Art and Design Training
I'm passionate about Art and Design. As Associate Lecturer in Art, Design and Media at Chichester College, it's been my pleasure to work with many of the most lively and talented people I've ever encountered, but I believe Art is an innate property of all humans, as important as spoken or written language. Historically, pictorial art pre-dates Writing, it’s over 73,000 years old. It may be older than spoken language. So, as both a culture and as individuals, undervaluing it is one of the worst mistakes we can make.
Why, then, do we routinely undervalue The Arts? I think the problem is really all down to a few simple misconceptions.
Firstly, let's deal with societal misconceptions about Art and Design. For the sake of convenience, let's treat them a single subject here, and don't worry, I'm not about to launch into a lengthy essay about the value of Art in Education.
Personally, I've found a lot of people don't see the point of qualifying in Art and Design because there seems no path to employment. It's just not a "vocational" (commercially valuable) subject. Well, that's just wrong...
Look around you now. Everything in the room you're in, including the device you're using, was designed by someone. Not just from an engineering point of view (though engineering itself is reliant on Design) but also from an aesthetic perspective, and those designers got paid. Other people were paid to market and advertise their designs, and those people had to pay their Creatives too.
There are plenty of career opportunities that require Art and Design skills. In fact the UK Design industry alone is worth approximately £3.59 Billion. Globally it's worth a staggering $162 Billion. Would you seriously consider pursuing a career in computer games worthwhile? You should. Globally the games industry, heavily reliant on both Art and Coding, is set to pass the $256.97 Billion mark by 2025 and, having worked in big A&D departments myself, I know how realistic and rewarding a career it really is. It's a shame policymakers aren't valuing these skills more.
Why Learn to Draw?
Enough lamenting short-sighted and ill-informed attitudes though, what do we stand to gain as individuals if we learn a little Art and Design? Well, let's just take the fundamental human skill of Drawing as an example.
Many abandon their own art journey when they struggle with drawing, others never start to learn drawing because ideas like those below hold them back, or make them give up too soon.
What's Stopping You?
Maybe these attitudes are familiar to you?
1) “I'm not very good at it”
You're just not as good as you might like to be yet. We can't get anywhere if we don't push ourselves out of our comfort zone. This is a fundamental part of all education. For some of us, there was a time when we couldn't swim or ride a bicycle, or even communicate with others. Drawing is no different.
Don't worry though, you'll never find it too easy and get bored and, no matter how good you get, there will ALWAYS be someone better.
2) “You need natural talent to draw well”
There's no such thing
You need Good Practice and lots of Practise
You need Willpower
You need Education
You need Support
You need to Want It
3) “I don't need to draw”
You do. We all do. Drawing is a basic skill just like English and Maths. Without at least some basic drawing skill you'll be repeatedly faced with difficulties throughout your life. If you fail to learn basic Maths you can resort to the calculator on your phone, watch or computer to get by. If you can't draw at all though, your ability to communicate many things effectively will be compromised. Have you struggled to design your kitchen or some DIY job? Do you need to plan a room layout or a haircut? Maybe you just need to draw a rough map to your house or a pub? Drawing is a high-utility skill in daily life.
Learning to Draw Can...
1) make you smarter
2) more attractive
3) more employable
4) allow you to turn back time
5) let you communicate with alien cultures
6) reveal the shape of the universe
7) create nightmares
8) make dreams visible
Obviously that's a sales pitch, but it's also true in some really interesting ways...
1) You learn a lot by drawing because to do it well you have to be organised and very observant. It's also one of a small number of human activities that's been shown to rewire cognitive functions- which means it can literally change the way you think!
2) Read some famous artist bios online- a lot of these folks lived like rock stars and it wasn't their looks that people were drawn to.
3) Look around- everything in the room you're in was Designed by someone.
Many people don't rate Art as a serious subject but, with Manufacturing in decline, Design is still a huge industry in the UK!
4) They put rubbers on pencils for a reason you know- feel free to use them. Professional artists do all the time. Think of it as your “Undo” button :)
5) I'm using “alien” in the old-fashioned sense here to mean “any culture whose spoken language you're not familiar with”. The earliest forms of writing were Pictograms, which evolved into Alphabets and even now pictures can convey meaning easily where words fail to. Just think of all the graphic signage around like fire escape symbols, furniture assembly instructions, etc.
6) Draw a straight line, draw another. What's the smallest number of straight lines you can use to define a space- to make a shape? It's three.
It makes a triangle. Cut out some triangles and glue them together along the edges so every edge touches another. You get a 3D shape called a Tetrahedron. Add one more line to a triangle and you have a square, which lets you build a Cube. You could go on, but wait, no you can't! In fact, there are only 5 basic shapes like this that you're allowed to make in this universe, try to make a new one and you can't. 2500 years ago ancient Greek Mathematicians found this out and made it a trade secret- they killed anyone who revealed it. No one's quite sure why it's like this- but can you work it out? Maybe with a pencil, you could- and even discover the sixth? :)
7) Nightmares: The design of the first atomic bomb began with a pencil, look up Da Vinci's crazy designs for war chariots. It's chilling what people have brought to life with the humble pencil.
8) Dreams: Of course, your pencil lets you design whatever you can dream up and show it to others, but have you ever had a dream where you knew you were dreaming? Great isn't it- you can fly, do whatever you like. That's called Lucid Dreaming and if you want to get better at it, or do more of it, just keep a pencil by your bed and draw what you remember dreaming as soon as you wake up.
Soon you'll be doing it every night. You can even use it to solve puzzles in your sleep!
Historically Drawing pre-dates Writing, it’s over 73,000 years old. It may even be older than spoken language.
It's incredibly powerful and, if you learn how to use it, your pencil could become the most useful tool you'll ever own!
But Why Do People Really Learn Art?
It's therapeutic, expressive, even meditative
To clarify thoughts, concepts, dreams, memories and ideas
It literally changes the way your mind works
Education- we learn by drawing
Because it's necessary- there are no substitutes
The Key to a Career in Art and Design
Many professional artists have written guides to breaking into the industry. In interviews, they're often asked what the secret is. Bobby Chui wrote the Perfect Bait, Donata Giancola said in one interview recently it's simply "Keep your ass in that chair" but as far as I know this is the first time an artist has ever shown the actual Key to a Successful Career in Art 🙂 (pictured).
I made it when I was a student, it allowed me and a friend to stow away in a cupboard while the Studios were locked up at night and sneak out in the evenings to work late. I first got an impression of the original in modeling clay. Then I hammered flat a piece of Aluminium rod and carefully, just by eye, filed the blade to replicate the impression. It gave access to the Materials cupboards and allowed us to work late into the night when we needed to finish projects that required more than just oils and canvases.
All went well until the Police turned up one night and turned on the lights in the photography darkroom we were working in at the time, ruining the Developing process.
Someone outside had seen the torches we used to find our way to the darkroom through small gaps in the curtains along our route. We were let off with "Informal Cautions".
And that's the secret- the key to a career in Art is you've just got to love it so much you'll do whatever it takes to keep at it. Essentially it really is that simple.
If you want more practical tips and techniques, stay tuned. I intend to post more here as soon as possible.
George Bernard Shaw wrote:
"The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art."
Which is theatrical nonsense, but if you or anyone you know is looking for more worthwhile, inspiring and entertaining careers advice about Art then get in touch with me, and check out this Neil Gaiman speech.
Remember- it may all have been done before, but not by you.