Does an artist need to go to art school?

The answer is simply: No. I was a graphic designer who didn’t attend any art classes and look at where I am now. As an artist though, to say I know everything, is a lie. But, the same concept also applies to other artists, whether or not you attend art school. Just because you attended school does not mean you know everything, it MAY give you some type of advantage.

Self Portrait Illustration by Steven Howard

I recently interviewed a multi-medium talented artist: Steven Howard. He actually did go to an art program for his undergraduate, attended a local school in Atlanta actually, Kennesaw State University. Howard refers to himself by day as a Graphic Designer, but by night fall he works on a lot of different arts: freelance design, tshirts, illustrations, and/or 3-d modeling. Basically, he dabbles in a bit of everything.

Howard is a father of a newborn (Congrats Steven!), but that doesn’t mean it interferes with his life as an artist. He always drew to begin with but never considered it as an actual career. Funny story, he told me he always got in trouble for drawing Spiderman in his computer program classes.

Transitioning to art school and its benefits

In all, he really enjoyed art school when he made the transition. At The Creative Folks, we believe you should always follow your passions. If art school makes you happy, you should definitely invest in it to go, it’s a great networking opportunity for artists to begin with. “The best thing I got out of college, was networking,” Howard said and we couldn’t agree more. That’s actually how TCF even became a thing was because of networking inside college.

Howard started off as a caricature artist, but then clients started asking about design. Being the opportunist he was, he took them on which really landed him where he is today, working as a Graphic Designer.

Illustration by Steven Howard, “Wheres Waldo?!”

College or courses in general, especially within the atmosphere with other people serve as a great environment for an artist to reach out of your comfort zone. Often, we are too caught up with our own work and style, we don’t want others’ opinions to interfere and make us diverge.

Thus, this type of work environment can actually do you wonders. For example, Howard enjoyed art

school enough for a spark in other artistic passions. He took sculpting, typography, electronic illustration, and design.

In an art course, there are more techniques you can probably learn better in school environment. There’s more enforcement to PRACTICE what you’ve learned, versus learning on your own, but don’t forget we live in a digital age. “You can learn everything I learned in school on the internet now,” he says.

Why you don’t need to go to art school

For those who may not have the means, may not be motivated, or don’t see the reason for art school, don’t fret. If I can do it, you can do it. If you never heard it, well you’re hearing it today: college is not for everyone. I do believe that classes though, especially skill specific classes are more manageable.

Howard works hard, but now probably a lot harder for his newborn, and that’s something that can’t be taught in college. “You can’t be a lazy artist, you won’t make it,” Howard told me. For me too, in my journey as a graphic designer and in transition into a marketing designer, you really can’t slack. School or no school, there’s no room for either category to even slack. So you really have to hustle creatives, brand yourself, hustle, and keep creating — don’t ever lose your creativity to the world of 9-5 work.

Think about this too, creatives:

“You don’t need to go to school to be a basketball player, you play basketball to be a basketball player” – Steven Howard

You are an artist if you make art. Skill level defines the monetary gain and values you can receive for your art but it doesn’t make you less of an artist. All artists are in learning stages, even the greatest.

Be open to learning.

Be open to exploring more opportunities.


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