3. Jul, 2021

Degree or No Degree? Does it Matter in Art?

I get asked all the time where I trained.  I take it as a compliment, as the person asking is clearly under the impression my art is a high enough standard, which must only have been gained from a formal art education.  

I did go to Art College, for 1 year.  What did I learn?  NOTHING!  I'm not dismissing art education from formal institutions completely.  There are some amazing programs out there, but having had under graduates through my gallery door with their portfolios in hand, I'm sorry to say, I'm not overly impressed with what I see.  Very empty portfolios, the artists admitting that they didn't gain an awful lot from their degree course in terms of technique or guidance.  An accomplished and skilled artist a degree does NOT make.  

So why get a fine art degree?  One plus point is that, if you put the work in, you get to exhibit via your educational establishment, in some great places.  It allows you to show your work in places like London and can open doors into some major competitions.  But that's about it.  It doesn't mean longevity as an artist at all.  That comes from continuous hard work and passion for the subject.  It's my view that this is why Art as a school subject is not highly rated any more.  

In the time of Da Vinci and beyond, being at art school gave you status in society.  Art school students and artists were considered to be highly accomplished individuals and looked up to with awe.  Sadly, particularly over the latter part of the 20th Century and even now, it's considered a drop out subject for the less bright students.  BUT, if you get a Fine Art Degree, some people believe this can only be achieved by the best.  

In fact there are some very famous artists who achieved life long success and didn't have a fine art degree.  Rousseau, Khalo, Van Gogh, Yoko Ono and our very own Gary Bunt. 

How do I know so much, if I dont have a degree?  How did I learn?  PRACTICE and PERSEVERANCE.  I have studied art, artists, art mediums, method, materials, style since I was 15.  I read books, I walk round galleries, I talk to other artists, i experiment, I research.  It's my job.  Despite my fruitless art education, I'm self taught.  

With or without a degree, you can be successful as an artist.  What is success?  Well it's probably a whole other blog post, but to me, the title of success depends on what the artist is trying to achieve and then it's up to the people that look at their art.   If you want to make a career out it, success can be measured in sales.  If your art is selling and people want to buy it.  I consider myself successful because my work sells.  I've still got a long way to go, but that's the nature of the job.  The bottom line is the most important thing to prestigious galleries.  You can be judged by a few 'experts' in competitions, but if you want a career you must have what it takes to sell.  You must have that special ability to speak to someone's soul so much that they just HAVE to have it!  

So when you're faced with choosing an artist, be it for a commission, to learn from or to buy from,  don't go by their CV, go by their work.  If it speaks to you, it doesn't matter how or where they've trained, it doesn't matter where they've exhibited.  What matters is if you rate their art.