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Advice for Incoming Art Students

Amy Wilson

Valerie – ArtBistro manager- asked me if I had anything in particular to say about education or perhaps even some sort of “How to survive art school” sort of talk that I could convey on this site.

I have to say that I really don’t have such a thing just sort of stored up in my head and even wondered if such a thing could be written. Artists are all so different, and so are art students. And then when you factor in all the different majors you can study – fine arts, graphic design, illustration, cartooning, etc – well, there’s suddenly even more differences to take into account.

But as I thought about it some more (while wandering around Chinatown, easily my favorite place to become inspired), I was able to come up with a list of a few key factors that I think will serve most if not all incoming art students. This is based on my several years of teaching along with my several years of being an art student; I’m sure there’s a lot more that could be said and I’d love it if you could add to the list if you think of others. But for now…

1. Establish a routine for yourself. Artists love to bite off more than they can chew and young people love to be away from their parents’ grasp; put these together so that you have young artists and it can be a recipe for disaster. I swear there have been SVA students who have stayed out all night, gone vegan, joined an anarchist squat, and tossed their meds away all in the time it would take most college students to unpack. While these are not necessarily things I’m opposed to (well, I’m not opposed to young people staying out late, skipping animal products and involving themselves in left-wing politics; I’m neutral on meds) the idea of doing them all at once is not a good one. It leads to exhaustion, which leads to sickness, which leads to you screwing up your classes due to being genuinely really sick. College schedules are weird enough as it is – you may have class from 9am to 6pm one day and then 3pm to 7pm the next – without you drastically altering your food/sleep schedule with every new day. Get the sleep and the food you need. Don’t jump into a million activities on your first week. Suddenly being responsible for your laundry, grocery shopping, and everything is totally different than having mom and dad do that, so it takes some getting used to. Take it slow to see what you can handle. (Observers of my life would say that I should follow my advice… and they would, of course, be right!)

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