Letter to an Art Student - How to become an Artist?

Published by Hannah Bruce on 10th Aug 2019

An Art Student asked me:

I am keen to have a career as an artist and wondered how you managed it. I am currently looking at college courses and thinking about going to University. I am interested to know what route you took, what a levels, foundation, degree etc...

How did you get into a career in art?

What helped you get into art?

Any other insight into an art career you can give would be great.

Thank you a tonne!

My Nutshell Response:

I’m very happy to chat and support where I can.

Art for me was an obvious choice. I passionately love it. And I always wanted to be a teacher. I was driven towards that goal. So I did Art GCSE, Art A Level and then went straight to Aberystwyth University to do an Art and English as a joint honours degree. Not many of them were on offer at the time.

Being passionate and driven is the best way. Know what you want and go all guns to get it. (Though I realise sometimes it can be daunting to understand what you want).

I am a social being so I did a lot of that at uni .... while my results in art were top, my English results were a little less refined and perhaps I should have just taken Art on its own…. But I wanted to be a teacher and felt both subjects would be beneficial. I left with a 2:2 in Fine Art and English. Then I applied for teacher training. I had an interview at Cambridge and was immediately accepted onto the PGCE course. Mainly off the back of being so passionate about my subject and about the students I wanted to teach.

On reflection I think a foundation course would have been brilliant for me. But it is often about finances…. And that is another year of education before you can earn…..

If you are uncertain about your art course of action then do a foundation and experience it in all its forms.

If you are clear about your medium and what you love, then head straight to university. Talk to your college tutors of course - they know you best.

So I taught for 12 years in secondary schools 11-18.. And there was a lot of art learning done, both by my students and by myself.  Which means I can do just about any medium I turn my hand to.

I became a full time artists when my son was three. I wanted a more flexible home life balance. And I tried it out. It all went well - but that is because I am not under huge financial pressure….. 

To have a business in Art is by no means easy. A huge number of Artists have two jobs …. Art and something that keeps them afloat.

Most Artists Teach and make Art as a cooperative business. This is true of all the professionals I have met so far.

Have a listen to this audio book - I found it very enlightening. It also sums up my everyday practise. ‘Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.’

In short - being creative doesn’t have to take all day every day. A lot of it (2/3rds) is about running a business and doing all the other things that come with that.

There are many other enlightening things I can tell you - but perhaps that is enough for now. 

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