If you have taken any formal training as an artist or designer, you have probably received art advice that ranges from achieving proportion and perspective to making proper use of negative space. But, apart from these stylistic and technical tips for artists, practical advice for prospering in an art and design degree program can be far more challenging to come by!
10 Tips for Art and Design Students
Whether you are a budding high school art student or are already enrolled in an accredited college program such as one of the many art and design offerings at Lindenwood University Online, you might struggle to find a wealth of real-world information about how to succeed in the college environment. Here are some tips for art students and tips for graphic design students that can help you meet program expectations and reach your academic and career goals:
Tip #1 Be Proud of Your Work
Make no mistake about it: a highly critical eye is an extremely important quality in any artist or designer. The well-known cliche about great artists being their own harshest critic is true in many cases, but artists that cannot find a great deal of pride in their most accomplished work are unlikely to go far in academic or professional environments. Because good art and design are often a highly personal form of creative expression, being proud of your work allows you to be proud of who you are, which develops a sense of self-confidence that leads to success in any number of endeavors. Furthermore, a baseline of pride in your work gives you the inspiration and determination that all artists need to fuel constant improvement and growth.
Tip #2 Prioritize Time Management and Effective Scheduling
The highly romantic vision of the artist lost for days in some small detail of a painting is often not as common or realistic as some think. While absolute focus and meticulous attention are essential in an art or design student, juggling the rigorous requirements of a full course load of university classes requires strong time management and effective scheduling skills. This is because art and design students are always working on multiple projects at the same time, and each of these projects will have its own scheduling requirements and deadline. The challenges of juggling work for all classes can easily lead to exhaustion and burnout if students don’t prioritize balance.
Tip #3 Clarify All Project Requirements
For a good college professor who wants students to succeed, few things are more frustrating than an exceptional student project that simply doesn’t meet stated assignment standards or objectives. After all, this is very much like seeing a promising runner come off the starting line in the wrong direction. Don’t risk your success simply because you did not follow instructions.
! If instructions are unclear or you are uncertain in how to proceed, it is incumbent upon you to use course resources to find clarification or contact your instructor with specific questions. Rather than viewing these questions as signs of ignorance, most instructors view questions positively and consider inquisitive students to be bright and engaged.
Tip #4 Master the Basics
To perform well in an art and design degree program, art students must have an understanding of art that is both deep and broad. The same thing holds true for graphic design students. Even if you ultimately plan to specialize in a particular area of art or design, you need to have a foundational set of technical knowledge and skills upon which you can build. This means embracing a broad spectrum of art and design techniques, media, and traditions. Ideally, students will experience some art and design basics while still in high school. However, there is certainly still time to shore up certain skills and address specific deficiencies while you are completing your college art and design degree.
Tip #5 Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
A big part of ensuring that you have mastered the basics is gaining an objective view of your strengths and weaknesses in art and design. Beyond giving you the confidence of knowing that you have the strengths to succeed in your degree program of choice, an unbiased assessment of your strengths and weaknesses can guide you well as you progress toward a career in a particular area of art or design.
Tip #6 Don't Shy Away from Criticism
It will be extremely difficult to truly know your strengths and weaknesses if you cannot listen actively and openly to constructive criticism. Furthermore, artists and designers who shy away from criticism will be less likely to improve or evolve, struggle to fully connect with an audience, and cut themselves off from perspectives that might otherwise take their work to new heights. At the very least, artists and designers will almost certainly encounter a great deal of negative feedback in the professional arena, so they should begin cultivating resilience to opinionated critiques while still in school. In short, the most fully realized and well-balanced of artists and designers will welcome and learn from good critique.
Tip #7 Enjoy the Process of Creating
It may sound overly simplistic if not self-evident, but you simply cannot underestimate the importance of getting joy or cathartic release from the creative process. The career path of the creative professional can be a rocky one, so if you don’t love what you do, you might want to consider a different job. While any worthwhile creative venture inevitably requires work that might be considered painstaking or tedious, your passion for the project should carry you through. A key component of truly enjoying your work is remembering that the spark of imagination can come at the most random of moments. Give yourself the leeway to relax into the creative process and learn to view your “breaks” and “downtime” as opportunities to allow inspiration to strike.
Tip #8 Constantly Update Your Portfolio
Many colleges and universities require art and design students to submit a portfolio of their work as a basic admission requirement. Similarly, most art and design degree programs require students to amass a comprehensive portfolio of work before they can graduate. In short, no matter what level of school you are at or what kind of art and design student you are, you should be updating your portfolio constantly. First and foremost, you must create a lot of work. While concentrating on your core high school or general undergraduate college coursework is essential, you cannot allow these obligations to overwhelm you and devour the time you should be spending on your creative ventures. With a tremendous amount of work to choose from, you can select only your finest achievements for inclusion in your official portfolio.
Tip #9 Don't Throw Away Your Sketches
While not everything that you do will find its way into your portfolio, nearly all your creative output has some amount of untapped potential. Therefore, wise creatives know the supreme importance of sketching and regard sketching as a vital conduit for pure and freeform creativity. By returning to their sketches, artists and designers can gain the perspective to shape the ideas that they contain into a fully realized project. Even a tiny offhand sketch that seems entirely disposable when you complete it can lead to extraordinary things if you have the wisdom to hold onto it.
Tip #10 Find a Support System and Mentor
Like everyone else, aspiring artists and designers need support in many forms. This support may come from a family member who gives a student the time and space that they need to complete an important project or it may come from a dedicated mentor with technical expertise in one or more areas that appeal to you. Of course, a solid mentor will also have an interest in your creative journey and a belief in your ability to succeed. A quality art and design degree program at an accredited college or university will generally have a wide range of professors and faculty leaders who can serve as exceptional mentors. These programs also generally offer countless opportunities to find targeted student support through both official and unofficial channels.
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