A few nights ago, April and I were reading the most recent issue of American Artist magazine. On pages 58-59, we came across a section that resonated with both of us in our respective creative fields. Article by Daniel Grant on the work of Ben Aronson:
Although he was diligent about producing his own art on the side, Aronson had a hard time marketing his work. Galleries initially weren't interested and many university art departments turned him down for teaching positions. Traditional skills and traditional subjects were becoming more the exception than the rule at a growing number of art schools, replaced by an emphasis on theory and new media. "I think I was passed over because what I brought to the table was, in many cases, an indictment of what those schools' programs were about," Aronson observes.
"There were a lot of cutting-edge art happening, and students didn't want to hear that it was going to take years to learn how to draw. I hear aspiring painters say, 'I'm beginning where Matisse left off,' and I often suggest to them, 'Maybe you'd do well to begin where Matisse began.' There are fundamental things that don't change with style and time. I think it's important to rephrase the timeless and universal objectives of art using your own voice and style. You find students who went through an art-school experience that was more like recess -- and perhaps had a wonderful time but didn't really learn anything -- coming out of those programs with huge student loans and not even the basic training to take illustration jobs to help them pay back those loans. It has done a lot of art students a tremendous disservice."
I'm fortunate that in college I took a variety of writing classes. I learned technical writing, journalistic writing, and creative writing. I took classes in modern grammar and linguistics. I read the ELEMENTS OF STYLE (Strunk and White) and ON WRITING WELL (Zinsser) as if it were holy scripture. I had professors go line by line, terrorizing my work with a red pen. My department head told me I was taking too many writing classes. (He wanted me to add more literature to my degree plan.) When I started writing comics, I pursued it with the same care. The ghosts of my English professors scrutinized every script. It's not necessary to have a college degree to be a writer, but it still may take years to learn how to write. There are fundamentals, timeless and universal objectives. If you are going to dedicate your life to writing, then it should require a lifetime of work.
I'm certainly not where I want to be, still searching for my voice and continually in awe of other writers.