I Started my Own Art School

If you’ve followed me for awhile, you may have read a few times that I always wanted to be an artist but I didn’t go to school for art. My background started in it though. I loved drawing and writing my own comic books when I was a kid. It was fun. I also wrote poems and even wrote my autobiography when I was in my thirties. I wanted to major in Art in school but mom didn’t think that an art degree would open many doors for employment.

So because of her direction, I studied business and computers. Not a bad idea because I picked up typing and actually very good at it. I still type today 30+ years later. And of course computer skills are now a necessity! “Thanks MOM!” But, I still had a longing for art and having a career in the creative industry. My path did take me to graphic and web design and I do that for my day job today. The longing I had was to make with my own hands. Cardmaking definitely answers that calling. However, because I don’t have an art degree, I felt I was at an disadvantage. And because I run a card Shop, it’s really… really important to me that I like what I design and that my customers will keep purchasing from me.

There’s a bunch of lessons that having an art degree translates over to crafting, here’s just a few:

  • Understanding color (the color wheel)
  • Composition
  • Point of interest
  • Ability to draw or sketch
  • Painting

A great thing about living in the information age is we can study from home online and even earn a degree. As I was doing research about what path to take and what I wanted my outcome to be: get a 4-year art degree?, just take a few classes?, specialize in a particular area? I labored over these questions for awhile and finally decided that I didn’t want to study Art as a whole, but wanted to hone in on paper crafting and particularly, cardmaking. I wanted to take classes to improve my coloring skills, study color theory, pick up some drawing techniques and learn how to best use my supplies and tools to make better cards. But, I noticed that there wasn’t really a curriculum that fit my desires. So, what do you do when you can’t find what you want? You create your own!

I Started my Own Art School

I also knew that I didn’t want a stringent class schedule. I wanted to study at my own pace and that fit my time because I could only do this at night and only one night a week.

So, how did I come up with my own curriculum?

After I identified the areas I wanted to major in, I wrote all it down in a book, here’s the short version:

  1. Classroom time (watch video tutorials on YouTube or Facebook, attend free and/or low cost online cardmaking classes, learn color theory, watch promos on craft supplies and tools for making all kinds of cards)
  2. Assignment work (practice ink blending with dyes, pigment inks and alcohols, Copics coloring, watercolor with paints, markers, color pencils, powders, drawing/sketching ideas, playing with composition, art journaling, using pattern papers and specialty cardstock and using various tools and supplies like perfect pearls, embossing powders, shimmer pens and markers)
  3. Share my work online (I love Instagram for this, because I’m part of a very healthy and encouraging community where we encourage and build each other up and we can ask advice and get positive feedback). It was important to me to be part of a good group of cardmakers who lift up and support each other in the industry and not compete against one another. There’s also forums for many online art classes where I can share cards, ask questions and get feedback.

My classroom time is spent watching video tutorials on techniques that I want to learn and practice. And, I follow a short list of Ytubers who mainly do cardmaking and incorporate watercolor, alcohol ink coloring into their cards. I’m not strict on how many hours to watch videos, I just watch a few and then practice which is my assignment work. I use TimeEdition software for my time tracking and at the end of each month, I compile a report which tallies all my hours and that’s how I hold myself accountable. Also, I chose Monday nights at 8 PM for my Art School. On an average, I spend 2 to 3 hours and some weeks 4 to 5 hours.

Other reasons I chose to write my own curriculum are:

  • I can gauge my own progress. I didn’t want an instructor grading my work with Pass or Fail. Art, to me, is subjective so while I know there’s certain rules to follow for cohesiveness, there are rules that can be broken too. Especially if there’s a specific look I’m going for. And by grading myself, I’ll be able see improvement because my artwork will show it and I can continue to master the techniques I’ve learned.
  • I want to have fun. If I feel like I’m in school, then it’s not fun for me, it’s work. I got into crafting to address nervous anxiety and to enjoy creating.
  • I can choose my own assignments that are relevant. Many times in school, we took classes that had nothing to do with our major or that we would never use in real life. However, we had no choice since we needed those credits to graduate. Well because I only want to work on the areas that I know I will use in my cardmaking and, since I’m not looking at official accreditation, certificates and diplomas aren’t important.
  • I can be as creative as I like. Freedom is great thing! The ability to create how I want is very attractive to me. I can go as far as I like and I’m only held back by my own imagination. I can grow as much as I want and find my own voice/design style.

    A sad example of this was years ago when I worked a corporate job, I remember wanting to learn graphic design, but of course I didn’t have that art degree. I worked in the Sales & Marketing department and the company was changing their name and logo. They asked our department to submit some design ideas on paper with the new name and logo and the executives were going to vote on which design they would go with. I drew up some of my own sketches and asked my boss to submit them. She said, “you’re not being paid to design, let the designers in our department do that.” I was crushed. Who would know if my design idea wouldn’t have been chosen? But because my boss slapped my hands, I wasn’t able to participate. I learned a valuable lesson that day. No one would hold me back again and I spent my evenings attending night school that I paid for in graphic design and became one without a 4-year degree.

In conclusion, it took me a few months I think to come up with my own art school curriculum/schedule, but I was satisfied after I got it all down on paper. I’ve been attending my Art School now for a couple of months and already have seen improvements in my artwork and in my cards. It’s fun and something I look forward to every Monday! I’ve always struggled with Mondays but not anymore!

My Advice

If you’re like me and you don’t have a degree or professional schooling in an industry but you want to learn it, go for it! If you can’t find the right curriculum, decide on what you want and the direction you want to go. If you want a degree, that’s fine, do your homework and find the right school that fits your needs. If you need accountability, you may want to work with an instructor. Nothing is wrong with that. We are all different and we have to find the right path for our own destiny.

Thanks for reading!