25 Things They Ought to Teach in Art School??


I was listening to a podcast by illustrator Rob Duenas recently that went into a few of the things that he felt an art school education lacked. He listed a number of things that would definitely be beneficial to know but many I also feel you have to learn on the fly. Some things just can’t be taught in a class and require you to have life experience for the lessons to be taught. Overall the podcast is funny, informative and a little angry. LOL! Which is understandable considering the types of things Mr.Duenas deals with on a consistent basis. After doing this blog I have a new appreciation for some of his frustration. Here’s a link to his podcast.

Be forewarned he is frank and unapologetic in his use of language. So if you have sensitive ears. Pass on this one!

So if we were to make our own list, what would be on your top 25 list?

Now it has been a long time since I have been in art school and I admit that there are elements of what we do that I wish was covered while I was in attendance. But things have changed. I’m sure many schools have adjusted their curriculum to better suit the needs an art student will have upon graduating. (Or at least I hope so.)
My list would begin with the following;

  1. Marketing and Self Promotion.
  2. Copyright Law and the best ways to protect your work.
  3. Creating Contracts and how to read and understand them.
  4. The steps needed to create a Business (LLC) and open business bank accounts.
  5. How to pay taxes and use appropriate write offs based on your business.

This would be the start of my list. What would you put on yours?

For those more recently graduated what aspects are they covering now within my list that may not have been as relevant in the past when I graduated?



  1. Charles Toefield

    I love the list you have here but I think I would add proper email behavior. I’ve heard this talked about in another podcast, so I think it should be repeated. Here are things that I consider No No’s based on those podcast.

    1.No internet speak. (LOL,LMAO, RLMAO,TTYL etc.)There may come a day when those words are considered part of everyday speech but that day is not this day. I’m told that this sort of behavior is a lot more rampant then we realize. It certainly isn’t appropriate for a conversation on the internet involving a business transaction.

    And while I’m on that subject…

    Please use spellcheck. Also read your emails aloud. If I don’t check my grammar my emails can tend to suck, so I know to read my emails aloud to my self a few times to make changes before I send them out. Doing these things before you reach out to a potential client puts them in a positive mind about you. Don’t waste that chance.

    2. Learn to talk to people. When your a freelancer, your essentially your own business. Since your the entire business in most cases you are the artist, accounts payable, accounts receivable, marketing manager, and most importantly, your the customer service rep.

    While I understand that a lot of artist can be a little socially awkward, you have to find a way to interact effectively with a variety of people. That goes double when it comes to people who’s company you wouldn’t normally enjoy. I had to learn these skills the hard way during my time in Army but you need to learn these social skills on your own if you don’t have them.

    The lifestyle of an illustrator can involve tremendous amounts of face time with people at conventions, Skype/phone calls, or even actual physical client meetings (although that’s becoming rare). This doesn’t mean that you have to change who you are as a person. What it does mean is that you need to put some of that in a box so the client’s anxiety about you will be put at ease. Not heightened because your too socially awkward to talk to people.

    3. Don’t send work that doesn’t speak to what the client is looking for.

    I think I’ve heard this one on “Big Illustration Part Time” but if your trying to get the attention of someone from scholastic (children’s books) it’s probably a bad idea to send them work that doesn’t fit the companies audience(Hentai, Ecchi, Excessive Violence etc.)

    Assume that if they didn’t specifically ask for work that’s different from what they already offer in there products, that you should send work that doesn’t stick out when it’s put side by side with the other products they have to offer. In other words, don’t send Archie Comics your own take on the comic “The Walking Dead”.

  2. Kirsty

    Everything on your list, Wilson, definitely.

    We may have been taught some of this, but our business studies finished in 3rd year, to give us more time to do our artwork in our 4th (final) year. This meant that, by the time you graduated you forgot what you had learned!

    Also, more illustration-specific info would have been useful. Our business studies was for all the design students, and seemed to focus more on people selling products.


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