I’ve had it.
I will no longer encourage aspiring artists to attend art school. I just won’t do it. Unless you’re given a full ride scholarship (or have parents with money to burn), attending art school is a waste of your money.
I have a diploma from the best public art school in the nation. Prior to that I attended the best private art school in the nation. I’m not some flaky, disgruntled art graduate, either. I have a quite successful career, thankyouverymuch.
But I am saddened and ashamed at art schools and their blatant exploitation of students. Graduates are woefully ill-prepared for the realities of being professional artists and racked with obscene amounts of debt. By their own estimation, the cost of a four year education at RISD is $245,816. As way of comparison, the cost of a diploma from Harvard Law School is a mere $236,100.
This is embarrassing. It’s downright shameful. That any art school should deceive its students into believing that this is a smart decision is cruel and unusual.
Artists are neither doctors nor lawyers. We do not, on average, make huge six-figure salaries. We can make livable salaries, certainly. Even comfortable salaries. But we ain’t usually making a quarter mil a year. Hate to break it to you. An online debt repayment calculator recommended a salary exceeding $400,000 in order to pay off a RISD education within 10 years.
Don’t do it.
Don’t start your career with debilitating debt.
Please. I beg you. Think long and hard whether you’re willing to pay student loan companies $3000 every single month for the next 10 years.
You’ve got other options.
You don’t have to go to college to be an artist. Not once have I needed my diploma to get a job. Nobody cares. The education is all that matters. The work that you produce should be your sole concern.
There are excellent atelier schools all over the world that offer superior education for a mere fraction of the price. Here are a few:
- Watt’s Atelier
- Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Arts
The Safehouse Atelierapparently no longer exists, sadly.
There are more. Many, many more. And none of them will cost nearly as much as a traditional four year school.
And then there are the online options. The availability of drawing and painting resources is incredible.
Sitting at a computer I have direct access to artists all over the world. I have the combined wisdom of the artistic community to pull from at my leisure. For less than a few grand a year I can view more educational material than I would see at any art school. You can get a year of access to all of the Gnomon Workshop’s videos for the cost of a few days at the average art school.
With all of these options it can be a little daunting. So you know what? I’ve come up with a plan for you. Do this:
The $10k Ultimate Art Education
- $500 – Buy an annual subscription to The Gnomon Workshop and watch every single video they have.
$404.95 – Buy Glenn Vilppu’s Anatomy Lectures and watch all of them.Sadly, Glenn’s lectures are no longer available. Instead, I suggest you spend $530 and buy all of Proko’s content. They are phenomenal and the best anatomy resources I’ve seen.
- $300 – Sign up for a year of Schoolism
- $190 – Buy all of these books and read them cover to cover.
- $1040 ($20/week x 52 weeks) – Weekly figure drawing sessions. Look up nearby colleges and art groups and find a weekly session to attend. If you can’t find out, go to Reference.Pictures and buy our first two figure drawing packs for a total of just $30. Also grab the hands and expressions packs for an extra $8 and you’ll have a ton of resources to practice figures from.
- $2500 – Sign up for a SmART School Mentorship when you feel ready to get one-on-one guidance to push your abilities.
- $2400 – Sign up for four classes from CGMA. Get taught by professionals in the industry on exactly the skills you want to learn.
- Free – Watch all of these keynotes.
- Free – Study other things for free. Suggested topics: business, history, philosophy, English, literature, marketing, and anything else you might be interested in.
- $500 – Throughout the year, use at least this much money to visit museums in your area. And not just art museums. All museums.
- Free – Create accountability. One of the great advantages to attending a school is the camaraderie. So use the internet to create your own. Go join a forum where you can give and receive critique on the work you’re developing. There are many different ones out there that can suit whatever flavor you prefer.
- The rest – Materials. Buy yourself some good art materials to create with. Whether digital or traditional. Don’t skimp.
There. For less than a quarter of the tuition for RISD you’ve got yourself a killer education. You’ve received more quality, focused education than I think you’ll find at any art school.
There has never been a better time to be an artist. I’m inspired by the sheer quantity and quality of internet resources available to artists.
But I encourage all aspiring artists to think long and hard about their options. Student loans are unforgivable through bankruptcy and can wreck your financial future. Establishing a career while under the unceasing brutality of student loans makes an already difficult task nearly impossible.
Find another path. Art is a wonderful, beautiful, fulfilling pursuit. Don’t ruin it with a mountain of debt.
Disclaimer: I do not mean any offense to any of the educators at art schools. I have numerous professors who I consider close friends. This is neither an attack on you, nor your teaching abilities, nor the value that you provide for your students. I’m talking about the schools, not the artists teaching at them.