RMCAD Alumni shares with us industry challenges, big wins, and tips for triumph

Jason Hoelscher graduated from RMCAD in 1998 with his Bachelors in Painting and Drawing. He then proceeded to earn his Masters of Fine Arts in Painting from Pratt Institute (2000), and a Ph.D. in Philosophy with an emphasis in Aesthetics and Art Theory from IDVSA (2018). He’s exhibited his paintings both nationally and internationally and writes art criticism for a variety of magazines. Jason wrote a book titled Art as Information Ecology, which was picked up by Duke University Press and will be published in 2021. We were fortunate enough to chat with Jason about his experience at RMCAD, his challenges, accomplishments, and advice for other aspiring artists.

What made you want to pursue painting and drawing?

Some of my first memories are of drawing, art-making is something I’ve done as long as I can remember. I spent years doing zines, drawing t-shirt designs, flyers and logos for punk bands in the 80’s, then rave posters in the early 90’s. When I finally decided to start college at the ripe age of 25, painting and drawing was a natural fit.

How would you describe your style of work?

My paintings combine the aesthetics of late modernist abstraction with the semiotics of logo design. My goal is to make artwork that offers enough visual stimulation to operate within a quick read. Both late modernist painting and logo design take into account a quick glance, this seemed like an interesting set of ideas to combine and explore.

What made RMCAD a good fit for you? What was the best part about your time at RMCAD?

The entire campus fit into one small building when I was a student. The small scale and connections were important to me. The faculty was fantastic and the sense of artistic camaraderie was strong. RMCAD had a huge impact on my life. I was also able to work with Clark Richert– he’s one of the secret masters of the 20th century. 

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the industry? 

Making a creative and fulfilling living for oneself is both the goal and the challenge. It can be hard to make a living in the arts. One has to wear many hats and pursue multiple goals, each with equal passion. There have to be strategies for achieving each of these goals.

How has your RMCAD degree helped you succeed?

The work ethic I acquired at RMCAD has served me quite well over the years. The level of intensity at which we operated, and the degree of focus we had to apply, have both been crucial in succeeding.

What advice would you give other aspiring artists? 

The best thing an aspiring artist can do is do their research and be strategic about their approach. Have a set idea of what you want to accomplish, and make a plan to pull it off. Equally important is the ability to be flexible in those plans, because sometimes the pursuit of one goal will open up other options you didn’t even know were available. As for research, turn your brain into a sponge and absorb everything even slightly relevant to your interests. Read magazines every month, check out online art blogs, journals, and go see as much art in your community as you can. The social aspect of developing an art career is the most important, and the most overlooked. Lastly, if there is an artist you admire, find their CV and figure out what they were doing fresh out of school. Create a similar path for yourself. 

What’s in store for Jason Hoelscher in the future?

I am most excited for my book to come out next spring. I have a curatorial project I’m working on in Shanghai, China. I’m also planning to fully rev my studio practice back up. In my spare time, I am an associate professor in the Interdisciplinary Art Department at Georgia Southern University, where I am also the gallery director.

What makes you proud to be a RMCAD alumni?

I’m proud to be part of the RMCAD family because of the drive and determination the institute itself has. When I was a student, the school was small. It’s now a creative force and has a thriving campus shows a level of grit and endurance that seems to rub off on all its students.