Why I dropped out of art school

Claire is a first year English and Philosophy student interested in all modes of communicating and expressing thought. Outside of her degree she experiments with a range of creative arts, and loves exploring the intersections and boundaries between them. Though she often works in Fine and Visual Arts, her main passion is writing, which you can find on her blog at filletofemme.wordpress.com.

The most art school thing you can do is drop out of art school. And that is just what I did last year. I went to Loughborough university to study an Art Foundation Course for all of three weeks.

I’d always planned to do an English degree in pursuit of becoming a writer, but one day when someone turned to me and said, ‘why don’t you study Art?’ I had a lightbulb moment which spun me into paralysing indecision.

In year thirteen I wrote a personal statement for English and filled out an entire UCAS application before panicking and withdrawing it the day before the deadline. After drawing up pros and cons lists, obsessively searching for online advice, and attending the open days of over twenty universities, I opted for low-commitment and decided to do a free Art Foundation course for one year, to try it out.

What this gave me was a fairly quick realisation that Art was the wrong choice. Though the foundation was broader and more basic than a degree would have been, what I didn’t like about the course was fundamental to the study of Art. Everything I love about creativity; expressing ideas and opinions, communicating, and managing a project, was secondary to the visual focus. Though I do consider myself creative, I am not a visual artist. Experimenting with mixing colours, learning about composition, and refining the practices of drawing were not conceptual enough for me, and I longed to study something that was based on ideas, theory, and language, instead.

A further debate to mention is whether creative students should study creative degrees or study the theory of a creative discipline. What I personally noticed, through being creative but not in a visual way, is that the standard practical options are almost entirely in the visual arts. Though creative writing degrees and drama degrees exist, the advice I was given was to take them post-graduate, after first studying an arts or humanities degree. Though Art History is, of course, a traditional and well-recognised subject, it felt like its practical counterpart (Fine Art) didn’t lag as far behind it as with the literary arts. Therefore, if you are a creative student in a non-visual way – a writer, film-maker, actor/tress – it narrows the options from art school versus university down a bit.

I always resented people who told me I could just do Art ‘on the side’ of a more ‘academic’ degree. I still believe that a degree in the creative arts has many practical and transferrable uses; it facilitates not only practical skills, but hones creative thinking and project management. I still think those who love and wish to pursue a particular art form have every sense to study it. I also don’t mean to sound too much like a degree snob, and do believe that most postgraduates are judged more by personal merit than choice of subject.

I have, however, begun to wonder if some of those people were right, for me, at least. Though it is possible to get a degree in the creative arts, it is also possible to do another degree and pursue extra-curricular creative things. Particularly at St. Andrews, it is so easy to get involved in all areas of the creative arts, and in a world where many more people are taking undergraduate and then post-graduate degrees, I feel more confident that I can study a theory-based course as an undergraduate and always go into something creative later. Though this is not the ideal path for everyone, as someone indecisive, it suits me.

I like to hope that by choosing first to study a theory-based degree, I am informing my art. Though the skills still need to be practiced, I feel that a broader knowledge in social and historical issues, which most humanities degrees allow, or in the history of art itself, will be a good basis for later creative pursuits.

Words by Claire Fogarty.

Images from Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay.