Dear Dr. Brilliant;
I have a nephew who is 16 and he wants to be an artist. I can see that he has talent, but I can also see that he is entirely impractical about it.
He talks about inspiration and gets fascinated with different ideas… only to leave them behind when the next fascinating idea comes along.
I’ve tried to have conversations with him regarding the importance of Practical Matters, but he acts as if I am raining on his parade
and tells me he will get an agent. This leaves me wondering- does an acknowledgement of the Practical destroy the impetus of creativity?
I’m somewhat of a mentor to my nephew because his own parents take no interest whatsoever in his absorption in the arts and he’d rather talk with me. I want to give him sound advice but I don’t want to be a stick in the mud and stifle his imagination.
Any thoughts on the matter?
This reminds me of an artist who asked, “Why should I go to art school when I already know art? Wouldn’t it destroy my creativity?”
I told him, “You don’t learn art in school. You learn skills. Art is about life. School is about learning to challenge yourself. Art is what you feel, what you see, and a way of connecting with others. It’s a means of expression. But being able to share it with someone else is an entirely different story.”
Sure, school can make you forget yourself if you solely take on other’s ideas. Certainly, no one else can teach you to be yourself. But being exposed to others and seeing how they express themselves is a learning experience. A school can challenge you to find your own expression yet communicate it with some commonality. School won’t kill art for you; you can’t blame the loss of your own passion on someone or something else. It is a challenge to learn to speak for yourself over the noise and voices of others.
Art school also teaches effort and reliability. If you don’t practice and learn to discipline your craft you will not be able to produce.
Your nephew, like this student I knew, might have talent but no discipline. Talent without discipline and a sense of duty will amount to nothing. It’s fine if art is just a hobby and only for yourself but if you want it as a vocation you will need far more than just talent. Remember there’s a zillion other talented people, why do you deserve to be successful?
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says- Many people have misconceptions about what art school really is. There are schools where you go to learn technical skills- they are technical schools. If you want to become a designer or architect, yes, you need to develop technical training at a school because there are industry standards that are as inescapable as how to drive a car. But if you want to be a painter, technique is not what you are going to learn when you get to the university level. It is assumed that you will develop your own style. What you are going to learn is how to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.
In a really good art school, you don’t have teachers telling you what art is and how you should do it. You have teachers throwing challenges at you and then you have to figure out how to solve the problems on your own. And the greatest value of art school is that it gives you challenges that will cause you to go past your own comfort zone.
The real flaw with artists who develop on their own is that they are at the mercy of their own limitations. People tend to stick to what they are already good at or pursue a narrow range of interests with horse blinders on. They also show their art to friends and family who give feedback based on nothing but personal taste or as desire to support. In art school, they have these wonderful things called critiques, whereas the teacher and everyone in the class will tell you not only what doesn’t work about your piece but also what you can do to strengthen it.
Any potential artist who thinks school will ruin them is probably too weak to survive as an artist in the real world. Out in the trenches, it’s all about rejection and struggle and holding on to your own convictions while everyone jerks you around. If you can’t handle art school without losing your identity, you will NEVER be able to handle what the world will do to you.
Granny’s advice to your nephew? Wake up, bozo. You’re already on the bus. Learn how to drive and maybe when you get out in traffic, you won’t crash.