6 Reasons Art Degrees Are No Joke

Everyone likes to think of art classes as easy As and art degrees as just coloring all day.
Let me tell you, the arts are consistently listed as one of the hardest degrees.

Look here, here, and here for proof.
Why is it so hard? I can only answer from my experience and I know, had certain circumstances been different, it would have been easier, but I’ll do my best. I have had some experience in regular colleges as well.


My art school only had one or two week breaks, depending on the semesters we were in between. Sure, you could take the summer off, but Christmas break? 2 weeks. My particular school liked to mess up people’s schedules so I always had to deal with that on my breaks, but whatever. Those month long winter breaks other schools have looked pretty dang cushy from where I sat.


We went 5 days a week or, if we were “lucky” 4 days with a really long day or two in there somewhere. Our 2.5 hour studio classes were 4 days a week.


Long days. Full-time meant at least two studio classes and 2 gen. ed. classes. That meant 8 am to 2:30 most days.  It was not unheard of to have an 8 am class and a 5 pm class on the same day. Since those gen. ed classes were once a week, they were 2.5 hours too. Oh, and homework. Have fun with that.


It’s mentally and emotionally draining. Even artists don’t always like art history. Unless you have an amazing teacher. Creating on demand and doing it over and over, learning how to do that is a huge struggle. It isn’t just coloring all day. It’s real skill building.  It’s real effort. Hours on end. It’s great, but it’s also really hard. Every semester, if you’re doing it right, you have leaps and bounds in what you’ve learned and what you are now capable of doing.


The last time I checked no other major than the arts had critiques, at least not on the undergraduate level. Any other major, if you were lucky enough to have a paper edited, it was handed back covered in red marks. You didn’t have to witness the editor’s thought on how inept you were. You just had a squiggle to tell you to capitalize or add a word. Not so with critiques. They are live and in your face. It is not uncommon for a teacher to literally tell you your work is shit. Tears are shed. It makes us all better artists, but that doesn’t make it any less painful. Sure, we all have the supportive teachers who cheer us on and patiently explain how we can improve over and over, but that doesn’t take the sting away either.  There’s nothing quite so gut wrenching as having your art displayed in front of the entire class for everyone to see and spending hours upon hours working on it, only to have the teacher announce it is lacking. Or heaven forbid the class rip it apart. There’s literally nothing worse than witnessing someone bullshit their way through their painting description, then talk bad about your work…with the rest of the class agreeing.  Hope you don’t like your ego.  At least for a while. Sometimes it grows back even stronger.


It isn’t just about understanding the material and answering questions about it. You have to actually be able to do it and since art is subjective, one teacher may agree, the one giving you your grade that semester may not. Can you imagine if math was subjective? Can you imagine if the professor grading your final exam didn’t like the technique you used to color in the test bubbles and knocked off a few points?


Affiliate Link:


About Elisha

Elisha Dasenbrock is an award winning, international watercolor artist. She paints with a limited palette on claybord. Dasenbrock graduated from the American Academy of Art in 2009 and has been painting professionally ever since.