How Important is an Art Education?

Jul 16, 2018 by

One of the biggest attractions for many people of working in a creative field is the fact that there are few, if any, entry requirements. Anyone with the requisite talent and determination can pursue a creative career without the need to invest in an education beforehand. However, while you can become a writer, an artist, or a photographer, without any formal qualifications, many people still choose to study these subjects academically.

Clearly then, there is some value, or at least some perceived value, in studying these subjects, even if doing so isn’t a professional requirement. It is unfortunate that so many people, both as children and adults, are dissuaded from pursuing these subjects academically and are instead shepherded towards “more academic” subjects instead. But are they really missing out on anything by foregoing the opportunity to pursue an art education? We think so! Here’s why.

Think About the World Differently

Perhaps the most frequent criticism directed towards art as an academic subject is that the skills it teaches are not useful in every day life. However, this viewpoint usually assumes that the only skills required of an artist, and therefore the only skills that are developed during the course of an art education, are those directly used to create art. In reality, artists are required to call upon a variety of different skills. Remember, there’s more to being an artist than just making art!

There are few artists out there who are only concerned with the appearance of their final piece. Most pieces of art are created with purpose and are initially conceived because of the way that the artist thinks about and interacts with the world around them. Most painters, for example, don’t sit down at their easel without any notion of what they are trying to paint onto it.

That’s not to say that improvisational art doesn’t exist, clearly it does. However, in studying art as a formal subject, students will come to understand how many of the greatest artists throughout history decided to pursue their most renowned works. In this way, art students will come to understand how to look at the world like an artist. A more considered view of the world around them doesn’t just enrich them artistically, it can be a downright transformative experience for them on a personal level.

Marketing

While anyone can be an artist, in as much as any of us can decide to create a piece of art, it takes skill and determination to be able to make any money from it. Even a very skilled artist on a technical level will ultimately have to work out for themselves how they will sell their art and encourage other people to buy it. Not all art courses will include lessons on this aspect of being an artist, but these skills will naturally be developed by anyone pursuing art professionally.

Marketing itself is a discipline which trains a variety of skills in its practitioners. For example, anyone today who is operating a small business, or pursuing some form of self-employment, like an artist, will need to maintain an online presence. The internet is how most of us find the businesses and people that we end up giving our money to so we all know from our own experiences what an important platform the internet is. Despite this, most of us wouldn’t know where to begin with building our own website, especially one designed to sell our artwork through.

Those who study art with a view to going pro at the end of it will therefore also have to learn how to make art websites that both showcase their work and facilitate sales. And, yet again, this activity will require artists to learn how to perform a number of other skills. This is a fantastic example of how learning to be an artist is about much more than art.

 Analysis and Interpretation

Just as important to artists as producing their own artwork is to look at what their peers and their idols are doing with their own art. Their interest in one another’s work goes beyond professional curiosity. When artists discuss their work together, they are interested in the underlying thought processes and ideas which led to the piece of art they are looking at.

In learning how to interpret and analyze other pieces of art, students will develop the same analytical skills that we all use in everyday life. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are constantly analyzing the world around us. When we meet new people, for example, our subconscious very quickly forms an opinion of them based on little more than their physical appearance. Our brains very rapidly take in a lot of information and, without us being aware of it, we analyze that information.

Our view of the entire world is colored by our subconscious. Those who haven’t had the benefit of honing their analytical skills are at a disadvantage as they have to rely upon their natural intuition. But the point runs even deeper than that.

As well as analyzing the aesthetic qualities of a piece of art, artists will also spend a lot of time considering the history and backstory of each piece. When dealing with older artworks, this will often require them to investigate several different sources of information and use their analytical and interpretive skills to determine which sources to pay heed to (which should be taken with a note of caution), and which to discard entirely. These skills are clearly useful in many areas of life, but in the current political climate they have taken on a new significance.

Problem Solving

Problem solving skills are among the most versatile and useful skills on the planet. Every time we solve a puzzle or problem, we are learning something new. When we are presented with a similar problem in the future, our past experiences help us to solve it. You might not think of art as problem solving at a glance, but let’s dig a little deeper.

Let’s consider the example of a sculptor. Sculpture is a unique form of art, one which regularly draws on a number of other skills. When a sculptor is planning their next piece, as well as deciding what the piece will be, they also need to decide how they will go about building it. This requires them to make decisions about the materials and methods they will use. Many sculptors begin with very little knowledge of how the materials they end up using behave. But as time goes on, they will develop their knowledge to the point that they can make their own judgements on these issues without seeking any help.

All artists will have to use problem solving skills at some point though. Even if it is for something which seems incredibly basic, such as deciding on the right position for their easel in order to perfectly capture a scene.

Being an artist is about so much more than just producing art. In studying art and learning about other artists and their art, students will develop a number of skills that are useful throughout their lives. An art education clearly does have value, enormous value to many, and is just as important to the curriculum as more academic subjects.

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