Saturday, January 12, 2013


Reg the Gnome- my  faithful companion

I sometimes get asked by people," What advice would you give my teen about wanting to be an artist; should they apply for a place in a college of Art and Design, is a degree necessary? What did you find useful and what are the requirements for being in a creative industry?"

Here is my opinion:

Before you go and do an art degree, study typing. In my youth, secretarial school was somewhere you could learn to bash those keys accurately really fast. You also learned how to answer the phone, write letters and do office administration. This will be important for your career as an artist because at some point you'll decide to write a novel or two, using words instead of paint to express your story. You'll also need to apply for residencies, grants, galleries and internships. Writing a succinct application is crucial to your success, and if you become successful, you'll also need to know how to do your accounts. So learn Excel and accounting software. Do a Business degree, that will be useful.

Before you go and do an art degree, study history and the classics. Art is not merely painting pictures of pohutukawa and harakeke flowers, although they might sell at an art show. Art is about making a personal statement, challenging points of view and influencing the world; forming a manifesto. Artists have recorded social history and helped unseat destructive manipulators by exposing truths in a quiet, intelligent and well observed manner. Do a Political Science degree, that will be useful.

Before you go and do an art degree, study acting. Expressing yourself publicly and articulately is vital when you give talks about your work and sometimes you need to be able to put on another persona when you are lacking courage. The ability to project your voice is a gift that can be learned. Understanding how a production is put together is like understanding the structure of a skeleton. If the plot is the bones of a play, then the painting of a set is just the hairdo. Nice but not necessary if the underlying framework is sound. Under every piece of great art and design is wonderful bone structure. Do a Drama degree, that will be useful.

Before you go and do an art degree, look into some teacher training. You will at some point in your career both rely on teaching art methods to supplement your income and then just because you enjoy sharing your world with those students who want to be in it with you. When tutoring children, you need to know how to keep control without squashing youthful excitement when faced with paint and glue. With adults you need to know how to help open long shut doors on suppressed creativity. You need to know when to have it be about them and not about you. Do an Education degree, that will be useful.

Before you go and do an art degree, make sure someone in your life knows how to cook and administer first aid. You will eat distractedly when absorbed in a body of work and your posture will suffer, as will your lungs from inhalation of paint and sculpting materials and fingertips from crafts knives, files and heat guns. Find someone to love you for or despite your obsession with your work and refusal to take a 'real job' because that would destroy your will to live. If they can't love you anyway, then ditch them.

I hope that's useful :)


Melinda Szymanik said...

Oh my God, I love you - that was awesome :)

TK Roxborogh said...

Perfectly said and should be oft quoted around the world. I am going to send the link to people I think should read it.