Life & Confusion After Art School

Life & Confusion After Art School

Lately I’ve been reflecting on where I’ve been (school), where I am (out of ideas), and daydreaming about where to go next (open to suggestions). To help you understand where I’m coming from, here’s a breakdown:

Art school

Your ideas and talents are constantly on your mind, being talked about regularly in rooms full of your peers, who also constantly think about their ideas and talents.

Your faults and the skills you can never seem to master (I’m looking at you, figure drawing) are constantly on your mind. Being talked about regularly in rooms full of your peers, who also constantly think about their faults and the skills they can never seem to master. Though, somehow it seems like they’re all flawless and full of skills…

Peer feedback. Professor feedback. Portfolio reviews. Thesis critiques. Working and working and challenging yourself and looking at Rachel’s drawing. Why is Rachel so good at drawing?!

Life after graduating
You have no idea what you’re doing. You can’t seem to remember what it is you ever wanted to do. You like to have fancy drinks and warm food more than you can afford. You dream of killer jobs, traveling, and owning all the cats.

Huh.

Despite what pop culture tells us about art school, it was not a breeze. Everyday, we had to ask ourselves if we were any good, how we could be better, and how we could be so innovative that we might someday succeed at creating something new in a world full of replicas and repetition. A world full of images. A world convinced that originality is dead. We didn’t study all night to remember the right answers to questions on a test; we spent nights working to find the questions that we needed to ask and then had to find the answers to those questions.

So, you get it. I went to art school and I worked my ass off. I was in the studio as much as possible. I debated what was right and wrong both conceptually and aesthetically with everything I made. I spent hours talking with friends about art. Sometimes I was a pretentious know-it-all, referencing art history and famous artists no one cares about, and sometimes I genuinely felt that art could say more about the human experience to society than I could say about my own experiences to a friend. Art school was my life. And now, art school is my past.

Moving into the workforce was difficult in ways I did not expect. I knew the basics of what was to come. Money would be hard, obviously. I’d have to take a job doing day-to-day tasks even though I am an eastern-ly leader, but everyone has to start somewhere so that’d be fine. There would be little time for creating art, sure. But it’s so much more than that. For 4 years I was able to talk over every choice I made, receive feedback anytime I was stuck, and felt a sense of community around me. I had no idea how much I leaned on these aspects of a creative work environment until they were gone. Working in an office means getting things done, not talking about them. Feedback is given when it’s needed and timely, not anytime someone is feeling stuck. Opening up to coworkers who are as tired as you happens, sure, but you don’t share “a sense of community”.  

For 4+ years, we worked hard. We talked. We were inspired. We were challenged. Working in an office is not working in a studio, but maybe there is space to shake things up and make the office more like a studio. Or maybe we are not (or maybe just I am not…) supposed to be working in an office at all. Maybe this is just what life after graduation is: feeling self-conscious, being nostalgic about college, and drinking too much. Maybe I’m making mountains out of mole hills and maybe… or certainly… I have to learn to adapt. And maybe I need to re-think what I thought was the right thing to do in the first place (read: get a haircut and get a real job) and find what is actually important to me.

My transition from school to work is silly and small and insignificant when I think about everything else happening in the world. I’m extremely lucky to have been able to go to school, earn a degree, and get a job. It is a small problem, it is something I am experiencing, and like art school, there are no right answers for what I’m supposed to do. All I can do is ask you to wish me luck as I figure out what kind work environment I need to be in to thrive, how to find time to make things, and what the hell I’m doing with my life. I’ll be sure to send good karma out into the universe for those of you out there doing this, too.

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