Over the course of our Back to School month we’ve been speaking to friends of ours about what they wish they’d known when they started art school. It seems fitting as we wind up this month of features we return to this practical advice, with insights from three more top creatives – Alma Haser, Cait Oppermann and Swiss Miss, aka Tina Roth Eisenberg. And again we’ve opened up the comment thread at the bottom for you to add your thoughts, of things you wish you had known when you embarked on your creative education…
YOUR TEACHERS AREN’T ALWAYS RIGHT
I didn’t get very caught up in this, but I noticed that fellow students did. There were so many students whose work and ideas I respected and often teachers would complain that it needed to go in a certain direction that would totally destroy the work and what essentially made it interesting. So many teachers at my school in New York were the same teachers who had been there for 25 or 30 years. That’s not a bad thing if those teachers kept up with contemporary art, but so many of them didn’t. Their scope of photography in particular was uninformed and completely out of the loop, which I feel did many students a great disservice.
NAIL YOUR TECHNICAL SKILLS DOWN IMMEDIATELY
I can’t stress this enough, especially for photographers. The last thing you want others talking about in your critique is whether your work is colour correct or if you know how to print properly. Not only is this a waste of your time as well as everyone else’s time, but if your work doesn’t look the way you want it to, it’s unsuccessful. Ask for help, work late, and make sure it looks as good as it possibly can.
MAKE FRIENDS AND KEEP THE GOOD ONES.
Not everyone you meet at first will be a good friend – they’ll keep you company until you meet the great ones who you’ll have for years and years after graduation.
I wish I had known that I would not necessarily find out what kind of work I wanted to make and what my style was. I would tell my student-self to not worry, to experiment as much as possible and not to expect to be the best photographer once you graduate.
Go to lots of exhibitions and get inspired by other artists (not just photographers). I think you should be inspired by everything you see to understand what you want your work to be like.
Believe in yourself and your work. Show it to as many people as you can, not just you parents and friends. Enter as many competitions and email magazines and blogs you’d like to be in. There’s no point holding back and waiting until you’re finished studying. You need to start spreading your name and work as soon as you can, so when you leave, people will have already subconsciously heard of you, even if they didn’t get back to your email.
Remember blogs will be your best friend!
About the Author
Rob joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in July 2011 before becoming Editor-in-Chief and working across all editorial projects including itsnicethat.com, Printed Pages, Here and Nicer Tuesdays. Rob left It’s Nice That in June 2015.