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Ten things they don't teach you in art school (and they really should)

2nd August 2021 Print

Going to art school is a great time to experiment with your style and technique and discover your unique aesthetic as an artist. However, after leaving art school and diving headfirst into the professional world, you might be feeling like what they taught you only left you half-prepared. 

Here are ten things they don’t teach you in art school (and they really should). 

1. The art of writing 

Though art school might have taught you how to write a good academic essay, or even a dissertation, this is not the same as learning how to write a funding proposal or job application, both of which are essential for emerging artists. 

2. Business knowledge 

One of the hardest things for a new graduate of an art school is knowing how to quote for a job and how much to charge. Therefore, it can pay to get clued up on money and other elements of business going forward. 

3. Networking 

For emerging artists, networking can make or break your career, especially in today’s economy. Without knowing how to establish contacts with other professionals in your field, it can be pretty difficult to find work. 

4. How to approach clients

To follow on from the art of networking, it is also important to work on how you approach potential clients as a businessperson and creative. If your client is a family friend, then your communications will be more informal. But if your client is a prominent art collector, such as Charles Saatchi, then you must keep it formal. Know your voice and your style but remember you may have to compromise a little.

5. Don’t jump into the first thing you’re offered 

As with many new creatives, you might be tempted to jump into the first job or agency that you are offered. However, remember your worth no matter how well they draw you in, and make sure to carefully consider every contract and business decision. 

6. Negotiation

Negotiation is an important aspect of every business, and for artists this is no different. Negotiating fees, deadlines, and quantity of work is something that should be taught at art school. 

7. Balancing clients wishes and your own style

When you are doing work for a client, you will naturally want to impress them by meeting their requirements. However, they chose you as the artist for a reason, and so they will expect you to carry the work out with your style, rather than trying to please them too much. The key is to find the balance between the client’s wishes and your personal aesthetic. 

8. Work – life balance 

Working solidly in a solitary environment such as a studio can become very lonely. In time, this might have a knock-on effect to your mental health. Therefore, try to strike a good work-life balance with a healthy amount of socialisation.  

9. Not everything will make the cut

Be humble – not everything will make the cut. However, the mistakes you make will only help you to become better at what you do. 

10. Its impossible to know everything 

It is impossible to know everything there is to know about being an artist and a businessperson, and that’s okay! Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need to. 

With these ten things in mind, your confidence will only grow over time, better preparing you for the world outside of art school.