Thursday, April 12, 2007
Why folks don't survive....COLLEGE...
Today while listening to a guest speaker at school (who talked about several issues facing students today) it crossed my mind again to do this post. The reality of the situation (in this country at least) is if you are looking into starting in the commercial art field you are going to typically need a degree (if you check the job listings the vast majority require a BA or BFA). And what is the point of a degree? Besides learning stuff and growing as a person/artist...it gets your foot in the door for a portfolio review for a shot at a job. The degree is one type of 'filter' used by employers.
That being said, there tends to be a high drop-out rate in not only college in general, but commercial art fields. I heard the stats for a local art college that showed their rate at about 54%. The schools I have been involved with seemed to be around the 50% mark as well. So why aren't these students making it? There are multiple reasons, but I'm going to focus on some of the main ones...maybe there will be some that see this and realize they need to get their bums in gear.
1. Lack of passion, drive, lazy...It is good to be passionate about what you do and you can develop or lose a passion for something. This is definitely an area where you want to be passionate. Without passion, when you run in to an obstacle you tend to quit or pout. This is a very competitive field and you have to light a fire under your britches to push yourself to rise to the top (drive). And then there is a bad case of the 'lazy'. Sometimes students lose or refuse to 'get a passion' because they simply want to be given everything and not have to work for it. This is a field where there is constant refinement and work to get things done and get them done properly. In our microwave society we want instant results. When colleges come and show off their best work, students often lose track of the fact how much WORK went into creating these items.
2. Not willing to pay the piper...In college you have the expectation that you will typically spend 3 hours of work out of class for every hour in class. Sometimes the college environment gets a student side-tracked or procrastination sets in (and we as artists tend to procrastinate...and if you get sidetracked or procrastinate that means to get something done in a quality manner you are going to have to burn the midnight oil. There have been countless times during finals where even when there wasn't procrastination you would have to spend 3 or 4 days with little to no sleep to get something completed. The attitude of those that fall to the wayside is usually...'I'll get to it tomorrow' and when they run out of tomorrows they think...'too late to do anything about it now'...and too often today students think that they should have a personal babysitter holding their hand through everything. It even shocks me when parents get upset with COLLEGE profs and want a piece of them because they won't baby-sit their kids.
3. Thin-skinned and not able to handle critiques...I blame some of this on high school. Sometimes there are teachers that are not qualified to give honest critiques (no art background) and everything is wonderful...or just because they get something turned in on time they get an A...this doesn't help a student as they head off to college. When a teacher 'rips' into their work (a lot of learning in this area tends to come from the negative...as the student learns to self-critique and mature in their capabilities the negative gets less) they too often take it as a personal attack. Instead of taking what is said and growing they curl up into a ball and throw a tantrum. I'll not lie...I did it in college a time or two myself in the beginning. But then as I got better I looked back and said, "Wow, how could I have defended that piece of pooh..."
4. Low standard for self and thinking that everyone should be okay with junk...There are many different styles out there and many different tastes. But well done is well done. I often say doing something simple doesn't mean doing something poorly. Students waiting until the last minute and throwing junk together or taking no pride in their work turn in low quality items and then get to (and should) hear about it. As I have seen some of these things it boggles my mind...it is like a job calls for a certain color of green, the student enters the wrong swatch and sends it to the printer and it comes out neon pink...so what if it could cost someone $20,000??? Or you design something the wrong size because of not paying attention to certain measurements...hours or days of work can be lost because it isn't always a matter of just scaling up or down. Student reaction? "Well your standards are just too high."
5. Poor art skills...(discussed in a previous post). Fine art skills are foundational. The computer is just a tool. Bad work and poor concepts can't be helped with a make cool button.
Again, this isn't an all-encompassing list but it does hit a few main problem spots. To be successful in college students need to:
1. Learn to motivate themselves and push to grow in a very competitive field. You can't settle for standing where you are.
2. Plan properly. No one is saying you are supposed to not have free time or play time. If you don't have this you will burn out. BUT you have to make sure you plan for both work and play.
3. Learn to critique yourself and listen when others critique. Get upset if you like but LISTEN and grow from what is said...your 'upset spells' will be less frequent and shorter as you mature.
4. Pay attention to what is being asked. If someone wants a design for Pepsi and you design the world's best advertisement for blue jeans...that gets you what???
5. The more you can do the better off you are. If you stink in a certain area push yourself to get better.
Finally, in college you can work the system but remember, grades aren't everything. There will be some schools that let you play that game because they are getting your money. But if you come out with a 4.0 and a bad portfolio...congrats...you just purchased a $40,000 wall decoration.