Artist, Illustrator & Tutor

Does Formal Training Make A Better Artist?

August 17, 2013

Does formal training make you a better artist? I ask this question because there is a huge divide. Great modern day artists like Scottish born Jack Vettriano are denied exhibition space by the UK’s leading galleries such at the Tate, because the artist has had no formal training, yet these galleries display paintings (admittedly older) by Vincent Van Gogh who also had no formal training, but is historically popular. Will Vettriano have to wait another 70 years or more before his work becomes recognised as ‘art’? 

In asking this question to you, I am merely asking you to reflect on what makes an artist good. What do you look for when in a gallery or if you are choosing a piece of art to hang on your wall? Is it the degree or letters after the artist’s name that appeals to you, or is it simply because you like their style or use of colour and so on?

Formal training may make an artist understand theory better and maybe understand the ideas behind techniques and open their eyes to other mediums, but does there have to be something there, a creative intuition, an innate skill already in that person to make it work? Could anyone be a best-selling artist from just doing a degree in fine art? Or can an untrained artist produce work that surpasses someone that has a degree in fine art and only a little talent?

Informal workshops, like I teach may not give you a qualification in art, but it will teach you new ideas, pass on techniques as old as art itself and also in the wider sense, heighten your appreciation of the world around you, make you see things in a different way and broaden your understanding of art and the history of art. This is the way many of the Masters were taught: an artist passing his knowledge on to a trainee as it were. It is my belief that anyone can learn to paint or draw. They may not be the next da Vinci but they will certainly be able to improve their skills and have a good basic level of understanding of art. And certainly, to improve you need to be taught and shown, but any training is beneficial. I do not believe however, that an artist with a degree is any better than a self-taught artist. It is the finished product that makes the difference.


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November 6, 2011