Visual art is that difficult

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Fine arts - interview

Marcel Noack, a freelance artist and photographer specializing in long-term documentary photography, explains how to get a place at an art college and what self-employed artists need to look out for. He studied at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig and sits on the federal board of the Association of Visual Artists and on the board of the International Society of Fine Arts.

The first step to the art college is an application folder with your own artistic work.

Photo: Lukas Krüger

abi » Mr. Noack, what qualities and skills do you need to work as a visual artist?

Marcel Noack: The most important thing is certainly talent, but there are other points that should not be underestimated because they help to draw attention to yourself and your work: You should be able to market yourself, for example by being present at art fairs and appeals to gallery owners. A good network is essential. You should also be prepared to deal with topics such as taxes and insurance - even if that's not exactly what you imagine the life of an artist to be. And last but not least, a big pinch of idealism and a healthy stamina help, because it is quite possible that you have to survive one or the other dry spell. Only a few artists can make a living from their art from day one and only very few make it to world fame.

Marcel Noack

Photo: private

abi »Before that happens and you can try to make a name for yourself as an artist, you usually go to an art college or academy. How difficult is it to get a university place?

Marcel Noack: When I applied for my studies at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig, there were around 400 applicants for around 15 places. This is no longer so pronounced today. Nevertheless, there are of course far more applicants than there are places available. But those who want to study are now also competing with applicants from abroad - currently mainly from Asia. The result is clear: the universities have to screen hard and prefer to accept those applicants who also match their own profile. It is therefore advisable to obtain detailed information in advance when selecting a university and to apply to several schools.

abi »How can I prepare for the application?

Marcel Noack: I recommend attending a portfolio school, i.e. a course in which you spend several months creating the works that you would later like to apply to the university of your choice. There you learn to train your eye and develop ideas - and you get a first glimpse into the work of an artist and ideally quickly notice whether this is something for you. Often the universities even offer such courses themselves. It can also be exciting for schoolchildren to do an internship in a gallery to get an insight into the art world: What does the market want? How do you organize an exhibition?

abi »Suppose I am rejected. What am I doing?

Marcel Noack: Then I'll try again! Once you have been rejected, you must not think that you have no talent. Sometimes you just don't fit into the mix of students the professor wants. Or you seem too young and inexperienced to the teachers. This is often communicated in the letter of rejection. Then it says: “You are good, but not mature enough. Try again next year. ”I also think that a certain life experience is important for an artist, because that is what makes his art interesting. That means: Even those who have already completed another apprenticeship, for example as a carpenter, can still attend the art college afterwards. There are no age limits. The oldest freshman I met was over 50 years old.

abi »You yourself work as a freelance photographer. What alternatives are there to working as a freelance artist?

Marcel Noack: The range of possible uses is wide: many former fellow students work in the media industry, some work as art teachers in a school. With the appropriate further training, a lateral entry into the field of stage design or art therapy / education is also possible. Those who opt for a scientific career can do a doctorate and then research and teach at the university.

abi »What tip do you have for budding artists?

Marcel Noack: Band together! The mutual support and exchange are worth their weight in gold. In addition, it is often easier to get funding and scholarships in a group.

additional Information

The information portal of the Federal Employment Agency shows an overview of the world of work.

Infoportal of the Foundation for University Admission in cooperation with the Federal Employment Agency. With a search for courses in all of Germany.


The network for professions of the Federal Employment Agency with over 3,000 current job descriptions.

Federal Association of Visual Artists

The Federal Association of Visual Artists is one of the largest associations of independent artists in Europe. The site provides information about the job description and events.

International Society of Fine Arts

The website of the International Society of Fine Arts provides information on funding programs and calls for proposals, among other things.

German Association of Artists

The German Association of Artists was founded in Weimar in 1903 and today unites around 650 well-known artists of all generations from all over Germany.