Fine Arts Education

The apprenticeship system has always worked in the arts with a student learning from a practicing master artist. The idea of masses of students in an institution learning how to be artists is a modern invention. Institutional fine art education has produced some notable artists, like Andy Warhol, but the question is still worth asking: do all these degrees really help the contemporary art world? And what are the alternatives to a fine arts degree?

There are so many things missing from fine arts degrees that are expected of contemporary artists: business skills, media management public speaking, to name a few. Many contemporary artists are working in areas that could be described as sociology or with digital media that art school studies seem to be a deficit to their education. There are many notable artists without an institutional fine arts education, for example most artists prior to the 20th Century.

What about getting a broad education before specializing? I received most of my education for free, taxpayer funded (and now look what I’m doing with it giving it back for free in this blog) but that’s another story. The idea of paying for a fine arts degree, along with all the materials and other expenses is no longer economically or socially viable.

A studio-based education is still possible for artists. I’ve meet one young artist, Joseph Flynn at Blender Studios who is avoiding art school. It is not that Joseph Flynn dislikes education; he has an interest in many things from science to the humanities. Doyle, who runs Blender Studios, describes Flynn as an “apprentice”. Flynn has“created my own personal Uni as a conceptual artwork entitled ‘University of Joe’“complete with his own rectified sweatshirt. Flynn lists his mentors as: Lewis Miller, Adrian Doyle, Regan Tamanui, Tim Sterling and Joel Gailer. I asked Joseph Flynn how his self-education had developed and he emailed me this reply.

Joseph Flynn, "Come Together", pencil & ink on paper, 2009

Joseph Flynn, "Come Together", pencil & ink on paper, 2009

“When I finished school I moved straight to Melbourne from Perth at the end of 06 and rejected the idea of being molded to the teachers ideas and ideals of art and set out on my own course of learning about art and it’s relationship to the real world outside of an institutionalized arena. My next step was getting a studio and I found one, in the heart of St Kilda. And at that same time 1998 Archibald winner Lewis Miller moved in and became my friend and mentor, I went on the learn the ropes of painting. I then moved out of that space and to somewhere down the road all the while keeping in touch with Lewis and borrowing many art texts and books. After a while paying rent became an issue so I moved my studio into the largest room in the house I live, which then became too depressing and conflicting with home life. So I set out to find a new studio and came across the Blender. At that time I was 19, but very ambitious. Doyle wasn’t going to accept me at first, but later decided to on the basis that he knew I was a true artist and also quite nagging. It’s almost been a year now that I’ve been at Blender and it is the current location for the ‘University of Joe’.”

So before enrolling for a fine arts degree consider the alternatives.


About Mark Holsworth

Writer and artist Mark Holsworth is the author of two books, The Picasso Ransom and Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

8 responses to “Fine Arts Education

  • Joseph Flynn

    Largely Self Taught.

  • Joel Gailer

    good to see you again mark!

    and well done jo!

  • Institutionalized artist

    No notable artists with institutional fine arts education prior to the 20th Century?
    Check the list at the bottom of this page:
    And that is just for one school in England.

  • Mark Holsworth

    Thank you “institutionalize artist” for the correction. I was too absolute; I have now altered the article to read “most artists prior to the 20th Century”.

  • Mark Flynn

    Hi, I’m Joes dad,
    I’m currently writting from a beautiful beach in Thailand, where I am on holiday; or more exactly, getting away from the heat in Udon, where I am farming rice and other stuff. Gotta cool down before the big rains come.

    Joey emailed me this referance to sort of let me know what he was doing, he is a man of few words.
    Well I am proud to say…..” Joe, you don’t need to get a haircut and a new job anymore”…..just keep on son and all the best to you….OK!
    Joey, your just as crazy as I am, and I love you for it!

    There are many things that I have learned in my life, but no lesson more important than ” if you want something you just gotta go out and get it, because if you rely on other people to give it to you, it’s gonna be a feckup”

    Joe is doing what he needs to do; that is to follow the beat of his own personal drum.
    It’s a funny thing but I forgot to tell him this before he left home, looks like he guessed it right anyway.

    I hope you read this comment Joe,
    From DAD with love.

  • Doyle

    Joe is one of the hardest workers at the Blender and he might Fuk around but he is very serious about his art. He is a great investment. And, although we give him a hard time down at the Blender. His education and hard work make him an important part of the Blender family…. He will be a great artist if he keeps working so hard….

  • Thursday Research « Black Mark

    […] – “Animal Spirit” Flynn’s art has changed since I first wrote about him (see my post: Fine Arts Education). There is an animal spirit in the exhibition; the paintings are punk and raw with paint mixing […]

  • Micro-Reviews of this Week « Black Mark

    […] One Three only opened this year and is run by Joe Flynn; I first wrote Joseph Flynn’s too-cool-for-art-school attitude in a blog post back in 2009. Gallery One Three is a one-room art gallery downstairs from a fashion […]

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