It's Nice That's top tips to make the most out of art school!

8 October 2014

Wake up! Freshers’ Week is done – all that colourful IKEA kitchenware your mum got you is nowhere to be seen and you’ve gained 478 new friends on Facebook and an awkward conversation with your home friends about who you’re actually going to Glastonbury with next year. To be honest, being a fresher usually goes on for way longer than a week. After a month or so of partying and drinking Glenn’s Vodka and Robinson’s out of tupperware bowls you wake up with a whole load of briefs to tackle and studio space and equipment to fight over. This is the START of ART SCHOOL.

Pretty much everyone at It’s Nice That went to art school, so we pulled together our knowledge to bring you a list of all the things you need to know to get the best out of your very expensive and surprisingly short degree.

Got any we’ve missed? You can add them in at the comments box below.

This is not school, it’s ART school

You may see your classmates sitting around waiting for the teacher to arrive like it’s fourth period maths on a Thursday. You know what? Your teacher is probably busy or late, so just get on with something – whatever it may be. This is art school, a place for you to experiment, form relationships and come up with your best ideas. Sitting on your laptop hoping the tutor doesn’t turn up is so Year 11.

Get to know the security guards so you can stay after hours in the workshops

Not as easy as it sounds but once you’ve got most of the university faculty on your side you can pretty much do anything. From the guys that fill up those steaming vats of pasta at lunch, to the hunchbacked librarian, to the Rastafarian IT guy – these people will become very desirable once hand-ins come around and you need to use the printer at 2am, so be nice.

Don’t do a project about something you don’t give a shit about

Halfway through my degree I found myself making a project with a bunch of people I didn’t really like about energy efficiency. Worst week ever. Whatever you make that’s born out of boredom and struggle is not going to be good. Are you into music? Make a music video. Want to do a radio show? Record it, brand it, make a website. Do you think Grayson Perry is amazing? Design him a new dress. Do anything, just don’t do something you don’t give a shit about, because it in turn will be shit.

Go to the studio. Just go. It sounds stupid but just turn up.

Yeah you can smoke and listen to music when you work in your bedroom, but it is NOT the same. Apart from dissertation-time, your daylight hours should be spent in one place: the studio, with your friends. No one’s gonna ask you to collaborate on a sweet project when you’re scrolling through blogs in your bedroom alone.

Talk to tutors

Yeah they’re grown-ups but HELLO, so are you! You can call them by their first names, get pissed with them and actually ask them for creative advice. Most art tutors are secretly incredible professionals who have had a whole career in the art and design world while you were still in junior school and they are infinite wells of inspiration and advice. Not talking to them or using them for their wisdom is like starving yourself to death in a supermarket.

Give yourself a cool nickname

This is literally the only time in your life when this advice applies. This is also a good time to shake off a previously unwanted nickname.

Halloween is probably the first big fancy dress event of your art school career – make sure your outfit is the frigging best

Not much else to say here except that if a medical student’s fancy dress outfit outdoes yours and you are in an art and design degree, you have got a lot of thinking to do.

Collaborate with your friends

There’s a reason why you go to the same gigs, restaurants, clubs, festivals and shops as your friends – you have a lot in common. There is absolutely no reason why this can’t translate into your work. Look back at all of the collaborative projects over the years and the ones born from two friends who have a joyous aura born out of mutual passion and happiness you just don’t find anywhere else.

Collaborate with people from other courses

It may be socially forbidden, but your project will look so much better if you’ve worked with a filmmaker/illustrator/designer to make it super special. This also makes you look really innovative and sociable later on when you’re out of uni and showing everyone your projects.

Use the equipment

If I had a penny for every time someone said they wanted to go back to uni just so they could use the sweet, sweet equipment. It’s so frustrating: while you’re there you spend all your time researching projects on computers or in the library saying to yourself “Hmm, I could screen print this” or “yeah I could develop these photos in the dark room.” Then when push comes to shove and the deadline is approaching you sometimes decide not to. Word of advice from every creative person who went to university ever? USE THE EQUIPMENT. You will probably never have this stuff around you again. Also this could be your first and last time to have a play around with a green screen.

Make a yearbook at the end of third year

Then when you all get famous years later you can sell your signed copies and buy a house (not in London mind you).

Back to School
Throughout the month of October we’ll be celebrating the well-known autumnal feeling of Back to School. The content this month will be focusing on fresh starts, education, learning tools and the state of art school in the world today – delivered to you via fantastic in-depth interviews, features and conversations with talented, relevant, creative people.

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About the Author

Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and worked across online, print and events, and was latterly Features Editor before leaving in May 2015.

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