Being Artly – A guide to become the Artist you want

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan from Free Digital Images

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan from Free Digital Images

You want to study art, you like the concept, the creativeness, the idea of exploring with others, the notion of taking a journey through your mind and creating anew… you know your parents and some friends may be against it preferring you take a more common path, but nay, you are beckoned by the romance of paint, the structure of materials, the bohemian lifestyle etc and nothing will stop you.

In your pursuit of becoming “Artly’ or the artist you want to be, perhaps you want to make sure that what and who you are is loaded with integrity, humility, ability and energy, not just “passion” and an interest in being part of the art scene, thinking that the parties and “cavorting” with like minded people will somehow make you some fabulous artist, or the Muse of some fabulous Artist.

I can’t prove to you that doing any of these things will ensure you become a successful Artist, an A grade student or any other measure or Artistic success, but years of observing Exhibitions, Art Students, chatting to Gallery Directors and interviewing Artists in has given me some insights.

Take a look online and do your own research and find articles on Artists talking about what it takes to be a success and you will find a mixed bag of incredible advice and ideas on striding forward. Not all of the information and advice will you be able act on but learn well the ways of success to ensure you give yourself the best chance of moving towards your goal.

Let’s get started with a list of pointers.

Get busy – It’s one thing to have a creative idea, and another thing entirely to bring it to life, think then make, build your skills and abilities by doing things and making mistakes, learn how to handle the materials you want to work with, eventually the mistakes will become less, your ability to create things should improve.

Explore creativity – My experience has been that not a lot of Art teachers teach how to be creative, it can however be learnt. Make it a thing worth your learning so you don’t have to put up with creative blocks and can keep producing and exploring with little fuss.

Likers and haters – Social media will have probably taught you there are both, the same with art, some viewers will be haters due to jealousy, some will be lovers because they believe it is the thing to do, “Oh I love your work” is an ego boosting validation of what you do but that can be fairly hollow, friends and family who cannot articulate the details of why they love your work may have good intentions but may lack a deeper ability to tell you why, explore the ‘why’ question often.

Beware of the stereotype – At art school one of the Lecturers referred to Van Gough as the Artists Artist, selling little, seemingly driven by his art, lived a passionate life etc. take a look at the art people you come across is it really  necessary to have purple hair, radical makeup, wild ideas and party like a demon to make you an artist? of course not… nor do you need to struggle and give up on living normally (making money etc) to find the roots to your creative endeavours. I figure there is a time for being eccentric and a time for not being eccentric (which may or may not include purple hair…)

Keep going – People can give up when things get tough, people lose sight of their goals, people do all manner of things when the ‘chips are down’. Persistence helps, goal setting may help, working through rather than giving up may lead to fresh insights and may lead to more positive productive outcomes. One of my Art Teachers used to say “It’s the plodders that get by” so plod, and put one foot in front of the other.

Try stuff – Just because you choose to paint does not mean you can’t make sculptures or any other form of art. the same with styles, give things a go, I figure it’s all about exploring, reinventing, testing and pushing boundaries. Try new things, if you are a realist, try abstract, try collage, try drawing, who says we have to have a ‘body of work’ that is consistent and shows progression. This may again be part of the stereotype that could be holding a lot of people back.

Ask – There are heaps of people who are more than willing to assist you, ask for information. Artists, Gallery Directors, other Students, Teachers, Art Store staff, Framing businesses, and the list goes on. I have had people contact Artists I have interviewed on this site directly and have a chat about details of their work and I don’t know of any of the artists who have knocked back the chance to have a chat. You can learn a lot from engaging with all these people and more. The amount of brilliant knowledge out there is immense, the more you ask the more you can learn. Keep asking, keep searching. Finding out what will make you the sort of Artist you want to be comes from exploring and chatting to learn more, do more and be more.

Become an overnight sensation – If you know anyone who has become an ‘overnight sensation’, look hard,  you will soon find they were probably a hard worker, chugging away in the background for many years before they were discovered or made a breakthrough that put them on the world’s stage as an overnight sensation. If they look sensational and young they probably started out earlier than you.

There is crap you have to deal with – Creating Artist statements that people may not read, rejection from Galleries, rejection from grant applications, rejection from those who may love you dearly, things you try that don’t work, sitting in a gallery and watching how many people don’t turn up. This list could get endless, but know that crap happens and you have to deal with it. Breathe in breathe out and repeat, get tough and move on, if the crap starts to define you it may lead to difficulties later on.

That’s my list, like it… let me know by adding a comment, don’t like it… do the same! 🙂

Regards, Steve Gray

The Notion of Art

At times I struggle to come to terms with art, what it is or perhaps what it is not.

In the first sense there are so many genres of art to consider from people who ‘dabble’ in paint and pastel on the weekend to those who conceptualize and possibly create, to all sorts in between.marilyn1

Perhaps there is something fundamental about the whole notion of art that we fail to teach people about how to explore the genres and respect each for what it does for the person and its possible wider cultural context. From technical execution to conceptual creation and validation, which is ‘right’ is probably not a suitable response from an ethical perspective and showing respect for the person’s input and creation of an artwork.

What makes something what it is, is perhaps more a question for philosophers, the perception of reality, the notion of meaning, the use of the sum total of our experiences, values and beliefs for how people formulate their responses to questions about objects which may or may not have cultural significance.

Is that a measure of art, it’s cultural significance? Perhaps that’s too open, too broad. Perhaps there is another quality to measure art by that has nothing to do with culture. I am left to wonder if there is anything non cultural. Take a standard definition of culture, “patterns of behaviour” as a basic guideline, now try and explore the notion of no pattern. In our existentialist world all we do can be linked to some form of pattern.

Did I just create the answer to my question? Therefore perhaps everything is of cultural significance, but to what degree it is significant is another thing.

Did I just open up the concept that all things are therefore valid but the depth of validity will depend on the viewer and how they process the information provided based on their values, beliefs and experiences? Possibly.

In looking at what has been explored here I guess we can start to ponder how people get to learn what they learn and push boundaries around the value of that learning.

Have you learnt about art through some cultural dialogue, have you learnt enough to cause you to be respectful of others positions on art and what they may create? Have you learnt to conceptually process information and come to some notion of right or wrong about something not being art?


Gallery Dreaming

I was a little surprised at the gallery staff for not acknowledging me as I walked in and out of their Galleries in the USA. A far cry from being acknowledged MOST times while doing the same thing in Australian galleries, I think it’s good customer service..

At first I through it was rude, and then I considered they might have always been this way and we just do things different ‘down-under’ then my thoughts turned to economic reality. If they have been doing it tough due to the global financial meltdown then they probably would be focussing on the top level investors, rather than the possibility of a walk in retail sale or in my case a walk in viewer only.

I have heard the galleries there have got ‘serious’ about the way things happen, if you want to purchase a piece from a high end gallery you had better make sure you are ‘worthy’ of having the piece, it’s no longer enough to be able to afford it but you need to show you are going to add value to the mix. Somehow you need to show you are a Visual Arts zealot, willing and able to promote Visual Art, Not going to JUST hang the piece on the wall at home or in an office where the general public never gets to see or appreciate the works.

With so much high level thinking and posturing about the guardianship/ownership of Art works, it’s no wonder the galleries showed little acknowledgement of my presence. In fact I should be pleased they let me in at all, perhaps they will one day develop a scanning device which will only let in those who meet exacting standards of “Artistic merit”.

Art Galleries (esp. commercial spaces) have long fascinated me with their various approaches to showcasing art, how they select and or reject Artists, how they support and nurture them. So to see the USA approach should not have surprised me so much as caused me to realise Art Galleries are still fascinating places to observe and connect with.

Your Guide to Understanding and Working in Visual Arts

Here have a fabulous resource in Kindle format book, download it to your computer and read it on your favourite Kindle reading device. All yours for Just $4.95!

Your Guide to Understanding and Working in Visual Arts

If you get some value from it, drop me a line in the comments section.

Note this is Version two of the book after exhaustive work by a number of Students at RMIT in Melbourne, Peter Biram their Teacher and yours truly, taking on board their comments and thoughts. Many thanks guys.


If you enjoy reading some of the artilcies in my blog on professional practice then this succinct guide will allow you to discover more ways to make your Art work for you. When  you want to develop and or discover art career strategies and more, here is a great place to start.

Why Do You Do It? (Make Art That Is)

Why do you do it (make art that is)

There are many reasons for making art, so what one or two fit for you?

Whatever your reason/s do  you do it for the right reasons or other?

Dear Art Student

You are probably about to start your studies for this year and are wondering what will be in store for you.

Perhaps you are just starting out in secondary school at maybe Yr11, your folks said yes to you doing Visual Art because you have taken on a bunch of highly academic subjects and this will be a welcome break from all that.

Perhaps you have done Yr 11 and you liked Visual Art for some reason and want to do more, something seems to be compelling you to carry on. Your folks are still happy(ish) for  you to have this as a break from other studies… Your Father wants you to go into accounting or some such, your Mother just wants you to be happy no matter what (sweet aren’t they).

The Art Teacher says at the parent teacher interview you should do Art because you are good at it… maybe it’s the first time you have heard that and it feels nice.

Perhaps you have completed Yr 12 and are looking at what courses to do. Your Mum’s words of ‘being happy’ seems to suit you more than some career choice your Father has in mind. Besides, the Art Teacher said you were good at it and the word career seems so, well, final, and long term.

“I want to do art Mum” (words which will may haunt you forever) – Your mum goes into bat for you, your Father tells you he loves you and with gritted teeth he says “whatever makes you happy” followed with “I just hope it’s the right decision” (the guilt starts early but now you start to notice it’s cruel bite).

Now with excitement and a dose of trepidation you stumble forward, the course is signed up, you spend the summer break telling your friends, you get a little arty in the way you dress and wear you hair, it’s all part of it right? Mind you any thought of drawing, taking photos or any visit to an Art Gallery seems like some form of imposition.

Then things get underway, you don’t realise it yet but the teachers talking at you may have had exhibitions (possibly quite a number of them), they have probably struggled to make any decent cash from the sale of their work, and they may suggest that “It’s art for art sake” and their argument then seems to get clouded in various forms of justification for the arts some of which may proclaim it as a lifestyle.

It’s all heroic, you, them, their stance on Art, learning about cultural things your circle of family and friends may never seem to grasp (philistines!)

Paint on canvas, clay in kilns, metal beaten into submission, computer graphics that defy logic and a bunch of theory work you just want to sleep through (the arty parties can do that to you)

Before you know it the study is finished, the folio is bulging (or not) and there you are standing all alone, as if on the edge of a massive cliff. The wind howling about you ready to push you off at the slightest misstep. Then words from the seemingly not too distant past echo in your mind ‘I just hope it’s the right decision’ and ‘Just be happy’.

There you stand pondering what next. Will I make it as an Artist, will I get that magical ‘creative position’, or will I be resigned to a life of working in an Arty Shop, or some other form of job you so willingly describe as slavery, which you could have done all those years before with or without a ‘qualification’.

Life unfolds before you, time fleetingly drags you into the unknown with a clear disdain for any dream you may have. In a stupor of positive energy you grab a list of Galleries to go visit. You tuck your wares under your arm and fall headlong into the misery of trying to get galleries to take you on board.

It’s then that you realise you know so much, yet so little about the whole “Visual Art thing” and that your qualification only stands as a reminder of a small part of your ongoing education and connectedness to art. It’s then you realise the hard bitter battle you have started and may not win (ever). It’s then that you realise your heart is an object to be trampled on and kicked aside by others who take a deep breath and say “Oh, here we go again, another ex art student… sigh.”

You also realise this journey is more than a qualification, more than a piece of paper with your name and a stamp of approval. No, you are just beginning to realise the world owes you no favours but gives you endless opportunities to explore, make statements, hold a flame of truth aloft and forge forward with hope and a rickety confidence stemming from who knows where.

Your journey has begun, travel well young person. Learn much and learn often, give everything your best and hold your head high. This thing we call Art is a beast to be reckoned with, which can test every fibre of your being and in exchange it MAY give you great gifts, but don’t hold your breath, if fact you might do well to give up now, walk away from the alluring beast, stand aside and let it pass by. Pay it no disrespect as it does pass, and you will live a life less tortured free from the shackles of it’s malevolence.

However if you do let it pass by will you ever know the ecstasy which can come from the angst ridden beast? Will  you ever know if you are the next Picasso or Rembrandt? Will you ever know if this thing which started out with your Art Teacher telling your parents ‘you are good at Art’ can give you an enhanced spirit, a sense of belonging, an edge in making sense of this crazy crazy world.

Go forth in this bizarre world and make your mark, but do so guided by more than just a throw away subjective line about your skills, or your retaliation against your Fathers advice and guilt throwing. Go forth in the world with wonderment and joy, explore deeply and rigorously and let all that it presents fill you with ecstasy. Then and only then, will you be able to hold true to your ideals of Visual Art, creative life and all it has to offer.

What do you want from art?

As a Student, or Artist, whichever position you are in, stop and have a think for a bit. What do you want from Visual Art.. and perhaps why do you want it.

Lets explore a little. Oh and feel free to give me feedback via the comments as I think this is a hot topic to think about.



Note at the Artist’s level the wants can be different to the student’s but there is a solid overlap.

Would working on these points assist or hinder the people involved? or would it provide a springboard for further discussion, development etc…

Let us know what you think!

How do artists know…

These and I guess many other questions float in the heads of Artists, I know some of these do in mine. Is it good to have so many doubts floating, so many queries bubbling, so much angst, annoyance and pain. Well I guess it sorts out the ‘wheat from the chaff’ as they say and in the end if you have created works which may have significance to you then others will see the genuine you in the works. Those close to you who know the process will (hopefully) appreciate the ‘struggle’ and the life journey Artists are on and be supportive. 🙂

I have long been an advocate for Art Students (and Artists for that matter) doing lots of work and focusing more on quantity than quality (to a degree and depending on what medium they are working in etc.) so they can work fast through issues and not get bogged down in the ‘is it ok’ scenario.

Recently I have been working on a big bunch of paintings and have now accumulated over 40 works in a few months, each one put aside and not looked at as the catalyst for a new work bubbles to the surface and off I go. That one is put away and I move on again, and again.

At one point I counted them up and started to take photographs… nah too hard. Ideally they would be hung and photographed in situ to make the whole thing easier. It’s a ‘catch 22’ how do I show people without the photo’s (the old days of dragging works from gallery to gallery is surely over…)

So as you can see readers my questions posed at the start are a solid part of my reality and if I am not careful I would end up ‘looping’ (not loopy! Well not yet anyway…) this is a process where your brain ways “Yeah go for  it, make art” while a short time later “I can’t do this… it’s not valid” and then “Yeah go for it!” and so the cycle continues.

Welcome to the Visual Artists lot in life, a struggle of immense proportions at times.

What if they…

If I was a teacher of senior students, and those in Uni courses etc. I would love it if students came and asked questions, lots of them! Or even if they chatted more to explore Visual Art activities.

I think other teachers would be the same… it would clearly show they have an interest in the subject and wanted to know more.

So how do you (as a Teacher) go about getting students to ask more questions? Chances are you will have a bunch of methods to use or perhaps only a few. Consider trying these on for size.

I figure it’s a great routine to get into, so people can more naturally explore areas of interest and look at ways of being more engaging, articulate and generally more interesting..

What is art?

This art stuff… What is it anyway?

Don’t you love it when people ask, and you decide to show them, you take them to a gallery and end up with a sore head. Or if you are a student and you think you have it all figured out, think again. Visual Art is many things to many people and I figured I would weigh in with some starting points to consider, so next time someone quizzes you about what art is… throw this at them!

Visual Art may be…

Art seems to be more about a person making objects as part of an ongoing process than it is about creating things of beauty, it will certainly challenge us and as a part of our cultural fabric it becomes a device which can lead us into fresh territory to explore the real and abstract in ways we may feel unsure about.

Don’t expect Art to soothe your soul, it may in fact disrupt your soul, interrupt your rational thinking and aggravate you to no end.

Perhaps “Art” is therefore more about moving or adjusting people intellectually and or emotionally more than it is about notions of Aesthetic sensibility…

Lets combine what art is with some of the benefits or features it may provide.

Visual Art –

Combine this information with this article, and you might just develop a solid starting point to appreciating what this ‘art thing’ explores.

There, now  you know what art is! 🙂

Consider taking this list with you to an art gallery and inviting the good staff there to indicate which of these descriptors best fit to the works on display… you might cause a stir, now wouldn’t that be fun! 🙂 Perhaps you could become a conceptual artist in the process, who would know?

Visual Art and Community Connectedness

Visual Art plays an interesting role in the community and if you ask practically any Artist they will probably agree, yet to the wider community you may have a challenge on your hands trying to convince them of that. The challenge is multi-fold, getting enough people involved and engaged in exploring it (viewers) and enough Artists to create and exhibit to the wider community, then follow that with selling the benefits to the sponsors and supporters of these sorts of initiatives.

Community based art initiatives show up in some interesting places. Pop up galleries, public murals (and graffiti), online galleries, through to organizations engaging the wider community by supporting Art activities in the community where there are a hundred and one ways  the community can get connected to Contemporary Visual Art.

Be it a school offering to connect Visual Artists with their students (Artist in Residence programs) or in a shorter term burst (an exhibition in the school by Contemporary Visual Artists from the wider community). Or community festivals where Contemporary Visual Artists have the opportunity to connect with the community

Perhaps it’s a series of community therapy sessions for communities which have been through massive group trauma (bush-fires or floods). Or even a simple exhibition as part of a fete or another community event.

Whatever the community connection, the aim is to cause some level of communication to take place, perhaps to instil a notion of community pride, an acknowledgement of the role Contemporary Visual Arts can play or a cultural connection at a personal or group level.

All of this is fine as a concept, but the task then becomes to figure out ways to make that communication effective and find ways to connect in ways which will be of value to both parties, the Artists and the wider community.

How then do Contemporary Visual Artists communicate their visions, their concepts and ideas to an audience which may be indifferent to having objects presented to them which can confront or at the least tackle their own ideas of what’s suitable to look at and make sense of.

I often think there are people to blame (perhaps Art Teachers) for not providing students with suitable knowledge to go forth in the community and appreciate what they see (if even to a small degree.) However I could say the same of high level Science and Maths as just a minor starting point examples.

Should we therefore stop connecting to the wider community even though we have excuses to do so? Should we stop creating Contemporary Visual Art for the community because ‘they might not understand’?

Perhaps the answer lies in seeing youngsters in an Art Gallery being given a cultural ‘shot in the arm’ by well meaning parents. The child’s wonderment and eager viewing through innocent eyes should be the catalyst by which we start measuring the value of things, and having the opportunity to explore that which is visually intriguing and getting fresh views on the world as we know it.

Perhaps the answer lies in Art being for Art sake and the Artists playing Hermit and hiding away, buried in a maze of self consciousness and avoiding connecting in any way.

Whatever the answer I hope the notion of connectedness to the wider community becomes a topic of exploration, so you can test constantly explore the value of Contemporary Visual Art and push it’s meaning/s (or not) due to the community being given wider exposure than might normally be the case.

Visual Art holds a place (although sometimes tenuous) in the psyche of a culturally aware community. I believe we should look to any opportunity to see it, meet with it, tackle whatever it might be it is aiming to communicate (or not) and take in its cultural significance so we as individuals and as a nation can sense some level of connection to Contemporary Visual Arts and what it has to offer.

Community Connections – Cultural Diversions

Visual Arts is a cultural endeavour people either seem to either love or loathe and that can be an interesting conundrum when it comes to community wide cultural development.

Visual Art can be a therapeutic device to assist in a healing process, as a way of communicating and exploring personal and wider cultural concepts. Therefore it can play a strategic role in connecting individuals, organisations and groups to the cultural fabric of the community.

There are possibly a few challenges to overcome for it to stand out as a ‘device’ the community can readily take on.

On so many levels the community can benefit from Visual Art as it can allow connections and exploration to take place. But the challenge seems to be making the wider community aware of its value.

To appreciate the wider benefits of Visual Art this link can give us a range of starting points to take into account.

How do we cause people to appreciate and value Contemporary Visual Art and investigate it as a viable device to connect and explore with?

These are starting points to getting the ball rolling, but surely there are many more? Are there any resources you know of you can recommend? Please add them by making a few notes in the comments.

Gippsland Artists get publicity, can you?

Here’s just SOME of the results of a community getting behind it’s Visual Artists.


How do they get this level of publicity? it’s really quite simple and you could do it too.

Firstly an Artist stands up to get counted. What do I mean… Well to start with, Kerrie Warren, (mentioned in the link above) is not a ‘shrinking violet’, she will actively seek out opportunities and grasp them with both hands. She is active in her community in the arts administration side of things, and has been on various committees. Over time she has become the go to person when the local councils cultural section wants advice, or needs to shine a light on an Artist.

As time goes on this sort of effort can start to rub off, when it does, other people say ‘hey I can do that too!’ Another example is Peter Biram who works in the Gippsland region teaching Visual Arts… He gets himself in and on the media as often as possible, appearing in newspaper articles and not just about himself, often it’s promoting the work of his students. He is also in his local communities cultural group and is instrumental in raising peoples awareness about Visual Art and it’s role/value in the wider community.

Over time the media come to know these Artists and others as the ‘go to people’ and they get great media coverage. Just take a look at their websites and you will see what I mean, lots of links to media articles from TV news grabs to newspaper articles. (do a search for the Archibald prize and Peter Biram).

Then take a look at Gippsland Artists, their website lists a big bunch of active Visual Artists in the region, and this is moved along by the likes of Peter and Kerrie. Others get inspired by the coverage they get and before long a snowball effect starts to build.

Take a look about and see what media coverage you can get, and think about ways to explore the incredible promotional opportunities which are freely available to Visual Artists who care to go the next step and seek out opportunities, the more you look, the more you will find.

Fascinated with Visual Art?

Have you ever been to a big museum and watched children looking at art?

Some are keen to move on, others giggle at the ‘rude bits’ and some just seem to become totally engrossed. For me it was somewhere in between, I got a splinter in my foot because I took off my new shoes to slide about on the polished floor, thankfully mum had a pair of tweezers buried deep in her hand bag.


Wandering about in the gallery I had two opposing forces to contend with. My Fathers Engineering perspective was one of logic and sensibility, Mum on the other hand was a bit more open to things.

I saw a few rude bits, a ripped canvas (It was meant to be that way) and was in awe of the stained glass ceiling in one space, perhaps more to the point I marvelled at people lying on their backs in public! Then there seemed to be an endless array of old and seemingly dusty Art and Artefacts.

It would be many years before I took a strong liking to Visual Arts and visit that gallery again, but the memory of that wintry Saturday afternoon will last a long time.

There is a great sense of satisfaction watching people discover objects in a painting, being asked to look for more ‘things’ and think about who, how,why,what and where. Especially the young with their innocent minds and fresh approaches.

What drew you to being involved in Visual Arts? Was it a memory of a gallery or museum visit? Was it because someone significant to you was an Artist?

The Responsibility To Help Others Find Art

If you believe Visual Art is important then perhaps there is a way you can assist others to appreciate it too.

Maybe you are new the the Art scene and are still finding your way, or perhaps a seasoned Museum and gallery visitor. Whatever the situation there is still something in all Visual Art zealots which causes them to appreciate the benefits of exploring Visual Arts. If you can somehow pass this on to others by exposing them to the rich cultural resources available in many books and galleries, then you may well have given someone a seed of love for all things creative and or cultural.

I’m not too sure if showing art to others is a highly responsible thing or simply something to strongly consider. Either way, sharing the bounty you find, can open minds and allow others to find out for themselves if Art is a thing they might want to know more about.

Dear Teacher…

I sense there is an unease, a challenge, a difficulty but I am not overly sure if it’s just me or others are noticing it too.

It was always an issue when I taught and as a student… Art Theory.


Any time the Art Teacher came up with information which had to be written in Art Class the students TURNED OFF. then magically switched on again when the prac work was back in action.

So how then do educators give both the prac side and the “theory/history” side a workout in a way which suits the audience (I’m thinking secondary students mainly but leading on from there too).

Lets take a look at what happens.

Is there a better way, are Teachers doing more than JUST handing out info for students to struggle with the writing side of things? Are we causing students to be deeply engaged in learning, in Visual Art… or are we merely ‘going through the motions’ rather than searching for excellence.

Lately I have come across ‘game mechanics’ this is the science (and art) of engaging players in computer games and the various ways the developers use to get people in, to get them “addicted” to the game. (I was addicted to Pac Man as a late teen). Ibeleive it offers GREAT insights into ways we can develop things to be more engaging, to be more in depth, to provide information which students will find far more engaging in the long run.

I’m interested in what can be done to ensure students time in Art class is useful, informative, ‘fun’, engaging and generally of value. I would love to see things which were perhaps more short sharp shocks of info they can get their teeth into and move on from there.

Perhaps instead of a big sheet of ho hum text there could be small Art Cards, picture on one side, info on the other which they have to write about. What about short sharp tid-bits of info on Artists interesting factoids which get students thinking and wanting to explore further.

If you are thinking about handing out a sheet which will take a lesson or two to complete, then I HOPE you will think twice and explore a fresh approach.

Do you have ideas? Have you seen better approaches… Share in the comments below!

Some benefits of studying art


If you are heading into the study of Visual Art, at secondary school, TAFE, University or some other course of learning then you may find the following list of value. For secondary students if your folks are giving  you grief about taking on an art subject or course, print the list and nail it to their foreheads with a nail gun, if they don’t get why you want to do Visual Art by then, move house! (okay that’s a joke but think about it as an image, neat huh…)

Teachers feel free to use this list anytime someone in “authority” decides to cut your budget, give you grief about art being non essential etc… or use it to show parents the value of art and why their child should make it a subject worthy of their learning and not throw clay etc…

“Studying Visual Art, can…”

  • Be a creative outlet from more academic subjects you may choose.
  • Build further knowledge of Visual Art and Art techniques.
  • Allow you to express yourself creatively.
  • Put emphasis on the value of content, which helps students understand “quality” as a key value.
  • Build problem-solving skills.
  • Make us think and see in a way that everyday reality cannot.
  • Put you in touch with your soul.
  • Put us in touch with other customs, heritage, society and civilisations.
  • Be therapeutic.
  • Convey knowledge, meaning, and skills not learned through the study of other subjects
  • Boost your confidence and self esteem.
  • Boost literacy skills.
  • Help you to describe things in detail and explore the use of words to better describe things.
  • Flex your “brain muscle!”
  • Give you a sense of accomplishment.
  • Give you, Critical thinking; Problem solving; Teamwork; Informed perception; Tolerating ambiguity; and Appreciating different cultures.
  • Develop fine motor skills.
  • Cultivate the whole person.
  • Add to your emotional intelligence.
  • Help you to make sense of the world.
  • Give you higher level thinking skills.
  • Prepare us to handle a challenging world.
  • Develop collaborative and teamwork skills, technological competencies, flexible thinking, and an appreciation for diversity.
  • Enhance self discipline.
  • Develop intuition, reasoning, imagination, and dexterity into unique forms of expression and communication.
  • Develop a sensitive, and intelligent participation in society.
  • Build thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and critical judgment.
  • Nourish creativity.
  • Assist us to appreciate and understand ourselves better.
  • Be a significant catalyst for community development support for cultural institutions, and economic health.
  • Add to our aesthetic literacy.
  • Give us access to greater understanding of a universal language.
  • Encourage high achievement.
  • Encourage a suppleness of mind, toleration for ambiguity, a taste for nuance, and the ability to make trade-offs among alternative courses of action.
  • Assist us to be more comfortable using many different symbol systems (verbal, mathematical, visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
  • Assist us to understand and appreciate others.
  • Teach us about materials and processes.
  • Assist us to integrate knowledge and “think outside the square.”
  • Lead to a range of creative career options.
  • Engage and develop human intellectual ability…
  • Assist us to explore challenges and test out ideas.
  • Add to our cultural depth.

Art education is vital for today’s world including the ability to allocate resources; to work successfully with others; to find, analyze, and communicate information; to operate increasingly complex systems of seemingly unrelated parts; and, finally, to use technology.

Learning is an action process, and the arts allow students to take action, to do things, to make mistakes, to explore and search for answers. No other educational medium offers the same kind of opportunity.

Art can provide an unparalleled opportunity to teach higher-level basics, which are increasingly critical, not only for today’s work force, but also tomorrow’s…

The quality of civilization can be measured by the breadth of symbols used. We need words, music, dance and the visual arts to give expression to the profound urgings of the human spirit.

Now more than ever, all people need to see clearly, hear acutely and feel sensitively through the arts. These languages are no longer simply desirable but are essential if we are to convey adequately our deepest feelings, and survive with civility and joy.

Ernest L. Boyer,

Thats the list and a few notions to explore… I hope that helps!

Leading professor and Chair of the Faculty at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, James Catterall has an insightful book “Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art: A 12-Year Longitudinal Study of Arts Education—Effects on the Achievements and Values of Young Adults (2009).”

Catterall’s study, addresses the questions “Do the arts matter?” “Just how?” and “For whom?” Focusing on more than 12,000 students from diverse backgrounds, the study’s findings demonstrate, intensive involvement in the arts by students during middle and high school is positively associated with higher levels of achievement in school and college attainment.

But if you still get grief for exploring Visual Art then hand the harasser this career option list… and remind them that studying subjects like psychology, sport, high level maths, physics and the like does not mean a job in those areas, but they are also part of building a range of life skills of value in a range of jobs and career options.


Some possible career options…

  • Graphic designer.
  • Multi media designer.
  • Photographer.
  • Artist.
  • Craftsperson.
  • Furniture designer.
  • Gallery Director.
  • Gallery Assistant.
  • Illustrator.
  • Interior Designer.
  • Printer.
  • Screen Printer.
  • Architect.
  • Art Therapist.
  • Cartoonist.
  • Animator.
  • Museum Technician.
  • Hairdresser.
  • Set and props designer/constructor
    for theatre, films or TV.
  • Sign Writer.
  • Web page Designer.
  • Costume Designer.
  • Art Teacher.
  • Industrial Designer.
  • Fashion Designer.

P.S. it didn’t take too long to do an internet search on the benefits of studying art to build my lists from… think of them as starting points to do some of our own research and see what else you can find.

Matrix concept

Coming to terms with the wide array of works and styles in the art world is a challenge at times, this “matrix” MAY provide some useful starting points for us to explore with. Where do you “fit” as an Artist? Using the comments facility at the end of the post, feel free to add information I can use to improve this.

Note it is intended to provide a guide to appreciating various “categories” of art in the market place rather than a device to indicate if a style “better than another”. Perhaps it’s “best” use may be for a beginning investor or collector wanting to appreciate what they are looking at and if it may have a possibility of increasing in value due to critical and or peer review.


This “matrix” has been through several versions starting at No: 7 (the previous 6 were for my eyes only and took a while to gain a format which I felt worked for a wider public audience.) this one is currently version 9.1.


Analytical Frameworks

I have just been introduced to the Visual Art Analytical Frameworks which is a device utilised to analyse artworks for students studying Visual Art at VCE (Australia) levels. This framework device looks at four areas to analyse works buy and it can offer readers of the matrix another way of exploring artworks, I would like to think the two could be utilised together to enable a faster understanding and greater depth of analysis could happen.

1. The Formal Framework – Visual analysis – Technique – Style – Symbolism and metaphor.

2. The Personal Framework – Reflects the artists life – Links to other aspects which may relate to the artists life.

3. The Cultural Framework – The influences of time and place – Connections to contexts and cultural purposes.

4. The Contemporary Framework – Exploring contemporary issues.

If you were to follow these frameworks for analysing artworks I guess it would be possible to negate various aspects of hobby and simple decorative work and find yourself wanting more from an art piece when you realise there is more to be had than just the formal framework. A viewer could do well to use these four points in discussing works with artists and soon be able to asses the merit or otherwise of the artist and their works.

I would love to hear from students, artists and general readers about the four points listed, the matrix and or the whole lot! (check out the comments section at the bottom of the page, its a simple link.)

Copyright © Steve Gray 2011+

More Engaging Art?

An artist might have to find more effective ways of engaging the viewer in order to be more effective in the marketplace. Here Artist Phil Hansen has found a way to do just that. The technique, simply video and a viral approach, the CNN article gives an insight into how it came about.

Personally I like the idea of being able to connect more with the viewer and even get more viewers as others spread the word…

Consider ways Artists could do this with integrity, so they are noticed but not “sell out”.

The three sources of subject matter?

There are just three sources of subject matter in art;

Come to think of it I see this list as a bit deceiving, really I think it should read “Three devices the artist can call upon to explore subject matter.”

The initial statement I came across on a search of “Artistic Inspiration” and this popped up in the middle of a spiel on children’s art… I feel sure it’s not the first place it has been seen.

So this then raises a point, am I too pedantic, to quibbley about words… or are they right?

Sources for subject matter I feel would be more akin to  – still life – landscape – figures, I could be wrong, perhaps there are others.

The thinking here is to get you thinking, therefore exploring, and it is this area the arts can cause you to work in quite effectively.

Teachers, use the above as a brainstorm starter then explore from there and see what comes up.

Students, do a bit of informal research and find out if there are other sources of subject matter.

The Visual Art students dilema

With over 200 students graduating from Visual Art schools each year in Australia alone, it raises a question or three, why so many, what do they do, and how should they go about it.

Visual Arts education in Australia takes a number of forms from senior secondary levels (Yr 11 – 12) to TAFE Certificate courses and Diplomas, to Degree and Post Graduate studies at University level.

From here the students graduate out into the “real art world” to do what? To make art, to teach art, to be a part of the arts community. Either way they are aiming to find their niche in the art world and get on nwith doing it. However there are challenges to getting on with it as we are about to find.

Seemingly many graduate with indifferent knowledge about what’s involved to be an artist, an art teacher or any number of other art related roles in the wider community. Professional practice information seems to be scattered, some get the information in depth, others get some, while others appear to get nothing. (I am basing this on my own observations and discussions with Students, Artists and Visual Art teachers.)

Anecdotal evidence points to a five year “burn out” period post study, meaning many simply give up on what was once a dream of some kind to have a career connected with the Visual Arts. Sure many people change careers and some suggest many of us will change careers 4 – 6 times in our lives. However are these arts people changing due to a shift in interest in the arts, an ambivalence to the art world, a disinterestedness created by a lack of understanding of the art world or perhaps a combination of them all.

I guess it ‘s hard to tell but to bring this to a head lets try and nut out some of the reasons people get involved in Visual Arts and take a course of study, formal or otherwise.

There’s probably more categories but for now this list shall suffice, giving us a starting point to work from. Note that each category has their own intentions regarding career outcomes. While all may start out with noble intent the outcome can become different to the initial intention they had. Some may find a change in their intended study is required as their needs alter (from formal to informal or the other way around), some may find no real career prospects at the end of the study period exist, while others may be disillusioned by the “state of the arts” on having done their study.

In an ideal world the level of research done by a student prior to engaging in a course would be greater, in more detail and provide them with greater clarity of direction. However many seem to do only anecdotal research, a brief chat with secondary teachers or career advisors. A brief chat with lecturers and staff at TAFE and university open days. It can even come down to mature age students wanting to pursue a mid life career change, or a lifestyle change, wanting to explore their inner creativity in the hope it may shed some light or meaning on their lives.

The way forward for a career in the arts should be a carefully considered one, to ensure your chances of achieving what you set out to achieve are feasibile, that what you want is doable, and provides an effective level of reward at the end of the process.

The dilema for the Visual Art student should not be one of “which way do I go”, but more of, “Here is the direction is it worth getting on with it?”