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School Guide / December 17, 2019

8 Points of View on Becoming an Artist

Students at the Canadian Art School Hop visit a Toronto art gallery. More and more Canadians are working in arts and culture. Students at the Canadian Art School Hop visit a Toronto art gallery. More and more Canadians are working in arts and culture.

“Originality sustains you; study, guard your creative time, develop your creative strength, diversify, experiment, take risks, evolve, meet and elevate your own expectations. Don’t necessarily depend on your work to support you.” Katie Ohe, ACAD alum and teacher; 2019 Lt. Gov. of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award, on

“One teacher said, ‘You know, Peter, you don’t have to go to the studio only to paint.’ It’s good to look. Sometimes I spend a lot of time there just looking at things.” Peter Doig, former OCA student; Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon 2017, on

“Stop chasing trends. Learn how to draw, paint, sculpt, write, and just get good at your practice. Don’t let the idea be the main event.” Kent Monkman, graduate, Sheridan College illustration program; 2019 Great Hall Commission Artist for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on

“For me, art is freedom: to speak and to think and to question.” Rebecca Belmore, artist; 2016 Gershon Iskowitz Prize winner, in Border Crossings

“Artists today have multiple professions: artist, professor, curator, writer, community/cultural worker, activist, department chair, artist-run centre director. Artists also work at galleries and coffee shops. Not all artists will make a full-time living from ‘just’ being an artist, while others will. For some, becoming/being born an artist is not about selling art—it’s about the magic of creating. Selling art is a byproduct to creation.” Dana Claxton, artist and UBC associate professor; winner of the 2019 Hnatyshyn Artist Award, in C Magazine

“I don’t think there’s any singular path to being an artist. The first advice I would give is that you have to be clear-eyed about the reality of how art is both noble and ignoble.” Ken Lum, professor of fine arts, University of Pennsylvania; MFA, UBC, on

“Everything influences you. Influence is about your friends, your environment, even people you don’t like. I think it’s just context. ” Geoff McFetridge, artist and designer; graduate, ACAD, on

“I call myself a visual activist—or, rather, a cultural activist, because this work is not only about the arts; I’m focusing on education, I’m dealing with culture in a way that confronts a number of issues.” Zanele Muholi, Documentary Media MA, Ryerson University; visual activist; winner of the 2016 Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography, on

This post is adapted from the Canadian Art School Guide, published in our Winter 2020 issue, “Antimatter.” To read the full guide, download the PDF.