As a self-taught digital artist, I can confirm that a formal education is not required to obtain the skills needed to work as an artist. I know of many artists who have chosen to make use of the resources available on the web and managed to build a career without going to art school. The areas in which I currently find the most work are areas in which I am self-taught. However, art school had many important benefits to me. I learned how to take on a variety of different projects and work with deadlines, as well as work in larger teams. I learned how to explain my creative process and put it in a greater context, as well as how to justify and elaborate on my creative choices. Most importantly, I laid the foundations for the network of people that now form my colleagues and friends. Art school was helpful to me in many ways, but I could have learned the same things in a different way. If you are doubting whether to attend art school, try to figure out what fits you best and know that you are not obligated to do it.
A lot of people from all over the world ask me for tips on choosing something to study and finding the right college for it. I feel bad, but there is little advice I can give! I don’t know anything about colleges outside of the Netherlands, and it’s been a long time since I graduated from art school so I’m no longer up to speed on the quality of art education here. Also, each college has a different view on what your portfolio should look like, so if you need help on what kind of work you should have, please consult someone at the college you’d like to go to – they can most likely provide tips and guidance.
Here in the Netherlands, I can only comment on my own experience at the Utrecht School of the Arts. It’s based on my experiences between 2005-2009, and may not reflect any changes that have been implemented since that time. The overall experience was chaotic, with lots of assignments being thrown at us and very little training in how to tackle them. I was disappointed by the lack of techniques and skills we learned. However, I got a lot of freedom as a student and this allowed me to thrive, because I like to manage my own projects and create personal art, which I had lots of time for. All in all, I wouldn’t really recommend this school to anyone who wants to become a skilled animator there.