I want to do all the art! But I don't know how to...
October 28, 2014 5:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm a junior in college about to leave school and transfer to a nursing school. What's the best way I can currently get trained in art (a comprehensive education) before I go to nursing school? Or during. I'm willing to do either a full or part time program. I'd really prefer not to take a bunch of random classes somewhere. New York City (tri-state) area and East Coast suggestions are greatly appreciated! Details inside.

I want to develop and refine my overall skills as an artist, preferably in a class or school.

For some background information: I draw in my free time, like doodles and stuff. It happens on a random basis. My big focus is illustration. My life drawing skills are passable. I can paint a bit better. Here's a link to my art blog so you can see some things that I've done.

I tried to apply to my current school's Visual Arts conservatory but I got rejected twice. I really wanted to do the program because it had a comprehensive arts education. Like things ranging from the basics (visual language) to book making, to woodworking. I want to learn all kinds of things like that. The range of subjects and skills a Bachelor of Fine Arts entails. I think self study would be very difficult because I don't have the studio or equipment resources, the organizational skill to plan it or any of the knowledge that a teacher would have.

In the near future, I want to be a nurse and get a bachelor's degree in nursing. However, I also really want to become a great and well rounded artist because art is really important to me. My skills aren't that great, but I'm willing to put a lot of work in to improve. I just bought Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and plan to read it and do exercises in it.

I want to do art professionally as a side career while I'm a nurse and sell it, and also get my work in a museum.

I'm set on transferring to a CUNY (NYC) school if I get in for the spring but I'm willing to delay that for a year or two.
posted by starlybri to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not sure if this is what you're looking for but College of New Rochelle has a good nursing school and a good art program. You could talk to them and see what they can figure out for you.
posted by bleep at 6:22 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Most private art schools have a continuing education/adult education program and you can pick your own classes and study with good teachers. They may be expensive but the quality of instruction will likely be good.

Community colleges often have very good courses at the basic level (figure drawing, etc), and the price is often pretty good. You don't usually have to enroll as a full time student to take these classes. Maybe tour their facilities first and see if it is right for your needs (i.e., do they have a woodshop and letterpress machine, etc?)

I encourage you to be more realistic about your goals of having art as a side career, selling it, and getting into a museum. Even for artists with expensive fancy degrees this is very difficult, as it's a competitive market and the art world is, well, often very strange. Maybe you might like to befriend an older artist who can mentor you about the professional aspects of making art, such as self-promotion and working with galleries.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 6:39 PM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: bleep, thanks for the suggestion, although I can't afford any full degree programs from private schools.

Jason and Laslo, those are good ideas. Now that I think of it, professional success isn't my biguest priority. It would be nice if it happened but learning stuff is most important.
posted by starlybri at 7:02 PM on October 28, 2014

Here's a long article detailing a bunch of *free* art schools around the world.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 7:05 PM on October 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

starlybri, I looked through your website and saw a lot of heart but not at all what art school admissions people require in a portfolio. That isn't to say that you don't have the potential to get there but right now I see it would take a lot of clearly-focused work. If you're really serious about this goal, I would pay a professional artist with experience teaching art at the collegiate level to individually coach you. If you're not sure of where to start, I'd spend a semester taking a few art classes at your local community college; they could really help prepare you well. (Like Jason and Laszlo, I'd recommend this to any aspiring art student who isn't already working in the field and/or going directly into a BFA program.) I'd also shadow a few local artists you like, both for whom its their day job and those for whom it's a passion (without pay.) Design*Sponge has some great features on working artists who make it work.

I don't want to be negative: I myself will read peoples comments on MetaFilter and find the intentions good but advice a little too painful or judging, and I don't want you to feel that way. But I also want you to be able to achieve your goal and really honest feedback will help get you there. Along those lines, I am sorry that no one has been so completely honest with you yet because you deserve the feedback and assistance.

I think working as a nurse would be awesome, provided you enjoy the work for various reasons, and it would allow you a lot of flexibility with scheduling and the like. If you really want to become a professional artist, I'd look into mixing your study of studio art with business, arts management, art history, communication, etc. As Jason and Laszlo said, it's even hard for people with MFAs from big-name art schools to make a living through art. You can totally make art a central part of your life but it will take a lot of strategizing: I say this all from personal experience (but will spare you the anecdotes. ;-) Good luck!
posted by smorgasbord at 7:30 PM on October 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

Take a look at the Art Students' League in New York, on 57th St. They might have some offerings to help you get to the next level -- life drawing, for example.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:01 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

+1 to all of smorgasbord's comment.

In addition:

Life drawing, life drawing, life drawing. Attending life drawing classes (and sessions without instruction, just with a model to draw from) will start to get you where you need to be to apply and get into an art program if that is an important goal for you. There are a variety of classes in NYC; Art Students League is a good suggestion. For sessions without instruction I've enjoyed going to the NYC figure drawing meetup group.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is a good start but it is only the first step down a very long path. The first step in learning to draw from life is to learn how to really see (rather than rendering what we see as 'symbols' of an eye or a tree or whatever) but after that is another step of learning what the different parts of the body are really *made* of, in terms of bone and muscle, curve and line, so that we can render what something looks like without having to have it in front of you... So it's a process of breaking down our symbols of the world, learning to see better, and then rebuilding our symbols with better ones, and repeating the process with a greater understanding every time.

There was a "Don't go to art school" FPP a little while ago linking to this article which has a lot of good resources (though I personally disagree a bit with the article itself; art school can be great if you can afford it and take advantage of it).

Nursing school and art school are both incredibly time-demanding. Full-time art school isn't just 15 hours of classes a week, it's 30-50 hours of outside class time making art every single week. You might be able to cram for a test but you can't cram for a portfolio review. Art takes time to make and good art takes A LOT of time to make.

Feel free to memail me if you think it would be helpful; I am not a fine artist but am a commercial motion graphics artist.
posted by matcha action at 8:44 AM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

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