Art School or Self Taught.

Art School or Self Taught.

Art School or Self Taught.

I am constantly surprised and pleased when I see how many artists are self taught. Now I am not against Art Schools and they work for a lot of people, but how many of you have read an article in an art magazine about an artist who tried Art School and left it un-satisfied because they were not teaching their style of painting or were trying to force the student to follow their ideas. It seems to me that contrary to popular belief, you do not have to have been to art school to be successful - or do you? Perhaps there are more opportunities if you have been and have a degree or diploma. What do you think?
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You are right that "self taught" means working from books or, thankfully You Tube now and of course lots and lots of practice. Perhaps trial and error comes into it also. Of course the art schools have that advantage of end-of term exhibitions etc. which can help students get recognition for certain talents. Thank you for the info. on the Forum Robert. I have a pc. I did have a look at the Forum but wasn't sure how to use it, but I shall certainly try. Perhaps it seems a little strange nowadays that there are some of us who find new technology difficult to come to grips with, but I am now trying to "embrace" it, reluctantly. If I have any further difficulties I will contact Dawn. Thank you once again.

Forum - just go to the Home Page, click on Forum, and start commenting: or there's a link to the Forum on this blog page, up at the top on the bar. You don't need any separate registration - is the difficulty that you've tried that and it doesn't work, or that you haven't actually tried it? I'm using a desktop pc - if you're using an Ipad the settings may be different; in which case I don't know the answer to the problem, but the administrator of the site, Dawn Farley, will - you can contact her via the site by clicking on the envelope symbol at the very top of the page, above the bar and next to the Pinterest symbol. If you're trying to access the Forum from the Gallery page, you need to click on Art Community, and a separate menu appears for blogs, Forum etc. On the subject of your debate, art school gives you contacts, will provide you with the opportunity to take part in the end of year or end of course show, and might bring you to the attention of the likes of Saatchi. What else it will give you depends on which one you attend: I'm aware that there are students who aren't interested in installation, for example, and feel they aren't being taught the techniques they need to pursue their chosen path. But art schools are about creating professional artists and enjoying a modicum of reflected glory from them - if they don't feel there's a living in conventional painting (and there probably isn't) they're not going to make it a priority to teach it. It probably won't do students any harm, and might do them good, to try a range of things in which they aren't presently interested - they may become interested; and it might widen their horizons. Or of course narrow them - that's the risk you take when you entrust your art education to institutions. Self-taught is a somewhat misleading phrase - by definition, you can't teach yourself what you don't know. Most of us learned from books, plus practice. Nowadays, you can learn from books, dvds, YouTube, art magazines, plus practice. The common thread is practice - how far you want to go in the process of learning will depend on your individual inclinations: you will probably have seen the long debate on the forum about technical issues .... some enjoy that, some hate it, those who hate it never lose the opportunity to say so, even though they could just ignore it! But there we are. The trouble with art schools currently is that they can academicize art, removing it from the reach of the people; and that they are entirely concerned with building artists' careers - which, if that's what you want to achieve, is no downside. The trouble with not going to art school is that you have to select your own reading, and a lot of it isn't much cop - I would like to think, for example, that no one who had been to art school would be under any illusion that Ultramarine was a cool blue, as I've read recently on an online art blog; but I'm less confident of that now than I would once have been.

Thank you Alan - and hope to chat with you on the Forum soon!

Hello Adele, all interesting comments and a subject that is worthy of discussion. It is fairly easy to navigate to the forum, but explaining it is less easy. I will drop a private message to Robert Jones who will be able to get you set up without any issues, he will reply on your blog, keep up with the painting and a pleasure to make contact with you. Alan

Your comments are very interesting Alan, and addresses the other side of the debate. You were very lucky in your school years. I went to a comprehensive school and was compared to my older brother, who was 2 years older and very academic. It was a huge new school of it's kind and he elected to go there even though he had passed his 11+. He did extremely well and then went on to university. I, on the other-hand was not academic and so I was in a class that held a few disruptive children and time was taken up with trying to control them. Trying to learn to paint, I was told not to bother as I was useless at it and would never be any good. This was the mid 1960s. Going to art school obviously worked for you, as for a lot of other people. But so many are now having a go and being very successful at it without that benefit. The term "self-taught" probably means not going to art school. I think I would use that term as anyone learning at one's own pace - i.e. attending art societies/art classes/using books etc. The term "finding art relaxing", for me, means that I can absorb myself in what I am doing and forget any difficulties I am having in my life, for that period. A number of the artists on this site have had challenging experiences and illnesses and it seems to help with that - however in my circumstances I can find myself exhausted afterwards and this may be due to my bi-polar condition which I have had for the best part of 30 years. If I concentrate too hard, I can become quite tired - but I wouldn't change a thing as it is all worthwhile to me. Last comment Alan is that I am not at all technically minded, and, unfortunately I have only just learned how to blog on this site and haven't a clue how to use the Forum. I have had a look but got quite confused. Wouldn't mind a few tips, please.

Hello Adele, an interesting topic, a pity that it wasn't put on the forum as not everyone reads blogs, normally including myself. As many of you will know, I was lucky enough (in my opinion) to be packed off to art school for a good number of years after completing my A-levels. I had ambitions to become a teacher and this had been my only ambition since Junior school, so in my case it was a means to an end, no qualifications, no teaching job, as cut and dried as that. So, does it have its advantages?, yes, most definitely, it is a disciplined routine (most of the time), and you can learn a great deal just by being there eight or so hours a day. Important disciplines such as life drawing down to the more basic perspective rules and you gain an awful lot from being in this 'arty' environment, enthusiasm abounds within the college walls, electrifying almost. You will most certainly start to develop an individual style of your own, contrary to what I always seem to hear, that of, I left college because the tutor's were trying to impose their own style on me, rubbish, utter hogwash, it doesn't happen like that. To make progress good basic drawing skills or I'll call it draughtsmanship are essential, and you will be indoctrinated with hours and hours of this vital discipline. I could go on reams but I won't, but there are great benefits to be had that may not seem all that obvious at first. If you haven't had prolonged training these shortcomings will certainly (or let's say may) show up in your work. But, of course there are great painters out there today that have never stepped foot inside a college, it happens, pure raw talent takes over, and this is tremendous, so no, it isn't always necessary, but I'm so glad that I was given the opportunity, but after finishing my ATD (teacher certificate) I made the decision to go into industry as a designer and just to teach part time, not a decision I regret either. Just flipping briefly through some of the comments, all of which I have found interesting, one particular comment stuck out, it was about teachers generally during the school years, I had no problem with them, they helped and advised me enormously, and remember, a teacher can only give help and encouragement if the student is willing to participate and show some interest, teachers are only human after all. On a final note, art doesn't have to be all this serious, as long as it is enjoyable, it can be a great hobby and some even say relaxing and a great therapy although I have not experienced that bit, maybe in time...

This has been a very interesting debate with, I suspect a lot more views. You are right John, that it is all about marketing. It is just a shame that for the artists who wish to make a living out of their art, they seem to have an uphill struggle. For myself and others who have come to art as a healing process and are perhaps more mature, and treat it more like a hobby, then it is not so important. Though I might add that if an opportunity arose for any of us, we would be very pleased. Ellen, I hope your granddaughter has reason to keep her enthusiasm going and I feel you, as her painting grandmother will help to encourage her and that will help her tremendously. Thanks all for your interesting comments.

My granddaughter is 11, and is very good at art and design already, so much so she is above her "target" at school and her art teacher gives her plenty of encouragement. I hope when it comes to her GCSE....a while to go yet, that it won't deter her to lose interest. As I've been informed that a lot of the subject matter is to explain how the art (painting) is achieved, rather than the art itself!! She's so enthusiastic right now and I'd be sad for her if all that got lost.

Adele, pardom me but the word is not discovery, its MADE. Its all about marketing these days and has been for a long time. You have only to take a deep look around the internet and you will see artist who can easily match these so-called top artist. By saying that I do not mean to or want to pull anyone down. I have strong words lol. But I will put it gently with a little story a tutor I was under at university told me. He said in substance. An art dealer could see anyone of you students, observing you walking down the street, come up to you and say "we will make an artist of you.' We will give you the exposure, market your image, make you marketable and so on. If its discovery then all I can say is they have missed some fine talents. And I honestly do not include myself in that bracket. Without the marketing it is like trying to kick a ball up a very steep hill even for the best you can find. Its interesting that becoming a member of POL it has brought back to me so many art experiences in my life. So thank you for that.

I've never thought about it in that way John. Certainly if I ever see the words "self taught" I have never thought of that person as being an underdog. I think it is something to be proud of that despite not going to art school they persevered to the extent that they are certainly as good as, if not better than some artists who did attend. But I have also heard that some artists are "discovered" at art school and that gives them an advantage. It is lovely to see all the art of this site, whether painted by a professional or amateur artist, whether self taught or not.

Am I wrong that when people say I am self taught they are saying well I am a bit of an underdog really? That label should be dropped. There is nothing inferrer about self taught. One of the most outstanding artist we have had was completely self taught. VINCENT VAN GOGH. I went to art college and I found the best a teacher could give you is INSPIRATION. It impels you forward. Art is about practice, practice, practice and more practice. You pick up what you need to know as you go along. Going to art college gives you time to develop your own approach thats the good bit because when you come out of college you have to awake again to making your living. No one person or thing gives you the ability to become an artist. You are self taught, the credit is all yours. To a degree yes we all learn from one another, but it is you and your self teaching, discipline to practice that makes the artist in you emerge. Well this is only my view but it is based on living experience.

I agree Sylvia, it is all preconceived ideas - normally from non-painting public. I remember "babysitting" an exhibition. It was quite quiet and there was a couple looking at the paintings. The woman was saying in a loud voice "Oh I wouldn't have done it like that" or "that's not right" etc. etc. When she passed my desk I asked if they had enjoyed the exhibition to which they said that they had. I said to the woman "So do you paint"? "Oh no dear - wouldn't know one end of the paintbrush from another"!!! Glad you're recovering from your stroke Ellen. As you know, art therapy is used so much now as it helps so many on their personal healing journeys. Enjoy!

I was okay at school. I wanted to go to art school, but in 1962 my parents said NO and I was told I had to look for what they termed as 'a proper job'. So I went down the secretarial route and the rest is history. I still used to draw but then I married and had 2 children and the idea of drawing and painting went out of the window. I took it up again in 1999 to keep a work colleague company as she had joined an art group and didn't want to go on her own! Eventually I stopped going. My daughter married, the grandchildren came along and once again I stopped painting. Last year in July 2015 I had a stroke. I lost my speech and the use of my right arm. Luckily the feeling came back in my arm and my speech is still slowly improving. The hospital asked me if I had any hobbies to aid my recovery. I told them I used to paint. They suggested I probably take it up again. So I did. And here I am. I enjoy it immensely and have all the time in the world to paint now. But in answer to your question I'm definitely self taught. I go to great little art group and I'm still learning.

Re reading you post Adele, I doubt that unless you want a career in art of some description that degrees or diplomas are very relevant. I also think that art style comes with use and practise, I doubt that any art college could teach that.

I think Joe Public have prconceived ideas re "Proper Artist" having babysat art exhibitions over many years "Oh its just like a photograph " is the highest accolade a lot of people give. "Oh its in oil" with baited breath , as several beautiful watercolours are bypassed. I did the art school thingy in my late teens ...oh, too long ago to remember, then my dad made me get a proper job. so I ended up being a nurse, then years later having brought up four kids and done all the housewife bits I started to paint again for myself. Im not sure if I did anything in art school I couldn't have done on my own. Possibly the exposure to several different diciplines is great , print making, pottery , art history life drawing....some one tried to teach me embroidery , I resisted , design , photography and several more . But since then I have been curious on my own , I have joined different groups I have played with materials and generally had a go. I don't think that anyone is really "self taught" its one of those expressions that in my opinion dosent mean much. I also don't think you have to be a professional to create great art, that depends on the individual , no matter what their background is .

Very valid points Manashree and Paul. Had an example of how people view "proper" artists only 5 mins ago. My aunt phoned me. I have given a lot of paintings over the years to my No. 1 fans - my elderly uncle and aunt. They live in sheltered accommodation and every time anyone visits their flat, they admire the paintings and my aunt and uncle boast about me. Of course they are biased. The Manager of these flats has taken some of my paintings to decorate the walls of the guest suite. However someone had bought a couple of flower prints for the communal lounge downstairs and my aunt told them that her niece, the artist, could do better. (Which has probably made her very popular)! "Is she well known" asked one resident. "She's well known to me" says loving aunt. "Where are her works shown"? asked the resident. "In the Portrait Gallery" in London was the reply. Oh dear! This shows that to produce an acceptable painting, people think you must be a Professional.

As I have mentioned elsewhere previously I absolutely detested art at school. Thankfully it didn't put me off for life but I do wonder how many people were similarly put off by dreadful state education teachers of the 1970s onwards. So insignificant and uninspiring were these alleged teachers to me (and I'm sure countless others) that I cannot even recall their names nor if they were male of female. I still cannot even understand why they were even in the job as they seemed to hate teaching in general, art and the children they were being paid to direct!!. By contrast I was pleased to read that in his books Terry Harrison for example mentions that he was inspired by a great art teacher at an early age and obviously this enthusiasm led him eventually to become a professional artist. Fortunately for him he didn't attend Ashfield comprehensive school in Nottinghamshire. Yes I don't mind naming and shaming and if I could recall the names I would do so here lol I'm sure they will be delighted with this review!! I might post a two fingered pictured tribute painting sometime that would be satisfying for me!!. I think more so these days certainly in the art world I have witnessed the more pleasing to the eye for me are the self taught so called unqualified artists. Not that I wish to decry anything that someone has done by going through art school and the college process I have much admiration for them but I do personally feel that the art world is not a closed shop and anyone can enter and if they have enough determination to succeed they will qualification or no qualification. Sometimes supposed qualified artists tend I feel to build themselves up a little bit to much and in the end you can because of this find their work disappointing. Again at the risk of repeating myself from other places I have commented but art is whatever you are happy for it to be and sometimes the art is more important than the artist. Like most things in this world I don't feel success comes any easier in the art world than it does in any other avenue of life but opportunities are there if you have the desire to chase the dream. Others of course are quite happy to remain hobbyists, amateur artists call us what you will and their main motivation is not commercial or to supplement their income it is purely for pleasure and or charity. I myself fall into the latter section of artists if of course I dare call myself an artist......if you have the ability to express on paper or canvass or whatever it may be then as far as I am concerned you are a fully qualified artist

I was an average art student in my school. We used to get an art book with few animals and birds and more than that some human figures to draw or a nature scene that we call a landscape. We have to copy that and colour them in our sketch books. And still there was an option that if you wish to prove that you are good at art you have to clear elementary and intermediate examinations for drawing. They were tough because were based on still life which no one taught and imaginative scenes which includes human figures in detail with perspective drawings as well. I enrolled myself in an art class for an hour on weekends and then i used to go saturday eve and learn some stuff but unfortumately i was not the one who can copy and paste i just left. I found it tough and bit complicated to learn.There were not any sort of professional art classes where we can learn the basic techniques. I tried to get some sources but at that time even there was no telephone and no internet facilty so could not make it. Yes I agree that art schools teach alot which we cannot get from anywhere else. Buti think self taught artist may be from my perspective are those who are rejected ones or may be life could have been harsh to them in some or the other way and may be strived out the best. If i take my example I am a self taught one but if I had got a chance to learn something new and in a proper way I could have enrolled myself in an art school that my skill get polished. Apart from this there are so many benefits available in my country those who are enrolled in art schools. Their art is getting respected and they get lot many benefits to have an exhibition or financial assistance and the major thing which benefits them is an exposure and chance to be associated with so many art projects and workshops which is difficult for a common citizen to get in my country. I find them lucky when I see such students. I do agree that if I could have been enrolled in an art school I would have been thrown out the next day itself as they may not understand what I do and I may not be able to deal with what they teach but I could have learned which I didnt get a chance to. I could have got that exposure.