Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Jack Burns

I am thinking of leaving my design career to pursue MFA in painting

Recommended Posts

Hi Everyone,

I am new to this site so please forgive me if I am ignoring any seemingly obvious protocol. 

I graduated from a reputable design school in NYC with a BFA in apparel design back in 2014. I have been working professionally as a menswear designer for the last four years, however I've slowly come to realize this is not what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. When I was in high school I wanted to pursue a degree in fine art but was dissuaded by my parents with the old "you'll never make any money" argument. 

In the last year I have developed an intense interest in art. Completely unlike the interest I had when I was younger. I found myself diving into theory, learning and reading about all sorts of artists I was not familiar with. It has been such a joy to rediscover my passion for art this way. I have also spent the last 6 months painting figurative and portrait work under a professional artist. I feel deeply that this is what I want to dedicate the rest of my working life to. 

This has lead me to begin researching MFA programs. I'm still not sure if an MFA is right for me. In the design and fashion world there is this perception that the art world looks straight down its nose at designers therefore I'm worried certain systemic prejudice may work against me while applying to programs. Does anyone have insight into the academic art world's perception of designers pursuing art careers? I've never met anyone who has made a move like this so I do not know if this notion is totally in my head or if there is an existing hierarchy of industries. 

I am hoping to use this forum as a place for advice as I do not know any working artists or other people who are interested in art in general, so I thank you in advance for reading and responding!

Thanks - Jack 


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi, Jack! I really wouldn't worry about that at all. I don't think most people are going to look down on your fashion design background any more than if you'd worked in a bookstore or a bank or a restaurant or at any other "day job."

In fact, you could treat working in fashion as a positive. "My fascination with the human form led me to a career in fashion design, but I've since moved towards figurative painting because ..." 

Myself, I happen to be working on some wearable sculptures lately. They aren't exactly fashionable, but if I had any background in fashion design, that would probably influence my work and I would probably be spelling that out for people.

Plenty of artists (Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger, Richard Prince, etc.) have worked in a design field that has also informed their artwork. Other artists (like Rebecca Horn and Nick Cave) have worked in wearable artwork that blurs the art/fashion lines. Cave has an MFA in Fiber Art at Cranbrook and is now on the Fashion Design faculty at SAIC.

So, yeah, I'd say don't worry that other people might have some sort of prejudice that will hold you back. Instead, I'd say try to focus on the things we have control over, like the quality of the work in our portfolios, and the ideas in our statements. Good luck!








Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Eric,

Thanks so much for your reply, that was super helpful! I guess there is this more and more cross over between the art and design fields. I guess I became a little neurotic about it when several months ago a painting professor told me my work looked very "design-ey" and that I should try and lose my illustrative hand if I wanted to go into an MFA painting program. He is pretty old school/ traditional so maybe different faculty would see it another way.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  


Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.