Can you teach yourself illustration or should you go to college for it?

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  1. #1
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    Can you teach yourself illustration or should you go to college for it?

    Hi guys i'm currently about to enroll in a drawing class, after my drawing is up to par i will like to get involved in illustration but these college and art schools are very expensive. Is it possible to teach yourself illustration by books and such ? and is that a good idea to do it that way? or is it possible to learn it from an online school/program for illustration? If so can you guys recommend me some great books and online programs to learn from so i could know.

    I will also like you guys opinions on teaching yourself illustration and if you think that is a good way to go or should i just go to college/art school...

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  3. #2
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    All you need to get good is look honestly at what's in front of your eyes and at what's in your mind; nature and your sensitivities.

    I'd bet every good art school out there, has more allumni that ended up cashiers than succesful artists. Not to mention how the internet has brought so much information from the libraries to the desktops.

    Now that said, art schools are part of 'nature' in my book and it might be just the environment your sensitivity needs but only you would know that. Decision making is a vital skill for art and the rest. ; )

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  5. #3
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    It really does depend, but in my opinion I think that going to art school and getting a degree is incredibly important. When you go out and start looking for a job, one of the things employers are going to look for is where you went to school, and it's going to be tough to get a good job without that. It's not always going to just be about how good you are.
    Although, yes, there will be exceptions. The artist who did the concept art for the recent Thor movie, and the Alice in Wonderland move, for example, had no formal education. So you could be one of the lucky ones, and you could get a break.
    But, honestly, if you can afford it, why wouldn't you? It's going to be easier to get a job. It's going to give you opportunities. And it's going to teach you things that you simply can't learn from books or the internet.

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  7. #4
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    If your portfolio is good, the degree doesn't really matter in most cases.

    It all depends on you, really. If you're dedicated, self-organized, and able to push yourself constantly, you can teach yourself. If you're the sort who really needs an organized structure and someone to push you, art school might work better. If you're flaky or lazy, you probably won't make it either way. (The people who went to art school and ended up as cashiers were usually the lazy ones.) The mere act of going to art school doesn't guarantee anything - you get out of it what you put in.

    The two things I really got out of art school that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise was access to lots of advice and critique from professionals, and good contacts in the field. But that was in the days before the internet became ubiquitous - nowadays you can get a lot of peer review and advice online, and you can also do a lot of networking online.

    The downside to art school is, of course, huuuuuge debt. Which is probably even worse these days than it was when I graduated.

    Though working in the same room as your teachers and peers is still a pretty worthwhile experience...

    What you might try for is self-teaching, taking advantage of online courses and places like CA where you can mingle with pros in your field, and maybe supplement that with some real life workshops or classes if you can find them. Open life drawing sessions are great, too - you might not get instruction, but you can mingle with peers and see how they work, which can be eye-opening sometimes (and, of course, you can practice a lot of life drawing.)

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  9. #5
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    My experience of university is that it was pretty much a waste of time. I studied illustration.

    The benefits I got out of university were:
    - A fantastic library which bought in any book I asked for.
    - Cheap/sometimes free printing, often in ridiculously huge sizes.
    - Studio space.
    - Interaction with other creatives on a daily basis. The ability to share ideas, critique each other and brainstorm in a group is invaluable in my opinion.
    - Access to facilities I wouldn't otherwise have. Such as screen printing... Can't actually think of anything else I used, but I'm sure there were things.
    - Good contacts in the field.
    - Fantastic degree show, which could have been even better with hindsight.

    Benefits I thought I would get but didn't:
    - Teaching. There was no teaching of drawing or painting practise, little software and techniques teaching, etc. We were expected to learn everything off our own back. The most teaching we got was to do with type.
    - Briefs and set projects to follow. There were very few, practically everything was "self defined".
    - Pressure. We were expected to motivate ourselves, which is fine... but all these things gradually paint a picture of "what's the point in paying for this?"
    - I was actually promised life drawing from a model when I applied. We never got it. I complained numerous times and was told "the course is changed every year". Well thats great, but I payed for a service I'm not getting...

    I found my lecturers to give conflicting feedback and everything seemed very much a personal taste remark. I guess you could argue everything is in art, but... Dunno. It was easy to guess who had marked who's work based on their mark, and despite them saying they are all double marked I seriously do not believe a word of it.

    Maybe my university was just shit, who knows. But it's certainly a case that in the UK most university illustration courses are like this, with NO care or emphasis what so ever on the teaching of art as a practise.

    It wasn't entirely a waste of time, but it certainly wasn't worth anywhere near the price tag.

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  11. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by HAJiME View Post
    Maybe my university was just shit, who knows. But it's certainly a case that in the UK most university illustration courses are like this, with NO care or emphasis what so ever on the teaching of art as a practise.
    The actual quality of teaching, curricula and resources does vary wildly from school to school... (And possibly from country to country, from the sound of things.)

    If you DO decide to go to art school, CHOOSE WISELY. It's like buying a house. You'll be dropping a ton of money on it, so pick something you think will be worth the price. Research the hell out of the schools you're looking at, look at the student portfolios, the teacher portfolios, what classes you'd be allowed to take in the major(s) you think want to pursue, what the facilities are like, etc.

    Schools usually give tours to accepted students too, that can help narrow down your choices even more (if you can get some kind of tour before even applying, that's better still.)

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  12. #7
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    ^ See, I think choosing a university here isn't like choosing a college there. The course, in my case BA Hons Illustration, was only available at certain universities and they are all practically the same. Some might differ slightly in that they may offer life drawing for example, when mine decided to cut it from the course (but kept it in for animation...) but I don't think any UK BA Hons Illustration course would offer any teaching in terms of art practise.

    When I went to look at the 4 unis I had to choose from (I didn't want to move away from home to hack costs), the one with the best reputation seemed horrible to me. Everyone's work was very stylised and, I felt, very samey. I've noticed that this is common of "good" unis all over the country. Just my opinion though. The worst of the 3 was dire and a long way out, and there was one that had such a disorganised open day I and was in a horrible area, and the one I went to seemed the best option at the time, despite there having been a fire in the art department the year before which destroyed a lot, their facilities were good and studio space was the largest of the lot. Lecturers changed whilst I was on the course too, so It's just a bit like... How can you tell?

    But how, even If I had the option of every uni in the country, could I have chosen wisely? You don't get any idea of what the course is actually like, current students won't be honest and staff certainly won't. And I was lied to anyway, never getting that life drawing.

    Any observational studying I did in the last 3 years was off my own back, and one lecturer even suggested I was wasting my time by doing it, suggesting I should do a collage of found photos instead.

    This is the course I was on http://courses.westminster.ac.uk/Cou...d=illustration

    We were given the option to do whatever we wanted, but we were not taught and those who were interested in representational drawing were blatently penalised. :/

    We don't have any of this major minor stuff here. We had very few lecturers. We just had "studio time" in which we were supposed to be in working on our projects and you could, supposedly, talk to lecturers. But getting hold of them was often not so easy. Occasionally they'd actually make an effort to come round and discuss the project with you, if you were one of the golden children who's work they adored.

    Here is the graduate's website for anyone interested... http://www.wminillustration.co.uk/

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    I guess I'll also throw in here that yes, it does matter /very/ much what university or college you attend.
    I went to OCAD last year, and we had life drawing twice a week. We had set projects. The teacher was always there to give us suggestions during class and showed us different techniques to help us improve.
    I'm switching schools next year to Sheridan- not because there was anything wrong with OCAD, but because I was taking fine arts, and I didn't want to have to go into the design school to take illustration. Again, I've visited Sheridan before and seen their illustration students working on life drawing, etc. I really can't imagine an art school without it- but perhaps there's a difference there between Canada and the States.
    People have come from different countries for both of these schools, and maybe this is why.

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    It depends, as stated.

    I'll use myself for example.

    first 4 years of my drawing life, comicbooks, how-to books.

    College (community mind you on grands) took a few life drawing classes that I didn't have the mental skillsets to fully utilize, a 2d design course. That was 2 years.

    After college, self-driven education, a week long intensive, but most of my progress was after I did work from the Bargue Drawing course. Then FAS home schooling course (finishing up now) which has been the best thing for me.

    But I'm driven, and don't need the support structure of other artists to push me forward.

    Anything is possible if you have the drive & desire.

    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
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    basically this information you need is available in written form (read books). but youre the one to use it... dont know... can you do it?

    infact (and i dont mean to offend you personally) thats a stupid question imo. its not like theres some hidden secrets... its just that people dont care enough to put in the effort, which makes it look like magic.

    in the end its just a shitload of info to process and learn. either youre up to or not. can you do it? certainly yes.... are you going to? i dont know, rather not if your emphasis is on safety-net-dumb-questions.

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    Thank you guys for your response, i appreciate it. I definitely have the motivation and self drive to do this, that's no problem right there. One thing that is stopping me with colleges/art schools is definitely the huge debt a lot people i know are stuck having to pay back several thousands of dollars and a lot of them haven't even been able to get a career for what they went to school for and i sure don't want to fall victim to terrible debt.

    What books and courses can you guys recommend for me to look up?

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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    If your portfolio is good, the degree doesn't really matter in most cases.

    It all depends on you, really. If you're dedicated, self-organized, and able to push yourself constantly, you can teach yourself. If you're the sort who really needs an organized structure and someone to push you, art school might work better. If you're flaky or lazy, you probably won't make it either way. (The people who went to art school and ended up as cashiers were usually the lazy ones.) The mere act of going to art school doesn't guarantee anything - you get out of it what you put in.

    The two things I really got out of art school that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise was access to lots of advice and critique from professionals, and good contacts in the field. But that was in the days before the internet became ubiquitous - nowadays you can get a lot of peer review and advice online, and you can also do a lot of networking online.

    The downside to art school is, of course, huuuuuge debt. Which is probably even worse these days than it was when I graduated.

    Though working in the same room as your teachers and peers is still a pretty worthwhile experience...

    What you might try for is self-teaching, taking advantage of online courses and places like CA where you can mingle with pros in your field, and maybe supplement that with some real life workshops or classes if you can find them. Open life drawing sessions are great, too - you might not get instruction, but you can mingle with peers and see how they work, which can be eye-opening sometimes (and, of course, you can practice a lot of life drawing.)
    Great response, Do you know of any good online courses that you can recommend to me? books also... I'm a real dedicated type of person, i can definitely push myself to do anything i put my mind to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sone_one View Post
    basically this information you need is available in written form (read books). but youre the one to use it... dont know... can you do it?

    infact (and i dont mean to offend you personally) thats a stupid question imo. its not like theres some hidden secrets... its just that people dont care enough to put in the effort, which makes it look like magic.

    in the end its just a shitload of info to process and learn. either youre up to or not. can you do it? certainly yes.... are you going to? i dont know, rather not if your emphasis is on safety-net-dumb-questions.
    What are you talking about? I'm just asking simple questions and looking for a simple answer. There is nothing dumb about being curious about something and wanting to get some advice from people.

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  19. #14
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    Download all of the Loomis Books
    read them cover to cover and add some life drawing and painting outside from life to your working habits and you wil be fine. When you get the chance talk to working professional artists you admire about anythng you get stuck on. give yourself ten years, five if you are really serious.

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  21. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by lilphilog View Post
    What books and courses can you guys recommend for me to look up?
    To start with some of the resources right here on CA...

    The big list of recommended books: http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=152626

    Also dig around in the following forums, they tend to have some useful practical info:

    Fine Arts Forums: http://conceptart.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=7

    Tutorials, Tips and Tricks: http://conceptart.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=42

    And see if anything's happening in the Mentoring forums: http://conceptart.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=137

    Also check out the "Shop" link at the top of the forums, I've found some good downloadable tutorials there. (If you're on a budget, wait for the next sale and stock up!)

    Some useful things off CA:
    Everything you ever wanted to know about perspective: http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/tech10.html

    More useful info on perspective: http://www.khulsey.com/perspective_basics.html

    Everything you ever wanted to know about color: http://www.huevaluechroma.com/index.php

    The Reilly Papers: http://ennisart.blogspot.com/

    The Practice and Science of Drawing by Harold Speed: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/14264

    The Gnomon Workshop: http://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/

    The Vilppu Store: http://www.vilppustore.com/index_rev1.htm

    The FZD School Videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/FZDSCHOOL

    Ctl+paint: http://www.ctrlpaint.com/

    Partly inspirational and partly useful blogs:

    Gurney Journey: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/

    Muddy Colors: http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/

    The Art Department: http://igallo.blogspot.com/

    ...and I don't remember what the hell this is, but I bookmarked it as a useful art resource, so who knows, might be good for something: http://www.noteaccess.com/MATERIALS/Painting.htm

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  23. #16
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    If you decide to teach yourself, make sure you study art history and go to lots of museums and galleries. You need to open your mind to the full range of what art can be, and allow that to inform your approach, rather than just making a beeline for realism or manga or whatever you like(d) as a teenager.

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  24. #17
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    If you have the opportunity to go to school/college and study it, do it. If it turns out it's not for you, you can always drop or change directions.

    I tend to be really good at learning things on my own, in school, I pick up even faster. The feedback you get from teachers and other students is something you can not get when doing things on your own.

    However, having said that, with a lot of talent and hard work, it's not impossible to get really good on your own. It's just little less common to see people succeed doing it that way.

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