11 Differences Between Normal Students And Art Students

Kichigin / (Shutterstock.com)
Kichigin / (Shutterstock.com)

After two and a half years of being an art-school student, I have concluded that being an art student (and working 25 hours a week) is the most exhausting and expensive thing to be. We are not only (very nearly) broke, we are also vampires at night and walking zombies during the day. I shit you not, I have spent more on art supplies than I have on clothes in the last month. If that isn’t alarming, I don’t know what is. Michaels, Flax, Utrecht/Blick/whatever you are, Target, Staples, and Office Depot—you’re ALL welcome for my business. Now give me 2% back on all my purchases. Or airline miles. SOMETHING.

OK ok ok…I am not complaining. I’m complaining a little bit. I love what I do, so don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being an art student and I love being in a constantly evolving, creative environment. I love absorbing knowledge and being able to push boundaries and work with my hands and the list goes on and on. I am willing to spend paychecks solely on food, copious amounts of poster boards, glue, and 60-cent color copies. But seriously, in comparison to normal college students, it is incredibly expensive to be an art student…

I will give you an insider look into my own experience. I am napping with one eye shut as I type this—like Cyclops, but prettier.


Normal college students make b/w 8×11 copies that cost 10 cents each.

Art students make 8×11, 11×14, 15×20 color prints that cost more than my lunch. Large copies = no lunch.


Normal students write an essay in 2.5 hours and go get their beauty sleep.

Art students spend the next 16 hours inhaling spray mount and/or staring at InDesign/Photoshop until their head wants to explode.


Normal students sleep 7.5 hours and wake up rested, ready for class.

Art students sleep 3 hours, 2 hours, 1 hour, 20 minutes, 15 minutes, or not at all. Find me an art student that has slept more than 3 hours on a school night and I will gift you with a small bar of gold for finding an almost-extinct species of art student.


Normal students can fit everything in a cute normal-sized tote.

Art students are carrying a large tote, a toolbox full of art supplies/markers/sewing kit, a drawing board, a tote full of whatever medium you normally work with. We don’t need to work out; we do it all the time.


Normal students go on public transportation and smile at strangers.
Art students go on public transportation, hit six people with their stuff, say sorry, and are given the stink-eye the rest of the ride.


Normal students get sucked into the black hole that is Target, buying socks, nail polish, and magazines they don’t need. (I may or may not be guilty of also doing this…)
Art students get sucked into the black hole that is Michael’s or Flax in SF, buying watercolor paint, sketchbooks, half-off canvases, and Faber-Castell artist pens they don’t need.


Normal students talk about pop culture, the latest celebrity news, political issues, local events, music festivals, etc. You know, normal shit.
Art students talk about magazine articles, the current exhibitions at the local museums, the latest work of *insert photographer, fashion designer, artist here*, DIY projects, weird shit they do in their spare time (that everyone shrugs at by now), and the best printing place to get copies made.


Normal students go out to brunch, go shopping in Hayes Valley, hang out at Dolores Park, and go out at one of SF’s 34,902 bars that have made it on at least one “you must visit this bar for its legendary something” list.

Art students go to museums to get inspired (really) and “for fun”, then they go home to work on their 6 projects due in a week.


Normal students pay a flat supplies/misc fee at the beginning of every year.

Art students pay same fee as normal students and then end up needing various other paint brushes, rulers, x-acto knives and endless amounts of glue sticks. BY THE WAY, COSTCO SELLS A HUGE PACK OF THEM FOR $7. Free tip, you’re welcome.


Normal students buy $3 notebooks for each class.

Art students buy $13 sketchbooks for each class. WHAT is this paper made of?! Is it sprinkled with fairy dust?!?!


Normal students use scissors for crafts and projects.
Art students live in fear of actually cutting a finger off while using an X-Acto knife. I personally use a scalpel (thanks, David!) and it’s so much better! I also live in double the fear of cutting my finger off.

I could go on and on and on…but I will save you the…well, I’ll save it for next time. In conclusion, we don’t sleep, we don’t have money, we’re overwhelmed and exhausted beyond belief, aaaaaand we are doing what we love to do. We are chasing the dream that we have put in front of ourselves and if it takes blood, sweat, tears, and more blood to get there—that’s what we’ll do. That’s what we’re made of. I should say that I don’t claim that we are better than your “normal” student out there—to each his/her own—we’re all working toward something. BUT. Art students are a special kind of crazy, and you know it, and we know it. That bit of crazy is what makes us create, keep creating, testing the boundaries, learning rules, and learning how to break them.

So in case you never knew how expensive/exhausting/rewarding it was to be an art student, now you maybe sort of do! If you have any deep, burning questions about being an art-school student, please let me know. Also, in case you were wondering, I’m a fashion merchandising major. Not design. I’m only a little bit crazy, not full-on crazy. Not yet. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

A curious twenty-something who loves fashion, art, coffee, penguins, books, breakfast food, and Harry Potter. No. I actually love Harry Potter more than you.

Keep up with Celina on celinacarmen.wordpress.com

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