Over the years I've been asked a lot of questions by my students. Here are 10 of the most frequently as questions.
Please keep in mind the answers are my opinions, and not fact. Use at your own discretion. :)
Q: Why do I need Art History (art, design, photography, etc.)? I'll just end up copying someone else if I look at their work.
A: Chances are if you aren't taking art history classes (design, art, photography, etc.) you already are copying someone else. Art history gives you context. You need to know where art has been in order to understand where you can go with it. When students try to produce work without context, they generally produce work similar to what they've seen in pop culture, even if they don't know it.
Most good art schools and universities will have you copy master works in order to understand anatomy, composition, line, value, etc. While most of these will be studio classes I have heard of some art history that's required this as well.
Q: Can I really make money at this stuff? My parents are getting worried...
A: Yes, you can. The problem is that most students don't research the opportunities an art degree gives them. If you set your expectations realistically, do the research, and have goals, you can do it. If you consider teaching, graphic design, and most forms of commercial photography (portraiture, weddings, product) as an art career, then yes, it's very viable.
Q: I want to work for Pixar and I'm attending a design school. How do I go about doing this?
A: You don't. You need illustration, anatomy, and 2D and 3D animation training. You need to pick a school that can teach you what you need to learn, but be careful of predatory schools where you are unable to transfer credits and are prohibitively expensive.
Q: I want to be a working professional photographer, should I enroll in a fine art program?
A: In my experience? No. What you need are classes or seminars that teach lighting, composition, posing, post-production, and so on. Most art schools don't teach these technical skills. Seminars through professional associations may work for this, or if you have the cash, one of the few high-end photography schools.
Q: I'm going to be a freelance (designer, photographer, etc.), I read online I don't need to go to college, just equipment.
A: Wrong. If nothing else, you should go for a business degree. However, most students, especially design students, need classes tailored to teach them to design. Photographers can get away with it, but it takes more discipline than most people can handle. If you can double major do it in your area of study and business.
Q: What are the worst types of students? How can I avoid being one?
A: The worst types are generally those with the most experience. They generally have some skills, but no desire to learn and just want to be told how great they are as artists. They're usually surpassed by their lesser-experienced classmates within a few terms because the lesser-experienced students are willing to learn new techniques.
You can avoid being a bad student by looking in the mirror and honestly ask yourself "Am I an asshole?" If the answer is yes, then stop being one. You can do it. Even Darth Vader came around in the end.
Q: My professors break the same rules they lay out for their students. Why can't I break these rules?
A: You have to know how to perform the basics consistently before you can break the rules. Many students can make a successful piece of art, but can't repeat the process in a later piece. This is the proverbial happy accident, not skill.
Q: How do you personally keep learning?
A: I read A LOT.
Q: I have this great idea for a model wearing a gas mask or strangers hugging in the street...
A: Please don't. Really. And before you ask, no abandoned strip malls or smoking 12-year-olds. And for the love of God stop photographing the Christian Bookstore next to the sex shop downtown. It's been done a few times.
Q: Will I ever be able to draw? I can't draw now. I'm nervous taking this class...
A: With practice anyone can draw. Honestly. You just have to love it and do it every day. Take classes, and when you're good, take a class in a drawing style you aren't good at. Trust me, you'll get better.
Also, if you were taking a Spanish 1 class, would you be nervous not knowing how to speak Spanish? No, you're in the class to learn. Same with drawing.