My Poisonous Checklist

John Waters speaking at this year’s RISD commencement

Since it’s graduation season, there are tons of commencement speech videos circulating right now. My perspective may be cynical and unpopular, but I will admit that I find most commencement speeches irritating because most speeches tell you that the world is your oyster, and that you can do anything!  Frequently, the speeches offer a bullet list of things to do in order to achieve success. What most speeches don’t mention is that things will probably go nowhere before they go somewhere.

What I’d like to talk about today is what to do when you’ve been consistently doing everything on those bullet lists for years, but nothing is happening. I would estimate that artists are more likely to experience this circumstance than phenomenal success.  The truth is that the vast majority of people will not be the top superstars in their field, most of us will not win the Turner prize or a Guggenheim grant.

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At my MFA graduation in 2004 (I’m on the right)

When I was a graduate student, it was easy to imagine and aspire for the most prestigious professional achievements in my field.  After completing my MFA,  I felt ready to take a serious plunge into the professional art world. Everything seemed possible simply because I hadn’t experienced anything yet. At that time, I made a checklist of long term goals that was very specific:

1.  Win a top artist grant.

2.  Be represented by a respected New York City art gallery.

3.  Get my artwork into major museum collections across the nation.

4.  Become a tenured professor.

It’s been 11 years since I received my MFA, and I have yet to check off a single item on that list. I’m know that 11 years is a drop in the water compared to some other people, but it’s long enough that I don’t feel like I graduated yesterday. In retrospect, it seems like I must have been egotistical and naive to have thought at one point that one, even several of the items on my checklist could be in my future.  I’m not deluded enough to think that I would just wake up one morning to a call from the MacArthur Foundation. I was well aware early on what I had signed up for by choosing to be a professional artist, and certainly, I’ve made some personal choices that determined where my career could go.

Still, it’s tough to have toiled this hard for this long, and not feel disappointed. With every year that passes, I watch the ship sail further away. At this point, becoming an internationally renowned fine artist is just not in the cards for me. Looking at what I’ve done so far, I know that I will never have a solo retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and that I won’t be representing the United States in the next Venice Biennale.

Whitney Biennial Exhibition

Over the past few years, I watched my checklist transform from a positive source of inspiration into a toxic distraction. Obsessing over this checklist became extremely unhealthy; I used to torture myself by reading articles about artists who had achieved meteoric success in their 20’s.  I became very resentful and making art wasn’t fun anymore.  What was supposed to be one of my greatest joys in life had mutated into something that just made me miserable.  If you’ve ever experienced this, you’ll understand what a truly frightening place this is to be.

Below is an excerpt from a column by New York Times columnist David Brooks titled “The Small, Happy Life.

“Elizabeth Young once heard the story of a man who was asked by a journalist to show his most precious possession. The man, Young wrote, ‘was proud and excited to show the journalist the gift he had been bequeathed. A banged up tin pot he kept carefully wrapped in cloth as though it was fragile. The journalist was confused, what made this dingy old pot so valuable? ‘The message,’ the friend replied. The message was ‘we do not all have to shine.’ This story resonated deeply. In that moment I was able to relieve myself of the need to do something important, from which I would reap praise and be rewarded with fulfillment. My vision cleared.'”

That checklist wasn’t my own; it was a very narrow minded idea of success formulated by other people that I let myself succumb to.  Reading this column reconfirmed that I don’t need to fulfill those items on my checklist to be creatively satisfied.

I’ve moved the aspirations on my old checklist to the back burner. The goals are still simmering quietly, but they are no longer front and center in my mind. Oddly enough, letting myself not care has been remarkably effective, and this is the first time in a while that I have been able to think clearly. This week, I’m going to start writing a new checklist.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


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Ask the Art Professor: 7 Tips for Surviving Art School

Gesture Drawings in Ink

When I was a student at art school, I was so involved with making my work day to day that I wasn’t able to see the big picture and figure out how to get the most out of my experience. Now that I’ve been on both sides of the fence as a student and professor, I’d like to offer seven practical tips to students in art school.

1. Work on your homework with other students. 
One of the greatest assets of being in school is being surrounded by like minded peers. Many students make the mistake of working on their homework by themselves in their dorm room. If you work alone for a long period of time, it’s easy to start to feel crazy without any human contact. Instead, take your art materials and make a plan to meet your classmates in the studio to work on your homework together. With the companionship of your peers, you’ll be able to motivate each other to stay focused, and you can ask for feedback and support as you work on your homework.

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2. Choose your classes based on the professor.
Many students will frequently choose their elective courses based on the subject, thinking that if they like the subject, they are guaranteed to have a good experience in the class. Know that an excellent teacher can make even the most mundane subject truly fascinating, and that a poor teacher can make even your favorite subject tedious and boring. As a freshman, I was required to take a three-dimensional design course, which I was not enthusiastic about at the time. The professor I had was brilliant, and eight years later I found myself doing a master’s degree in sculpture.

3. Form lasting relationships.
The people are what really make a school. A school might have dazzling facilities and equipment, but none of that will make a difference if you don’t have a vital community of faculty, students, and staff. Milk your teaching assistants for information, many of them will have the inside scoop on the school that you won’t find anywhere else. Ask a former teacher to have a cup of coffee with you, get to know the administrative assistant in the office. Whenever possible, develop sustained, long term relationships, as you never know where they will end up. To this day, I’ve kept in touch with two of my former professors for over fifteen years and I always look forward to our conversations with enthusiasm.

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4. Look at student artwork. 
Make a point of going to the student art exhibitions on campus, and expose yourself to as much student work as possible. You’ll learn tremendously from seeing such a wide range of approaches. When choosing your major, look at the student artwork being made in the departments you are interested in. Seeing the student artwork can be representative of what a department will be like. Don’t assume that a major is what you think it will be based on the title of the department. One of my students who had a passion for painting said that she personally liked the student work in the illustration department better than the student work in the painting department. For her, the illustration department was a more appropriate fit even though her personal interest was in painting.

5. Communicate with your professors.
Always talk with your professors when you have any concerns about anything. Most professors will respect you for taking the initiative. If you’re wondering what your academic standing in a class is, ask the professor how you’re doing. If you want to be a teaching assistant, email the professor to let them know that you’re interested in a position.

On the first day of class, I ask students to tell me if they have any personal issues that might affect their performance in my class. It could be anything from a learning disability, a language issue, a medical condition, or it could be as simple as just being nervous about taking the class. If you don’t want everyone in the class hearing about your concerns, request a private conversation with the professor outside of the classroom. Letting your professors know about your background will help them provide any accommodations that you may need during the semester.

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6. Start early and spread out your work over several days. 
Students frequently compete to see who got the least amount of sleep. Every semester I hear students bragging about how they stayed up for three days straight, how their hands are numb from drawing for so long, etc. Doing a marathon work session the night before the deadline is the worst move you can make. The top students in my classes do well because they start early and spread their work out over several days, enabling them to make daily progress while getting a decent amount of sleep. They are able to work on their pieces, get some distance, and then come back and evaluate their work with fresh eyes.

7. Learn how to give and receive criticism. 
Separate yourself from your work and don’t to take criticism personally. Remember, it’s a critique of your work, not of you as a person. Be constructive and generous in your criticism of others’ work. Listen intently and be willing to give every opinion a chance.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


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Ask the Art Prof: Is Graduate School for Visual Artists Worth it?

Skeleton Drawing Assignment

“Graduate school. Is it worth the extra chunk of loans? Is it possible to make it as a “professional” fine artist without it? How do I go about getting letters of recommendation if I wait for a longer time after undergrad?”

People go to graduate school for many different reasons. Many go to graduate school so that they are able to teach at the college level.  Others will attend because their undergraduate degree was not in art, and therefore they want the opportunity to study in a more concentrated manner. For many art school students, graduate school provides a way for them to gain a more personal focus and sense of professionalism in their work.

Under the best circumstances, graduate school will allow you to make the transition from making student work to making professional work. For most people, their undergraduate degree is about experimenting with different media, subject matter, and contrasting approaches.  However, after four years of this, many students have complained to me that they can feel scattered and lost. They’re working with so many methods and subjects that there’s no way they can gain any sense of focus. Many students at this point start to feel that they are barely skimming the surface of their subject matter due to the time constraints of their undergraduate schedules.

Looking back at my own undergraduate student work, so much of it lacked content.  What I had accomplished by the time I was a senior was essentially all visual exercises:  life drawings, portrait studies, and unfinished paintings of a bored model sitting on the model stand. None of it was remotely professional, conceptual, or distinctive in any way.

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Figure painting study from my undergraduate years at RISD.

What graduate school should provide is an opportunity to focus on creating a body of work that is personally driven, coherent, and in depth. Basically, variations on a theme. What many undergraduate students never have the opportunity to do is to work with one subject over a sustained period of time. In graduate school, the time for haphazard experimentation should be over, instead it should be a time to concentrate intensively on a specific interest. By the time you finish graduate school, you should be armed with a cohesive body of work that will carry you right into the professional world.

My MFA thesis was a project called “Digging” where I explored the concept of digging through a series of prints and a large scale sculpture installation. My experience working with this one subject laid the groundwork for all of my following projects, and taught me how to engage with my work conceptually. I doubt that my work would have matured the way it did had I not attended graduate school.

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A monotype from my MFA Thesis project, “Digging

While it is possible to “make it” as a professional artist without a graduate school degree, it is tougher.  Not only are you missing out on the opportunity to make a new body of work in a rigorous artistic community, but you won’t be able to foster the kind of professional connections with faculty and other students that are necessary to launching your career. Who you know in the art world is everything in terms of having a professional career, and graduate school is one very effective way to get to know people in the field.

For letters of recommendation, you’ll have to contact your former professors from your undergraduate program.  For most people, email is the most effective way to get back in touch.  Try to make sure that you’re asking a former professor with whom you had a good relationship with, one who would remember you.  I’ve been forced to turn down students in the past because I simply couldn’t remember who they were. Always make sure that you ask first, don’t assume that they will automatically write you the letter. (for example, I have a personal policy that I only write letters for students who received an A- or an A in my class)  Be sure to give your professor enough notice, (about 1-2 months) so they have plenty of time to take care of it for you. This article I wrote  lays out the specific nuts and bolts of requesting a letter from a former professor, and goes into much greater depth about the process.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


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Ask the Art Prof: How are European MFA Degrees Viewed in the United States?

Final Crit

“I know you’ve said before on this blog that the prestige of your graduate school is critical. How are European MFA degrees viewed in the United States?”

My guess would be to say that it’s neutral.  I don’t think it hurts, but I don’t think it helps tremendously either. The majority of people who apply for college teaching positions in the United States have graduate degrees from the United States, so perhaps a European degree might make you seem more “exotic”?  It’s tough to say, as every search committee has its own specific agenda that is impossible to predict.

I wish I could tell you that graduate school should only be about the educational experience that you have during that time, but unfortunately the reality is that that just is not the case. One of the most important things to attain in graduate school is the strong professional connections that will help launch you into the art world. In terms of professional contacts, location is everything.  For example, if you want to make it professionally in New York City after graduate school, going to a graduate school in Alaska is not a smart move.

The faculty that you study with in graduate school is critical; they will provide the bridge into the professional world for you.  If you study with faculty who are at the top of their field and live either in or within a few hours of New York City, they will have invaluable contacts that you won’t find anywhere else.  I dislike having to put so much emphasis on New York City, as I don’t want to discount other artistic communities in other parts of the world, but New York City really is where the “movers and shakers” are in the art world.

Opening reception

In your case, if your intent is to eventually work professionally in the United States, an MFA in Europe probably isn’t the best choice in terms of networking.  All of your professional contacts will be in Europe, and you’ll essentially have to start from scratch when you come back to the United States. If the professional networking is not a concern for you, then it doesn’t matter where you go to graduate school, and you can just focus on the educational experience. Whether or not the professional networking matters to you depends on your reasons for attending graduate school.  Some people go because they want to teach at the college level, whereas others just do it for themselves. If you’re going to graduate school because you want to teach college, then the networking is going to be crucial to have.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


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Ask the Art Prof: Would You Improve More if You Took Art Classes than Just Studying Art on Your Own?

Gesture Painting

“Is it true that you would improve more if you went and took art classes than just reading and practicing on your own?”

Since I’m a professor, I’m going to have to argue that yes, you would improve more if you took an art class as opposed to working on your own.  There are many advantages to an art class that just cannot be experienced by reading books and practicing by yourself.  The greatest advantage is just getting to be around other art students. I like to remind my students that they are likely to learn more from each other than they will from me.  I encourage them to milk each other dry for ideas and approaches and to steal from each other relentlessly.

When I have figure drawing sessions in my studio classes, I ask the students to get up from their easels, and to walk around the room and look at everybody else’s drawings. It’s common for everyone’s work to collectively improve after seeing other people’s drawings. Getting the chance to see the way someone else is approaching the same exercise provides inspiration and motivation to improve and push yourself. There’s a collective momentum that a class develops over time that I’ve found to be invigorating and exciting. As a student, you can feed off of the energy of the other students which can then be harnessed and directed into your own work.

The other issue with working on your own is that evaluating your own work objectively is impossible as an artist.  When you’re working on a piece, you inevitably get stuck in our own head, your own thinking and you aren’t able to see the work clearly. I know that for me, when I’m working on a piece, that after staring at it for many hours I have trouble figuring out what needs to be fixed because everything looks the same to me.4

Gesture Painting

That’s where having the outside opinion of an art teacher and other art students comes in.  Because they’re not you, they’re able to provide invaluable perspective and advice on your work that you wouldn’t be able to come up on your own.  They will see things in your work that you never imagined, and point out issues and problems that you might not have noticed on your own. The opportunity to get verbal feedback in a group critique is priceless.  There is no other context I can think of where you would be able to have the kind of critical conversation about your artwork in person. Even the most well articulated, typed critique cannot replace someone discussing your artwork with you in real life.

The relationship that you build with your teacher is indispensable as well, and not something that you would ever have if you learn on your own. Some of my favorite people in the whole world are teachers I’ve had in the past who profoundly shaped my artistic practice and thinking. A book or online tutorial will never support you when you feel lost, won’t sympathize when you’re struggling, and will never be able to answer your questions that are specific to your own artwork. A good art teacher will provide all of that and much more.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


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Ask the Art Prof: How Do I Become an Undergraduate Art Professor?

RISD Freshman Drawing, Section 19, Spring 2010

“I want to be an art professor, preferably at the undergraduate level.  I’d like to teach classes like drawing and painting, color theory, and 2-D Design. I don’t particularly see myself teaching at a school like RISD, but rather a small community college.

Some of the most inspirational people in my life were professors at a tiny hole in the wall 2 year college. They aren’t “working artists”, but they were pretty skilled guys, who clearly loved to teach. And I guess that’s kind of where I see myself teaching in a kind of similar setting. I don’t really like the business of Illustration all that much, so I don’t see myself doing that kind of work.

I honestly don’t see myself doing anything but teaching with my life. I’m currently in my second semester at the Fashion Institute of Technology studying Illustration. I’ve already gotten a couple associates in photography, and Fine Arts at a community college before transferring. I also plan to get a masters in something art related. So what kind of advice can you give a kid like me? What should I expect from a teaching job?”

When you’re a teacher, you have know that you are shouldering a tremendous responsibility to your students. I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but I’ve heard too many times about people being emotionally traumatized by bad art teachers in the past as being the reason that they gave up making art. I think some teachers don’t realize that even the smallest gesture or the slightest comment is capable of so much damage. Students can be very vulnerable and impressionable and you have to ensure that you can create a learning environment for them that fosters growth in a positive manner.

Teaching has extreme highs and lows: I’ve experienced everything from being beyond furious and livid with my students to being completely touched and moved by them, and of course everything that is in between. I’ve been frustrated with difficult situations where there is no clear answer for what I should do, and I’ve had moments where classes practically taught themselves. You never know what’s going to happen when you teach, which is part of why I love it so much.   Every time I think I’ve seen it all, something happens that catches me completely off guard that I have to figure out on the spot how to deal with. To me that’s what is wonderful about teaching, you have to be alert, on your toes, ready for anything to happen. There’s never a dull day in teaching. Some people may not like that, but I happen to thrive on the creative stimulation that occurs because of the unpredictability.

Accordion Bookbinding Project

“Are there any downsides to teaching?” Like any profession, there are certainly aspects of teaching that can be challenging to deal with. I hate the politics that inevitably come with teaching in any department at any school; it can get pretty ugly and unpleasant.  The extent to which you have to deal with politics depends on your position at the school.  If you are a part-time professor, you can pretty much just teach your class and leave.  Part-time professors are usually are not mandated to attend faculty meetings, and do not have to do committee work, which allows them to stay outside of the politics of their department if they wish.  If you are a full-time professor, politics can be a huge part of the position.Your colleagues will be pivotal in whether you achieve tenure or not, so how you navigate the politics of your department is critical.

Would you recommend teaching along side doing professional work?”

If you teach at the undergraduate level, there are set expectations that you will be teaching and creating your independent professional work at the same time. (by contrast, this is not the case if you teach at the high school level) I personally cannot imagine one without the other.  Without my teaching I think I would go out of my mind sitting in my studio for hours by myself, while without my professional work I know that I would be starved of my own creative initiatives.  I’ll be honest and say that it is extremely challenging at times to maintain a healthy balance between the two.  I’ll admit to having moments when I’m working on my own artwork and I don’t want the distraction of teaching.  Ultimately though, I see the two practices as having a symbiotic relationship that support and inform each other. People ask me all the time whether I would give up teaching entirely if I could, and the answer is a resounding no. I crave the dialogues, the creative stimulation that I gain from teaching too much to give it up.

Final Crit

“Is there anything about your college career that you would have done differently to aid you as a professor now?”

To be completely honest, I would have waited to go to graduate school until I got accepted into one that was more prestigious. I applied to graduate school in 2002, when everyone was panicking after Sept. 11 happened and masses of people headed back to graduate school instead of getting jobs. I stupidly assumed at the time that I would have no problem getting into a strong program given my background and experience.  I was dead wrong. By the time the application season was over, I found myself on three wait lists, with three rejections, and only one acceptance at my “safety” school.  I had quit my job at the time and it didn’t even occur to me that I could wait another year and reapply the following year. So by default, I went to a small, relatively unknown graduate school.  Now that I’ve been in the field for several years, I am certain that my lack of association with a prestigious MFA program has been a hindrance in terms of getting a teaching position and has also hurt some professional networking opportunities that I could have had.

“Are there any extra classes/minors you would recommend I take along side my art classes that would be of use as an art professor?”

I think any other interests that you have outside of the visual arts can only enrich your background as a person, which in turn has the potential to greatly affect your depth as a teacher. I’m a classical musician as well, and I consistently performed with orchestras and chamber groups throughout college and the years afterward. My association and passion for music has certainly allowed me to connect with many different people in unique ways.  I like to think that my pursuits outside of the visual arts make me more dimensional as a person and teacher.

Final Crit

“How easy will finding a job be when I am through with college, and what should I expect when it comes time to finding a teaching job?  Do you know how easy or hard it is for someone to find a teaching job right after grad school?”

To be completely honest, but it’s brutal. If you want to teach at the undergraduate level, you’ll have to be ready to be an adjunct (part-time) professor for a while (maybe years) before you’re even on the radar for a full-time, tenure track position.  I have colleagues who have been teaching in the field with years of extensive experience who can’t get positions, and who are still applying every year.  The majority of people are not able to get a full-time teaching position immediately after graduate school. Almost everyone I know had to “pay their dues” for several years before they were hired full-time.

As an adjunct, be prepared to have no job security whatsoever, to make peanuts in terms of pay, and to live in anxiety semester to semester about whether you have work or not.  I’ve gotten calls two weeks before the semester started about whether I could teach a class.  I’ve also had classes cancelled three days before the first day of class due to low enrollment.  I’ve had semesters when I taught at five courses at three different schools. I’ve had days when I used to teach at one school in the morning, and then ate lunch in my car as I drove to another school to teach in the afternoon.   A colleague of mine had to move back in with her parents because she was having such a hard time getting work. Another colleague joked that looking for a job was his “hobby.” I’m sorry to be so blunt about it, but it’s true.

“Is it easier for someone who has actually worked in the field?”

I think it depends on the field that you choose to teach in.  For example, if you are in animation it really counts that you’ve worked in the industry before you start teaching. That professional experience is critical to establishing your credibility in the field as a professor, and enriches your background in a dramatic way.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


Related Videos
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Youtube Playlist:  How to Draw a Portrait with Charcoal and Cross-Hatching
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“What makes a student artist stand out from their peers?”
“How did you become an art professor?”
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Ask the Art Professor: What is the Purpose of a Degree in Fine Art?

Final Crit

“For fine artists who do not plan on teaching later in life, what is the purpose of a degree in fine art? How do art academies and residencies compare?”

In my opinion, a degree in fine art is a truly unique, immersive experience that cannot be replicated in any other way. The most critical part  boils down to the people and the long term relationships that you cultivate during that time. Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how impressive the facilities/resources/administration are at a school is if you don’t have a vital creative community to inhabit it.  Your experience is very much defined by the people who you are surrounded by. In art school, you have this incredible range and concentration of creative personalities within an arm’s reach, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I don’t know any other context that exists where this is the case.

One could argue that a small art academy or an artist residency would in theory provide the same kind of access to a creative community, but it’s just not the same thing. With a degree program, students sign on for a four year commitment that they are expected to complete, while many teachers dedicate their entire lives to the school. Doing a four week artist residency pales in comparison in terms of the kinds of lifelong relationships that you will be able to foster in a degree program.

Composition Project

The most important things that you can take away from a degree in fine art is that which you will carry with you for the rest of your life.  It’s not about the physical work itself.  By the time I had finished my fine arts degree, I had created literally hundreds and hundreds of pieces of physical art.  Where are those works now?  A few are buried in a portfolio at the back of a closet that I never open, and the rest made their way to the recycle bin or garbage many years ago.  So if it’s not about the physical works, what is it really about? To me  it’s about the critical thinking, process, and creative strategies that you gain. Those skills will stay with you forever and will be applied to every artistic initiative that you take.

The other aspect that is vital to a degree in fine art is the high productivity and incredible volume of work that you’ll produce while working on the degree.  In school, you have relatively few distractions, (ex.: your meals and house keeping are taken care of) and you’re given this huge chunk of precious time to devote entirely to your studio practice and development. I have never produced so much work, in such a short, concentrated period of time as I did when I was pursuing my degree.  One week in school is nearly equivalent to three months in the “real” world in terms of the prodigious level of production and progress that can occur.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


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