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Art School - An Editorial
March 13, 2012
“A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying… that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.” ~Alexander Pope
Was art school a mistake? My accountant, had I the ability to afford to pay one, would undoubtedly say, yes. The idea that some time in art school would lead to a lifetime of creativity and expression is not an incorrect one. However, there is nothing in that idea about being able to pay your bills, getting a job that you might actually enjoy, or describing the TYPE of creativity, e.g. – how you will feed yourself. (“What can I combine into a meal today?”) And as far as the type of expression, it really means you’ll get a job that does not encourage expression. That’s what art school can be.
But would I say art school was a mistake? ….well…still kinda yes. But sorta kinda no.
First and foremost – I am not a rich man.
To counter that, I can tell you more crazy stories about things I’ve done and places I’ve been than damn near anyone you’ll ever meet.
I have student loans that might last into my 40’s, while I graduated “college” at 23.
“College,” was drawing pictures and looking at other people’s pictures for $30,000+ for 5 years.
Well, that’s not all I did. I also drank a lot.
To be fair, art school is a hell of a lot harder than most people give it credit for. Yes, you spend most of your time drawing. But to imply that is easy is a huge mistake. There were plenty of weeks where, in addition to the 6 hour class sessions, you would have 20-30 hours of homework PER CLASS. That meant that you got used to planning on getting less than 5 hours of sleep a night, just about every night.
After drawing naked people for two years in an attempt to move onto 3D animation, (I originally wanted to get into making video games, which then moved on to doing special effects for movies) I made a decision. I decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life sitting in a dark room staring at a computer helping someone else realize their dream.
Now what do I do?
I spend most of my time sitting in bright rooms staring at a computer, helping some other rich assholes get even richer. Success.
But first, a little more history.
So after those two years studying fine art, drawing, sculpture, painting, alcohol, art history, design, color theory, depression, and learning how to carry a giant portfolio through the streets of San Francisco without hitting someone who would most likely not feel bad about knifing you, I decided to move to the film program.
No more carrying huge portfolios, no more naked people, and no more 6 hour classes.
This now meant; renting hundreds of pounds of gear that you had to find a way to move around the city (this is difficult when no one in SF owns a car), realizing that learning all about how films are made can (temporarily) destroy your ability to actually enjoy watching films, and dealing with some super pretentious douchebag assholes.
The first two issues are temporary, the last issue lasts FOREVER.
I can say with some sad honesty that art/film school did not give me the career I was expecting (yet). However, I can say that it did give me some amazing experiences. It was a mistake in that I’m almost 30, my car has over 200k miles on it, I haven’t bought a new computer in 6 years (in Mac terms, that’s a millenia), and I’ve started more jobs as a temp than I can actually remember.
I will say it was not a mistake, in that, I really don’t think I could have done anything else. It wasn’t so much a choice of laziness, or the decision to try and have fun opposed to doing “real” work. But rather, I don’t think I can see myself trying to crack any other industry. And I should know, I’ve inadvertantly found my way into working damn near every kind of job there is.
I remember a short story I read in high school, about an art teacher trying to explain to her students that to live a life in the art world, is to be forever struggling. The myth of Sisyphus is one I hold near and dear. The idea to be forever pushing a rock up a hill, only to have it fall back down again is one I understand only too well. To combat this otherwise overtly depressing existence, the short story tried to explain how there is a joy in that struggle. That your reward is not reaching the top, but the fact that you CAN push that boulder. In truth, I do feel glad about that.
I feel thankful that I’ve had to persistance to keep pushing forward, when lesser (or smarter, depending on your POV) people than myself have quit to go on to other lives.
I have seen what art, and the pursuit of creating it, can do to people. Art has the power to change people for the better. It can open your eyes and mind to thoughts and concepts that would be otherwise lost or invisible. It can make you feel things you would never feel without it, and force you to look at parts of yourself that would otherwise remain hidden. People who create art for the sake of creation are truly godlike. They open up pieces of themselves and leave them for all to see on a canvas, or a book, or a film, or whatever your medium of choice is.
True art is art that, when viewed, you don’t just see what the artist wanted you to see, but you also see a part of yourself. It should stir something up in you, a thought, a feeling, or leave some sort of reasonance. That’s what art is for. It’s to give the viewer a chance to see themselves and the world around them, and understand it all just a little better. Understanding leads to action. When you understand more about your life, your life changes for the better. Which now leads me to this semi-famous quote:
“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” – Bertolt Brecht
I haven’t had the success I thought I might when I was younger, but I have the confidence that I’ll have the ability to create something that will reasonate with someone, somewhere. I will continue to paint, I’ll continue to write, I will shoot more films, and damn if I don’t try and change the world, even if it’s only a fraction. I’ll leave a mark, and the world will be better for it. How many Wall St. brokers can say that? I mean, if you could catch up to them in their fancy asshole cars to talk to them that is.
And for anyone who questions why I’m so adamant about creating art while also living in LA… Fuck you. That’s why. I’ll talk about LA elsewhere.
I’m an art school kid. There may be times when I’m ashamed to admit it, mostly when I’m trying to buy a nice dinner for my girlfriend. But when it really boils down to it, nothing makes me prouder.
Today is well past the first day of the rest of your life.