Choosing a Visual Arts Bachelor Degree in Australia

Pursuing a Visual Arts Degree in Australia is an exciting time I remember all too well!

However, navigating the rather diverse landscape of artistic education can be overwhelming as well as thrilling, which is why we’ve put together this guide to help you choose the right Visual Arts degree for you!

This guide is crafted to help you make informed decisions, discover suitable courses, and understand the essential hints, tips, and personality traits that will pave your way to a fulfilling artistic career.

Why pursue a career in Visual Arts?

Let’s start with some bullet points. These are reasons you would want to pursue a career in Visual Arts, so read through them.

Which ones reflect who you are, right now, and ask yourself why these reasons make you want to pursue a Visual Arts degree:

  • You have the skills so why not
  • You are told you have the skills so you kept stumbling on
  • You started and feel you can’t stop
  • People keep telling you, you are good at it
  • Without the process of making in your life, things seem meaningless
  • You have become passionate about art, the process, the materials, the ability to explore and more
  • You love the creative engagement
  • As a way of more effectively communicating to others
  • Express thoughts, concepts, notions and emotions
  • To make money
  • Create objects of beauty and or some other aesthetic value
  • Record or commemorate a time place, person, event or object
  • Make and or explore cultural connections
  • Tell stories, explore metaphors
  • To create therapeutic value
  • To create objects of adornment
  • Seek to explore and or explain the unknown
  • To create a devotional device
  • Increase global understanding
  • To create an artefact
  • To cause us to think.

Understanding Visual Art as a Career Path

So you want to study art.

You like the concept, the creativeness, the idea of exploring with others, and the notion of taking a journey through your mind to create expressions of what only you understand?

But you know your parents and some friends may be against it, suggesting you take a more common path?

But nay! You are beckoned by the romance of paint, the structure of materials, and the bohemian lifestyle!

Nothing will stop you!

In your pursuit of becoming the artist you want to be, you’ll need to make sure you are loaded with integrity, humility, ability, and energy. Not just “passion” and an interest in being part of the art scene.

Becoming a successful artist is never guaranteed, but with the right mindset it is definitely possible. In 2023 success is defined not just by artistic ability, but a savviness with the Internet, social media, and being able to market yourself well both on and off the Internet.

Will you be successful?

Where can you study a Visual Arts Bachelor degree in Australia?

Numerous universities Australia wide offer Visual Arts bachelor degrees:

New South Wales

University of Sydney

  • Bachelor of Visual Arts
  • Location: Sydney, New South Wales

University of New South Wales (UNSW)

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • Location: Sydney, New South Wales

University of Newcastle

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • Location: Newcastle, New South Wales


University of Melbourne

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • Location: Melbourne, Victoria

RMIT University

  • Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art)
  • Location: Melbourne, Victoria

Monash University

  • Bachelor of Fine Art
  • Location: Melbourne, Victoria

La Trobe University

  • Bachelor of Creative Arts (Visual Arts)
  • Location: Melbourne, Victoria

Swinburne University of Technology

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • Location: Melbourne, Victoria

Victoria University

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • Location: Melbourne, Victoria


Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (Visual Arts)
  • Location: Brisbane, Queensland

Griffith University

  • Bachelor of Fine Art
  • Location: Brisbane, Queensland

Western Australia

University of Western Australia (UWA)

  • Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts)
  • Location: Perth, Western Australia

Curtin University

  • Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art)
  • Location: Perth, Western Australia

Edith Cowan University (ECU)

  • Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts)
  • Location: Perth, Western Australia

South Australia

University of South Australia (UniSA)

  • Bachelor of Contemporary Art
  • Location: Adelaide, South Australia

Insights into the Visual Arts World

I can’t prove to you that doing any of the above will ensure you become a successful Artist, or even an A grade student or any other measure or Artistic success, but years of observing Exhibitions, Art Students, chatting to Gallery Directors and interviewing Artists has given me a few insights I’d like to share with you.

Take a look online and do your own research and find articles on Artists talking about what it takes to be a success – you will find a mixed bag of incredible advice and ideas.

You won’t be able to act on all the information and advice, but you will learn how other artists who were once in the same boat as you paved their way to success. This will give you the best chance of moving towards your goal!

Let’s get started with a list of pointers:

Get busy

It’s one thing to have a creative idea, and another thing entirely to bring it to life.

Think, then make.

Build your skills and abilities by doing things and making mistakes. Learn how to handle the materials you want to work with, and eventually the mistakes will become less and your ability will grow.

Explore creativity

My experience has been that not a lot of Art teachers teach how to be creative.

That may sound surprising prior to embarking on a Visual Arts degree, but you will find this to be true.

Creativity is something you must learn yourself, and will be your own personal and exciting journey.

Don’t be put off by this. This is why the world of art is so exciting. It would be boring if your lecturers taught everyone on the course how they should be creative.

Likers and haters

Social media will have probably taught you already that anything you post will be subject to likes, hearts, and also negativity. No art is everyone’s cup of tea, and even if it is some people hate from simple jealously.

Some social media followers will love everything you do, whether they really love it or not.

What a bizarre world we live in?

“Oh I love your work” is an ego boosting validation of what you do but that can be fairly hollow.

Friends and family who cannot articulate the details of why they love your work may have good intentions but may lack a deeper ability to tell you why. Explore the “why” question often, and learn from it.

Most art students struggle with constructive criticism, but this is your most powerful tool to grow, adapt, and succeed.

It’s fine for others to hate your work. Don’t be defensive. Ask them why, and consider what they say.

I swear not – as a young artist my ego was bigger than my ability. I remember creating a stunning piece of Visual Art, only to have my teacher point out a flaw within 1 second of looking at it.

I was offended at first. Probably for longer than I should’ve been, but in retrospect he was absolutely right, and I never made that mistake again.

Beware of stereotypes

At art school one of the lecturers referred to Van Gough as the “Artists Artist”. His reasoning was how Van Gough sold very little art, instead being driven by his own passions and expressions, and living the life to match.

Take a look at the art people you come across. Is it really necessary to have purple hair, radical makeup, wild ideas, and party like a demon to make you an artist?

Of course not.

Nor do you need to struggle and give up on living normally (making money etc) to find the roots to your creative endeavors.

Know that there is a time for being eccentric and a time for not being eccentric.

Of course, you can still have purple hair!

Keep going

Most people give up when things get tough.

Most people lose sight of their goals.

Most people do all manner of things when the “chips are down”.

Persistence helps. Goal setting will help. Working through rather than giving up may lead to fresh insights and may lead to more positive productive outcomes.

One of my visual art teachers used to say “It’s the plodders that get by”. So plod, and put one foot in front of the other.

Try stuff

Just because you choose to paint does not mean you can’t make sculptures or any other form of art.

The same with styles – give things a go.

Visual At is all about exploring, reinventing, testing, and pushing boundaries. Try new things.

If you are a realist, try abstract, try collage, try drawing. Who says we have to have a “body of work” that is consistent and shows progression?

This may again be part of the stereotype that could be holding a lot of people back.

Ask questions, always

There are heaps of people who are more than willing to assist you. Always ask for information.

Artists, Gallery Directors, other Students, Teachers, Art Store staff, Framing businesses, and the list goes on.

I have had people contact artists I have interviewed on this site directly and have a chat about details of their work, and I don’t know of any of the artists who have knocked back the chance to have a chat and talk about the work they’re so very proud of.

You can learn a lot from engaging with all these people and more.

The amount of brilliant knowledge out there is immense. The more you ask the more you can learn.

Keep asking, keep searching. Finding out what will make you the sort of Artist you want to be comes from exploring and chatting to learn more, do more and be more.

Become an overnight sensation

If you know anyone who has become an “overnight sensation”, look hard, and you will find they were probably a hard worker, chugging away in the background for many years before they were discovered or made a breakthrough that put them on the world’s stage as an overnight sensation.

If any artist looks sensational and young they probably started out earlier than you, and that’s fine.

There is crap you have to deal with

Creating artist statements that people may not read, rejection from galleries, rejection from grant applications, rejection from those who may love you dearly, things you try that don’t work, sitting in a gallery and watching how many people don’t turn up.

This list could get endless, but know that crap happens and you have to deal with it. This is life in general, whichever career you take.

Breathe in breathe out and repeat. Get tough and move on. If the crap starts to define you it may lead to difficulties later on.

So my best advice for you – just let the crap float by.

The Ups and Downs of Visual Art

You love being creative, exploring ideas, making, trying, and exploring some more.

Over the years, I realised this process was harder than it looked, but this only happened by being able to look back over various experiences and chatting with other artists.

In reality the process is more like… have an idea, create, fail, rethink, hate it, love it, scrap it! Then you start to worry if this is the right thing to do… Before you know it you are off thinking about more creative ideas to explore and make things happen.

Many other artists I have come across have similar experiences with the ups and the downs. I guess the process is what it is and as creative people we come to terms with the hassles and fight through, but for new creative people like art students if you are unaware of this process you could give up too soon.

Battle the tough decisions, plod on, fight with your inner demons but most of all know that tough challenges probably last just as long as good times… In the end your creative explorations will benefit from your ability to develop a tough skin and being able to hang in when the going gets rough.

How to become successful in Visual Arts

A recent survey of practicing Visual Artists gave some interesting results, the sort of information you need to know to be ahead of the game in Art

The question was posed as “What are the top things you need to succeed in Art?”

Some of you would probably think of a top level Education from the right institution, nope that didn’t rate, how about the ability to sell?

Nope not that one either, how about a big stash of cash… nope. business skills nah not that either.

Below is what research has suggested you need to become a successful artist:

  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Focus
  • Faith in yourself
  • Trust in the creative process
  • Going with your “gut” feelings
  • Play, make mistakes, surprise yourself, lighten up

Main characteristics aside, here’s a few more which matter:

  • Self Motivation
  • Discipline
  • Organisation
  • Daily creative practice
  • Openness to change
  • Viewing things from a different perspective

A great list of things to know!

So how will you go about building your skills in each of these areas to ensure you are doing all you can to be a successful Visual Artist?

The Visual Art Community

Visual Art plays an interesting role in the community and if you ask practically any Artist they will probably agree, yet to the wider community you may have a challenge on your hands trying to convince them of that. The challenge is multi-fold, getting enough people involved and engaged in exploring it (viewers) and enough Artists to create and exhibit to the wider community, then follow that with selling the benefits to the sponsors and supporters of these sorts of initiatives.

Community based art initiatives show up in some interesting places. Pop up galleries, public murals (and graffiti), online galleries, through to organizations engaging the wider community by supporting Art activities in the community where there are a hundred and one ways  the community can get connected to Contemporary Visual Art.

Be it a school offering to connect Visual Artists with their students (Artist in Residence programs) or in a shorter term burst (an exhibition in the school by Contemporary Visual Artists from the wider community). Or community festivals where Contemporary Visual Artists have the opportunity to connect with the community

Perhaps it’s a series of community therapy sessions for communities which have been through massive group trauma (bush-fires or floods). Or even a simple exhibition as part of a fete or another community event.

Whatever the community connection, the aim is to cause some level of communication to take place, perhaps to instil a notion of community pride, an acknowledgement of the role Contemporary Visual Arts can play or a cultural connection at a personal or group level.

All of this is fine as a concept, but the task then becomes to figure out ways to make that communication effective and find ways to connect in ways which will be of value to both parties, the Artists and the wider community.

How then do Contemporary Visual Artists communicate their visions, their concepts and ideas to an audience which may be indifferent to having objects presented to them which can confront or at the least tackle their own ideas of what’s suitable to look at and make sense of.

I often think there are people to blame (perhaps Art Teachers) for not providing students with suitable knowledge to go forth in the community and appreciate what they see (if even to a small degree.) However I could say the same of high level Science and Maths as just a minor starting point examples.

Should we therefore stop connecting to the wider community even though we have excuses to do so? Should we stop creating Contemporary Visual Art for the community because ‘they might not understand’?

Perhaps the answer lies in seeing youngsters in an Art Gallery being given a cultural ‘shot in the arm’ by well meaning parents. The child’s wonderment and eager viewing through innocent eyes should be the catalyst by which we start measuring the value of things, and having the opportunity to explore that which is visually intriguing and getting fresh views on the world as we know it.

Perhaps the answer lies in Art being for Art sake and the Artists playing Hermit and hiding away, buried in a maze of self consciousness and avoiding connecting in any way.

Whatever the answer I hope the notion of connectedness to the wider community becomes a topic of exploration, so you can test constantly explore the value of Contemporary Visual Art and push it’s meaning/s (or not) due to the community being given wider exposure than might normally be the case.

Visual Art holds a place (although sometimes tenuous) in the psyche of a culturally aware community. I believe we should look to any opportunity to see it, meet with it, tackle whatever it might be it is aiming to communicate (or not) and take in its cultural significance so we as individuals and as a nation can sense some level of connection to Contemporary Visual Arts and what it has to offer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest posts

  • Choosing a Visual Arts Bachelor Degree in Australia

    Pursuing a Visual Arts Degree in Australia is an exciting time I remember all too well! However, navigating the rather diverse landscape of artistic education can be overwhelming as well as thrilling, which is why we’ve put together this guide to help you choose the right Visual Arts degree for you! This guide is crafted…

    Read more

  • Charles Conder (1868 – 1909)

    Having been referred to as “the last bohemian”, the unconventional life of the gifted artist, Charles Conder has made him one of the most intriguing artists of the late 19th century. Leaving a lasting impression on the Australian and international art world he is considered to have played a large role in establishing the great…

    Read more