My Experience with Art College

I’ve been trying to write a post about this subject for a while now because its always on my mind, and I think that there’s been a lot of media coverage about the difficulties of attending college nowadays. It is so very costly, and I attest this is true since I went through it. I had written a couple of other drafts before this broaching the subject, and hopefully, this one will be much more succinct. I’m writing this because I had in mind to be helpful, and hopefully, I’ll have somehow helped an aspiring art student to also become aware of the situation. We can’t all be dreamy anymore and choose to go to our #1 school choice, but keep in mind that feeling inspired to pursue life purpose versus finding a job that pays, almost always, life purpose goals are much better even if the way is difficult. I firmly believe though, that sometimes we can have different pathways to get to the place we want in life. So if you have to take a job that you hate to pay and fund your way to your life goal, you should probably do it. That’s my belief anyway.

I suppose you can say this is a follow up on the AAU vs. Art Center post I wrote up when I first started college. Well, now that I’ve graduated, here’s some of my thoughts.

I’ve spent a lot of time pondering over the fact that, what would happen if I had not gone to art school? I was informed by many teachers, counselors, and adults in high school that college is an important thing to go through because you don’t want to end up flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Well, the fact of the matter is, most of us nowadays are stuck doing that anyway because we can’t get the job we graduated college for to begin with. I haven’t worked at a fast food chain, but working any sort of sales or retail is sort of a sad means. They pay you “minimum wage” but to be honest, minimum wage is not on-par with today’s high cost of living: rising cost of gas, food, and housing. I could go into economics and how bad the current economy is, but I think that’s a different topic altogether that I don’t really want to get into. I am trying to narrow the subject down.

So essentially, I have been puzzled since graduating about whether or not my choice in school was beneficial for me. It’s really a hit and miss, but quite frankly, with all the online schools popping up left and right, it’s left me in a state of envy. I wish all this was available in 2007 when I started. But I had no idea what I was doing. I had the belief that college was the answer to everything for my future. But if I could go back in time and teach myself the right way, I should have gone to a community college to learn important basic academic fundamentals. And then obtain an AA or something, by then, probably would have set up a school that was by far cheaper than what I was paying for at the Academy. I remember this, and I had calculated the numbers. The only drawback is, would I be as good I am in my technical skills? I have problems with online teaching. My style of learning has always been to be immersed and to see (well, maybe that’s why I’m an artist!).

One thing that art school did do for me, was surround me with different minds — and these other minds helped me to open myself up more to different perspectives. I am much wiser than I was before. One of the things that kept me back was family and parents telling me what I should do. They probably didn’t know very much either as they only told me what other people seemed to have told them. One ability that I wished I could have built up earlier was people skills, and the ability to sell myself. This is most certainly NOT taught in schools. This is a life/street skill. And you need this if you want to become a professional. But going back to being surrounded by other people, I feel like this experience could just happen if I had gone out into the world and traveled to new areas like I initially wanted to. It was always a money issue for me, but quite frankly, when you graduate high school, you have no debts yet, and you can earn money by working part-time jobs, save up, and then go places.

One thing that I really adored was having mentors and instructors. 80% of them opened up my eyes to new possibilities, and I feel like good instructors like that are hard to come by. It’s the institution, however, that is the real enemy as they are the ones who are controlling everything else but your ability to learn. One thing I’m going to gripe a bit about is that the career section in our school was rather dismal. I grew tired of seeking help, emailing the representatives, and never getting replies back. If the counselors had problems with large amounts of email, maybe its time they hired more people to help??? I always wondered about this. Because as much as it is important to have an outstanding portfolio, one needs to also be quite literate. It is a little bit ridiculous, since the school teaches you mainly how to be someone else’s employee, so maybe they should be having more writing workshops for resumes and cover letters? There was some workshops, but it really was just one person talking in a limited time frame. I would have liked to attend a more hands-on type of workshop with one-on-one help.

My experience with freelance art is that, I had no idea what I was doing at first because the terms and words confused me. Sure, it was gone over in my portfolio senior class, but not everything was discussed. There were certain scenerios that left me confused, and the actual help that I needed was not from school or my instructor, it was from public forums on LinkedIn and reading lots and lots of blogs from other artists.

Here is also my experience with online classes at AAU:
Don’t do it. It baffled me after returning to normal on-campus classes how much more information you got from being in-person than being online. Its much harder to also connect with your classmates, and I personally believe that college is actually half for making connections and for networking, and the other half is for learning. So why exactly am I paying for full class tuition prices when I only get 65% of what I get on site? The year and half that I spent onsite made me realize that though I gained good attendance and grades, my artwork isn’t nearly as amazing as some of my other peers and that really depressed me, how far behind I felt. It took a lot of sleepless nights to get my skills levels to somewhat satisfactory. And don’t get me started on about why I should have started looking for internships sooner! There are flyers in the student lobby also that no online student can see but the only the course materials they have. I wish I could have formed better connections with my teachers too. It’s much harder to get letters of recommendation if you are an online student unless you are very aggressive at emailing…

I would alse like to point out that the article above is a bit maddening simply because AAU’s online programs aren’t impressive (as explained above), so don’t believe that you are getting quality education if you are at least in the illustration department. I most certainly can’t vouch for other departments. But one thing to note is, if you’re perhaps an older adult who only wants the course material, than I suppose its perfectly viable to attend an online course since its convenient.

Note that this is only for online schooling for AAU. If you are considering on pursuing a career in either illustration or visual development, or concept art, I would consider going to the online schools, listed below that are fundamentally cheaper to attend and the mentors are real people. So you’re basically, skipping the administration process, and being taught directly from actual working professionals who are passionate about teaching.

List of online learning:

School of Visual Storytelling

Feng Zhu or better known as FZD school – for all things concept art, especially environments. Freeeee! And you can even take the dive and go to Singapore to attend his live classes.

Sycra videos – Freeee!

CGMA Academy

CGCookie – They offer tutorials for a subscription price.


Stephen Silver – also, Stephen has mentioned if you you follow him on Facebook, there is a possibility of getting some grant funding for his tuition, which is pretty cool. His school course link:

Chris Oatley Academy

Noah Bradley Art Camp

And even trying to find a way to get your hands on Gnomon Videos would be good.

I wish I could have added TAD on here, but as it seems, there has been some bad politics and they’re no longer happening, which is a shame how much ConceptArt has fallen over the years… it was a place that inspired me so much when I was younger.


Anyways, this is more than enough to find your way to getting good educational materials. As an artist, what makes you is your amazing portfolio and brain smarts. Educate yourself and you will go far.


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Filed under Academy of Art University, Art, Artists, Concept Art, illustration, Random Talk, Reviews

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