by Sienna Bentley
“We need art to express ourselves. There is evidence that highlights the link between artists and a history of mental health problems: those who suffer in this way are naturally drawn to art in order to express. We need art to escape, create, project ideas, and show the world who we are. To many, art is fundamental for good mental health.”
A world without art, colour and expression would be a monotonous one to live in. Art needs to be kept as prominent within the curriculum as Maths or Science. Creative people must be given an outlet, a chance to generate change through their innovations or designs. Under the present Government, the value of the arts has been disregarded - reflected in the EBaac). With the Government threatening to cull the creative subjects in the next few years, the most recent scrapping being Art History, they seem to be questioning whether artistic subjects are as important as, say, Biology or Maths. Related to this is a perception among some that Art is not challenging, that anybody could do it, that it doesn’t take a huge proportion of time and that, because it is subjective, you are practically guaranteed a high mark.
This could not be further from the truth.
Now, I’m not trying to give an argument that suggests Art is better than anything else, because I know this would spark a lot of backlash and I would lose all my friends. What I want to do is explain that Art is on par with the other subjects, that it takes just as much skill and has the same level of difficulty and required effort, if not more, than they do (just a quick shout-out to some of my teachers who have previously admitted that Art is the most difficult A-level next to Chemistry). Before you start mentally tutting at me in your head, please just keep an open mind for 5 minutes.
In order to be successful, in any subject, you need skill. In most subjects, this skill can be learned and developed. Anybody can be taught Maths or a language, without passion for the subject (here I present to you the wonderful things called GCSEs). With the creative subjects, it is pretty hard to start (especially if there is a lack of interest) with no prior skill in the area, though I’m not at all suggesting that it cannot be done. Within Art, skill is nurtured and honed in on and improved. Artists, like all subjects, requires wide-ranging (and transferable) skills: spatial awareness; precision; willingness to take risks; being okay with a lack of precision; mistakes; history; acute analysis; mathematical proportions; colour and lighting.
Art teaches you certain things that other subjects probably don’t. Everything one looks at has potential to become something more, instead of just being something that is there. It gives you an eye that sees everything differently to those around you, and you notice things in everyday life that your friends for example wouldn’t notice.
Art teaches you to find alternative paths to overcome problems instead of taking an easy way out or taking the most obvious route. It teaches you to overcome doubt and jump straight in because sometimes there isn’t time to think critically or worry about an outcome. There isn’t even any point in taking unnecessary caution, and it helps you to be ready to accept that the first attempt is never going to be perfect or exactly what you wanted. But that is sorely needed because it helps to instil further motivation and desire to achieve the outcome that you want and are happy with. This isn’t just a skill that is used for art. This is (cue cheesiness) invaluable in life.
And, from this, it teaches you to make mistakes. To be okay with mistakes. Mistakes are a key part of development, and without them we would never be able to improve. Mistakes can always be overcome, even if that is not immediately obvious.
I would be lying if I said Art didn’t take up a lot of my time, because in reality I am currently heavily lacking in a social life and, no word of a lie, I spent a solid 5 hours on Saturday, without breaks, sat on my floor painting (my back did not thank me for it). And while this can be tedious, if you enjoy it, it’s okay, right? Unlike with the other subjects where you are given homework that may take up a couple of hours of your night, there is always Art to be done. Always. Without fail. No escape. You can’t get help from anyone, copy answers from anyone (side note for teachers: students never do that anyway, of course) or take any kind of shortcut. This in itself teaches you to be strictly independent, and it tells me that Art is pretty difficult because you cannot get someone to help you or think of ideas for you.
Those who claim that Art cannot give you a respectable career can think again. The internet has opened a huge variety of opportunities for artists, designers and digital designers. Almost all businesses have an online presence and in order to attain business for themselves, they need to make this presence enticing. Who can do this but an artist?
Some people excel in Maths. Others shine in written language or in foreign languages. Some excel in the arts. If you are someone who is lucky enough to excel in two or even all three of these areas, you are included in a very small subset of the population. People who have multiple skills are incredibly useful, well-rounded, hireable and capable of succeeding in a much broader range of careers. Unless you are aiming for a degree that requires particular specialism, it would be beneficial to choose a wide range of subjects to prove to universities and employers that you are in fact one of these few.
People need art to express themselves. We need art to escape, create, project ideas, and show the world who we are.