Bush Tetras are currently telling me that 'You can't be funky if you haven't got a soul', well, that didn't stop them trying. But can you be an artist if you never went to art school? Yes, obviously.
I ponder the matter of art school in relation to a conversation with an ex-student outside the Buna Oromia Coffee place in Camden. He studied in Paris and had a French bulldog with him to reinforce his Frenchness in my mind. Nice fellow. Turns out he hasn't made art in a long time. His expression a demeanour conveyed considerable angst about this. I told him to just start scribbling anything on a piece of paper. I don't claim to be an art motivator, but it's not bad advice. He needs to free up whatever's inside him. The trouble is, he used to work large, painting. I reassured him that the principle still applies.
The more ex-students I meet the more I think college does great harm. I used to know to ex-English Lit graduates who really wanted to write fiction but couldn't. They ran a writing group of which I was a member. I got the impression they envied my reckless approach to poetry and prose. This, I'm convinced, was because the weight of knowledge and classics were not a burden I carried. My inspiration at the time was the Beat movement, as any friends receiving my 'spontaneous prose' typed letters would testify.
I also know a few ex-art school students who have trouble creating, or rather, seem to go through long spells of inactivity. I don't know for sure what art school teaches students today. From a conversation with a teacher at Central St Martins a couple of years ago I got the impression that skills have been largely replaced by simply proving time, space and support in exploring ideas. Or something. Not a bad concept. Large paintings in galleries by people who can't paint well, technically, compositionally, or colour-wise, make me laugh though. Still, there's something about that idea that appeals.
As you probably know (can tell?) I never attended art school. Ironically, it's a fact that has probably sustained my output (with a few gaps) over the years. I never was in a place where the proposition of becoming a professional artist was viable. That dream was crushed when I was about 12 and the next four years only heightened my distaste for the education system. Therefore, I got my big disappointment over with early.
So I carry on...I just wish that French chap would take my advice, though. Deadened creativity is a terrible thing.