After that summer and starting my senior year, I was dead set on going to this school. I applied to about 7 in-state and several out-of-state art schools and got rejected from 2 of those. I had a lot of options still, but I knew that the obvious choice was CCA. It was a 5 hour train ride back home and was such a fun experience during pre-college. Soon enough I was packing my bags and heading to Oakland to begin the Fall semester.
Art school is extremely expensive, most people are aware of this but it's not just tuition. Living in the Bay Area is impossibly expensive for most people not to mention poor art students. Rent, food, supplies; it adds up fast. I had a scholarship but I wouldn't say the tuition was dramatically reduced. The financial burden of living in this city caused me tremendous stress.
As the semester rolled on I felt very frustrated with the level of work that was expected by the students. I felt coddled, like the way I used to feel before Portfolio Days. I felt like no matter the level of effort or skill I put into my projects, I got a pat on the back and no criticism. Some students don't take criticism well, and while I understand that, I felt like everyone treated each other with such fragility. There wasn't enough room to grow or to help each other improve because we were constantly walking on eggshells. I had high expectations from my professors to really push us and test our abilities, especially after having such a challenging experience at pre-college. The projects I had to do in some of my classes were quite obviously busy work and cost a lot of money and time to complete. There was no time for a job with 15 units and an expectation of hours upon hours of class work. I am a pretty fast worker, and I would still find myself in the studios working until 3 AM on work that had little to no relation to illustration. Although other disciplines do influence my work, paying as much as I was for these classes was beyond frustrating. I started becoming more and more bitter because I felt let down, like my dream to become an artist was being stifled by irrelevant requirements and being babied instead of challenged.
Art school is a great place to use resources in one unified place. For example if you need to print a huge poster and unload a kiln in a matter of 30 minutes, art school has got your back. They make tons of money so they have lots of expensive tools at your disposal. However the convenience of having these fancy resources in one place definitely has a price. When I was in Fresno I had to get inventive in finding resources around town. But in doing so, I made relationships with other creatives which was such a valuable advantage. I felt that this sense of community I had back in Fresno was impossible to have in such a busy city as Oakland. I missed having relationships and opportunities to be an entrepreneur, not only a full time student.
I had to make the decision whether I wanted to wait it out and pay for the next semester or leave before draining even more money on tuition. I knew in my heart I was not going to be at this school for the entirety of my college career, so I decided it was better to not delay the inevitable. Of course it was difficult to explain my decision to my family and friends, but in the end it wasn't for them. I needed to choose what made the most sense for my life.
Now this post is not meant to slander the school I went to. It's not even to say "don't go to this school". Experiences will vary from person to person but I think it is really important to let young artists know that art school is not necessary to be successful in this field. To any young artists out there, my advice is don't fall for the lie that there's a formula everyone must take in order to succeed in this business. The truth is that you have to work your butt off either way and you have to choose the standards you want to be measured by.
I would talk about life back in Fresno but this blog is long as it is so we will save that for another time. I hope this resonates with at least one reader out there, thanks for making it to the end! Would love to hear your thoughts/questions on this topic either here or on my other social media!