What I wish I knew before going to an art school by Nicoleta Croitoru

Studying within the artistic field of study at a higher education level can be very intimidating. It appears different from the “traditional” studies that have been advertised to you since childhood; which can cause you to feel apprehensive, especially when you’re just starting out. In secondary school, I focused my studies on the sciences, and then went on to study product and industrial design with no previous experience. With this in mind, here are some morsels of advice I wish I knew before enrolling in art school.

  • Your peers are sources of inspiration

Art and design schools can feel competitive. Above all, don’t think of others as competitors. Instead of trying to knock each other down, consider their work as an inspiration. The more you assist one another, the further you will go together. Even if you are doing the same task, the results will vary. Exchange knowledge and learn from each other’s successes and failures. Give to receive in general.

Central Saint Martins (UAL) Graduation Show 2022
Central Saint Martins (UAL) Graduation Show 2022
  • Don’t take criticism personally

“Crits” are an opportunity to get public feedback while also gathering ideas and looking at works objectively. They may be scary because your work may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but they are necessary for you to grow as an artist.

Don’t forget to show your work to people other than your peers. People who know nothing about art sometimes have the most to say.

  • Step outside of your comfort zone

You’ll be working on projects that make no sense. To be honest, you might feel like you’re not learning anything. It is, however, critical to cultivate your own artistic culture and to broaden your horizons beyond what you naturally enjoy doing. Getting out of your comfort zone is essential for progress once again.

  • Have your essentials

Obviously, you will always need to purchase new items as new projects pop up, but you should always invest in a few essentials. You don’t need a long list of materials to get through your years of study, but you do want to prioritise quality over quantity.

A good sketchbook, sticky notes, graphite pencils and line pens are my essentials as a product design student for taking notes and putting ideas on paper. Adding some colours with a light touch of colour pencils can then make your drawings stand out, depending on the results you want to achieve.

Product design sketches with Derwent Line Makers
Product design sketches with Derwent Line Makers
  • Build your network early

Do not wait until graduation to apply for jobs. There are numerous opportunities for students, and you would have a head start. Graduate school, regardless of field of study, is the best time to set up a professional network. Your classmates will also become professionals, and thus potential future colleagues. It is time to establish connections and stay in touch with not only fellow students but also your tutors.

  • Don’t stop being creative outside of your academic assignments

Never stop making art for yourself. Even if you’ve decided to study a subject you’ve always had an interest in, you shouldn’t stop creating, or else it will become a chore and may even dishearten you and discourage you from pursuing it as a career. So, keep drawing, modelling, painting, or whatever it was that drew you to the arts in the first place. Explore other mediums and as well! Discovery is so important for your growth as both a person and a creative, learn new techniques to build your foundations more, and see how you can incorporate them in your practice.

Chromaflow in the park
Chromaflow in the park

Thank you to Nicoleta Croitoru for sharing her top tips with us! You can view more of her work on Instagram.

You can shop the Derwent Back to School sale here.

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