how to become a professional artist

What Was it Really Like to go to Art School?

What was it really like to go to Art School.png

First of all, I didn't go to Art School.  I received a Bachelors of Fine Art from Brigham Young University which was an incredible education, but it wasn't a prestigious art & design school. 

But more about that later. 

Going to college is in my opinion the fastest, cheapest way to climb the Artistic Mountain of Knowledge to become a professional artist because one may gain an education in only 4 years and get to sample many different artistic directions.

I attended BYU-Idaho, a junior college for 2 years where I received an Associate's Degree in Illustration & Graphic Design, then I married my high school sweetheart and finished my degree receiving a Bachelor's of Fine Art in Illustration after 3 more years from BYU which was a 4-year university.

How much does Art School vs. College cost?

Art school would've have been a great opportunity, but I didn't even know art school existed until after my first year of college.  My college education for 4 years cost me around $20K from 1996-2001.  (I think one could get an education from a normal university for $30K now). 

In 1998 Art Schools cost $64K for 4 years.  In April of 2016, I visited an amazing art design school in California and saw many graduates with their final show.  I asked one graduate how much she spent and she said she was $275K in debt! 

That's more expensive than my house!

I planned on having children and being a stay-at-home mom and I wanted to support my husband as the primary breadwinner so my $20K BYU Art education was fabulous!

I knew that since I didn't go to art school I would always need to supplement my education to be able to compete in the art world.

And it is so easy today to continue gaining knowledge without an expensive education because there are so many online art schools and Youtube is so helpful!  I love,, Watts Atelier and there are so many amazing podcasts too!

Also, I have so many professional artists that mentor others in my area of Utah - it's a real Art Mecca with Beau-Arts Academy, Howard Lyon Fine Art & Illustration, Casey Child's Fine Art & Illustration, The Master's Academy of Art School, Creative Collaborative, Critique Groups at libraries, Dr. Micah Christensen, also known as Bearded Roman who gives free lectures on art and gallery stroll evenings to mix and mingle and get inspired with artists.  

Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself! 

I want to tell about my experience at BYU-Idaho, which was a 2 year college where I got my Associate's Degree in Illustration.  I wanted a small college to start at so I could get attention from the teachers and I chose BYU-Idaho over another 2 year college because BYU-I had 8 art professors opposed to 3 at the other junior college so I felt like I could learn more. 

Many of my friends felt that I received a better education than they did at a 4 year institution because all their foundation classes were taught from graduate students and adjunct faculty, however my classes were taught from professors that had attended Professional Art Schools or had Master's Degrees. 

To find a good art school, one needs to find a challenging school that will teach them the fundamentals;  good figure drawing, light & shadow, perspective, design, photography, marketing skills, and computer program skills such as Photoshop, etc.

I learned recently that dolphins that were captured from the wild had been taught to communicate by pointing their noses at words or images.  The dolphins were asked what they missed about the ocean. 

The dolphins responded, "Sharks."

You may wonder, sharks? 

Yes, sharks.

The dolphins missed the struggle, the fight, the challenge that occurred from inhabiting the same waters as the sharks.

Art school or college level art classes are the opportunity to learn in the ocean at shark speed!

Often times, as artists we get discouraged or distracted because we are emotional beings.

We get discouraged because our eyes improve faster than our hands, and so we stop painting.  But not when one is in college.  As long as one keeps doing the homework one keeps learning from a fire hose of 5-7 classes a semester!

Artists also tend to get distracted because there is so many exciting possibilities.  Artists experience option overload and stall out and do nothing or do something but because it wasn't perfect enough they tend to give up.

Giving up is the wirst thing to do.

College keeps one on the train track, chugging along up the mountain until one has enough tools to hop off the train and keep trekking.

In art school one doesn't just paint when "one feels like it."  One assignment comes after another, which are opportunities to get critiques. 

One doesn't just learn from one's personal critique because the teacher puts up all 30 assignments and critiques all the paintings in the class.  If one is teachable each assignment can teach one 30 ways to improve!

It's learning through a fire hose all right!

I have only had 2 negative critiques where the teacher turned it into a rant session about how lazy we were, but I knew I was a hard worker so I tossed off the words.

Critiques were my education! 

Don't be afraid of critiques.  They are one's stepping stones if one wants to climb the  mountain of art knowledge.

Artists are opinionated people that think they know what they want to do. 

School is great to help artists get out of their "boxes" and see and try so many new things - like dip art, fluid painting, mixed media, sculpture, digital programs like Illustrator, Corel Painter, Adobe Photoshop, Typography design, Graphic Design, Animation, product design, etc. 

For example, when I went to college I thought that Abstract paintings like Picasso's Guernica and Jackson Pollock's drip paintings were "not" art.  But after my education I am thankful for these artists because art is not only realism, we have been liberated.  Art is Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, and I get to try them all to find my niche!

College had been awesome - it had given me a little taste of many things but definitely not everything - I remember feeling disappointed as I ran to get in line for the graduation procession.

There was still so much I did not know!

College doesn't teach you everything - when I graduated I still needed to learn to paint landscapes, drapery, web design, and story writing, but it had given me many of the tools that I especially needed.

I had hoped to graduate as a successful artist, but I graduated with my art toolbox securely in my backpack and the mountain still lie before me. 

So after I took a 15 year sabbatical to raise my 6 children, I started my intense education again.

I am having a blast painting 20 hours a week for the last 2 years experimenting with many different medias and styles.

I am showing my art in art shows and competitions and I am receiving helpful customer feedback.

My current next step is to find a mentor to work with me for 3-9 months to put the finishing critiques on my art and then get a gallery and a publisher!

Good luck in your artistic journey!

Your friend,
Krystal Meldrum
The Color Dancer