Wanting good grades in Art School

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  1. #1
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    Wanting good grades in Art School

    Hi guys,

    As a 1st term art student at the Art Center in Pasadena, I can honestly say I have been running on 3-4 hours of sleep a day working on art, while loving it if I might add.

    The controversy that I am wondering at the moment is Working Hard vs. Working Smart. Obviously, finding a middle ground is the best solution, balancing your workload, playtime, and sleep time is key, however, what happens if you find yourself weak in some classes, ie, heads and hands, figure drawing, etc? Sometimes I find myself having to spend INSANE amounts of time redo-ing some work, which leads to getting behind in some of my classes, forcing me to do some all-nighters on certain days of the week. (I'm actually pulling an all nighter as we speak)

    At the Art Center you rarely get a C or lower on your work, unless you completely disregard directions. I give my ALL on every aspect of the home works to barely scathe a B/B+, whereas some people who rarely show up to class and spend minimal work end up could get a B+.

    I'm giving my all to reach my potential. Am I doing something wrong? or am I developing a work ethic that should HOPEFULLY lead to a the path of a skilled artist? I'm spending a TON of money for my education, I know grades aren't important in the real world, but I want to get good grades because I need to maintain a gpa for my scholarship, and I treat my instructors as if they are clients/instructors.

    It's much easier for some people to get "A"s and I hope that one day it'll be easier for me, especially in the REAL WORLD.

    What do you guys think?

    Just draw your ass off. Whatever you do, don't -- stop -- drawing...


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  3. #2
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    Eh, you kind of posted what I gave up on posting!

    -Not that I'm in art school, but more about the mentality throughout the entire process.
    Like, how do fast-learners perceive things?
    What are their processes?
    The intensity of which you stare at an object?

    Sorry I'm rambling, and don't have anything to contribute with other than hijacking your thread with my own questions :p

    But thanks for posting!
    -And just say if you want me to remove the questions

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  4. #3
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    There will always be someone faster and better. If you play that game you'll be the hamster on a wheel. Focus on you and ask questions of your instructors. Have you gone to them with this same concern? They have the answers you need about grades not us.

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  6. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maerrick View Post
    I'm giving my all to reach my potential. Am I doing something wrong? or am I developing a work ethic that should HOPEFULLY lead to a the path of a skilled artist? I'm spending a TON of money for my education, I know grades aren't important in the real world, but I want to get good grades because I need to maintain a gpa for my scholarship, and I treat my instructors as if they are clients/instructors.
    You're doing everything right. Don't kill yourself, though. At some point you can reach the point of diminishing returns. You're still in your first term, with experience you'll get better at both time management and judging priorities.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maerrick View Post
    It's much easier for some people to get "A"s and I hope that one day it'll be easier for me, especially in the REAL WORLD.
    Yes, some things are easier for some people than others. Some people are just better at some things than others. Some people are just lucky. Life isn't fair, the real world even more so than school. You can't do anything about any of those things, all you can do is what you're doing.


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    Personally, I think some of this will answer itself in time. For me, there are things I am much faster at doing now, (and even second nature), that I spent hours agonizing over or analyzing in school. I think with some things, speed comes with time and experience. Where you are currently at, you may just need to put in a few more hours than some other students in order to achieve a good result. I had someone like that in my advanced drawing class. He would be done in nearly half the time as everyone else, and his drawings looked more polished and realistic. It's just the way it works...

    Minimal art went nowhere. - Sol LeWitt

    DA
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    I only have some trivial advice, and perhaps one that you've already heard of, but it sure does help: if you find yourself doing a lot of revisions, taking a lot of time to do them, and, more importantly, finding it difficult to pinpoint them in the first place, walk away from what you're working on for at least a few hours. Everything is clearer in hindsight.

    What's important is, give your brain enough time to internalize whatever you've been learning. This happens during sleep and whenever you're relaxing, etc. If you keep thinking and thinking about it nonstop without giving yourself a break, you won't retain the information you're taking in.

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  11. #7
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    When you develop better work habits you'll spend less time on revisions. Since you are first semester, you may still be drawing the way that many people start drawing, which is pretty close to going for a full finish right away. Rather than working in stages and solving problems at earlier points when it takes much less effort to make changes.

    If you are literally running on that little sleep, stop. Pace yourself. You won't do yourself any good if you end up crashing. You'll do better work better rested.

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  13. #8
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    Thank you for all the advice! During the day I've probed a view instructors and 4th terms about this, and here is what I've collected from it.

    Other than "you'll figure yourself out" and "learn to adapt" I've found two mindsets that I think is interesting.

    1. If you get out of Art School without a job, you've just invested in a very expensive phone that doesn't ring. Work your ass off.

    2. My instructor told me, "In class when I look at all the presentations, I put myself in the shoes of an art director. If this was the "real world", most of the time I would chose the best out of all the presentations, hire that person, and let everyone go."

    Just draw your ass off. Whatever you do, don't -- stop -- drawing...


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    Also, even when we start school, we don't all start at the same level... even if we do end up in the same class.... And also, we're all slightly different, some things do come easier to one person then they do to another.

    Also, you're in one of the most competitive art schools in the country, which means you could easily have one or two or three super-talents in your classes, who will get A's in everything they touch.

    Working smarter *is* working harder, unless the school gives A's for effort alone.

    Good luck!
    I'm going to be in your shoes come this fall *shudder*, although I'm only going to LCAD, Art Center was too high llama and $$$ for me I'll have to follow your sketchbook to compare notes

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    Conniekat8, Opinions are all subjective to how one will perceive another's belief, and I'd have to agree with you on this one when you say "Working smarter *is* working harder, unless the school gives A's for effort alone".

    Some people have the most obscure schedules that just seem ridiculous!!! Example, work non-stop tuesday-thursday sleep all day friday! Where as another will create a timed schedule when to eat, sleep, draw and hit the "head".

    It makes me SOOOO FRUSTRATED to know that the best person in our class is 18 and 2 months... In fact, she actually got approached by the Environmental Art Director of James Cameron's studio while doing museum studies at the Getty. (Flashed the biz card and all). I DO acknowledge the fact that there will always be someone better, younger, and brighter, However, I'd like to find my place in the world that will allow me to shine as well. (And perhaps that's what keeps me motivated to keep trying).

    Despite the fact that there is always someone better, is it unhealthy to desire and to try to catch up to these people?

    Edited: This link answers my question... I found this post http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=223223

    Just draw your ass off. Whatever you do, don't -- stop -- drawing...


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    Quote Originally Posted by Maerrick View Post
    Despite the fact that there is always someone better, is it unhealthy to desire and to try to catch up to these people?
    It is healthy if you use it in constructive ways. For example, if it makes you push yourself (but not past the breaking point), if it makes you learn more and share experiences, make contacts... Focus on bringing the best and the most out of you. Talent isn't everything.

    It is unhealthy if it drives you into destructive patterns, like chronic 'why bother trying', someone will always top me, or getting envious to the point of being negative, argumentative combative or other destructive patterns.

    Little pang of short lived envy to be on top is normal. But if it lasts more then, I don't know, few minutes to a day, and you dwell on it and it leads you towards doing things that are not good for you, it may be edging towards unhealthy.

    Personally, if I see someone who is better then me, but not too far, little friendly competition is always fun. Someone who is much father along, I like to 'get close' to them and see what I can learn. There's room in the business for more then one person, so you don't have to be better then everyone else. It's not like sports where there's only one gold medal.

    You know, using someone really young into a working environment because they have a certain talent can also backfire. Often they find themselves in places they are not ready to handle emotionally (look at what happens to a lot of child stars), or have talent, but lack work habits (many talented peeople disappeared into oblivion because of that one... in music business you see a few one-hit-wonders falling prey to that one.

    So, just because someone is getting attention right now, it doesn't mean they are stealing *your thunder*, and it doesn't mean they have it made.

    Something else that people tend to do, when they see someone else succeed or get something they tend to romanticise and assume that everything is just peachy for them (because we wish for an easier road)... the reality is, it seldom works that way. Sometimes we fall prey and get jealous of - not what is really happening, but our own 'rose colored glasses' perception of what is happening.

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    @Conniekat8, Thanks for the valuable input. It puts things in a wider spectrum, your feedback helped me get out of tunnel vision of trying to catch up.

    An update, I received some advice from my Head and Hands Master, David Luce, Great guy, and I have much artistic respect for him...

    He told me that mileage and hard work is not the answer. Don't just go out and draw because you'll probably end up working backwards and hurting yourself. Working smart and intellectually is much better than hitting up endless workshops. Take for example a boxer, or a basketball player. If a non-professional college athlete practices hours on end, he/she maybe potentially be practicing non-stop while applying some bad habits.

    If nobody is watching you practice, beware of your actions, for they might be wrong or damaging to your progress.

    He told me that I could definitely catch up to those who are "shining" in class because they're only 4-6 weeks ahead of me with the tools and methods being executed. "Work intellectually" he said... "Check up the syllabus, and research outside of this class, If you work smart while working the extra hours (Working hard) you'll catch up"

    Just draw your ass off. Whatever you do, don't -- stop -- drawing...


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    There are definitely smart ways to work. You mentioned doing lots of revisions. One thing which will save you a ton of time in the long run when working on a longer piece is to always do thumbnails and studies first and even during your work on it. Even with things like still lifes - thumbs and short studies of different angles and compositions. While working, whenever you come to something you haven't tried before, or something you're not confident about doing, grab another sheet of paper and do some studies of it first in the right position/lighting/colours. If you do this you'll only be putting on your final piece what you know ought to be there and you shouldn't find you need to do any revisions unless you are responding to critique. You'll also have better knowledge by the end. Professional artists work like this, and I know I used to spend forever on a piece because I was forever trying to revise it and fix things and redraw things without messing it up, when if I had approached it differently I'd know what was correct before I started.

    Also, when practicing something, do it using fast gesture sketches if you haven't already. My working method is pretty slow and analytical which works for some things, but making myself do fast loose sketches helps so much more if you're trying to perfect things like anatomy and pose, because you learn much more in a short space of time.

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  23. #14
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    I wouldn't worry that much about grades (unless you're in danger of failing or losing your scholarship, but that's presumably not the case for you). If you know you're working hard, that's far more important than a GPA that, likely, no one will ever look at. If you're worried about whether you're on track to work at a pro level, go and talk with a teacher about that, but the grades themselves really don't matter.

    Also, you're not doing yourself any favors by habitually depriving yourself adequate sleep. The occasional long night is inevitable, but no one can learn or work at their best without enough sleep. You'll get more done in twelve hours while well rested than you will in sixteen while burnt out and exhausted.

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