Thursday, April 30, 2009

Self Taught Artist

Now, those are fightin’ words. When a, well, self-taught artist says those words, it is said with pride. When those taught artists say it, it doesn’t come out so nice.

But, that’s what I am. A self-taught artist. I’m not even sure the word taught is the word I’m looking for. Perhaps I should call myself a self-learned artist. A self-made artist? Well, since I’ve not yet “made” it, that would not be the correct word.

I have a degree from the Virginia Polytechnic and State University (Virginia Tech) in Urban Affairs. The program has since been renamed something more appropriate. I guess the old name sounded too much like Sex in the City. Anyway, my degree is not in art.

It is doubtful I will receive a degree in art. I know – never say never. But I can say “highly unlikely.” Yes, I do live half a block from one of the country’s larger institutions of higher learning (Penn State). But, it ain’t free. And it ain’t fast. (You can see I need some assistance in grammar). I do have a desire to take a week-long art workshop, but the cost for that is prohibitive right now, so I do feel that art school is out.

Can someone practice art without a degree? Well, there are people who can cook without an education. There are those who do it professionally without a culinary degree. I understand that one needs a medical degree to practice medicine. I could kill someone if I practice medicine without a degree. But is my art gonna kill anyone? Highly unlikely.

So why do us self-taught (learned) artists receive such scorn? Yes, I admit I have less understanding of art and probably cannot create to the best of my ability without a degree. So? I remember attending a neighborhood party 3 or 4 years ago and discussing art with a local artist (with a degree). She did not know I was one of those without a degree. She did, however, let me know what she though of practicing art without a degree. Much later in the discussion, she asked where I received my art degree. I downed my wine and told her. Then I put myself miserably to bed.

I like my art better than hers. I like most art better than hers. Uh, but that’s beside the point.

I still find it hard to get past that conversation. Sometimes, when I’m practicing art without a degree, I feel as if I’m violating a law, doing something unethical, something that will make hair grow on my palms.

So, can’t we just all get along?

Are there any unlicensed artists out there to back me up?


Dale Anne said...

I will back you up Kim!
I also would LOVE to go to University for an Art degree - maybe in my next life.

paula said...

you know, the other day a well to do woman was 'bragging' about her son getting into some highfalutin school for his masters(?) or whatever the highest high degree is in art. i thought what a waste of time and money. how bout get your ass out there and make some damn art.

you can't teach creativity. you can teach can teach history (but you can learn that stuff from books and mentors). I never understood the value put on a paid-for education, i know...doctors, lawyers etc.. it but it is possible in less anal countries to learn from someone without all the huppala and years/money spent let alone killing someones' soul in the process.

i know...plenty of people go to college and its the best time of their lives...and they do this and that. having a degree in art is like having 10 fingers and 10 toes. its what you do with those digits that matter, not what you adorn them with. now i sound nuts....
in otherwords...i got your back and then some.

paula said...

you could always call yourself an autodidact artist :)

Lynda Lehmann said...

My goodness, she must have been a bit shallow and insecure, and tremendously lacking in insight, to imply either directly or implicitly, that her art had more worth than yours, through your lack of an art degree.

Where I live, and in my own thinking, I/we judge art on its own terms and merit. Formal education may enhance some of our skills or techniques, but in no way does it MAKE the artist!

Being an artist is something that comes from within. It can't be taught!

I went to Penn State for art education. And I have a degree in fine arts from Hofstra. But as far as I'm concerned, I didn't become an artist until I started making art A LOT, five years ago.

Kim Carroll said...

You are a wonderful Artist!!! I wish I had time to take classes, but do not feel that having a degree is needed to be a great artist.

Wiggy said...


You do not need a degree in art to be considered an artist! My goodness do not let anyone ever make you feel like you are not a true artist. I myself have felt like I am not an artist, even though I do have my little degree in comercial art, and I have not pursued my passion like I should have been doing. Now with a bit of help I am seeing in a whole new way.

Also Kim, the job that I have at this time requires me to do things that I do not have a degree in. And yes I do at times have others look down at me as though I am not as good as they. But hea I love my work and I am loving that I am finding my way back to my art.

Marty Mason said...

It's because I do not have a degree in art that I give myself the freedom to learn all I can. And, oh what fun I'm having in the process.

I love your creativity. DO NOT be intimidated by the little people.

Kim Hambric said...

Wow, thanks so much for your comments. This has made my day (week and month). It makes me happy that a group of such creative women have taken time from their day to be so supportive of me. I'm looking forward to going into the studio this morning.

jason said...

All artists are self taught I think.
And I here am one too! :)

Elizabeth Parsons said...

I am an artist when I say I am an artist.

Art degrees help I think, but they don't make the artist. An art educaiton is the jumping off point.

I know artists who have art degrees who are amazing and I know artists who have art degrees who are terrible - and the same for artists with out an art degree.

It's the body of work that is the tell all, not the degree.

Jean Baardsen said...

I'm an artist, and it was years before I was able to say those words. I don't have an art degree either. I taught myself machine quilting and thread painting through practice when I make my art quilts. I did learn to paint in a class. Also learned Photoshop in a class, but have taught myself so much more since then. It's the doing - making the art - that teaches us.

I think your quilts are beautiful! I'm at your blog for the first time and read through several of your posts. I also watched the video on your studio. :o) I find I work much better when the things I'm not currently working on are put away. You'll probably find that a big help too. I periodically give away about half of my fabric stash.... I look forward to seeing the "finished" product when you do another video.

Cloth, Paper, Scissors and Quilting Arts Magazine are my two absolutely top favorite magazines!

Nellie's Needles said...

Yes, I too am an artist who has no degree. It's those who paid money to get one that seem to the most insecure about those of us have otherwise found our way to getting "there".

ArtPropelled said...

I took an art course many moons ago and I will never forget the art instructor (who had many art degrees) saying to me .."Don't be in too much of a hurry to get an art can lose your personal style and become one of many clones".

andrea said...

Hi Kim. I am a "taught" artist who learned everything I know of value outside the classroom, so I totally ignore the educational aspect of it. It's not that important in the end.