to look like a slob. In my junior and senior year of art school, I learnt to dress appropriately for class as I never knew who might be dropping in (a design mentor/ future boss). I was also mindful of showing respect to my teachers as they were my gateway to the industry. Teachers are in a position to recommend you for jobs and help you make connections. As a freelancer now, every person I meet could be a potential client. With this in mind, I make sure to look polished even when dressing casually and to be generally nice to people. Remember- sloppy dressing and/or a careless attitude gives the impression of non-professionalism.

Work hard and be self-motivated

Teachers assign homework, but how much effort goes into each project is entirely dependent on you. Giving your best effort and going the extra mile will help you improve more quickly. Besides, teachers are more inclined to support students who display hard work and self-motivation. You don’t have to stick to assignments either- work on your own projects, attend extra life drawing sessions, or whatever you think is best for you. Art school assignments reinforce the fundamentals of drawing and design, but personal projects are often crucial in developing your own style. Now, I find that being proactive in creating personal work outside of client work, while seemingly tiring, actually refreshes my mind and sparks concept/technique ideas.

So there you go- some very practical lessons from art school (beyond artistic/design skill and technique) that serve me well today. I call these the “intangibles”- things that you don’t expect to gain from art school, but which form an integral part of your success as a professional artist/designer.

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