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Are You a Good Art or Design Student? - Part 1

Are You a Good Art or Design Student? - Part 1

Christopher Simmons

Take notes

Just because you’re in art school doesn’t mean you can draw pictures all day and never write anything down. There are a ton of ideas flying around the studio all the time. As a teacher, it shocks me not to see every student in the class writing furiously all session long. It’s not that I say a lot of brilliant things or that I am particularly quotable, but if I’m not saying anything worth writing down then you shouldn’t be in my class. It may be a designer or artist’s work that I reference that you want to make a note to look up later. It may be your own idea, jogged by the comment of a fellow student. It may be a specific note about your work that you want to be sure to address. It may be a critique of someone else’s work that you realize equally applies to yours. I can tell the best students on the first day of class — they’re the ones with pens in their hands and their notebooks open.

Speak up or Shut up

Chance are you are (or know) one of these two types of people: Type A is shy. They sit quietly in an inconspicuous location and dutifully listens to everything being said. They almost never speak up in a discussion or critique (though occasionally they may offer praise or a suggestion to a close friend in the class). When called upon they may offer up some insight, or they may retreat into a nervous cocoon of contemplation while they search the air for the perfect thing to say. Type B is an extrovert. They speak first and often, and offer lengthy and thoughtful commentary on everybody’s work. They are articulate, confident, engaging and often charismatic. Both make poor students. The shy person takes from the class without really giving very much back. Often they’re also innately talented, which makes it all the more frustrating. If you fit this description, I suggest that you make a rule for yourself to be the first to comment in any discussion. It is agonizing at first, but by the end of the semester (maybe two) you’ll have overcome your shyness and you’ll see the added confidence in your work as well.

The extrovert, on the other hand, steals from the class and from themselves. Their walls of words can intimidate some students and create fatigue amongst the class. Because they’re always talking they’re seldom listening and so their own work doesn’t improve at the rate it should. Converse to the introvert, the most articulate students often need the most help with their visual vocabulary. I never want to discourage a person from participating, so my advice to those of you who recognize yourselves in this description is to engage a dialogue in stead of a monologue. The easiest way to do this is to simply start off with a question, don’t you agree?

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