The Blog

A Message for BFA Graduates

Photo of Brad's BFA

Congratulations! You’ve got a shiny new diploma that says you went through the rigors necessary to call yourself a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Maybe you majored in graphic design, illustration, interior design, or fine art.

If you’re like me, maybe you majored in something a little more “practical” than what you’d probably rather be doing, which is fine art.

There’s nothing wrong with being practical. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to tell you to do. But probably not in the way you’d think.

See, ten years ago this month, I graduated with a BFA in graphic design. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to tell myself to major in something else, or minor in something else (I actually didn’t have a minor. I had too many hours in my graphed design major to require a minor) to help fill in some gaps that would become apparent in a few years.

If it’s too late to change your major (ie: you just graduated) you can do this: make a plan.

See, I graduated in May 2001. The dot-com bubble had burst, and the economy was slowly tanking. Then a few short months later, some airplanes were turned into giant missiles that took down the Twin Towers in Manhattan.

I was on my way to a job interview on September 11, 2001. I still didn’t have a full-time job yet, and it wouldn’t be until January that I had a full-time position locked in.

I never will forget, though, what I told my dad after finishing an internship that summer, yes, after I had graduated. We called it an externship. I told him: well, if I don’t get a job, I’ll just paint.

He freaked.

And strongly encouraged me to get a day job working for some corporation. Which I did.

I can’t blame him. He bought the whole idea of the “starving artist,” as so many parents have.

Seven or eight years later, I realized what I did wrong: I didn’t have a plan.

I just said I’d paint, and that was that. There was no plan.

What I should’ve said was something like this: “Give me a year to build a body of work and start showing it to galleries, and then we’ll see if I need to get a corporate job.”

So, art majors, make a plan, even if it’s as simple as that.

Sure, my plan could’ve involved more marketing, but it was 2001, so there weren’t the same web marketing tools that we have now. Blogs were brand new. I don’t think they were even called blogs yet, and it would be 5 years until Twitter would exist.

The thing is, make a plan. Then do it. Then make a new plan. Do that. That’s all there really is to it. Simple, huh? Except the hard part: doing the work.

Don’t let someone else’s fears dictate what you do with your life and your dreams; make it your own, and embrace your talents. Just don’t forget to plan, and figure out a way to somehow appease the fearful.


  • http://www.shalanafrisby.com Shalana Frisby

    Excellent, thoughtful advice! I wish that I had the forethought to have done exactly what you are talking about in your post. Unfortunately and fortunately too, you live and learn in the journey of life. Best wishes!

  • http://www.bradblackman.com Brad Blackman

    Hey Shalana! Thanks! I think you graduated the year before me. But yeah, I wish I had made some sort of plan and followed through with it. Half a plan is better than no plan at all. You can correct yourself along the way.

  • Nikki

    This is great advice for any graduate! 3 years after finishing my masters, I’m still “working” on my plan and it would be so much easier had I done it BEFORE getting a job, or before graduating even!

  • http://www.bradblackman.com Brad Blackman

    Congratulations on finishing your masters degree. I know that’s a lot of work! But yeah, they don’t teach you much about planning ahead, especially in art school! Don’t get me wrong, I had some amazing teachers, but unfortunately they kind of put that off until you get to senior seminar, and by then you’re in such a hurry to finish school that you forget to plan.

  • http://www.samanthameeker.com Samantha

    Brad, That is very good advice for a new graduate. Yes, I took the sensible route first before coming to terms that in the end I would be an artist. So I went back to school and received my BFA in Painting two years ago (man times goes fast!). I amazed though at the younger (fresh out of high school) student’s focus on their work and thought I wish I had been like that when I was their age. But…I’m SO glad I went back because I learned SO much besides being given a chance to focus solely on my art work. A little harder when you’re not in school because life gets in the way. :)

    But…having a plan and continuing to reinvent that plan, is something every artist must do.

  • http://www.bradblackman.com Brad Blackman

    Thanks for sharing that, Samantha! I think BFA programs have a lot to offer, especially in learning a lot of information in a relatively short amount of time.

    And you’re very wise to recognize that your plan needed to be reinvented, and moreso for acting on it and doing something about it.

  • http://ofthemarvellous.tumblr.com HButler

    Very good advice for future BFA-ers like me!

  • http://www.bradblackman.com Brad Blackman

    Great! Just remember: there’s no map but the one you make yourself.