I've seen a lot of posts lately in groups on Facebook from people who draw, stating that "they didn't take art", or "had no formal education", and are "self taught". Which is fine... But it is almost as if they are implying that they are better than someone with an art based education because they did it themselves; that they were given a gift, and have never looked at Instagram, YouTube, or any other single piece of art ever. (So, no Disney, no Cadburys or Kellog’s, shit even my kids nappies have artwork on them). That they worked it all out, totally by themselves without any reference material, like not even the cave men did. But Sharon, that’s a picture of Moana. Whatever.
Can I just clear something up. Every artist is self-taught... No one holds your hand. We all sat there drawing shit we can see! Now days you can literally look up how to do anything. Did you google how to do that? Hmmmm? (Shakes head and points at self) “Me nooooooo... I learned myself see”. I’m sure we are all guilty of this at some point. I just find it amusing.
Taking art at a higher level doesn't actually teach you how to draw. You should ideally know how to use a pencil before enrolling. Just saying. It teaches you how to contextualise. It shows you how to use something visually as a method of representation and meaning for something else. It leads you into art spaces, history books, political manifestos, science texts, thesis on psychology or philosophical diaries that you had no idea you could connect together in such ways. You learn to research, underpin and put together pieces of information like a detective; and while you do this you begin to imagine, and see, and create in your mind, all the while learning about yourself. (Sounds glorious doesn’t it?). You find visuals that make sense to you (but literally no one else. Good luck in the crit). You find other artists who have used certain materials or techniques that convey the emotions you are looking to evoke in others. It forces you to look at yourself... and you have to write all of this down. Not draw it.
I'm calling this, because, we actually did have art lessons. We had them at playgroup and at primary school. We learned to draw a line, a circle, how to mix colours and fill in a colour wheel. We drew from observation with simple line and shading. We put pretty boarders around our writing and set out our best work with little illustrations. If you went to mainstream school until 10 years old, you did this... so we were given this "technical" art lesson that is silently being referenced in these posts.
I learned to draw past this as a child. (I actually still have my first drawings in a box somewhere that I did waaay before school. Yup, you guessed it circles and lines). When I was about 8 or 9 I used to go and dig up animal bones over the Mud Hills and take them home and draw them (until my dad found them and lost his shit and threw them away). Or keys, I'd draw those as well. Oh and pages of interconnecting shapes that just kept growing and growing. Sometimes I would come back to it again and again to add more bits. I would draw as much detail as I could, and it would take me hours. I had seen my neighbour’s illustrations he did for a medical dictionary and I wanted to be able to draw like that. In primary school we drew a tree in the playing field from observation. I remember recreating Bridge over a Pond of Water Lillies as a class in primary school. I also remember watching art attack and other kids shows. I drew and sent in a picture of Badger from Animals of Farthing Woods because when I was little, my only goal in life was to have my artwork shown on TV. I know. There really has never been any hope for me.
I was given a book as a kid that had surrealist works in, along with some of those trick of the eye pictures… is it a face or a plant pot, young lady or old lady, the never ending stair case etc. I looked at it so much that even though I haven’t seen it for about 20 years and still know what a lot of those pages looked like. Some of them had boobs in.
I don't remember learning anything about how to actually draw anything at secondary school... but I do remember drawing Kelly Jones eyes from a magazine. I spent a whole week after school trying to get them exactly right. I remember spending hours and hours drawing everything I could see out of my bedroom window when I was about 13. On some cheap A4 paper that had a tinge to it. With a 2B pencil because It was the only one I had. I would copy images out of magazines, CD sleves, like the Mecha in the Reanimation album cover. I actually drew that on my wall.
I went to college, and university in my mid 20’s, but I have learned more about the technicalities of drawing in the last year than I ever did at university. There, I learned how to explain myself, and my art, how to give a successful presentation, write a proposal, organise events, and how to plan and document. I learned that I am actually probably better at writing than art according to my results. I filled dozens of sketchbooks with notes, cross referencing information and artists and working out whether they would inform my work. I also learned, that you can be the best artist in the damn world and still not be able to pass a formal art qualification. Because it’s an academic qualification. (I passed btw, actually did quite well. Thanks). I also learned that people will tell you you’re shit, and you will cry, a lot!
Don't get me wrong, at college I learned how to print, I found out that Brusho was pretty cool, and I was told that the key to drawing hands wasn't about looking at the hands, but at the negative space. I learned how to secure heavy objects to a wall safely too. I went to a lot of fun exhibitions. But as far as drawing goes, my time at university was the furthest removed from drawing I have ever been in my life. I did piss about with paint for a bit though. I couldn’t afford a whole set so I only used primaries + B&W.
Art education has very little to do with drawing. It is about your intent, your concept, what you want it to do and how you want it to be received. Going to university isn’t easy. It broke some people. It’s expensive, heart breaking, self-fulfilling, frustrating, exhausting, exciting, interesting… and many more things. It isn’t easy, and it is something you definitely should be proud of doing. You just gave up 3 years of your life for a bloody subject! This isn’t some hot romance, or free money, its expensive stress and hard work!
I think it’s sad that people think having an art education is a bad thing. Shit, I wrote 10,000 + words to pass that bastard. In one piece of work! I wasn’t taught that. I was told to do it and left to get on with it. Okay there were minor check-ups.
So… Enlighten me. Was I at any point self-taught? Am I disqualified from that because I have an education? Or, or maybe I was then I wasn’t but now I am???
Because it’s no easier for me than someone without my background. I have just spent an hour and a half drawing one eye the size of my fingernail man!
Who actually gives a flying fuck where you learned! You can draw can’t you? Well done. No one, ever, is going to buy a portrait of their cat Margeret and expect a pamphlet detailing the mud hills, Kelly Jones eyes and fucking Monet are they. All true by the way. I hope you enjoyed the insight into my artsistance (it’s like existence but for artists).
If you read to here… Well done! I applaud you :)