tiny guide to surviving an art degree (and being artistic in general)
First of all, you need great reference material. When I was a wee highschooler, I eschewed reference images in any form, feeling them to be too derivative. Retrospectively it’s clear that I was reacting against the tendency of my peers to copy directly from their sources, so you’d get girls replicating an image from a magazine clipping in paint and calling it good. Even one of my closest friends was incredibly dependant on her photo-references – although most of her sources came from photos she had taken herself. Still, she was lost without a two-dimensional representation to work from. Conversely, everything I drew came from my head; characters, pose and all. This caused a small degree of incredulity from my classmates, because they couldn’t fathom entirely original images without the influence of external subject matter. Unfortunately this also led to really awful-looking humans that seemed to be either alienesque or apelike; and a tortuous sketching process that could take days just getting the basic linework right.
Eventually I realised that one can create an original image but still look at an anatomy guide without feeling like it’s cheating, just to see how that part of the body ‘works’. It also helps to keep a folder on your computer with various pictures of what reference you have used/what themes you are most interested in just so you have a bit of a database to work from.
[my reference folders include religious imagery, pin-ups, foetuses and hideous deformity]
Another useful folder: pretty things. Begin amassing huge numbers of images and art that you like or are inspired by. Don’t feel hindered by style or medium, just take anything you find beautiful and keep it forever. I have a folder called ‘Beauty and Emulation’ that is a disordered mess of cartoons, sculpture, illustration, gore, linework, fairytale images, photographs, digital work, pictures so lovely I feel ashamed, anime .. everything. Some people may prefer to categorise this by artist but I prefer one huge reservoir of pictures that I can flip through whenever I’m stuck for a concept or in need of some stimulation. The only concession I make to order is to ensure that the file names reflect the title and artist of the piece, whenever I can find it. This folder is set as my screensaver slideshow for additional encouragement and motivation. Of course, you need not be limited to digital media. I bought an old copy of The Castle of Otranto purely for the beautiful illustrations, and have many an anatomy book filled with meaty eye-candy.
Thirdly, keep a workbook. Get something big enough to provide you with a decent expanse of paper, but still of a manageable size. I work small, so my book is A4 – the double-spread of pages allows for greater space if necessary. This book must be plain, perhaps even ugly. You don’t want anything too ‘pretty’ to put you off. Those gorgeous artists’ sketchbooks with all the cool pictures on the front/leather binding/paper like the wings of angels will put you off from ever putting anything inside it. Ever. Don’t get them because you won’t use them enough. You need something that you can fill with messy mind-maps when you’re struggling for a concept. You need a place to do small, ugly, cramped cartoons in ballpoint pen around the scribbles you made to remind you of the art crit you need to go to next week. The workbook is a study of failed ideas, or a place for inspiration to grow. It’s got all those pencil drawings of people’s bodies made entirely out of circles and cuboid shapes which still manage to be out of proportion, practise drawings to work out what pose would be most effective, with reference printouts tucked loosely between the pages. It will be messy. You won’t let people look at it because they’ll think your work is ‘bad.’ But it will be necessary.
Of equal – if not greater – importance: You definitely need an art-buddy; that infallible human upon which you can rely to bring you up when things get stressful and vent with over petty injustices. This person will help make work fun; like, for example, when you take turns spinning each other around and around in a wheelie-chair in order to wake you up so you can keep going at 3am, or bringing Star Wars action figures and having a fight during a crit. My bro-ho and I have each other’s’ backs; we remind each other about deadlines and hang out when we just can’t take any more work. An art degree is tough to get through (although this is true of almost any degree) and sometimes you need someone who understands.
Lastly: practise, practise, practise. It’s been said a million times but cannot be said enough. It’s easy to get caught up in academic art (which at times can be frustrating because you might be advised by your supervisors not to do something you think you’d reeeally like to do) and forget why you wanted to study it in the first place. And to be honest – sometimes it is nice just having a bit of a break. But never forget to make art for yourself too. Often, the ‘personal’ art you make will be entirely different from what you do for your course work, and this is refreshing for your creativity. Always create during your holidays; be it a silly cartoon or a fully worked-up image or a series of cool photographs. Remember: if you’re studying art, you’re intending to make it part of your life.
And remember to have fun in the process.
Why People Think I’m Lesbian
Fun diagrams illustrating all the ‘evidence’ of my supposed lesbianity (which, to be honest, has been mounting since I was about ten). I am a generally awkward human being though, so I tend to do stuff like the following:
^ I’ve done this so often it’s my trademark..
One of the girls was a friend who’d come out of a serious breakup. I was just happy to see her in a new relationship…
What? She was pretty ….
^ I never know how to react in these situations.. The best I can do is try make a joke ˜(which, I’ve been told, only eggs them on) or get tongue-tied and make odd noises.
Nobody will ever understand the affection female friends will have for each other…
^ as soon as this happened I texted my male friend to flaunt how pimp I am. Seriously, I had just met this girl like twenty minutes before and she bared her naked crotch to me.
It was a great leg sleeve though.
Because why draw naked boys when you can draw naked girls??
These are only some examples; others include (but are not limited to):
- my terrible sense of humour
- unconsciously ‘flirting’ with people (this apparently applies to both sexes though)
- cutting my waist-length hair off and then shaving parts my head a year later
- wearing men’s clothing
- being a supporter of LGTBI people and rights
Anyway, I don’t particularly mind very much what people think of my sexual orientation.
So, a minor setback in artistic productivity came when some stuff was taken from my flat recently. Luckily I have managed to procure a ‘vaguely functional’ [sic] laptop replacement from a friend to use for my photo references.
I came to studio one day to find this on my desk:
Thanks J-man. Changed my life.
In other news, I like aliens and am researching book art.