My friend, Jan, a plein aire painter, has recently emailed me that she is applying to grad school. Jan and I have often discussed the value of getting an MFA degree. When I had just completed my BFA I had a chance to go right into grad school. Maybe I was just tired of being in school or I didn’t want to take on any more debt. I was also pretty anxious to go out and set up my own studio and to get on with life. As I look back at my decision I have mixed feelings about it.
I have always believed in education just for the sake of learning. Over the years I have kept reading art history, staying current with a lot of art magazines and essays, and read about and practiced new materials and techniques. I had always reasoned that I didn’t need to enroll in grad school to do this. The only benefit, I saw at the time, was that if I wanted to teach, at least on a college level, that the MFA was mandatory. However, just having the MFA was no guarantee of getting a teaching position. I know too many people with MFA’s that work in art supply stores.
As much as I love art, teaching, and showing others how to do what I do it would not have been a good fit. I do not have the temperament to fit into the academic bureaucracy. My OCD makes me a very direct, intense, and concrete person who is way too outspoken. These same qualities (or lack of) would also make me a bad fit for enrolling in a grad program. I have told Jan that if I ever do teach it will be doing volunteer work for schools that don’t have art programs or having classes in my studio. Just recently I did a once-a-week class for a group of people with mental illnesses. They were a wonderful group and I enjoyed myself. I had to stop doing it because I needed the time to work on my house.
So, for now I prefer professional affiliations. I have just become a member of the Oil Pastel Society, in the professional category. In the future I also hope to apply to the Pastel Society of America when finances permit. Once we relocate to New Mexico, I will start to look around to get involved with regional affiliations. To teach privately this will do more for me than an MFA and give me contact with other artists who share similar interests and background.
These 2 pieces were among the paintings I sent to the jury committee of the Oil Pastel Society for entry. The nude is titled “Hands Behind Neck” and measures 27.5” X 19.5”, the landscape is titled “Row Of Pines” and measures 19.5” X 27.5”. Both pieces were done on Strathmore paper, sealed and primed with gesso with powdered pumice added and completed in 2005.