Art School Online – A Viable Alternative?

I remember the correspondence art schools of the dark ages before Al Gore invented the Internet, thereby making it possible for you to “attend” art school online. There would be an ad in a magazine with a professionally done pencil drawing and the question: “Can you draw this?” – as though it were some sort of entrance exam where the better you did the better your chances of being “accepted” to enroll in Famous Artists School. I shamefully admit that I totally fell for it, never bothering to figure out that if I really could draw that well, I probably didn’t need their art school.

It worked much like art schools online work now, except slower, because you had to use the Postal Service and then wait for a response from a “famous” artist you had likely never heard of who had no trouble dismantling your work with surgical precision and a callous critique to match. It was, looking back, a shameless way to make money in art without really trying. It’s a wonder I didn’t give up the pursuit entirely.

Now, of course, you can receive the same sort of impersonal callous treatment at a much faster pace with the added bonus of EMF exposure. Other than that, not much has really changed. Art schools online are just as happy to separate you from your money as the old correspondence school versions were. I suppose for a really driven reclusive neurotic agoraphobic with a need for some sort of creative expression and sense of self-improvement, this sort of approach might work well.

However, after I dusted myself off, picked myself up and forged ahead anyway, I found that I learned a lot more from personal contact with not just the instructor, but my classmates. In fact, I rather enjoyed watching the different personalities either blend or clash with each other. Clashes were much more interesting and in an odd sort of way inspirational. I did some of my best work under my most stringent instructor. Had the same man been my online tutor, however, I think I would probably have been reduced to tears much of the time and given up.

As it was, I figured out by watching other classmates screw up and get thrown out of his class, (which he had no problem doing,) how to communicate with him in a way that would not invoke his ire. Basically, all I had to do was shut up and nod my head in agreement with anything he said. It makes the man sound like a tyrant – and sometimes he was – but his critiques were always dead on and when I followed them always resulted in improvement. The man knew what he was doing and only became abusive if a student dared to challenge his assessment.

Call me crazy, but I’d rather put up with a temperamental art instructor in person than be filleted without the benefit of at least getting to know who the person is that’s doing the carving. Art school online impresses me as a modern day version of mail order diploma mills. If you just want a piece of paper and don’t have an interest in people per se, then I suppose it’s a viable alternative. Personally, I’d rather reap the benefits of sharing real life enthusiasm and energy for the art I love.