Sunday, January 25, 2009

Advice for High School Artists

Juniors and seniors in high school are asked to make some pretty big decisions about the continuation of their education. For those students who want to pursue a degree in art, I offer some advice on how to prepare yourself while still in high school.

1. Take a broad range of art classes in school. I know that not all schools can offer a diverse range of art classes (I was lucky enough to have sculpture, photography {before digital - darkroom!} painting and drawing, and sculpture). If classes are limited, search for alternative spaces - art museums, private instructors, that offer other choices.

It is important to try as much as possible. Although you may KNOW you want to be a painter, learning to sculpt can help you better understand space. If you want to be a photographer, learning to draw could help you understand value range and the basic elements of composition, line, shapes, etc.

2. Take good care of and photograph your best work. Any school will want to see portfolio examples, and presentation is just as important as high caliber work. Save all of your good drawings and paintings, and mat those that need it. Talk to a local framer and see if you can get a deal as a student on matting some of your pieces.

3. Start attending art lectures or gallery exhibits, and take notes or sketch. As you become involved in an art career, your ability to talk about what is happening in the art world (present and past) will be very important. Listening to lectures on art can help you learn about the work and also how to talk about it.

There is also no substitute for seeing great art in person. While books may have fabulous reproductions, seeing a 10' x 40' painting in person is a different experience than seeing a 3" picture in a book.

4. Do research on the kind of art programs that are offered at the schools you are interested in - do they offer classes that build your basic understanding and give you the tools to become a great artist? Or do they jump into conceptual art the first semester?

This is an important factor to consider. I started at a school where, in the second semester, we were creating large installation pieces. For me, I knew I needed a better understanding of the fundamentals of art before jumping into conceptual work. I switched to a school that offered a solid course load of learning the fundamentals of all genres, and I felt better equipped to find my own voice with the tools I was learning.

5. Learn from a professional in the art world. There are great artists all around you. Many schools encourage art students to develop a mentor relationship with a local artist. I think this is a fabulous idea. Search the Internet for artists in your area, check out their work, and contact them. Let them know that you are interested in becoming an artist, and would like to see their work space and their art. If they cannot commit an entire semester to helping you, perhaps just a visit to their studio and a short interview could give you great insight.

A local artist I know mentors a high school student all year, and then hosts a solo show in her local gallery/studio space. This is an EXCELLENT item for your college application - a solo show!

6. Enter shows. Learn how to fill out an application form, photograph and present your work. Many student shows are free, some may have a small charge. Consider shipping costs if you are applying for shows far away...but there are many local opportunities I'm sure. If you get in - awesome! Be sure to keep records of who juried the show, and get a program if at all possible. If you don't get in, don't sweat it...rejection is part of the process, and let's face it - art is subjective and personal, and one juror's opinion is not the only opinion. But go see the show - see what got in!

Pursuing a degree in art is not right for everyone. But if it is your dream and your passion, then I encourage you to take a pro-active role in making it happen. Just creating great work is not enough - there are a lot of great artists out there. You need to make things happen for yourself. Get your work seen in shows, learn from local artists, and learn as much as you can about all kinds of genres and all kinds of artists, past and present.

If you have some advice for a high school artist, or if you are an artist and have a question, please comment!


Melissa said...

Great advice. I wish I would have known someone like you when I was still in high school!!! I struggled making decisions about studying art and really never found anyone to help me out so I went to a community college and took TONS of art classes (which is why I still haven't graduated) and I finally moved on to a state university to finish my degree in art history. Studio art has always been my dream, but never seemed like a reality without somebody who knew this kind of stuff. I'm learning it all now though, finally!

Anyway, I discovered your blog on Etsy and I quite enjoy it : )

The Stewart Stuff said...

What great advice. Thanks for posting this!

Karrie said...

Thank you from both of us!! Great advice :)

Krystyna81 said...

you are all welcome...I think that if you CAN pursue what you love, that is a great gift. But Art can also be a minor, if a degree is not possible.

I will be adding more advice for beyond HS in the near future - I had so many great experiences, as well as some things I wish I had done differently.

But my goal is to encourage everyone who WANTS to try their best at art to have some helpful hints along the way.

ANd I, by no means, have all the answers - so if there are any tips you'd like to share, please do!