Art school question

Ashley is a high school grad in Texas who wants to be a kids’ book illustrator, and is looking for a good art school.  Here’s my response to her e-mail.

I’m afraid I haven’t kept up on art schools.  I went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh long ago. They offered a 2-year Visual Communications program that included cartooning and illustration—it was a wonderful education.  I have friends who teach there now, Mark Bender and Michelle Bamburak.

Make sure the school you choose will equip you to be a graphic designer when you graduate.  I don’t recommend setting up shop as a full-time illustrator as soon as you get out of school.  Get a staff job with a regular paycheck first.

Ask the schools if they offer any business courses.  You’ll want to be taught how to make money from your art skills.

Were you considering the Ringling School in Orlando?  I’ve seen impressive student work from them.  Likewise Syracuse University.

You’ll most likely save some bucks if you choose a school in your own state.  I think you can receive tuition grants if you do.  The Art Institutes have several schools in Texas.  I have no idea how good they are, but you should take a look at them.

As a kindness, I should warn you that it’s nearly impossible to make decent money in the kids’ book illustration business.  Learn all you can about promotion and marketing.  Get a copy of the Graphic Artists’ Guild’s Handbook of Pricing & Ethical Guidelines and read it.  I caution you against blowing huge bucks on tuition.

Anyone have an art school recommendation? It’s been a long time since I graduated.  I should plug New Jersey City University, in whose art department my pal (and Society of Illustrators prez) Dennis Dittrich is a professor.  Most of what I know about the business of illustration I picked up from Dennis.

Previous posts relating to an illustration career can be found here, here, here & here.

0 replies
  1. Bethan Stritton
    Bethan Stritton says:

    Hi John,
    My sister in law is an illustrator here in the UK and attended both St Martins and The Royal College in London. Even by attending the best colleges, she still found it very hard to make a living solely as an illustrator and eventually became a lecturer at another college.

    As a children’s writer I once went with her and a bunch of her students to visit a top publishing house. The people there gave some great advise to the students and were really open to their work. They said that the illustrators who stood the best chance of publication are those who, not only create good art but those who can also write and come up with the concepts as well.

    I really believe that you can make a career out of illustration and the arts, but you need to have the right mindset, heaps of tenacity, talent and an eye for opportunity!


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