If you're approaching graduation day, it's easy to think of art education in terms of finish lines. Whether it's a single painting, an art course, or even completing college - it's easy to envision 'being done'. The truth is a bit more nuanced, and in this post we'll explore the notion of lifelong learning.
I'm guessing you've taken classes in an subject you never intended to master. For me it was math: I stopped at 17, and I'll probably never take another course in my lifetime. Science was a similar story. As a high-schooler I assumed that art would have a similar trajectory: I'd take the required number of courses and then would be done. Ideally this would allow me to become a professional artist. At that time in my life, the world was clearly defined by finish lines: graduate school, spend the summer in vacation, attend the next year of school, etc. The goals were clear, and forward was the only possible direction. It stood to reason that my art learning would operate by similar rules. Then I graduated college, became a game artist, and realized I was completely wrong.
Now that I'm a professional artist, a strange thing has happened: I'm still learning. It turns out the life of an artist, professional or otherwise, is filled with learning. Of the artists I follow, the most interesting ones are constantly pushing outside their comfort zone. More importantly, they're perpetually curious. This curiosity compels them to experiment, study, and improve. Though I've only spent 9 years in the game industry, it's obvious to me that the most successful veterans are tireless lifelong students.
Nights and Weekends
In my free moments, I'm currently taking a self-paced class from Schoolism.com. It's all about reflective surfaces, and offered by Scott Robertson. The first week was hard. Professional or not, I placed myself way outside of my comfort zone in this course. As a result, I'm gong to learn a lot by the end of my nine week session. Though this particular course might not be up your alley, I'd strongly encourage taking online classes after graduating from college. Especially when you're not concerned with getting a degree, there are tons of exciting courses out there waiting to be taken.
I've come to realize that art has no finish line. Unlike math or science, which I'll probably never revisit, there will never be a time when I'm 'done learning' art. Even though I'm a professional artist and instructor, there's always more to learn - and the process is fun! If you're currently in school, anxious to graduate -- this is not the end! College graduation is only one milestone in a process that lasts decades. If you've graduated from college, it's not too late to start your art education! Learn to enjoy the process of learning, and stop focusing on the finish lines.
What will you learn next? We'd love to hear about your self-directed learning in the comments (no matter what stage you're at).