Ask the Art Prof: Does Being a Visual Artist Require More Thinking Than in Other Fields?

Final Crit

“Does being an artist require much more thinking than being a student who studies in other academic fields?”

I don’t think being an artist requires more thinking than other academic fields.  I’m sure that other academic fields are just as rigorous and demanding in terms of the kind of active thought that is required. In fact, I think the opposite assumption is unfortunately quite common.  Many people mistakenly think that visual art requires less or no thinking compared to other fields, and that visual art is an easy field to be in because they think that it’s just a matter of having talent.  Even my own mother told me later, after I had finished art school, that she was so surprised at how hard I had to work and think as a visual artist.

One of the most unique aspects of the visual arts field is that there are literally no “correct” answers. You won’t find answers at the back of the textbook, and everything is incredibly subjective.  What is artistically impressive to one person could be seen as repulsive to another. The possibilities are endless, and there are no rules.  This is what makes the art field so amazingly wonderful and yet so frustrating at the same time.

I certainly have brief moments where I crave for something in the art field to be universally agreed upon as being “correct”, just so I have some kind of definitive reference that I can rely on. There’s something really satisfying about knowing that 1+1=2, and that it will never be disagreed with.Then I quickly remember how vitally important it is that correct answers don’t exist in the field and that having correct answers would strangle our ability to be think creatively in the field.

I do think that being in the visual arts field requires a different kind of thinking than other fields. The artistic process is nowhere near linear, and frequently one step forward is followed by taking five steps back.  Trying to think logically rarely works. So much of the artistic process can be intuitive for a lot of artists, and for many artists it’s hard to verbalize exactly why we make the decisions that we do.  You have to be on your toes, prepared to deal with and react to anything that surfaces. Creativity is just about as unpredictable as anything can get.  As a visual artist, you have to be willing to entertain everything that crosses your path, no matter how irrational it may seem at times.

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Ask the Art Prof Live is a weekly live video broadcast on my Facebook page where I provide professional advice for art students and professional artists. Ask the Art Prof began as a written column in 2013 and was featured in the Huffington Post from 2013-2015.  Ask me your questions by commenting on the live video post as the video streams, and I’ll answer right away. I’ll discuss being an artist today, art technique & materials, work strategies for artists, career advice, teaching art, and more. Like my Facebook page and you’ll receive a notification when each live video begins.

Video Critique Program
I offer 30 minute video critiques on 8-20 artworks for aspiring/professional artists working on a body of artwork, and for students working on an art portfolio for college admission. Watch sample video critiques and get more info here.

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