Tell anyone you are an artist and they get this instant picture of someone with a beret, lots of brushes and a palette, and a casual attitude. There is much more to this than the popular persona.
All throughout history parents would cringe if their child relented, they wanted to go to college to be an artist, or they just wanted to get paints and brushes and hang out in the artist community. Some famous artists of the past parents have actually done all they could to dissuade their sons from joining the artists community. Most of these parents wanted their offspring to follow in their shoes and work in the industry the family had worked in for ions. Most usually these parents were not successful, their children followed what they wanted to do anyway.
Being an artist is much more than following your passion and having time in the studio every day all day. Most of us have spent time in higher education of some sort if not in the arts field, or have had some specialized training in the craft depending on what it was. In a study conducted by Artnet, only about 12% of the 500 most successful American artists were self-taught, while others had bachelor and master’s degrees from various art schools. Prominent college art programs, usually offer a variety of perks for their students.
Is a formal education necessary to be an artist? Not necessarily. There have been many very successful artists emerge without formal art education. Some just have an innate talent that excels on its own. This “talent” if you will, is usually very specific when it appears in young people. It is at this point the nurturing of an artist is important and vital to the advancement of the person. To have another entity that will change that course would be a travesty. There is example after example of people who have created music, visual art, dance and writing who have not had a formal education. Some may surprise you: Frida Kahlo, Henri Rousseau, Vincent Van Gogh, and the list goes on. This is perhaps art in its purest form as it has no other source of inspiration but from within. Naïve art is usually defined as visual art that is created by a person who lacks the formal education and training that a professional artist undergoes (in anatomy, art history, technique, perspective, ways of seeing).
Of course, what higher education does for us is make well-rounded individuals who know things from many areas. This kind of knowledge is good for everyone and opens a person’s eyes to truly what they don’t know without it.
Whether you have an advanced degree in any art form, education or otherwise this is always good, but it isn’t pertinent to making a passionate and successful artist.