Do you feel as though graduating from art school has given you any opportunities or knowledge that you couldn't have learned by yourself? Do you think it was worth the time/money for what you were given in return? Many professional commercial artists say that their degree isn't even included in their resume, simply because most employers only care about their portfolios. I'm not trying to daunt or belittle your achievement, just curious.
That’s a valid question! There’s definitely been a lot of discussion about “not going to art school” and seeking education elsewhere. It makes sense. The price tag of private art education in the US is huge. Parsons is in the top ten most expensive colleges in the country, and the top ten itself comprises mostly of other art schools. It’s honestly a really messed up system.
But personally for me, I feel like I needed the art school environment to grow both as an artist and a person. In my case, doing a double major was a great decision. As I’ve mentioned before, I was pretty narrow-minded about what made art “good” before art school and even about how stories worked. Who knows what I would have discovered myself online if I had decided to self-educate or take classes? Maybe I would have gotten the same information faster. I did supplement my education from reading a lot of animation blogs and books. I do believe that, whether you go to art school or not, you should always be looking for ways to self-educate and self-improve. Art school doesn’t magically turn you into a great artist—you turn yourself into a great artist.
At the same time, the people I’ve met and the influential teachers I’ve had in art school are irreplaceable. That in itself is probably worth more than the price as admission (as utterly corny as that sounds.) I really value the time I spent physically in the classroom, forming relationships with my teachers and peers. I don’t know how I otherwise would have met the teachers who wound up changing the entire trajectory of my focus in college.
Literally, there are people in my life who I can actually point at and say, “If I hadn’t met you my work would have went in a completely different direction” and all of those people are people who I’ve met in college. My first fiction writing teacher is the reason why I know anything about story construction at all, and why I continue to be interested in the mechanics of storytelling. My first illustration concepts teacher—and I’m really, really, really not exaggerating—was the first truly honest art teacher I’ve ever had. He really ripped into me. He taught me the value of the confident line, at a time where I ostentatiously believed that using small, sketchy, messy lines was “my style.” I can’t tell you what a huge difference this made for both my work and my mindset.
These are certainly all things I might have learned myself and information that’s probably freely available online in some way, but it was the enthusiasm and care for which this information was presented that really changed everything for me. It’s one thing to just mechanically be told things, but it’s another thing to be taught in such a way that you’re inspired to keep on teaching yourself.
So TLDR: Art school isn’t for everyone, but if you understand that it’s not a magical place with all the answers, but rather an environment for free exploration and open-mindedness, it can be an invaluable experience. Just make sure you understand what you’re getting into when you commit to the price tag.
edit: plus I really need to give a shout out to Janet and my other art school buddies because peers are important too and if I hadn’t met them, there are a LOT of things I wouldn’t have bothered doing on my own. Zines, for one.