Tips for artists #4: The benefits of studying Art

"Would my work be different if I hadn’t studied art?”
I’ve come to think that yes, it would be different, but not in a good way.
I‘m not saying that every person who wants to be an artist should study art.
In fact, many great artists are self-taught.
Still, I wanted to share my experience because I believe that some people want to know what benefits an art school can provide.

Develop your own artistic style

One of the most important benefits is that art schools help you to develop your own artistic style. Before I went to art school, I used to take pictures that didn’t make sense (like selfies, my dog, my bedroom, holidays..). I didn’t have my own style.
In the first year, I showed some staged self-portraits to my photography teacher and he encouraged me to continue working on this kind of photography. I think he saw my interest in telling stories. So this teacher played a big part in the development of my own style. I really don’t know where I would be if he hadn't helped me. I wasn’t forced to take his words into account but teachers notice what you like to do and what you’re good at, so you should at least listen to what they tell you.

In this kind of school, students normally have meetings with some of their teachers several times a semester. During these meetings, teachers provide feedback on students’ works, they give advice, they suggest different ways of doing things, they talk about artists’ works that the students should look at…so these meetings are really critical.
Teachers also teach students how to talk about their work and that, my friend, is one of the most important things when you want to become an artist!

Teachers also give specific exercises to do.
For example: “ create a sculpture using only adhesive tape”. By doing this kind of exercise, you find out what you like to do and, on the contrary, what you don’t like to do. You find out what medium (or media) you prefer, what you want to express, and you become more and more creative.
I know that there are competitions in many art and design schools, but in my school, I didn’t notice this. In fact, as we all had different styles and universes, it was really pleasant and interesting to look at what my classmates were working on.

Pauline Le Pichon, Le Journal #60, 2013

Curiosity

Before I went to this school, I didn’t know much about art and artists. I only knew the most famous ones like Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Alberto Giacometti, William Klein…so it was very limited. But as soon as I entered this school, I began to discover many different artists. This is one of the coolest things about studying art: it goes hand in hand with a thirst for culture. It makes you want to read more books, watch more films, visit more exhibitions…Teachers always say “if you like to do this, you should look at what this artist did, it might interest you”..and this sentence always brings useful things for you and the creation of your own artistic style.
I’m so glad I studied at this art school because it has fed my brain with a lot of artists and works I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t gone there.
As an instructor myself since September 2021, I’m always happy to introduce my students to artists and designers. I think that becoming (more) curious is so fulfilling for our life and work.

Pauline Le Pichon, Sculpture, 2009

Being more self-confident

If you’ve read my previous articles, you know that I have low self-confidence. It’s still something I need to work on. But…studying at an art school has already helped me so much with this issue.
In an art school, you often have to present your work to teachers and students. This is usually very stressful, but it has many benefits: first of all, you get honest feedback on your work, which helps you to know if your statement clearly matches your work, what you should improve or not, etc. You have to be prepared to hear negative things, but I assure you that it helps a lot.
The other very important benefit is that it can give you more confidence.
The more you talk about your work in front of people, the more you get used to doing it.
Plus, you can definitely be proud of the universe you’ve started to create. I’ve had several great teachers who made me realize that my work was good enough to be continued. And when you don’t have confidence in yourself, it’s great to hear something like that.

Growing up

I entered art school at the age of 21, in my late teens. And when I graduated, I was 26. Of course, I grew up, I changed a lot during those five years and I think that studying art played a big part in my growth. I felt myself becoming more mature, more curious, more confident, more skilled...and then way happier than before. That’s when I really started to be the person I wanted to be. I often think that I don’t know who I would be and where I would be if I hadn’t decided to go to art school. It helped me to grow up and see what I wanted to do with my life, so it made my future a bit clearer and brighter. It helped me find myself and made me realize that Art was what could keep me alive. I think it was the first time I studied and did things that made me feel good.

Getting ready for the working world

I’m not going to say that this school totally prepared me for the working world.
So, it wasn't perfect but the teachers there, made me understand many things: why and how artists should express their visions through their works, how to talk about my work, how to be consistent in producing artworks and…how to step back when necessary. All of these things have been very essential for my current career.
During my last year (I have a BFA and an MFA), one of my teachers told me that I should think of myself as an artist, no longer as a student. And that‘s the biggest and greatest change that this school has made in me: I went in as an art student and graduated as an artist. That’s how much it changed me.

To conclude, I’ll repeat what I said above: this school wasn’t perfect. I went through some difficulties. But I wasn’t the most perfect student either. If I could go back in time, there are many things I would like to change and redo. Anyway, I’m glad I changed my mind and decided to give up my English degree to go to art school. I was happy to wake up and go to school because I knew it would benefit me and change me in a good way. This school has given me a lot of great things in my artistic journey and I’m so grateful for that. It was the first step in my career and now I’m happy to wake up and do what I like to do.

This is a text about my own experience. I know that many people have had a bad experience with art schools. That’s why I think that if you want to go to an art school, you have to take many things into account: the expenses (in my case, the school wasn’t really expensive and I was living at my parents’…but I had to pay for transports, buy a computer, a camera, pencils…), the job you plan to have, your commitment (like any other study, you have to take art studies very seriously) and the fact that it’s certainly going to be difficult when you graduate. Once you’ve considered all these things and think you’re ready to study art, well, get ready to grow up!

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Pauline Le Pichon

Pauline Le Pichon

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I’m a French visuel artist, freelance photographer, instructor and writer.