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I mentioned I had a rant about art schools and many of you said you wanted to hear it.  Well, its long so I hope you meant it.  This will make some of you angry, but I hope not.  I love art schools and I love their instructors even more!  Many art instructors are friends of mine.  This rant is about the art school teaching SYSTEM.  Money drives that, just like any other business, so there will be mistakes made because of greed.    So, without further ado.....

My Art School Rant

I have a love-hate relationship with art schools.  I love what they stand for- the pursuit of and love for creating great art!  I still get excited walking into an art school.  Seeing all the rows and rows of wonderful Macs, the energy (or lack thereof- we ARE talking about art students, after all), the artwork on the walls, the postings of upcoming events and guest speakers, the dirty floors, the whole deal!  The GOOD instructors.  The ones that still love the subject they are teaching.  The ones that did it for years themselves- and are STILL doing it- and show lots of examples of their own work and the work that is out there now that they are excited about.  As usual, everything I love about art schools begins and ends with the artists on both sides of the table/podium.  What I hate is how they are run/ set up/ organized/ developed.  Simply put, how they go about it is what I hate.  

I am generalizing here, but my overall impression of many art schools (especially when I was visiting them via my Disney job during the 90s) was that they were not adequately preparing people for the real world of getting a job as an artist.   THIS SHOULD BE JOB NUMBER 1 FOR A SCHOOL!  And I am specifically speaking about the fields of animation and cartooning (comic books, comic strips, and video game design included).  Most art schools did okay with teaching illustration and rendering techniques, but not thought process in how you create an image or character or performance.  The bigger, well-established art schools have gotten better at that in these last 10 years.  Still, I feel there is a big gap.  We are not being honest with students that have little to no talent either.  The art schools drive is to make money.  They are a business, so I can understand this to some degree- BUT they should NOT ACCEPT a student that is not preforming at"entry level" ability and/or does not have the motivation to improve him or herself!  

Side story/ example here:  My brother Tony and I went to California Institute of the Arts way back in 1988.  Even then, it was known as a tough school to get into because it was (again, at the time) the only school in the US that had a character animation program.  We sweated out putting together our portfolios all summer and get them in on time for them to get reviewed by their board.  We found out we were accepted and it was a very happy day.  Now we just needed to get the huge amount of money needed to get BOTH of us into school.  Somehow, we did.  Upon our first day checking into the dorms at Cal Arts, we were excited to meet some of our fellow Cal Arts Character Animation freshman.  Checking into her dorm right across the hall was a nice girl that said she was in the Character Animation program also.  She was timid but said she really wanted us to see her portfolio because she was scared of the upcoming challenges of the program.  We looked it over and our jaws dropped.  The portfolio was made up of scraps of paper with what I would call "phone doodles" (what you draw when you're in a long conversation on the phone).  But not good doodles.  Not even elementary school level.  Our hearts sank.  Why did we kill ourselves to get into this school?  Was it a good school?  Was all this money we worked all summer to earn going to get wasted?  Everything we had built up about Cal Arts was thrown out the window in that moment.  That nice girl made it worse by saying (and this is a quote, because I will never forget it), " I just threw this together because I had to show SOMETHING.  These are all sketches I did years ago in high school!  I HAVEN"T DRAWN IN YEARS!"  Giggle.  She said that she had written a touching letter about how being a dental hygienist wasn't her dream and that she wanted to have a second chance and become an animator.  We went back to our dorm room momentarily destroyed.  We soon found out that that year was the largest class of Freshman Character animation students that Cal Arts had ever accepted – about double the amount.  Why?  Because they needed the money.  Don't get me wrong, we soon found out that there WERE many great artists in our class.  Pete Doctor, Paul Rudish, Ashley Brannon, Greg Griffith (now the head of Cal Arts character Animation program), and many others that were excellent choices.   

Here's the point:  that girl never worked a day in the animation industry after she finished those four years at Cal Arts.  She went back to being a dental hygienist and if she's lucky she's paid off all her student loans by now.  She wasn't the only one out of our freshman class either.  Art schools should have SOME responsibility to whom they accept.  Portfolios SHOULD be needed to get in.  You don't have to be great, that's what the schools are there to do- make you better- but you should have some ability.   Cal Arts KNEW that girl wasn't good enough and if they wanted to help her out because they felt something for her dream, then they shouldn't have charged her.  But they did.  

I have seen too many GRADUATED art students portfolios that look like they are still at the high school level of drawing ability!  They are not ready to work in any advertising agency, illustration house, animation studio, or elsewhere they will be looking for work.  That's a sad situation when they have just spent a fortune on a four-year degree!  I thought about it one day and realized that the majority of what I had learned that got me that first job at Disney I had learned from an art book BEFORE I even went to art school!  Cal Arts was great, don't get me wrong, but it was one of the TOP art schools at the time and the only one in the United States (at the time) teaching character animation.  Yes, I got what I paid for there.  But for many, even today, they can learn more from good art books than art school.  The reason: because art books are created by working artists- professionals.  Usually, artists that are at the top of their profession.  They wouldn't get a publishing company to publish their book if they were not.  The sad truth of art schools/programs is that many of the professors and instructors (not every professor or art school, mind you) are NOT experienced enough in their fields.  They are NOT the top in their industries.  Lets face it; they don't get paid enough to be.  Some schools like Savannah College of Art and Design, Ringling in Sarasota, Joe Kubert School, Art Center and Cal Arts in California, The Art Institutes and others like them are strong schools with good instructors.  I speak mostly of the state schools and other schools that are not "art schools" but schools that have started up their art programs in the last 10 years because "animation and video games are hot" and they feel they can cash in on the demand by creating new departments and programs for that field.  The two big reasons why we have this problem is 1) money- not paying enough for stronger professors and instructors but spending any money necessary to have the most up to date technology and 2) the drive to meet accreditation standards.  This means that the instructor more than likely will have to have a bachelor's degree- or usually- a master's degree to be employed by a university or art school.  That cuts out many of the working artists with experience out there.  I don't have a degree.  I wish I did, but it just was not needed when I got into the industry.  I don't think it is now. For every job I've ever had, I have never been asked if I had a degree.  Ever.  Except when I was curious about teaching at a local art school (that I won't name).  It was THE FIRST question they asked me.  And that was to teach a character design class where they were ALREADY using my book as the textbook for the class.  I was qualified to do the job for major studios, write the book, but not teach the class.  This isn't just me; I've seen this happen time and again.    

Some of your are going to read this and say, "Tom is saying don't go to art school.  Teach yourself.  Don't get a degree either."  I'm not saying those things, but I'm also NOT saying them either.  It's a big decision and it's a personal one based on your ability, your financial background, and what schools you are looking at.  Personally, I DO think artists should go to art schools.  I think we need to learn motivation and hard work before we jump into the talent pool and try and get that first job.  If it's a good school, they will still get mad at you if you don't turn in an assignment.  That happens outside the school, but when it happens in real life, you don't get paid and don't eat.  Another big reason is your peers.  Your fellow students end up teaching you as much or more than the instructors.  Their passion and ability is equal but different from yours- so our their influences.  You learn about new blogs, websites, and artists from them.  More importantly they become (hopefully) life long friends and people that help you find jobs for the rest of your life.  I can get into (almost) any studio on planet Earth because of my past art school connections.  After school ends, everyone goes their separate ways and that's a good thing.  Stay connected to them.  Oh, and then there are the artistic things you learn at a good art school.  I'm not even going into that, but that's the main reason to go.  You should leave there with a portfolio full of things you would not have even thought to have included had you not gone to art school.  

I do think getting a degree is helpful also.  You never know when you may think, "Hey, I'd like to teach a class based on this new book I just wrote."  When I was 20 that never crossed my mind, but things change.  

I still love you art schools.   Just get better, kay?  Stay cool.
  • Listening to: pandora
  • Reading: Invincible
  • Watching: Modern Family
  • Playing: by writing this journal
  • Eating: too, too much.
  • Drinking: afternoon coffee
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SashimiCake Featured By Owner Edited Jul 4, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Though I am not of age to attend an Art School, I've always dreamed of it. This Entry really made me see the real side of a School, and not just an Art School. They all drive for money, always have. Like you said, they can accept someone (like that girl you mentioned) with little to no talent, because of the money they have. I think it's horrible that prestigious schools have been taking in inexperienced beginners because of greed. Ugh, and here I thought Art School was for professionals.
AnnaWieszczyk Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2015
Amen to that. My art school was a joke.
TheCelestialDemoness Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2014  Student Filmographer
I had a similar experience with one of the Art Institutes. The one I went to was horrible, I was literally one of the only students in the entire animation department that can actually draw! D8 And to make it worse, the student art on display was several years old. Currently, I'm in a local community college to sharpen my art skills before I try to find a good art school that actually has good instructors. The work I got was too easy, and repetitive. I want a challenge, I want to get my art to industry standards. Currently I am still updating my gallery with my current work. I am well aware I still have a long way to go. I want to be as good as the artists frequently featured in ImagineFX magazines. 
BFan1138 Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2014  Student General Artist
I personally think this applies to ANY school nowadays.
Follygon Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
autogatos Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
And reading this now after the link to it from your other journal entry...this echos so many of my thoughts on the art school experience. I feel like I was given a lot of very fantastic technical instruction in art school, and I definitely feel learning the techniques and fundamentals are important. You need a good foundation...but I feel like my education stopped short a bit there. Maybe this was partially my fault at the time for not pushing myself more (I was so concerned with my technique being perfect because I wanted to "do well" in school) but at the same time, I felt like I could have been given better guidance as well.

It wasn't until senior year, when I was working on a project in a realistic fine-art style for an editorial illustration class that someone finally told me, "You know this doesn't have to be realism, you can do this in whatever style you want." I had fine art fundamentals (drawing, painting, rendering, realism) pounded into me for so long that I felt like I never had a chance to go beyond that until after school. I could render a realistic still life with great execution, but had no idea how to set up an interesting composition for a storybook illustration, or how to creatively design characters, or how to choose an interesting color palette. To this day I feel like I'm still trying to "catch up" on those things.

It became really clear to me after graduation that doing well and working hard in school doesn't necessarily equate to having the skills necessary to succeed at a chosen art profession. And I'm not entirely sure why I never learned that at the time, but I sure wish I had. I feel like I'm playing catch-up with my art education now to get to where I want to be with my career.
tombancroft Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Professional Filmographer
Thanks for the comments. Based on your DA gallery, I'd say you are well on your way. Keep it up!
autogatos Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks! :)
DanjysBasement Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is actually a quite informative text about (US-) Art schools, but after you stated your reasons why you think people SHOULD go to art school,it would have been nice if you had talked about what people who do NOT have the lt up some of my opportunity to go to art school (be it for financial reasons, not getting accepted or whatever) could do to improve, teach themselves and not losing the courage in pursuing drawing.
When I left school, I applied for a local Art school (not that I live in Germany, not the US), but did not get accepted, for one of the reasons you stated. I didn't have a proper portfolio. I actually had been drawing a lot, but those were all sketches that weren't really planned out, that I scribbled on literally anything (scraps of paper, drawing pads, even the tables at school, which really got me in trouble). I was drawing all the time, which certainly built up some of my skills, and at art class in school, teachers assured me that I had potential. But, as was a very chaotic teenager/early twen, I was not able to focus on any planned out project outside of school. So, after graduation and looking what I could do with my abilities, I soon found, that I did have almost nothing that mette standard of a proper portfolio. Stil, I wanted to try to get accepted badly, so in desperation I slapped together a portfolio of some school work, the few "proper" drawings I had done on my own and several works I had (again in desperation) created sollely for the purpose of putting them in my portfolio. That I didn't get accepted didn't come as a BIG surprise, since I knew that this most likely wasn't enough, but still I was crushed by disappointme and stopped drawing almost entirely for several years.
This was eight years ago and I got over my "drawing depression" a few years ago. I've been reading lots of books on drawing, character design etc. (including your books) and I learned quite a lot. I even got some small illustration jobs for posters of local events, which already gets me excited as hell :) So,as of now, things are looking pretty good, and I'm almost constantly learn something new. Still, sometimes I wish I had a teacher/mentor i could talk to, or at least other people who draw on a similiar level myself. As of now, drawing for me is not about becoming a professional artist, but I want to get as close as I can to master the art form (illustration/cartoons mostly). Why? because I want to. I'm doing this mainly for myself and my peace of mind.
Sorry for the long post, but I needed to et this off my chest after reading your journal entry
if you had any advice what I could do in my situation, to improve, not losing the focus etc, I would be very grateful :)
Dan Waziri
Randumbz Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013
I'm in high school and a girl in my design class is already at professional level lol
DianaGoins Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012  Student Filmographer
Thanks for posting this. It is sort of a bittersweet time for me right now at my school. I study media arts and animation in Texas (more about oil and gas industry), but I would like to find work in California's entertainment industry (pretty silly because of the economy right now), so I am gearing my portfolio more towards that. I like the instructors I have now and the ones I used to have. I probably never would have gone in such a different direction in animation if it wasn't for going to the school I am at now. Most of the students I meet are also great. The only thing I don't like is that our program doesn't teach a lot of the basics, like hand-drawn 2D animation (they tell you the basic principles, but never how to do them). I practice those parts outside of my classes. Would this make employers hesitate when considering hiring me? I know it's about the work, but I read in another of your entries that they separated CalArts students from the rest during the internship you had with your brother at Disney. Do you think it would be unwise to tailor my portfolio to an out of state job rather than a job in my state?
Wavedrake Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I just read this--yes only now but--shoot. My university isn't a dedicated art school, and I did get an art degree from there but... shoot, they didn't prepare me, I'm ticking off almost all the missing items you described. Shoot. I guess I have to get whatever I can get of work and teach myself all I'm missing in the meantime. \:
Nekoponn Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow, quite the rant! 0: I'm wanting to go to The Art Institute of Wisconsin to major in graphic design. o-o Everyone seems to be really nice there, and the building is very nice, as well. o-o But yeah, it is quite expensive. ;~; I just hope in the end, it will be worth it.
Gilko Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2012  Student Digital Artist
This is exactly what I'm worried about :( My uni is terrible I've been there for a year now and I feel that I'm wasting my time
StarlitKnight Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2012  Professional Filmographer
After reading this you have me seriously worried and doubting my degree. I'm a recent graduate of the Art Institute of Philadelphia and am currently looking for a job in the field but don't seem to be getting any bites. I thought it was because of the economy right now, but could I be wrong? People have told me I'm a good artist but that has always been friends, family, classmates (who fall under the friend categories) and teachers. I have always relayed on the teachers' opinion above the others because they were there to make sure I got better rather then sparing my feelings. Reading this has changed my view on that. Is there any way, in your spare time, that you could go to and tell me if I waisted money on four years of college and thank you for this eye opener because I never realized.
tombancroft Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2012  Professional Filmographer
I don't mean to scare anyone with this rant. Sorry about that. It IS a tough time to get a job right now- in ANYTHING, much less art which is probably up there with wanting to be a movie star/rock star in toughness level. Keep drawing for the love of it and do what you have to to pay the bills. Its what we all do when starting out. You're not alone. You'll keep getting better while you look around for opportunities. Once you get those first couple art jobs under your belt, it usually gets easier.
godmaschine Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2012
pretty exciting to see 'scad' show up here, because that's the school i want to go to. ._. i always worry about schools being total bullshit. art schools always seem to be begging for $$$ but allowing any bottom feeder in. it's cruel, because they are WAY too overpriced to allow kids to crash and burn, especially when, at 18/19, you don't EXACTLY know what you want to go into. it's almost a scam.

but then again, if one applies themselves...

i still don't know, which is why i'm going to crash at an associate school for a year, because i want to go into the game field, but have NO CLUE if i should just focus on concept art [which is my dream] or if i should expand that to minour in something else. i would love to animate but have no clue where to start, etc.

;~; sucks.

but this is wonderful advice.
Ninjerina Featured By Owner May 28, 2012  Student General Artist
I agree with you on just about every point. I'm currently attending AAU in SF after trying to do adequate research on quality of education v. cost of degree. While there are certainly some great instructors at the school that have pushed me to be better and offer great critiques, for the money I've spent there's been a few teachers that have no business being paid to "teach". The worst offender was an instructor who would spend a good chunk of my class time struggling to open up the software correctly. Yes true technical issues arise....but NONE of my other instructors ever seemed to have as many issues as this person. They received a 1 star on RatemyProfessor (the worst), other students complain about them similarly, I'm sure he gets abysmal student reviews....and he's on the roster every semester. It's not right, and not fair to us trying to learn the ropes.

My other huge issue with the school is the bureaucracy. Its a for-profit school, and they dont try to hide it. Within the 3d animation program, they dont have much in the way of consultation throughout the program, to assess where you are. I've been told by my illustration major friends that they have a midpoint review. One of my anim friends who graduated this past Spring found out at the VERY END of his education there last minute that he had to have a final review to graduate. I'd never heard it mentioned either til' he brought it up. It seems like these are key things that should be taken care of. I'm all for student initiative and bettering oneself outside of class throughout the process, but in the administration's pursuit of squeezing out every dollar they can they have sacrificed some cohesiveness in several programs.

The school also has no portfolio review when you enter and virtually no scholarships or financial aid (through the school, you can still get FAFSA).

The classes are usually overcrowded and many instructors dont have enough time to give everyone proper critique. The school owns 1% of city property now and while they are stingy on upgrading equipment or building proper classrooms (some people are in classrooms with no types of walls at all), they greedily have multiple garages showcasing Roll Royces and other vintage, extremely expensive cars downtown.

I've certainly learned a lot about my major from attending art school, but I often wonder if I chose the best school to actually get a job. I think if i could go back and do it over again for a 3d degree I probably would have tried going to Ringling.
PharaonicWolf Featured By Owner May 27, 2012
Interesting post. I really enjoyed reading it. As someone who just completed an Education program at a major university, I would like to add to your comment about not being allowed to teach a class even though you had written the book. There's a big push in the field of education right now to hire only people who are "highly qualified," which is usually measured by the level and type of degree that you have. All teachers grades K-12 are required to be highly qualified in all areas that they teach.

This law doesn't apply to universities, but since there's such a big push for schools to be able to "prove" that their instructors are qualified to teach, many set exceptionally high standards for the formal education of their instructors. I agree that in your situation it's ludicrous - if you wrote the textbook, really, who would be more highly qualified than you?? The issue is that administrators and politicians want to be able to prove that their money is going to someone "worthwhile," and one of the few credentials that people from all backgrounds understand and accept is a degree. Should it be that way? Probably not.

On the other hand, I've been on the opposite end, where a teacher with very limited formal education was a secondary instructor in one of my university classes. Based on her performance as our teacher, none of us trusted her or respected her intellect. She was a lovely lady - very kind and helpful - but she could barely write a complete sentence and just did not have the skills to teach a university class. She ended up being removed from her post partway through the semester because too many people complained. So I understand what institutions are trying to accomplish by placing those kinds of restrictions on who they hire.

I've learned over the past four years that a great deal of education is really controlled by public opinion, which is often misinformed and does not always steer us in the direction that is best for the students.
Orangeandbluecream Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Student General Artist
Very true.
I am going to the art institute, and if my crap art is best in the class you know something is wrong.
MissouriMutants Featured By Owner May 20, 2012   Traditional Artist
When I was in highschool, I did an AP art program for college, and the winner of the AP art program at the end of the year would get a scholarship. Now, I'm not one to get into loads of debt, (my theory is if i don't have the money, i don't need it) so I worked my butt off to get that scholarship. There were two scholarships going out that year, and the two winners were people who didn't even want to do art. They hated it. But they were good at it and they needed the extra credits. That ticks me off. And, another thing is: I find it highly irratating that when I pick up a comic book, and I open a very good drawn cover, and the interior looks as if a child grabbed a crayon and scribbled on it. Here I am, working my butt off, and someone who goes to college gets the degree, gets the job. How is that fair? I'm a thousand times better, but because I refuse to go into debt, I am the one who gets screwed? But, I'm not one to back down from a challenge, so a challenge it is getting into the art world.
Chelo-kun Featured By Owner May 19, 2012  Professional Filmographer
I've graduated from SCAD in 2008. My friends told me I couldn't get work because I finished school the same year the economy went sour. I worked on some commercials and I'm working for Smorgasbord Production in LA, thanks to the internet. I've also been planning to get my real estate license to start making money to move to California. I figured if I surround myself with the right people again, I can start building my portfolio the right way. After reading your rant, my heart sank. Is the economy the only thing that went sour??? It's been a long time since I got an honest critique, let alone from someone who knows their stuff. I need to find someone to review my latest portfolio and demo reel to give me some reassurance, er, reenforcement, whatever it is. More importantly, I DO want to make this career work. So don't hold back! If it destroys me, it's only reason enough to start rebuilding for the better.
serendipity72 Featured By Owner May 19, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
I went to an art school in San Francisco which shall remain nameless, but is amongst the best schools in the state. I started as a 3d animation major, but when all my figure drawing instructors told me I should focus on drawing and learn the computer stuff later, did I listen? Not for another 2 years! Then I changed to story boarding, but realized that I just don't draw fast enough to do that for a living.Moved on to concept art and visual effects, but wasn't great at character design. Finally, at the very end, I decided I wanted to be a children's book illustrator, but by then, I didn't have time or the ability to take the art classes I needed, so my amazing department head shoved me into as many art classes as she could. Unfortunately, my portfolio was not nearly where it needed to be in order for me to get any sort of work, so I ended up going to grad school (can you say cha ching for the school??).
Grad school did everything the undergrad program didn't; it allowed me the chance to spend all of my time drawing and took me through the entire process of illustrating a book. Along the way, I also learned that I am pretty good at portraiture and figure drawing. It's also where I honed my skills with my chosen medium (pastels). I believe I am absolutely ready for a career now, but with the economy tanking, it is harder than ever to get a foot in the door, so I'm working on self publishing for mobile devices.
Obviously, I am drowning in debt now, and fighting to not regret my decision to go to art school. There needs to be a better system for helping students figure out where their skills are and helping to develop those. There are also some very rudimentary things most don't seem to teach that I think are important such as how to frame and/or mount and mat your work. I still don't know how to do this, but I'm sure there's a book or you tube video out there somewhere.
A-Little-Fan Featured By Owner May 19, 2012
Honestly, I wanted to go to an arts school instead of a regular high school. The problem was that I'd have to move to a big town and I'm used to live in a small village. I wasn't completely sure if I wanted to do something connected to arts either. Whenever I try to draw something and it doesn'r turn out the way I want it I get frustrated and throw it in the corner. I've had an art block for a year or so because of that. But at the high school I'm currently at I found great friends. One of them really likes drawing. I'm still lost when it comes to finding the right job for myself. I've been thinking about being an architect, but I don't know if that's what I'm destined to do. The problem is that arts isn't the only thing I'm (I hope at least a little bit) good at. There are things I like more and things I like less. I'm fascinated with arts, though and whenever I look at a good drawing I think: "Gosh, it sure would be great if I could draw something like that". But unfortunately I get tired of trying very easily. So yeah, sorry for stealing your time, but I had to let it out. (Sorry if there are any errors too. English is not my mother tongue)
johnvu Featured By Owner May 18, 2012   Filmographer
If anyone ever decides to go to SCAD-Atlanta specifically and wants to be a character animator, make sure you make friends with Gregg Azzopardi. He's a CalArts alumni (I think) and an ex-Disney supervising animator (just like Tom Bancroft) who definitely has the talent and experience to help you achieve your goals.
tombancroft Featured By Owner May 21, 2012  Professional Filmographer
I worked with Gregg in Disney Florida. Great guy and has a huge passion for animation. I wholeheartedly agree with you!
SycrosD4 Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks guy. I have a degree, but my skills are sour. I only got a hint of thought process training at the tail-end of my senior year...

I bought a book on concept art that should help a great deal.
atlantart Featured By Owner May 18, 2012
It was totally irresponsible of CalArts to accept such an unprepared person. I go to the Animation Workshop in Denmark and almost everybody is accepted on their 2nd or 3rd attempt (each of the two lines accepts 25 students per year). I got in on my 2nd attempt, and good thing too, because with the benefit of hindsight, I would have been totally lost and struggled beyond belief had I got in right away. CalArts is an institution I look up to (as well as the French Gobelins) but your story really surprises me. Hope it's gotten better.
bloochikin Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Student Filmographer
Oh man, yes. I go to the Art Institiute, and they do NOT do portfolio checks because it's a for-profit institution, and boy oh boy do they get a lot of unmotivated, "I like to watch cartoons and play video games so that means I can make them reel good," "magic art school will teach me everything and I don't have to lift a finger," "This will be a piece of cake" students who seriously underestimate what it takes and kind of spoil it for those of us who are more passionate. But thankfully, like you said, once your in, they really drop the ball on you and the teachers and department heads don't mess around with laziness. Though still, I don't think there are enough teachers that really critique student's work. Classes filter out and many students begin to drop out or have to retake classes soon after the first couple of quarters, but somehow, according to my teachers, there are still those students that, looking at their work, it's a wonder how they made it to the end of the program.

Thanks for posting this, I hope that those who have not made the decision to go to art school yet can read this and be greatly informed!
Noleetida Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Student Digital Artist
This might have already been asked an i read you listed some but do you have a full list of art schools? i wanna go to get better an go to college lol but i dont wanna be disappointed.

I went to a vocational school an i basically learned about printing (was commercial art & design bc its all they had artsy). But other then the class being free i had everything they already had on the pc's at home. I did get a good pen set but other then that idk if it was worthwhile. Everything that was really drawing related i knew. I mean i actually ended up teaching my friends so i get wary on spending money on a school.

But ya lol. Can you list some or the ones u approve or think that are getting better?
tombancroft Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Professional Filmographer
I don't know them all that well. The ones I listed are the ones I hear about the most: SCAD and Ohio College of Art and Design are also good ones.
Noleetida Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Student Digital Artist
lol im in pa XD. so i guess i dont get many choices here
ditto9 Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Oh my gosh, this is one of the best things I've read in a long time.
I went to a university to learn Animation and Design, and I can say that it was the worst experience of my life. There were a lot of out-school things happening too, but the university itself was so poorly run.
Everything in animation I was taught in uni I self taught myself before going. University did not encourage us to animate, and the tutors picked their favourites (who some are now in freelance work. My freelance work is the result of my own legwork) who they helped more than others. We complained about first-years using the rostrum PCs for Facebook, and the fact that 100 students had to share 15 lightboxes and the acme hole punch didn't work.
It actually killed my desire to animate. I now focus on my illustration solely, because I feel ashamed at having a degree in Animation where I cant animate to a graduate level.
When I took in a book of my illustrations (I got an artbook test printed for my final project where I created a children's book) the tutors didn't actually believe I'd done the work.
Our university was graded on opinion, entirely. There was even one point where my work wasn't graded properly because my tutor hadn't bothered putting my disc in. I was lucky to discover it, but it makes me wonder how many people missed out on grades like I could have done.
I complained about a tutor once and she took it incredibly personal and called me into her office and asked if I had a problem with her. It was more the fact I'd been ignored for six weeks and she hadn't actually caught up with my work.
I graduated though, and I've never been back since. I've provided myself with freelance work and I've made loads of contacts on my break here in Hong Kong.
I'm not saying that the schools should do everything for you. They shouldn't focus on money, opinion and favouritism though. It should be the student's interests that empower them, not their personal tastes.
The only girl I found to have a first on my course did a promotional video for the uni as her final film. Shows what their priorities were, right?

As a side note, my fiancé did a course in the same uni. He did Illustration instead, and his focus is on character design and game design. His tutor HATED video games, and so never took a second glance at his work. She was a very nasty woman, and she had her favourites by far.
But just to also agree with your shock at the girl/dental hygienist - he had a classmate who graduated with a 2:1 (a grade higher than him) whose work looks like this --> [link]

It's all screwed up at the moment. I feel like I've wasted and indebted myself with £20,000 of almost nothing. If I'd not made the friends I did, I'd have quit and done my own thing by now.
NelmaThyria Featured By Owner May 17, 2012
I'm really glad you posted this, it's good to get this different perspective on the art school system. My ultimate dream is to be an animator, and I'm currently majoring in graphic design at a school that has more majors besides just art. The art department is great here, but it's geared a bit more towards fine art, and we don't have any animation classes. Sometimes I worry that I won't be able to get a job in the animation industry because I won't have graduated from Calarts or some other art school. So in a way it encourages me to hear that just because you graduate from art school doesn't mean you're guaranteed that dream job in animation; it can be as much of a long shot for an art school graduate to get into animation as a graduate of a non-art school. So I'm not at a complete disadvantage for not going to an art school. At least that's what I'm taking away from it, if I totally misunderstood you then I apologize. Anyway, thanks again for sharing your rant!
ArdwingSkye Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm currently a Junior in High School and I really want to be either an animator or a video game designer. I know it's a very tough and deadline-driven industry, but I'm willing to give it a shot. There's only two problems though. The expenses and my skills. I want to go to one if the Art Institutes here in Cali, and my cousin who is currently attending says that it is a very good school with the exception of the financial aid office. My Dad say's he'll help me pay my way in college but I'd feel bad if I didn't contribute in some way. As for my skills... I really don't know. :/
Almost everyone I show my work to says that I could make it but I doubt it. I'm still a bit optimistic, but I'm really not sure if I could make it.
Ninfidel Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Student General Artist
I went to AI of Fort Lauderdale for about a year, give or take. I loved most of my instructors and their teaching styles (like, if I heard about any of them hosting galleries local, you bet I'd be there in a heartbeat), and the quality of work among the students was pretty damn good - but in the end, finances and a sad realization that I may not have the right stuff caused me to leave once before, and now for good.

I really wish I'd have found something like this while I was in my last year of high school - a good, strong insight on art schools and what to really think about before attending. I still plan to improve my art (more on a very-important-hobby level), and I'm really grateful for the teachers I've met who inspired me to get better...but my decision really wasn't thought-through well enough.
xRoxyryokox Featured By Owner May 17, 2012
I feel like this applies to Universities that started animation programs too. I was really excited when I got into my animation program, but I quickly learned that 70% of the students here are like that girl you met at Cal Arts. They applied on a whim, and can't draw or don't like to draw, and oddly don't seem interested in the CG or stop motion sides of animation either. It's just really sad when you are at the top of the drawing ability at the school and you know that your art is mediocre at best. At my school, the animation department can't teach undergraduate students drawing because of a conflict with the art department. So we take 1 year of drawing at the fine art department which is all postmodern and just wants you to express you're feelings or have nice teachers who aren't very skilled themselves. I took extra classes before they removed them, but there's no real advance classes.
: (
I feel really discouraged to not be around students with a passion for art and to have my time and efforts to try to improve on my own taken away by the 30 something essays I've written for "liberal arts" classes during my 3 years. I wanted to change to art center or cal arts but I only was able to go to school at all because I was given a full ride at this school.
And I think that it's not only teachers that aren't very skilled, but skilled ones not telling students how poor an art piece is or how poor the performance of a character is. My last animation class —intro to character animation— had a newly hired teacher from the industry and she told me privately that the old syllabus had no animation in it, just Maya interface stuff. D: Luckily, she did push the class more than I've seen in the other teachers, but even she gave up on many students—but they didn't want to learn themselves. Yet, we don't have a sequel class to this one. I've been yelled at by fellow classmates for not being optimistic about the school preparing us for the workforce, but I really believes its not.
I guess the only thing to do is try to improve on my own, and I've been trying to do that. Animation guild classes and a figure drawing class with an art center teacher. I think mostly everything I've learned I've basically learned from this teacher and from other outside sources. And when you go to these outside classes, everyone there is trying to improve and loves art/animation.
Though I do think Calarts structure of making you make a film each year is better than only making one at the end. You learn so much from just making a film.
PuddingValkyrie Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Valid argument not just for art school but for a lot of fields...
mech2159 Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This applies A LOT to the whole broad Spectrum of education as well as the art field
yellowfievre Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Student General Artist
This whole thing, a thousand times. I graduated high school back in '09 and headed into an Art School. I'd worked hard on my portfolio, trying to make it look good and I eventually was pretty satisfied with it. But when I started talking to people and we exchanged sketchbooks I started to wonder if they even looked at the portfolios people submitted. Some of them were just awful.

In the end, I eventually realized that school wasn't worth the money, especially because several of the teachers - one, specifically, comes to mind - really didn't seem to care. That one instructor really seemed to only be there to make the students feel like they would NEVER be able to do anything worthwhile, and man she was good at it. She, in time, convinced me to change majors. I went from Animation to Graphic Design, and hated that more than I can put into words. Because I wasn't enjoying it, my work suffered; because I wasn't interested, my grades suffered, and I was terminated (but not before my advisor was telling me what I needed to do to improve, and I WAS improving and he said it was going much better, and I was STILL terminate; talk about emotional roller coasters).

I've been out of school since February, and suffered with some mild depression that I didn't really tell my family about so I'm still working on that. But on the plus side, there's a little community college nearby (location was really important this time because I know most schools wouldn't let me keep my lizard on campus, which would be no big deal if that lizard wasn't what started bringing me out of my little sadface phase) that has a 3D animation degree and was more than willing to let me also take all the Fine Arts classes they had that I wanted to. Having talked to several of the faculty members I can already tell this will be a MUCH better environment. Classes start next Tuesday, and I'm actually stoked.
tombancroft Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Professional Filmographer
That's great. Good luck to you at the new school- and to your lizard!
yellowfievre Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Student General Artist
Thanks so much! I'm really hoping I'm able to learn as much as I possibly can from this place.

PS - I think I had a fangirl-ish attack when I saw you replied to this haha. Woo!
kate-rhiannon Featured By Owner May 17, 2012   General Artist
I can relate SO MUCH to your sentiments about art school. After high school, I busted my figurative balls working on an entrance portfolio for college. I was sweating because 300 students apply each year to the program I wanted to be in, but only 40 students were allowed in. When my letter arrived in the mail, I was CERTAIN that I wasn't going to get in. Sure enough, I did and I was ecstatic!

However, once classes started the following fall, I saw just how bad some of the portfolios were that managed to slither into the program. I couldn't believe it. I felt like I had stressed and stayed up late nights all for nothing. I slaved hard over assignments in college and fumed when I would witness the gall of some students who would waste time in class and, quite literally, put together a terrible product together the night before.

I wonder sometimes if college did something for me. I know it did, in some ways, but whenever I return to the open houses at the college to see what kind of designers and artists are coming out each year, I get a little more disappointed every year.
Evilwitchgirl13 Featured By Owner May 17, 2012
My advisor at school gave me a similar rant. Except she was bashing the liberal arts school she's been teaching art at for the past 30 or so years. I told her I was going to wait another semester to apply for the design program because I didn't feel as if my portfolio was ready and she just laughed at me because apparently they accept EVERYONE. No matter how good or bad the portfolio is.
It's funny because I just finished my second year of college and I don't feel any more prepared for the real world than I was when I first started. Sure, my art has improved significantly, but it's more because I put in the time and effort to improve rather than actually learning something from a classroom.
Often, if I look at the student pieces on display in the art building, I cringe because when I was in high school the standards were higher than the work being produced by these college kids. I was told by a professor, who used to be the department chair, that if I wanted to grow as an artist, I would pretty much have to do it on my own. Our school doesn't like to criticize students' work. If it did, there would be a lot fewer people in our art program. And it bothers me because I came to school to learn and improve my art skills and connect with other students who are just as passionate as I am. But instead, I was told to try to avoid comparing my work to my peers because my standards should be higher than that. It's really frustrating. I mean, I love some of the people I've met at my school, don't get me wrong. But honestly, if I had known that I would be this disappointed with our art program, I would've gone to a different school.
However, after reading your rant it actually makes me feel a little bit better because it means I probably would've run into similar issues no matter where I went. So I'm just going to continue what I've been doing, work hard, learn as much as I can, and hope that someday in the future it'll all pay off.
Ztoical Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Professional Filmographer
Major feeling of deja vu reading this. I remember at graduation taking about this with several of my friends, looking around and seeing some of the students we'd gone through the course with and knowing a large chunk of them had just paid for their degree - some just hadn't worked, mummy and daddy had paid for everything and they enjoyed themselves and never went beyond half assed doodles while others should just never have been let on to the course at all - one kid I'll never forget just liked to draw really young asian girls with massive [and I mean massive] boobs. Did this from the first day to the last and wouldn't have been to bad had he improved his drawings regardless of the subject matter but they looked the same on the last day as they had on the first [and they were awful looking]. Any class I had with him the teachers learned quick just to not bother with him and I just couldn't understand why they passed him, he shouldn't have got it in let alone be let graduate - it's not fair to him as it's pretty much lieing to him and it's not fair to the other students as it devalues the degree they've worked hard for.

I was lucky that I got two very different Art School stories. I did my animation degree in Ballyfermot College in Ireland and the course [and college] had feck all money so no shinny rows of Macs for us but rather one ancient amiga that use to be 3 different amigas' I paid maybe £90 I think at the start of the year for supplies and that was it, I got all my paper and drawing materials from the school and we worked our asses off, it was a set course no picking classes and you didn't have half days or days off and if you didn't make the cut you were out. The course was designed so you did a 1 year cert in Animation drawing studies which was pretty much 8 hours of life drawing a day for the year and a tiny bit of animation to get rid of the people who wanted to do animation cus they thought it was going to be cool but really didn't have much drive and/or skill for it and then you went on to the actual 3 year course. Course was mainly run by ex Bluth studio people so it's main focus was getting people ready to go work in studios. This was both good and bad - good cus it focused on the work side of things but because it could knock your confidence down as there was a constant feeling of there are so many amazing animators out there and your just average compared to them. I did a second course in illustration at the school of visual arts in New York after that and boy what a difference. There I got the shinny rows of Macs and this amazing feeling of confidence from everyone on my course [even asian boob guy] It was a shock to the system and for a bit I was annoyed at the amount the course cost vs the standard the course had. There were some amazing artists around me but also so many people I just couldn't see ever getting paid work. In the end I opted to just get the most out of the course for me, took as many classes as they would let me and then sat in on several more - the course really helped me with my self confidence in my own work and I get great enjoyment out still doing my own projects but from the whole getting a job view the first course I did has been of far greater benefit. Looking back I think I did get my moneys worth from SVA [thankfully I didn't need to take out any loans and put myself in massive debt but still was alot of money and several super talented friends had to put off really focusing on building a career in other to get a quick job to start paying their loans off] but I'm glad I'd done the Ballyer course first. I'm not sure I would have got through it had I done things the other way around.

Every now and then I hear about some people on the SVA course who, in my opinion, should never have been on the course, who are now working in totally unrelated fields or have gone back to do something else in school. There are the odd ones that were super talented who haven't yet really done anything, some may still get there others maybe not. I think there is that balance of what the school has to offer and what the student puts in and the people who find that balance are the ones that will get the most out of it.
Nukilik Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Student Filmographer
I was going to write a TL:DR post but I"ll sum it up:

As an art student who just got into college over a year ago: I agree 100%

I had a simmilar experience to you and your brother when I got into art school and got to know my classmates. All my expectations were shattered, and it only got worse as I came to know the exact kind of classes I would have.
dorseytunes Featured By Owner May 17, 2012
Thank you for your rant. Your words really hit home. I don't look at the school I'm attending as the only source of education on animation. The web is full of information and it can be a daunting task to sort through just what you need to further your skills. I appreciate all you are doing with your instruction books and website.
The-Orange-One Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Professional Filmographer
Exactly! It's hard for most people to understand that art is a commitment. You can't become a brain surgeon overnight and one equally can't become a top artist(etc.) in a semester or two. It's all about a crazy obsessive unrelenting commitment to learn as much as possible, regardless of school or not.
The Illusion of Life and the Animators Survival Kit (not to mention countless other books, films and internet media) are still my only teachers! Although, I wouldn't mind attending an art school just for the opportunity to have some sort of professional feedback, the life of the loner artist can get a little lonely lol.
Green-Roc Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh my, the flashbacks and memories this brings up.....

...begin rant...

I presented a portfolio once to Disney Press at comic-con several years ago, but the tips I was given on how to arrange a portfolio stressed me out. With the stress, I wasn't happy and was rushing to put stuff in the portfolio, organizing it to the same day of the interview: I was sitting in a hall at Comic-Con and putting art into Portfolio sleeves. I could not eliminate so many good pieces (as it was suggested I keep a portfolio limited to 4-8 pieces). I was so stressed and unhappy. I cannot enjoy art if it'll stress me out like that.

A buddy with me at that con suggested I be myself, so I was myself... that might have been where I went wrong? I think, perhpas my constant talking through the whole review might have done it in for me... At the end of the interview, I gave Disney Press a card with my info, and I never heard from them, not even a "sorry, we aren't going to hire you" I was heartbroken. I don't even know why I wasn't good enough, no constructive criticism, no suggestions how to improve. I still do not know what part of the interview was the wrong thing to do, wrong thing to present. I do not know if it was my art, my behavior, or both. Maybe the lack of art, or too much art, or the one piece that was heavily referenced, or my lack of knowledge in drawing anatomy.

I have given up my dreams to draw for Disney (a dream I've had since preschool), gave up my dream to draw professionally, because of how strict and stressful these things seem and how my parents told me that must have a bachelors degree to draw professionally (and how I could not get one because my behavior does not meet social expectations of schools who provide bachelors degree, requiring Gym as one of the classes). So now, I draw because I enjoy drawing, because it is my best skill.

I've stopped expecting my art to provide me with money (it never has, it just eats up my money instead).

As far as what is my best of my best skills... is not permitted to be shown online, because of how it infringes on copyrights (but if I was employed by copyright owner, then there'd be no problem). That there is where money gets in the way!

Others expectations for behavior gets in the way... I was kicked out of F.A.M.E because my behavior was unacceptable (the kick had nothing to do with my creative skills).

Another art class I was kicked from, because I was going through a phase where they thought I was doing something very very wrong on purpose (but there was no bad intent, just a lack of physical control of a thing I won't mention here.). I've known others, with similar diagnosis, who go through the same phase about that age. Most people find it terribly unacceptable: worthy of being banned from places.

Several other art classes in the special ed schools I went to, those classes did not teach me anything new. For several of those classes, my self-taught skills were better than the teacher's.

The only school I paid to attend, an adult school, was about watercolors. I used one of my skills to do what I did, reference, but I don't remember anything about watercoloring techniques. We had been required to work with Charcoal (which gave me chills to use and I just was so uncomfortable using it), but charcoal was required part of the class...

There was a second phase of the class, a second portion I was supposed to pay for... I chose not to go (given the severe lack of learning that I felt, and the annoying required charcoal portion of the class). So I chose not to go to the second portion, (and so, didn't have to pay).

Since my behavior does not meet society's expectations, I learn from books like yours. I may not ever see my full potential (I cannot imagine how far it can go, as if my full potential is like in outer-space, with so much room to grow). I feel my ability to grow is hindered by a society who doesn't approve of behavior like mine (and so, does not approve of letting me into schools).

My unspoken skill (a.k.a. art) finds itself hindered by social expectations for skills that I am not skilled at. Words and behavior are not a skill of mine... unfortunately, it is these lack of skills that hold me back from using my best skill to it's full potential. I have been to therapy and classes and I read a Good Book.. but as it is now, I live off money that isn't mine, because I have been judged as unemployable (as decided by the government). My skills as an artist were not considered to make this judgement.. my social skills (or lack of) was looked at for this judgement.

In addition to schools expecting money (like you ranted about) schools expect a certain level of behavior. I do not meet that behavioral expectation. And so, I do not go to art school.

Maybe me ranting too helps you feel better about ranting?
Your rant was enlightening to me.
tombancroft Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Professional Filmographer
Thanks for adding to the discussion. Art schools- going or not going- seems to have hit a huge nerve here on DA. I'm glad everyone is getting the chance to talk about it. For you personally, I'm glad to hear you still do the thing that makes you happy and are able to do it without the stress (I feel many days) of having to earn a living with it. Deadlines can stifle creativity pretty fast! All my best to you.
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May 16, 2012


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