8 Things I Wasn't Taught At Art College

Like many creatives, I went to Sixth Form which was more or less like college to study three design based subjects and after that, I ventured off to university. If you've read my uni experience post, you'll know it didn't work out for me and I didn't stay to complete a degree and a few of the points mentioned here are some of the reasons why I just wasn't feeling it. I did however adore Sixth Form and my two years spent studying art, graphics and photography but even here I didn't learn what I find to be incredibly valuable to my  working life right now. 

1. Adobe Software
Where I'd be without Photoshop and Illustrator isn't even worth thinking about. The only chance I got during education to learn anything about Photoshop was during photography and that was literally just touching up images and altering all of the levels. We were taught nothing about layering, how to edit work you scan in, nothing about sizing or which colour setting to use for printing. Zilch. It wasn't until I was practicing in my own time that I picked up extra skills and honestly, YouTube tutorials have taught me so much more than I ever learnt at Sixth Form or university so for those of you who feel you can't do it because you haven't got a qualification, you don't need one and it's never too late to learn something new.

2. Building a Portfolio
You'd think what with trying to encourage you to get a job after studying that these educational establishments would teach you how to put a portfolio together and how to lay your work out so it's clear, not too cluttered, the artwork compliments each other based on their placements as well as content and also how to identify which of your work shows not just your strengths but your skill variety too. I wasn't taught any of this and even now my physical portfolio is tucked away behind my desk needing some much needed TLC. I've redone my portfolio a few times as I've developed as an artist and having the pages with the plastic wallets are great because you can take work out and swap it as you please.

3. Developing Your Own Style
We did a lot of recreations at Sixth Form of other artists and spent a lot of time studying other artworks rather than focussing on producing our own and developing a style. It took me years to eventually recognise a style that I had and loved to build on and even now, that style is constantly evolving as I try new things. Plus no one ever tells you that you can have more than one style, which is probably why a lot of creatives feel so restricted when it comes to artist's block, there's almost this expectation that you must stick to what you always do. Recently I've taken to art journalling and just getting my hands mucky again doing new things, which is fun and also allows you to potentially discover a new technique or material to use.

4. Approaching Agencies
Nobody tells you what sort of information to provide with these kinds of things and it can be really scary. I guess the same could be said when applying for any job really, I don't recall a time where I was ever taught how to write a good covering letter or even how to present and layout a C.V. This is something else that over time I've become a little better at and have grown in confidence (blogging sure has helped talking to new people, especially over email) but if it's your first time applying for something, get a friend or family member to proof read it and get some feedback from.

5. Marketing Yourself
Social media wasn't as big back when I first left school as it is now and it was only really Facebook that was considered useful for getting your work seen. Even still, it would have been brilliant to have been taught a little bit about how to market yourself because it can be super hard.

6. Finding & Pricing Work
Pricing work is something I think a lot of us struggle with and it really doesn't help that even today, so many people don't understand the time, effort and cost of materials that go into making art and so many of us undersell ourselves just to make a sale. I'm guilty of this and it's something I'm trying to get better at, knowing my worth and also reminding myself that this is how I make a living. I used to get a lot more emails than I do these days from people saying 'can you do this' but as soon as a price is mentioned, they're put off. I think I got over this disappointment quite quickly because my Mum is a graphic designer and artist herself so seeing her experience this over the years just made me very aware that this behaviour is just part of the job. A good tip would be to apply an hourly rate for yourself and then you can go from there, basing a price on how much time goes into it and also materials.

7. Things Don't Always Work
Experimenting with materials is something that is done a lot at art college but what I wasn't taught was to continue doing all this mucking about with new things even after education because not only is it fun, it's healthy for the creative brain and keeps the juices flowing. And, things don't always turn out to be pieces of art you're really proud of, sometimes they're just little scribbles here and there that need popping into an art journal or scrapbook to look back on or revisit at a later date.

8. Tax Returns & Accounts
The dreaded tax returns and book keeping. If you work for yourself then this is an absolute must but getting started when it comes to keeping all of your receipts and organising your earnings and expenses can be a really terrifying ordeal. No one teaches you the importance of making sure you do a tax return and keeping a record of all the income and outgoings and this is something I have leant as I've gone along and I've found that my way of organising has adapted over time and become a lot more efficient. I do paperwork at least once every fortnight which seems a little over the top when I hear of people doing theirs every 6 months but it works really well for me and reduces stress and anxiety when the time comes to fill out my tax return.

Luckily all of these points are things we can be teaching ourselves fairly easily what with the internet being at our fingertips. Granted some of them will take practice but the good news is a lack of qualification isn't going to stand in your way!

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