Disclaimer : The author of this article has gone through a Singaporean polytechnic animation course and a 2-months-in-the-UK-and-the-rest-of-the-year-here art school degree course and is not disparaging any of them but rather pointing out a problem that a lecturer in the UK noticed about our art education system for illustrators.
My UK university lecturer called out this problem from my talking about the state of illustrators locally. And it’s…
Not. Enough. Drawing. Not enough emphasis on drawing, not enough curriculum focused on it cause of how the courses are (they are admittedly not for illustrators). There’s no local illustration school or drawing course that is cheap, there’s private schools that specializes in digital concept art which costs in the $20,000 and above range for a private diploma and…that’s it. Illustration and drawing as a pure topic of learning by itself is segmented and privatized by high costs away from the main education path.
Local animation courses have to touch on everything for everyone and thus cannot spend enough time on drawing for illustrators who take the next best thing (an animation course) to become an illustrator. The main school curriculum does not focus on drawing enough for you to pass the animation course, get your diploma and safely call yourself a learned illustrator. Its more likely than not you have to specialize in 3D modelling or animation to be relevant in the industry your diploma is in. Not enough drawing, module-wise or homework wise as a result.
There’s even the case of for example, my school’s figure drawing not allowing the model to be nude, you can tell who is from our school by who can’t draw the hips area well…
Graphic design courses do not fare much better as illustration is not the forefront of the course and you are expected to have put or put your own legwork in to go along with the curriculum not catered to you specifically, you have a de-buff of sorts compared to other students purely wanting to design and not draw.
Fine art courses are built for fine art not commercial art/illustration though one can say you can go from one to the other if you are skilled enough.
Online drawing courses can also suffer from the inability, if you just paid for the video, to ask the teacher specialized questions that pertain to your own problem, and paying for that consultation fee is well not cheap either.
Why bring this up? I feel that if drawing or illustration is what you are interested in in Singapore, you shouldn’t have to pay thousands upon thousands of dollars to get a (supposedly) good education in it. Going for graphic design courses with a half-or-less-than-half commitment to illustration tacked in on the end doesn’t help either. You would have to take things into your own hands and practice a lot at home drawing to make up for the lack of curriculum content to get skilled and even then, networking/connections to the industry, teaching how marketing as an illustrator works, are non-existent.
It’s too niche of a industry in Singapore to warrant a subsidized course on it that has all the proper workings of a robust drawing curriculum like in the western art side amongst other things. As a local freelance illustrator one has to go the distance and market globally or get a illustration job for a local media company whose USP (unique selling point) is comics or mascots that need to be drawn, and these jobs are very very few and far between and whoever has that job, like a lecturer job, will hold onto that job for as long as they can.
I, personally, would like to work on and put together a drawing curriculum and course that compliments and supplements local art courses at an affordable price for Singaporeans.
So, are you a Singaporean illustrator that had a good art education system, private or otherwise that helped you as an illustrator? If its private was it worth it? Do you feel like what I have stated is not true anymore (I am old, my thoughts are from a older era) or never have been true, and that there’s no such problem with being an illustrator in Singapore? It would be pleasant to be proven wrong about this. Let me know!
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