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  • Chloe Chapdelaine

Things I Didn't Expect to Learn in Art School

From kindergarten to grade 6, there was one job I had always dreamed of having. I imagined myself, as an adult, sitting in front of a canvas with a graphite pencil tucked behind my ear (with a drawn on swoopy swirly moustache and a funny flat hat) working full time as an artist.

I always had an admiration for art, although throughout middle and high school didn’t take a single art class. In fact, I didn’t actually know that much about art other than I enjoyed doing it. Instead, I took all core classes and found comfort in English and biology classes. And so when it came to apply for college (after switching my choice 8 times) I stuck to my roots, ignored my lack of knowledge in the subject and pursued a Bachelor of Applied Arts in visual communications (abandoning my comfort zone).

Although I imagined in art class they’d teach us what the different kinds of paints were (which they didn’t), or how to do proper shading (which again was not covered)and ARTSY THINGS LIKE THAT, I instead learned a very diverse set of skills.

Before you enter art school, learn from my experience:

Windy days are your worst nightmare.

So imagine this: holding a 4x3 foot piece of cardboard in one hand with a tool box full of art supplies in the other, and out of nowhere a gust of wind thinks it would be funny to test you. Suddenly, the piece of cardboard has taken flight like a kite, while your shoulder is almost ripped out of the socket from trying to hang on to it. Meanwhile, you’ve dropped your tool box trying to make sure the cardboard doesn’t rip and $50 pencils are being blown across the parking lot. Distracted by the pencils, you accidentally let the cardboard fold and now you need to go the store and do it all over again. Not fun.

It’s a good thing charcoal is apparently good for your skin

because charcoal will inevitably end up on your face. Even if you think it won’t, it will sneak up and make it look like you’ve got some patchy 5 O’clock shadow going on. Wearing gloves? That won’t stop it from ending up in your face. And your forearm. And your pants. “Is that a bruise?” “I think you smudged your makeup” “are you growing a moustache?” NO CAROL it’s just my DARN CHARCOAL.

This is an example of a charcoal piece I whipped together!

Tea is not always beneficial.

What? But there are studies saying tea can help your health. Well listen. It’s -30 degrees Celsius and you’re sprinting from your car to the door to get to your studio. You have tea because how else are you going to get through a 3 hour class when you’re not allowed snacks? The tea splashes on your hand because you can’t stabilize it with your other hand that’s holding your materials for the class. As you reach for the metal door handle of the school, the tea on your hand freezes to handle and suddenly you’re stuck, freezing, in pain, late for class. Remember when teachers would say “don’t lick a metal pole in the winter”? More like “don’t run with tea then touch a door handle”.

Thank goodness for handicap automatic doors!

If you have a tea in one hand, balancing a tool box, 6 drawings, a (ripped) portfolio holder (held together by a strip of masking tape that previously held your drawing to a wall), and a wet painting in the other hand, reaching for door handles becomes more difficult than you’d expect. (Refer to previous example).

This 18x20 piece was completed with sharpies!

Teachers can detect when you do your project last minute.

Unlike an essay where you can print it and *hope* the prof doesn’t notice you whipped it together between a game of Fortnite and that res party you couldn’t miss, profs notice when suddenly their hands turn green and blue because the paint hasn’t had enough time to dry. (Nice try.)

This was the first project I handed in without the paint fully drying.

Your style will change.

In grade 12 I nearly wore a dress to school every day. In art school I was wearing upcycled-reused-acidwash-handpainted-selfdistressed-denim with vintage turtlenecks and oversized glasses (I also died my hair a complete new colour). I’m not saying it’s a bad thing! Just different. Idk why it happens but it does, trust me.

You won’t need to workout.

Holding your hand above your head to paint on that top piece of the canvas HAS to be an awesome shoulder workout. Chiselling a block of plaster for 15 hours to turn into a gnome WILL make you break a sweat. Sanding that sculpture DOES make you out of breath. Precariously standing on the tall spinney chair that already almost tips just from sitting on it to pin a drawing on a wall IS basically extreme yoga (flexibility, stretching, balance). (Plus you won’t have time to gym when each piece takes 15+ hours).

I basically ran all around the school getting rubbings for this 18x20 collage.

Never wear black.

You think pet hair is bad? Imagine being completely covered in white plaster dust from head to toe. It’ll make your hair go grey, skin go white, and clothes go NASTY. This was a hard one for me considering all I basically wear is black, but is worth it if it means I don’t look like an 80 year old, ill, cocaine doing grandmother who just climbed out from underneath some ancient ruins.

3 hour studio sessions become your friend.

At first you hate them, like seriously who wants to sit for 3 hours in a dimly lit room and stare at the same 3 balloons sitting in the middle of the class which you’re supposed to draw?! But then you realize that your prof likely has the same mentality as you, which means if you’re careful, you can utilize this time for good. Run to McDonald’s and eat a meal and by the time you come back they likely won’t have noticed. Use this time to take a short nap in the largest bathroom stall (you know, the one at the end in the corner). Listen to that whole new album that dropped. Three times in a row.

This bust was the first clay sculpture I ever tried- and was made in 3 hour studio sessions.

You’ll be a lot more picky about your tattoo artists.

I felt like every other person I talked to entered the program in hopes that they would become a tattoo artist. Cool. After about three projects though it became *cough* VERY *cough* obvious that some of them were not fit to be a tattoo artist. Or an artist at all. Don’t get me wrong, some of the people were absolutely phenomenal, but if you struggle to draw the outline of a beer bottle, do yourself a favour and don’t practice on someone’s skin in your spare time!

Although there are soooo many more things I learned these were some which stuck out to me!

I hope I “painted a picture” enough with my words for you to visualize some of my real life experiences!




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