Thursday, November 21, 2019

Is College Necessary for a Freelance Career?

A visit to an art school. I'm wearing a T-shirt from San Jose State's
Shrunkenheadman Club
Jacob asks:"Do you think a college education is necessary to become a successful freelance artist?"

If you want to be freelance artist, no one is going to ask you for a diploma. So the answer is no, you don't have to go to to college or art school if you want to make it as a freelancer. You might then ask: What do you need to learn, and how can you learn it?

Anyone who wants to make a living from their art needs two things: impressive samples and good business skills. One way or another, someone has to pay you for what you create, and that means you have to create artwork that art buyers will want to pay you money for, and you have to create a business, with all that entails.

What school can help you develop those skills? To decide that, you should visualize where you want to be in a few years, and choose a school accordingly. Look at the curriculum they're offering (both required and elective), the portfolios of both the teachers and the students. Have lunch in the cafeteria and sit in on a class or two. Consider the cost and the opportunity cost. Then when you get to your school of choice, be sure to get the most out of it by really applying yourself.

Can you develop the skills you need on your own? Obviously there are a lot of online resources that weren't available 20 or 30 years ago. But that course depends even more on you and on your significant other. If you decide to teach yourself or to follow an unconventional study plan, you have to discipline yourself to practice and improve. Regardless of which path you choose, it will help to make friends with other artists and build your network through conventions or associations. Building a network of peers is one of the key benefits of going to an art school.

A final thought: When you said "college education," I first assumed you meant a broad education in science, history, and literature. That's certainly not necessary for a freelance career, but it helps make you a fuller person. A good liberal arts education can broaden your awareness of the world and help you to think and to write more clearly. A degree in science is especially helpful if you want to pursue scientific illustration. A broader education isn't directly necessary to the success of a freelance career, but it expands a person's mind in ways that's often difficult to do on your own.


arturoquimico said...

Maestro... Question... Should portraits be painted according to canons with flattery, or should one continue to try to "draw what you see"? I went to our weekly art class with a live model for portrait practice and was trying to make a good rendering, but the model was obese, had poorly dyed hair, and her "colorful" blouse was pretty blah. I elected to do a grisaille
and thinned her face to be more flattering; then took a photo. Now at home I am trying to do an exact replica... I just wanted to practice but didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings... other ladies in class were somewhat more realistic in their renderings... advice?

James Gurney said...

Arturo, there's a place for objective, unsparing honesty and also for exaggeration, caricature and flattery. The highest goal, I think, is to express what you feel about the person, capturing a range of insights about their character, while changing as little as possible. Examples are Velazquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X and Repin's portrait of Mussorgsky.

Timothy Bollenbaugh said...

Artruro, my figure drawings were the most popular in class because of what James said: insight into character, and expressing those feelings or sensations. As drawings they were line only—I love value and color, but I cannot do well with those.

Also, as to adding other studies, one acquires more fuel to adapt for their preferred focus...and it relieves the nervous system so that it can work and process what has been focused upon as you participate in other things—it's always on the job. Miine needs me to get out of the way so that it can work.