Skip Navigation

Why Didn't I Go to Art School?

October 25, 2010 at 11:32 am

Hello, dear readers!

I've noticed something about my blog.  There's so much going on in my life right now that it's been really hard for me to get anything down here.  So usually I just dump some photos on and hope I can come up with something clever enough to be worth posting.  Well, today, I'll try to say something a bit more interesting.

I love art.  I would like it if I could draw all day long.  I would like to draw comics, draw people, illustrate stories, design t-shirts, design logos.  I can't imagine majoring in anything besides studio art.

I hate papers.  I would like it if I never had to write another paper again.  I'm not going to write papers for a living, so why should I practice those skills?

Sometimes I think I should be going to an art school.  After all, that's what I'm going to be doing with my life, right?

And yet, what have been the most interesting moments in my time at Carleton?  Well, the times when classes intersect with issues that are really relevant to my life.  A lot of art classes focus on building technical skills.  You could make stuff that's meaningful to you, or you could just make a pretty picture.   Granted, Andy Warhol thinks "If something's beautiful, it's pretty colors, that's all", but I don't agree with that anyways.  So in actuality, the most interesting things I've done in classes have involved *shudder* papers.

For example, in Sound Studies, a class I took last spring, I did this crazy sound composition in response to the writer, artist, madman, Antonin Artaud.  I started my project much averse to him for his awkward obsessions and violently anti-Christian writing.  And yet, as I studied him, I grew to understand and sympathize with his bizarre philosophy.  In a way, I agreed with what he was saying, but not with where that led him.  Writing all this up in a paper was a strange but great experience (and I went way beyond the suggested page limit).

In my intro American Studies class, The Immigrant Experience, I wrote a really interesting paper that attempted to destigmatize the term "assimilation".  Actually, the paper ended up kind of crappy because I was really sick while writing it and I had all these poorly nuanced statements and spelling errors.  But the idea and reasoning behind it was really interesting, particularly because I am what some might call an assimilated person.  That is, my ancestors are from Japan, but I don't participate in most Japanese cultural practices or attitudes.  And sometimes American society can be really bipolar and self-contradictory about issues like culture.  For instance, many people tend to think that immigrants' culture should be preserved, yet the educational and social structures arguably reward those who assimilate.

I'm going to eat these words later, I know... I have a paper due later this week.  But, once this is all past me, I'll look back and be glad that I was forced to do those things that I really really hate doing. Honestly, I would be bored if I was only taking art classes.  The other classes help me figure out who I am, and what I want to say, and that's a big part of what art is about.

In conclusion, read this article about high school English paper metaphors



P.S. did you read the article?  It's really funny.  You won't regret it.

P.P.S. comment on my posts!  The last several comments have been spambots, which is sad!


  • October 25 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Hi Jon! I'm not a spambot. At least I hope I'm not a spambot. I like this post, like when you like something on Facebook and click on the "like" button. But really, it's cool that you've reflected about going to a liberal arts school instead of just an art school, and that you take such interest in your classes. I think any prospective students reading your blog would definitely get a good view of what it means to really take interest in academics, and what kind of stuff they could do at Carleton. Like in your Sound Studies class, we've been reading some pretty strange stuff here, some of which is fairly disagreeable, but all of which is very interesting when you get around to thinking about it. Prime examples being Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright trying to redesign human society. Anyways I'm not exactly sure how but my procrastination led me to your blog. It's around midnight here, and I have a little bit of work that I should probably be doing, so I'll get back to that. Hope all is going well with you, things are going excellently here in Madrid. - Adam

  • October 25 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Great analysis of what it means to be an artist...

  • October 26 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Wonderful post! This seems to really get at the heart of the question, "Why the liberal arts?"

  • October 27 2010 at 11:17 am
    Krissy L

    Nice! I kind of went through this same conclusion... for awhile last year, I thought about transferring to an art school. I had to reassess why I was going to Carleton.

  • October 27 2010 at 2:11 pm
    Amy Gossow Van Ry

    I just happened upon your blog post while taking time away from a proposal I am working on... I'm a Carleton grad (88) and I write for a living, but my 10 year old son does not like to write at all. I love your point about how writing helps you figure out who you are. I printed out the high school metaphors, I think he will get a kick out of it. Thanks for posting, and keep up the good work! 

  • October 27 2010 at 3:34 pm
    Carl from 1967


    The article is funny. I wish I could believe the quotes were really from hs students. After 35 years of reading hs essays and AP exam answers, I never found one as good as any of those.

    Secondly, your realization that doing things you don't like contributes to things you want to do is a lesson I didn't learn until long after my years at Carleton. Keep building on it.

  • October 27 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Hello Jon, This sounds so creepy but I've been reading your blog since fall of my senior year and I see you around everywhere (!'s like, spotting a celeb everytime..). I love this article. I had been absolutely debating between liberal arts and art school before coming here. What was your reasoning for choosing Carleton?

  • October 27 2010 at 5:46 pm
    watie '93

    Art school always comes after Carleton.  You will find it the easiest thing in the world and spend the next 20 years trying to challenge yourself and make your art as meaningful as it should be. stay in touch.

  • October 27 2010 at 10:00 pm

    A teacher once said to me that if art is about self-expression, then you have to have something interesting to say--so I guess that's my main reason for coming to Carleton. Gotta learn about the interesting stuff first right?

  • October 28 2010 at 7:36 am
    christine '91

    I love Tina's comment above.  She's so right about that!  I think that people who veer off to a "career" prematurely end up not having enough to say in areas of life that can be so broadening.  It's also true that most people who want to specialize in something (art, rocket science, whatever) after Carleton end up going on to further education.  You're smart to build a base now and work on honing your trade/craft/career later.

    As I'm sure you know, so few people make it in the art world.  I worked in galleris and museums for several years.  I changed "careers" by going to grad school and now, 20 years removed from Carleton, I'm an avid collector, trustee at a major museum, etc... Art is a noble pursuit but we've all seen awesome artists that never get recognition and so so (or less than so-so) artists that break through and never look back.  Many artists end up working in galleries, schools, etc... if they are lucky enough to end up with a career that is tangentially associated with art.  Most end up in a job that has nothing to do with art but allows them to pay the bills as they create passionately in their "off" time.  Those careers need verbal and written skills that are highly developed.  You can/should walk out of Carleton with all sorts of skills that will serve you well in a studio as well- time management, creativity, thoughtfulness, questioning, writing (grants, letters to galleries, websites, etc).... so hang in there, keep on writing, and know that you'll need/want/appreciate it in the not too distant future! It can make life a lot easier as you plug away and try to find your niche doing what you love dearly.

  • October 28 2010 at 5:45 pm
    Jon Kittaka

    Wow, lots of comments!  Thanks!  It's cool to hear from people.

    Hey Adam!  I'm glad your time in Madrid has not turned you into a spambot; I was pretty worried about that.   We've got to talk more sometime, but we're both pretty busy, I think.

    Thanks, Aly!

    Anonymom, yeah we talk a lot here about the wonders of Liberal Arts to the point where it can get tiring.  But there's a lot to be said for it, I suppose.

    Krissy, yeah, well I'm glad you decided to stay.  And make comics!

    Amy, thanks for reading and commenting!  I think everyone should have that list of metaphors printed out to provide inspiration throughout the tough times.  Just kidding, but it's great.  Good luck with your proposal

    '67 Carl, will do!  I wish they were real too, but they're pretty funny either way.

    Tina, yeah it's good to learn the interesting stuff.  Honestly, I didn't really think about art school that much in high school.  Which is weird because I knew I wanted to do art.  I came to Carleton mostly because I thought I would like a small, academically rigorous school, and my sister goes here too.  After deciding to go here, I realized that there was nothing else I could possibly consider aside from a Studio Art major.  Are you gonna be a Studio major?

    Watie, thanks for commenting.  Where did you go after Carleton?

    Christine, thanks for being the voice of reason!  I've never really wanted to do much with galleries or museums, but it might end up being a possibility.  What I really want to do is draw comics, so I kind of have to figure out how to go about doing that.  Working with our new comics publication, Carleton Graphic, has been great though. 

  • February 21 2012 at 6:51 am
    The Gatekeeper

    Focus on a few key objectives ... I only have three things to do. I have to choose the right people, allocate the right number of dollars, and transmit ideas from one division to another with the speed of light. So I'm really in the business of being the gatekeeper and the transmitter of ideas.

  • February 21 2012 at 2:20 pm
    Fortune Cookies by Peter

    So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.

  • February 21 2012 at 2:30 pm
    Jon Kittaka

    @The Gatekeeper: I agree that it's good to focus on just a few key objectives.  Sometimes that's hard to do at a school like Carleton, though.

    @Peter: That's... um... profound?  :)

Add a comment

The following fields are not to be filled out. Skip to Submit Button.
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)