How do you find inspiration for art after art school?
For many creatives, getting into art school is a dream come true, the exciting first step towards fulfilling their dreams. Why then, do so many of us quit making art altogether after graduation?
You can probably still remember the path that led you there. Having picked up your colored pencils or crayons at an early age, you felt motivated by positive feedback from grown-ups.
And, as your parents and teachers began to use words such as ‘talented’ and ‘gifted’ to describe you, it was almost as if you were destined to become an artist.
As you grew, so did your creativity. You enthusiastically devoured all manner of books on the subject and drew inspiration from the work of many ground-breaking artists.
By the time you applied to art school, your head was full of fantastic ideas about what you’d achieve once you got there. However, what about when you finished studying? It’s a question that probably never crossed your mind.
Think back to all the friends you made at art school. How many of them are still making art? All too often, the creative bubble bursts for many people once they step out into the big wide world.
However, understanding why this happens can often enable us to keep doing the thing we really love most – making art.
You Have Reached Your Destination
Art school can be an exciting, intoxicating experience for many students. You get to meet new people, discuss art and other interests with them and, possibly for the first time in your life, you get to exhibit your work before a grown-up audience.
Your group ‘critiques’ are an opportunity to talk about what inspires you and explain your art. You feel it’s all really useful experience which will stand you in good stead for the future.
As you progress through art school, you get used to presenting your work in order to pass various modules of the course. It’s good to have a focus, and working towards something helps you keep your destination (your reason for making art) in view at all times.
Before too long, it’s time for your graduation show, where you’ll present your work to your fellow students, tutors, parents and the general public. Your final art school exhibition is the culmination of several years of hard work and it represents everything you’ve been working towards.
It’s thrilling. It feels like the world is at your feet. And then it ends. You have reached your destination. Sadly, for many students, this is also the last time they’ll ever make art. However, it needn’t be so…
Learning How to Find Inspiration for Art Again
Having a goal is important for any artist, but as David Bayles and Ted Orland say in their book, Art and Fear, it’s important not to let “your current goal become your only goal.”
That’s the danger with your graduation from art school. You get so wrapped up in working towards one particular event that you don’t have time to think about anything else. The thrill of the final show quickly departs once your paintings are taken down, leaving an empty space where you’re not surrounded by other like-minded people or enjoying the buzz of exhibiting your work.
How do you fill this void? One way to do this is to get involved with other artists, whether locally or via online communities. Whereas showing your work to the general public outside the protective bubble of art school can be downright scary on your own, you’ll find the art community is highly supportive of each other.
Don’t Dismiss Your Earlier Work – Learn From It
Making art is a constant process, where the threads of ideas from one project evolve into each piece that follows. Having finished art school, many people look back on the work they produced during this period and dismiss it. It’s easy to see why – after all, what do those care-free student days have to do with the reality of today?
However, perhaps we shouldn’t be so hasty when evaluating our earlier work. There might be the beginnings of some ideas here which you can carry on into the next. The important thing is to keep the momentum and make sure there is a next piece.
When Finances Get In The Way of Inspiration
As a student, you’ll already be used to not having much money. At the time, it’s no big deal because all your friends are in the same boat. However, once you leave the safe confines of art school and start trying to make your way in the world, those empty pockets can really get you down. You’re going to have to find a job – fast.
For many former art students, this is another point at which creativity comes to a standstill. The allure of a regular pay check can be all too enticing, and it seems there are now lots of other things – such as rent and food – to think about.
In his article on the Muddy Colors website, illustrator Chris Moeller describes the five years after he left art school and offers some excellent advice for artists. As he says, money anxiety is always going to be there – regardless of how much you have in the bank. Therefore, seeking out a part-time job which will allow you to continue developing as an artist can pay dividends a few years down the line.
Socializing and Spreading The Word
Once you’ve left art college, it can be easy to feel left out of the loop. To avoid this, try going to as many different conventions as you can, talk to other artists, get some business cards printed and take them wherever you go, set a website up and keep it updated and promote your work via social media.
Both Facebook and Twitter can be really useful tools if you make the right connections.
As singer Amanda Palmer said recently in her blog about hitting a million Twitter followers, social media can be about much more than skateboarding cat gifs – it can actually connect you to other like-minded people in a way you previously didn’t think possible.
“If it frightens you, do it!” – a quote by Amanda Palmer
And, if you’re sceptical about the power of Twitter, let’s use the influence of Amanda Palmer as an example.
Having read her quote: “If it frightens you, do it!”, we thought it’d be a neat idea to turn this into a nice-looking graphic for our Twitter page.
Sure, we were hoping for plenty of ‘Likes’ and ‘Re-tweets’, but we were amazed by what happened next…
This one graphic featuring Amanda Palmer resulted in our Tweet getting ridiculous amounts of attention.
As you can see from the screenshot below, it got us 206 Retweets and 474 Likes!
So that’s the power of Twitter. That one tweet earned us hundreds of new followers and plenty of attention online.
And, if you can capture the mood of the moment with a piece of your artwork, there’s every chance it could happen to you, too.
So it’s important to remember that art doesn’t have to end at art school.
It’s what happens next that counts. And if you find yourself, years after you graduated, wondering where your creativity went, you know exactly what you have to do. Your pencils are waiting…
Has this article helped you find inspiration for art again? We’d love to hear from you, so please drop us a line below!