Saturday 18 September 2010

To study or not to study that was the question

I have been following another interesting discussion on Linkedin. The question posed was: ‘Do you need university to be creative’? This is a subject close to my heart at present as I have been wondering whether to apply for an MFA (Master in Fine Art) course at a university in England.

Actually I found the wording of the question rather confusing, after all creativity is surely inherent in an individual to a greater or lesser degree, although it may be that teaching draws it out or develops what is already there. However in spite of my personal nit-picking on this score, it is a question that has attracted a significant number of responses from the group on Linkedin.

I have never been to art college. Apart from a two year period when I was partner in a painting studio and gallery on Long Island, I originally followed a totally different career path in order to earn a living, only recently taking a leap of faith and starting to work full time as an artist just six years ago. Before doing so I was awarded a grant and had an excellent mentor and I have successfully exhibited and sold my work in respected galleries.  As a result of working at it virtually every day, I can see that the work has improved, but I regularly question where I am going with it all and find that I have no real idea how I am going to expand my horizons or bring more depth into what I do. Like many others,  the more I work at it the greater my need to search for validity and self-expression.

So my question is not “Do you need university to be creative” but, as a mature student: Do you need university to understand how to grow as an artist? Or: if you have already found your artistic ‘voice’ does life experience do the same job as university? Is it possible to expand those horizons on your own or do you need to learn how to do it? A university course can break down the creativity the artist already has in order to search for something deeper and whilst this would be a very useful process there is always the danger that it could be a destructive one. Each time you create a piece of art you expose a little of your soul and you certainly put your ego on the line so finding a path back from such an experience could be difficult for some.

I have two months to decide before I put in the application and it makes for an interesting debate.  There is no doubt that a degree opens more doors and a piece of paper with the words MFA after your name is potentially very useful, but I am not sure that real success in this particular field of endeavour has much to do with academic qualification.

In the meantime I am ‘playing’ in the studio, working on images I draw from my imagination rather than those that I adapt from sketches or photographs….a process far harder than simply re-creating what is in front of me. I'll keep you posted! Oh and by the way, thanks to everyone who joins in with their own thoughts on these blogs of mine. Whilst they are only coming out around once a month, they are often the result of a significant amount of soul searching and thought, so your input is really appreciated.


  1. Ms.Taylor your work is brilliant and honor to share your name on my blog:

  2. Einstein once said that its the process of formal education that sucks the life out of creativity, well, I was paraphrasing a bit. But, you get the idea. While I do believe that formal education is necessary in todays economy, surely my most creative moments come from associations with those I care about and trust.