View Full Version : Art Degree? Individual classes good enough?

07 July 2003, 04:52 AM
S'happenin dudes?

I'm at a point in my life that I know what I want to do, and I want to learn. I figure as long as I'm excited about learning, then I've got the drive to return to college. Problem is, I'm suffering from sticker shock. I looked at the Art Institute of Portland and the programs that I'm interested in (right down to the courses) would cost me about $60,000 in tuition.

Thing is, though, as much as I'd love to have a degree, I'm quite happy taking some of the individual courses and saving a great deal of money. The problem is that I'm not very far down the research path to find out how useful that'll be.

So I wanted to present this problem to ya'all because I'm hoping to gain some perspective that'll be helpful in helping me figure out what I should do.

Whatcha think? Is the degree worth it, or would taking the individual classes at a comfortable rate be useful too? I'd save a heck of a lot of money that way, but I suppose with a degree (or bachelor) I could demand more money. I'm not sure that I'd make up the 60k tho...

Whatcha all think?

07 July 2003, 04:58 AM
I think most will tell you that for creative positions the portfolio weighs in the most.

Hopefully you could get a scholarship of some amount if you did decide to go for the degree.

07 July 2003, 05:19 AM
Yeah i've leanred that about portfolios. I think soon I'll have a pretty strong one. I think being employed isn't that strong of issue with me. Its just that I like to grow. That's what im strong at, picking up new techniques and using them to develop into stronger being. I think it's my aspiration that's kept me employed at the same place for 6 years even though I'm not college educated. (wellI have some college, but they want that piece of paper to prove it..)


07 July 2003, 05:43 AM
I don't put much stock into degrees. I've seen first hand they don't mean much(in this field). How many of the greatest artists in history had degrees? They're still considered great right? It's all about talent.

07 July 2003, 07:11 AM
Originally posted by Shade01
How many of the greatest artists in history had degrees? They're still considered great right? It's all about talent.

Don't know which time period you're referring to, but perhaps college degree did NOT exist even if they wanted to get a degree? :)

It's true that you don't need a college degree to be good at 3D. If all you want to do is modeling or lighting or (insert speciality here), then perhaps it won't make a difference.

But I can tell you that you become more well rounded as a result of going to college. An artist would probably have a difference sense about what art is after studying art history. Right now, it seems a lot of people know only about videogames and movies, but nothing about artists of the past, and it's a shame.

Perhaps you can just take courses in art history, I don't know.

But you did mention grow. If you want to grow not just in art, but as a person, going to art school and studying art to social science will make you well rounded. Unless you fail alll your college classes, but if you do the work and study and read, you WILL grow.

I don't know where you are, but college isn't THAT expensive,unless you go private. Even public funded state college has art degree program, some costs about the same as a copy of Maya Unlimited. Ultimately, I think if you really want it, you will get it. If you don't, then you won't.

07 July 2003, 07:21 AM
Actually, a great many of the greatest artists have had degrees. If you go far enough, though, the equivalent of a degree was undertaking formalized study under other great artists who had done the same thing.

I can't imagine anyone not taking much stock in a degree (aside from a number of LightWavers, it seems). This discussion has sprung up many times on these forums, and the consensus here seems to be that "talented" artists don't need education; that they can achieve greatness in a vacuum.

Seems pretty far-fetched to me that only talentless hacks are attending art schools and graduating, and that there are so many geniuses in the CG community who have intuitively mastered artistic techniques and concepts by doing Web tutorials and buying some technical books...

Nanogator, if you want to go to school, you don't need anyone's permission to do so. And I certainly wouldn't base making such a monumental decision like that on the opinions of anyone who's never earned a degree. That's just the blind leading the blind.

Education costs. But, aside from real estate, it's one of the best investments you will ever make. Period.

You don't have to go to the most expensive art school to get outstanding training, either. There are MANY good instructors at small colleges and universities.

07 July 2003, 08:46 AM
@Shade01: I understand what you're saying, but bear in mind that it's not that I don't feel I can be great without it. Rather, I want to grow. Talent's fine, but talent is also an accumulation of a number of disciplines. I didn't really start to blossom in 3D until I threw traditional art into the mix. Returning to college would give me more tools in my toolbox to grow with. That clear things up a bit?

@Vorlon: I think you're right about art history. It is a shame that it's not studied more. I've been studying up on cel animation and am surprised by how many of the lessons learned in making cartoons in the olden days have survived through today's masterpieces, like anything from Pixar for example.

@DigiLusionist: I'm not seeking permission, I'm seeking advice. I'm not asking "Should I go" or "should I get a degree", I'm asking if the difference betwen taking individual classes and going a step higher and getting that degree is big enough to shoot for the latter. I understand that the investments are good, but I'm wondering how good.

I'm gathering information here, not taking a poll and making a decision. Hehe.

That said, though, you do bring up a good point. I'm not just looking at the expensive art schools, I'm looking at the local community college too. My gf is doing a little research for me as well to gather up a mess of options.


Side question: Does "I took a bunch of related classes" look alright on a resume? Or is the negative of "why didn't you get a degree" become heavy? (Does it even show up as negative)

That's one thing I despise about the place I'm at now. They're a software company, not an art related studio. They seem to think that I'm a lower class of person who'll never go anywhere because I don't have a degree. Now I've never paid much attention to that because I know better. But some places are corporatized enough that I wonder. There was a time where ILM demanded at least a BA in art or computer science. (Doesn't seem to be true today...) Question is, if I had taken a good chunk of the courses, would that have sufficed assuming I had a decent demo?

I don't mean to blur things here. (Blame it on the meds I took!) I'm considering a bunch of different options and weighing the differences between them. I think the real reason I posted was not so much to get specific information, but to gain perspectives on things I hadn't considered yet.

You guys are helping me a lot and I greatly appreciate it.

P.S. Pls don't feel I dismissed anything anybody said. It's all being absorbed and processed. I just replied to the things that stuck out at me. I'm not shutting any doors here. :)

07 July 2003, 08:48 AM
There seems to be a stigma that you can only get educated in a school by a teacher. Education is an individual responsibility. Schools are a business and like any business, milage may vary.
A degree is only useful where its useful. If youve done your research and some place you want to get into likes to see degrees then by all means use it as a stepping stone.
Ive worked with people side by side on projects who did and didnt have them and I never noticed a particular advantage or disadvantage either way. If it helps sell you, great, if not, I wouldnt worry about it. The education itself is far more important then the degree. Education can and should happen anywhere at anytime. Do some research and find out how important it is to a potential employer and how important it is to you. In the end a degree wont help if your demo reel doesnt back it up. :)

07 July 2003, 09:14 AM
Well said, splineGod.

07 July 2003, 09:49 AM
@Nanogator, judging from what I've seen from you and where your skill level is at, I think you'd be better off using the money you'd spend going to college to support as much extra time as possible, and buy some books or online training courses or tapes and have a go at it on your own. I do have a degree in computer animation, but I learned more about animation while unemployed than I ever learned in school, becaue I had the time to experiment and learn all day everyday without being forced to spend time doing things I already know (gen ed courses, beginner classes, etc. I had two years college level fine art courses before getting my degree). You're beyond beginner, beyond english I and all the fluff you have to take to get the real meat of things.

Unless you crave face to face time, these forums are just as helpful as most teachers :)

07 July 2003, 02:36 PM
I went to the Art Institute of Philly 7 years ago, and I have a great job now making over 80k, but I could have done it without the school.

Everything I do at my job now(3d) I learned on my own. Sure, school got me into the professional mindset, but it wasn't worth the 25 grand plus another 18k in interest to get me going.

Raw talent rules. If you have that, you can get a job over some guy with a degree who has no god given talent. One great thing about our profession is that we have something tangible to show an employer...a demo reel, a portfolio, whatever. You lay that on the table, and if your work is prettier than the next guys (degree or not), you'll get the job.

Yes, in our field degrees are overrated. Get a book and lock yourself inside the house for year instead.


07 July 2003, 08:19 PM
Non-degreed, non-CG employed guy here, so take it for what it's worth.

If you are good, you will find a job and make good money. If you have a degree, it will open certain doors for you that would otherwise be closed. Some places it will matter, and some it won't. Here at the company I work for, the guy who wrote our original DOS based product that put us on the map, doesn't even have a high school diploma. This guy reprograms the chip in his Porche to get better performance. No one here would ever consider him dumb! Will he ever be promoted to Director or VP? Kinda doubt it, but he's still raking in the bucks doing what he likes.

I say take the classes you want and spend the other $30,000 on computers and software.

07 July 2003, 01:11 AM
I'd have to say I agree with both sides of the fence here.
However, I would say if you are able to go to school full time then it would be worth it. I'm not so sure about dropping $60k though...
I'll use myself as example. I'm married, have a house, bills, full time job +overtime (involves cg, & 3D Cad) and for me to sit through a BA degree in Art, that would take me 8 years going at night, no time for the family or friends or anything for that matter but sleep and eating and work...Some people will argue with me saying it's not that bad, I say prove it. Work 40-60hrs a week (that's actual time at work, don't forget breakfast, dinner, travel time, showers? you know personal hygenie is key:) ) take a few classes at night (Ok, you have to study, unless you're a genius and you have travel time to get too and from classes) And most importantly, "Sleep".
And what would I have after 8 yrs of that? A piece of paper that says I'm an artist.
I don't have degree in Art, but if you ask the guys at work it don't matter, I still get the cg jobs.
I think Larry nailed it when he said to research where/what you want to do. That will play an important factor.
I still wrestle with the idea of going back to school, but I ask myself Why? I get to sit at my desk and get paid to make pretty pictures...No piece of paper needed. I'm probably just lucky I guess.
I'm not sure if I added anything to the topic, if I made no sense, then I'm sorry. I just got to thinking and typing:)


07 July 2003, 03:50 AM
Theres always the personal fulfillment angle as well. Sometimes it just feels good to know your tools and craft better regardless of the money. :)

07 July 2003, 08:57 AM
Well, Nanogator, from what i saw of your work, i think your only problem is : have the piece of paper degree or not?

i think there is a difference from individual classes and complete degree ( if not, individual classes would not exist)
but the main important thing is that u have to use the possibility of going to a college or art institute, to learn better how to grow in your skills. from some good anatomical teacher u can better learn anatomy, wich is a vaste argument indeed. from an art history course you can learn about art and make your judjment skills on your and other people's work better and learn from the masters of art.
also having a 360 cultural point of view on al art arguments is good, because to be creative u have to understand that all can be used and reused for your work as inspiration.

a well taughted artist, have also a good general overview of what art is and of what he has to do to grow and grow his skills.
that's why generally TD have an art degree or other.

i think that a good company have to look to people's skills instead of watching if he has an art degree indeed, because at the end piece of paper are piece of paper and if u want to learn u can do also by yourself.but lets face reality. most companies do ask you for an art degree or smth like that. they believe saving time asking for this, and sometimes is like that.

so, if you want to grow, take classes, or better art degree, and join art knowledge to your natural great will learn alot, and some people will learn from yoiu as well
its the best way.:thumbsup:

07 July 2003, 06:18 PM
Wow, you've all given me a lot to think about. I've read through all of it, and I must say I really appreciate everybody's comments here.

I'm going to go back to college, and I'm going to take a course or two of interest to me. (Probably figure drawing and filmmaking) Sounds like as long as my interest is to grow then all should be good. :) Stuff the degree. Doesn't sound like I'm missing a whole lot.

I'm hearing what you guys are saying. I'll make sure that work on my demo reel etc keeps going. I just wanted to round myself out a bit more. I've done a lot of modelling but not enough animation or composition.

Thanks all!

Out of curiosity, has anybody taken that one special class that has made a world of difference in their abilities? If so, just curious what that class is. I picked figure drawing and filmmaking to help with my design work and to help make good choices when laying out an animation, but I'm open to ideas about other classes to put on the list.

07 July 2003, 06:40 PM
NanoGator, just got around to looking at the link to your alien. Awesome work! Yeah, don't waste your talent working towards a degree, you're smoking right now!

07 July 2003, 07:27 PM
Nanogator your work is excellent. My experience in this industry is that how much you make depends more on how well you can negociate yourself a good wage and where you live.
You could probably make much more in Los Angeles then in Oregon. Its supply and demand. I think your work is more then enough to get you hired down here and paid well. At the same time you can always take classes, there are places all over here that teach those courses. Lots have great contacts into studios and it just gets you in front of more people. :)

07 July 2003, 07:29 PM
Just my personal experience:
I have a degree, however, my college roommate and myself are self taught. The teachers really weren't that good and it was only until my fouth year that we actually started learning a 3D program ( then it was 3D Studio R4 ). We both knew the teachers were clueless, so we purchased the software ourselves and learned. So in a sense, I'm glad for the college experience, but was totally unneccesary just for a degree. I got my job because of the work that i showed. I don't even think during my interview that I was asked if I had graduated. Not saying this is how it is for all artists, but definitely something to keep in mind.

07 July 2003, 07:46 PM
You don't NEED a degree. However having one says a couple of things that might otherwise go unknown.

I can finish something I start
I can work with a team on some level
I have subjected myself to the rigors of formalized training and understand the strengths and drawbacks to such
I am poor (unless you get a full scholarship or folks pay your way)
I am at least vaguely versed in terms of a workflow

Given, these (at least most) are things that employers can learn with time, but a degree can tell them a few things about yourself just by being there.

Of course for 60k you could probably bribe your way into your first job a lot easier! ;-)

07 July 2003, 08:02 PM
Originally posted by NanoGator

I'm going to go back to college, and I'm going to take a course or two of interest to me. (Probably figure drawing and filmmaking) Sounds like as long as my interest is to grow then all should be good. :) Stuff the degree. Doesn't sound like I'm missing a whole lot.

drawing figure from real is really a great thing.
as a drawer, i understood a lot of things drawing figure from real. u can also sketch figure in movement wich is incredible fun!!
anatomy courses are also very good for 3D learning. u can study anatomy on books though, and apply your knowledge when drawing from real.

as a 3D skilled artist i think u only have to learn those things in relation to your interest : transfer them in 3D.

07 July 2003, 02:55 PM
Which specific value to you seek to gain by going to college? Knowledge -- or the document? These are both very distinct goals.

If knowledge is what you seek, you don't need to graduate, and college is but one possible source of it. I have a degree, but it's in electronics. I have no formal education whatsoever in art. My abilities (such as they are) are about 30% initial aptitude, and the other 70% comes from ad hoc research and from working with others with years of experience (your best source of knowledge by far, in any discipline).

As for being "well rounded", college can help with that in certain ways (see below) but not in all areas. College is a bubble in certain ways, especially politics and society; true well-roundedness is a do-it-yourself project.

The piece of paper part will become important, however, if you had plans to progress to any sort of management position -- art director, producer etc. Then, you start seeing CYA-style decisions made, and a degree is a "safe" attribute that makes it easier for someone to take a chance on you when it's their butt should you fail.

There is good reason for this, as management skills are of a different kind, and that's where the "well-roundedness" of college and the paper both become assets. Good companies also understand that the fallout from bad management is much more destructive than that from bad art, so they are more careful when looking for leads and directors.

07 July 2003, 07:25 PM
@Matt: Thank you. :) I'd like to broaden my skills a bit. In the last couple of years I've discovered the value of being able to draw and knowing how to tell a story. I want to elevate a few levels there and improve my capabilities. Eventually that'll translate into better salary and hopefully a more satisfying job. That's why the degree's interesting. The program I was looking at covered a huge chunk of that.

@Splinegod: Wow dude, I'm glad to hear that! I've been following your work for quite a while. Nice to hear that from somebody I respect. :)

Los Angeles (vicinity) is in my future. I'm anchored to Portland for a little while longer, then I'll relocate down there at some point in the next year or so. So, while I'm here, I'd liketa improve myself as much as possible. I do plan on joining the LW users group in LA at some point. hehe. ;)

@JohnD: I have similar experience with what you're talking about. However, I'm not talking about learning the app. If I could download a single skill like Neo did to learn Kung fu, it'd be to have much stronger drawing capabilities so I can design organic creatures. College could probably help with some of that.

@miguel446: Hehehe. I'm a little worried about that. If the market's so bad that they start measuring people for completing the 4 year program, then I'll be in trouble. I have to balance that in my decision, what will life be like 10 years from now?

@neomid: Well, you're sort of right about 3D artists needing to translate anatomy into 3D. However, I want to be a little broader than that. I'd like to storyboard an animation. I'd like to be able to draw really good gestures that the character has to match. I'd like to be able to design something with good anatomical design. I could probably squeak by without doing all that, but half of what I want here is for love of the game. Ya know?

@CourtJester: Funny, you told me some of the same stuff my boss (and good friend) just told me a few minutes ago.

Question: What about a degree in another field, like computer science, or something that's not even that directly related? Learn the art on my own, get a degree in something supplementary? Would that help with the management decisions problem you mentioned? (that was directed at Jester but I'd love to hear everybody's input.)

07 July 2003, 09:00 PM
i took the example of anatomical drawing, because it was more easy and related with current courses, but surely u will have a lot of fun drawing what u want and how u want , and also storyboarding.
drawing from real is a great and fun experience wich teach u alot about forms in 3D and make your drawing skills better.

also drawing lets you to storyboard and project your work so that u feel more confortable with the CG part of it.

doing only anatomical research and transfer it in 3D can be sterile.
but creating 3D stuff with a great drawing experience is a fun and powerful thing.

07 July 2003, 09:02 PM
I hear ya. :)

Doh, I typo'd your name Nemoid. I have no idea where "neomid' came from heheeh.

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