WHAT ARE MY STUDY OPTIONS?
What any craft artist, no matter the industry or niche, will tell you, is that it’s most important to perfect your craft. Whether you do this through formal education or not is a personal choice, but it is absolutely essential to hone your skills, not only at the beginning, but all the time.
One of the first characteristics you need to have is passion and talent for the art you are going to practice. The second is patience. It takes a long time to become really good at any type of handy crafts. While you can take classes to learn how to work metals, wood, or the fundamentals of design, there will be a lot of trial and error.
A great source of education, as a first step towards becoming a craft artist, is the internet. There are tutorials on just about everything. You can also find experts sharing their expertise on how to use techniques and methods they have already perfected.
If you are still in high school, take advantage of the courses that are available, such as sculpture, textile arts, and painting. Even if it’s not something you are looking to practice, developing and eye for detail and design is just as important as perfecting techniques specific to your craft.
You also have the option of taking classes at a community college. This is definitely a cheaper option than getting a fine arts degree and can be a much more hands-on experience. You yourself will know best the skills you are able to develop on your own and which you may need some help with. Attending a community college will probably also speed up the process, since you’ll get tips and tricks that it could take you years to figure out on your own.
Finally, you can get a fine arts degree. This is a wonderful option for many reasons as well. Yes, it will be more expensive, but at the same time it will grow you as an individual and as an artist. Being surrounded by creative people with a vision, learning from previous experience, creating a network, understanding the type of artist you are, and working with a variety of media are all advantages of a formal education. Plus, if you are looking to become a scientific illustrator or follow a formal design career, a degree may be a requirement for a job.
WHAT IF I DO WANT A DEGREE?
According to the US News & World Report on the “Best Grad Schools”, these are the top 5 Fine Arts schools in the country.
- Yale University
Yale has a general Bachelor of Fine Arts program where the first year is spent learning the fundamentals with specialization in the higher study years. Concentrations include painting, printmaking, sculpture, graphic design, and photography. Current annual full-time tuition is $34,300.
- Rhode Island School of Design
RISD offers a number of BFAs and MFAs including ceramics; furniture design; glass, jewelry and metalsmithing; illustration; and sculpture. All the courses include art history, art philosophy, and studio classes for a rounded education in Arts. Current annual full-time degree tuition is $44,284.
- School of the Art Institute in Chicago
SAIC has a slightly different approach in their program design where you get to study a BFA and choose to focus on one or more subjects. These can be photography, sculpture, painting, or something else. You design your own curriculum, so-to-speak. They also have master’s level courses. Tuition currently stands at $1,381 per credit hour for undergrads.
- University of California – Los Angeles
Similar to other Fine Arts programs, UCLA offers a generic fundamentals education, later concentrating in areas such as painting and drawing, photography, sculpture, ceramics, art theory, and what they call new genres which involves non-studio work. Being a state university, estimated annual fees for UCLA are $15,131 for resident students and $38,009 for out-of-state.
- Virginia Commonwealth University
VCA offers a number of Fine Arts programs, including craft and material studies, art history, sculpture, and extended media and painting and printmaking among many others. In-state tuition fees average $5,317 and $12,843 for out-of-state students plus art school fees.
GETTING YOUR FOOT IN THE DOOR
Don’t forget, however, that more than anything, you’ll need a portfolio. Whether you learn on your own or decide to get a formal education, everyone will want to see your work before they buy it, commission it, sponsor you, or give you a job. This is why you’ll need to start as early as you can. Only choose your best pieces, but make sure you document them. Take photos. Create a website. Create a Facebook page. In short, promote your art.
As with any artistic career, your first step is to get good at it, but at the same time, you need to get your name out there. Networking and marketing are two essentials you absolutely cannot miss if you actually want to make a living as a craft artist. Any expert you talk to will tell you that until you are able to hire someone who can take care of the marketing for you, at least half of your time will be spent on getting and following up on leads for business.
So, to get your foot in the door meet people, tell them about yourself, always be ready to show your work even if it’s on your smartphone, and don’t be afraid to sell. Most importantly, be patient. It might be some time before you can establish yourself as an artist, but perseverance and talent often pay off. Meanwhile, doing what you love is definitely priceless.