plein air landscape painting
Painting From Life vs. From Photos

The is art school worthless? question brought in some amazing comments. Here are two that make it even harder for me to make up my mind on the issue:

Art dealer Dan Fox said “nearly every fine artist of any repute either went to art school or studied with a master for years, or both.”

Artist Rex Crockett replied, “I know a lot of artists who make good livings at art. About half of them went to art school, and half of those, like me, dropped out in disgust. (I lasted one day.)”

Now, how do we reconcile these views?

. . .

When I am feeling adventurous, I cross-post my blog entries on the unmoderated news group rec.arts.fine. If a blog is cosy like a living room (to paraphrase Arthur), rec.arts.fine is like a New York city street at night. You never know who might attack you, but they are bound to be someone interesting. [I add emphasis to quotes below]

Dan Fox asked if I went to art school, and when I replied in the negative, he wrote:

The foundation courses you get in art school, drawing in particular, are crucial to becoming a competent artist. This means regular classes, lots of drawing, lots of teaching, over a period of time. Learning to draw is like learning to play the piano. Books and workshops contribute very little.This is the reason nearly every fine artist of any repute either went to art school or studied with a master for years, or both. The exception is the genius like Francis Bacon, but these people are rare.

Before I could reply, Rex Crockett dropped this bombshell:

Nonsense. What is rare are people who are willing to repudiate a failed education.Good repute? With whom? Galleries, museums, the press, and the buying public do not care at all, not at all, whether you have a degree in art. It simply does not matter. It never did. It never will. I know a lot of artists who make good livings at art. About half of them went to art school, and half of those, like me, dropped out in disgust. (I lasted one day.) This idea that “It is really hard to survive as an artist” is one of the biggest lies ever told. The reason it is so hard for so many is because their work is crap.

Rex doesn’t have much sympathy for artists who don’t sell, does he?

I think that Dan Fox is making a strong statement without providing any evidence. Rex brings in the weight of personal experience, but I think he misses a key point: some artists find it difficult to make money because they continually push themselves to do things that are extremely challenging. It doesn’t mean their work is crap, but it might mean they are not being practical.

There is more to this debate to be read on the complete rec.arts.fine thread.

Thanks to Courtney, Bob, Tracy, David, and Angela for your insightful comments on the original post at my [our] blog.

One lack of comment I found interesting is that no one disputed my statement: “In art, professors and students do not generally collaborate in the process of creation and discovery in the same meaningful sense as they do in science.”