This is the year….

I’ve been thinking, or rather, stewing. I’m good at that, i’m one of life’s over-thinkers, but boy was 2016 a year for it. I found myself swallowed by probably the worst bout of depression i’ve had in at least ten years. Everywhere I turned, there seemed more reason to be horrified by the world and my part in it. The bleak political outlook, the seemingly endless deaths of celebrities, politicians and strangers alike, the shift in society and a thick, visceral tension that could be felt everywhere – it was all too much and my place in it all seemed hopeless, powerless and without direction.

You see, I realised through my stewing that I had wasted most of my 20’s. Instead of doing all the things that those around me were doing (travelling, working towards the dream job, buying houses, living) I had committed to being ‘a wage slave’ (a term I’m not comfortable with, but for want of a better one it shall do). I had left uni, moved to London, taken the first job I could get and unwittingly dedicated my life to just doing what had to be done to get by, to pay the exhorbitant and ever-increasing rents of London. It started with a dream of course, a “this is just a bridge to get to where I really want to be” mindset, but before I knew it I was working 6 days a week for just enough to get buy and no idea, energy or time to push ahead. Every now and then I pushed back a little, I took courses to take me further but then, when 8p noodles and months of unpaid internships got stale, I would always get swept back in.

It’s kind of funny – I remember as a small child hearing some of my family around me moaning about their jobs and the need to sell your soul to do the things you want to do.  I swore I would never do that, never be one of them, I didn’t want to be rich so as far as I was concerned that was the end of it. Poor naive me, I didn’t realise then that more often than not you aren’t selling your soul to be rich, you’re selling your soul to get by. Principles and dreams don’t very often keep a roof over your head and food on your table. So almost without realising it, I had left many of my principles and much of my fight by the roadside, and my soul…well that’s still to be seen.

I reached 2017, I survived it, and with my one final year of my twenties left ahead of me I vowed to fight, to fight for the me I really want to be. This year I committed to learning more, to enjoying more, to choosingand appreciating people and places and beauty above money, to respecting my own and other people’s time and to following my dreams. I promised myself the use of my voice and my actions, my privelege and mind to change even some tiny piece of the world, to make it a place I want to live in.

It came to me that I may just happen to want some children in the next few years (not particularly likely as, until now and even now, I have been thoroughly against the idea) but if that was to happen, it wouldn’t be into this world as it is. Even if I don’t, I have neices and nephews and godchildren who I adore, who in my darkest times I am paralysed with fear for. This isn’t the world I signed up for, the future as I see it, it isn’t the one I want to see them swamping through, and though I am only one small person amongst billions, I have found my fight again.

If I acheive nothing, well, at least in ten years I won’t look back and say I wasted another decade of my life being someone i’m not, being another ‘like it or lump it’ person. If no change comes, at least I can say I enjoyed my time, followed my heart and my principles. But I am a beleiver, a cynical optimist, and perhaps one small person really can make a difference. Maybe, then, I will be able to say that my twenties were the time that I reclaimed my soul.

 

The Benefits of an Arts Education

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Art. It is everywhere. It is treasured, it provokes thought, it has the potential to allow each of us to express our innermost feelings, sometimes it disgusts, but overall it is considered to be one of the key factors within a functional society

This is something that I have been considering for quite some time and it has been exacerbated more in recent months.

Having studied art in the past, and more recently an MA in Publishing, I have on many occasions felt the negativity aimed towards those studying or having studied art from those who have studied practically any other subject.

Years ago I read an article (that for the life of me I cannot now find) that clearly pointed out the benefits of an employee with an arts education for employers in all industries. As I haven’t been able to find the aforementioned article I thought I would take it upon myself to lay out all the reasons and skills that I personally believe those with an art education make great employees and why their choosing to study art can be a huge benefit within any industry. Believe me or not but based on my experience this is what I have found.

Artists have to use core employment skills right from the very start (not just in their final year).

In making art you most often spend a lot of time working independently and there are still deadlines and expectations as in the more academic fields. Artists ‘bumming off’ happens probably about as much as it does in any subject, perhaps less. These are usually people so passionate about their subject and art that they spend all the time they possibly can working on it. They have to learn early on to manage their own time, work to a tight budget (those student loans only go so far and art supplies are incredibly expensive), present their work to a large group of peers, take constructive criticism, project manage and keep records of practically every move they make (at least artistically) to then be dissected by tutors. They work independently and collaboratively and probably started being self employed long before they graduated. They design, communicate and market themselves at every turn. They work for clients, have been clients and have probably more experience in contracts because of this than many within academic subjects. The arts draws in a range of different people with a range of different interests and a range of different skills but an arts education definitely gives you the following:

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1. Effective communication and presentation skills (It’s not all visual you know)

Essays and dissertations are par of the course when you study anything at university level it seems. Just because we paint, draw, photograph or whatever, doesn’t mean we haven’t had to write thousands of words, compile a seemingly endless bibliography and create at least one academic piece of writing to wow our tutors. We can also use our words. Communication and presenting your work, pitching it even, on a regular basis is a large part of an arts education.

2. Facing and accepting constructive criticism.

I’ve mentioned it already but in the arts you are regularly expected to share your work with peers and tutors and face the criticisms that come your way. You are then expected to go away, reflect and react accordingly. Maybe this is similar in more academic subjects, it has been key in my MA, but what I have faced in that time will never compare with showing your art (some may say your soul) to others and hearing that it is “rubbish”, “brilliant”, “needs more work”, etc. This prepared me beyond belief for what I faced in the working world after education.

3. IT skills

Yes we live in the digital age and now it feels like everybody knows how to use computers and a range of programs extremely well. I will probably never have the computer skills that my eleven year old goddaughter will have but throughout my BA we were expected to learn so many computer skills that I find it hard to believe those in more academic subjects had to learn. Adobe Photoshop – check, InDesign – check, Illustrator – check, Dreamweaver – check, Microsoft Word – check, Excel – check, HTML – check … and that was whilst studying photography. My illustrator and video friends were skilled in using so many other programs I cannot tell you.

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4. Project management and teamwork

Have you funded, organised and run an exhibition of over 30 individuals who are all producing artworks of completely different size, media and let’s face it, with artists varying in levels of ego? Well this is all par of the course within the arts in the form of the ever-important final degree show and probably even before. More importantly these shows could be your big break so they have to be done to a professional standard befitting the audience you wish to be visiting. Though artists may be seen as insular creatures this is the time, if not before, when great teamwork comes into play. The whole show is dependent on the team working together effectively and regardless of any qualms.

5. Brand management and business management

You are defined by your brand and in the arts this could mean the difference between no work and no money to work and enough money to live on so nowadays you are trained in self-branding when studying the arts … whether you want to or not. Artists are all over social media, have often built their own website from scratch and are networking with the best of them. The same goes for business management. As an artist it is entirely possible you will be self employed down the line so yes, learning about taxes, contracts, copyright law and still managing to market yourself AND produce the works they’re being paid for. Can you say multi-tasking?!

6. Passion

Though not a skill, I think it’s worth pointing out that artists tend to be extremely passionate. If they are passionate about your company, your ethos or just the work that they are doing for you I think you have one very important factor covered. With passion comes loyalty, hard work and quite often a quality of work most befitting to the job in hand.

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7. Research

Art students don’t just have to produce a piece of work and that’s it. They have to back up their final works with research too. Research into techniques, artists with similar style or the general feel they wish to achieve through their own work, evidence of trial and error, the list can go on. In my case I once researched everything I could about electromagnetic cameras, including schematics, every failure I made in building one, all the various options for parts required, the history of such a concept, how they had been used in the past and the various ways in which they might be used by myself for my art. Research is a large part of any art, whether you consider it traditional research or not.

8. Professional development 

It seems to me that most artists are not comfortable with staying still; they are always experimenting, learning new skills and attempting to push further. This is a trait I would consider integral in any employee, no matter the industry, no matter the skill to be honest. Maybe i’m wrong overall but in the case of myself and those who I studied with I know this to be true. It was never enough to learn a skill and stick to that only, the real fun was in learning new skills, new systems, new ways to do things, whether it be coding, new software, new technologies, old technologies or even crafting artisan perfumes (I sometimes think I saw it all). This is something that has benefited me greatly in my working life and my personal life. I am endlessly curious about everything and learning whatever I can and I watch my university friends, now scattered across a range of industries and each of them has learned skills I doubt even they imagined they would go on to learn.