Q & A with Matt Appling

Yes I know it’s been ages since I’ve posted anything, with May’s business of Mother’s Day, design portfolios, family gatherings and whatnot- it’s been hectic! But side fun fact, I actually started the draft of this post on 18 May and finally now it’s being published! Why? Because on average it takes at least 15 revisions/edited versions before it’s done and dusted to perfection 😉 So from me to you, enjoy!


Image supplied by Matt Appling 2015

Meet Matt Appling. Author of Life after Art. Blogger at the churchofnopeople blog. And art teacher by day!

Last year I bought Life after Art book and could not put it down once I started! Reading his book reminded me the importance to maintain the childhood wonder and excitement in living everyday and to create. As being a uni student, it’s so easy for us to be bogged down with uni work, volunteering, working and all other things while trying to land a full time job.

If you want to rediscover your former 5 year old self where everything was full of wonderment and enchantment, read on! =)


* I highly recommend reading Life after Art that’s now available on iBooks 😉

1. What did you study when you were at uni? (Both undergraduate & postgraduate)? And out of all of them, which one helped you discover your passion and career aspirations?

I did my undergrad studies in graphic design, but felt a pull to go to bible college (aka seminary in the USA) afterwards. Following that I did an arts degree with a Masters of Divinity. Teaching art was a career path that I did not expect, but it was amazing how things came back full circle after ten years and both degrees played a part in shaping who I am as a person and a educator. I am probably one of the few bible educated Art teachers in the country!

2. How well did your tertiary studies equip you with the skills and knowledge to step in to your current industry? I.e what did you valuable skills/knowledge did you gain that you wouldn’t have got if you didn’t go to uni?

More than anything, I think university gives students the opportunity to learn how to learn. There were certainly skills I picked up in design courses. I honed my drawing skills. I learned all the necessary digital programs.

What uni really is

Image by Sony Notes app 2015



Image by LINE app 2015


3. The top question on every student minds is… how easy or challenging was it for you to step into the industry you studied after graduating? And what steps did you take to get to where you are today? (i.e volunteering, internships, study abroad, placements etc)

I decided after graduate studies that I wanted to teach. After getting my teaching certification, I spent a year as a substitute teacher. And then I cut my teeth on a couple of entry level jobs. I wasn’t a teacher, but I was in a classroom. The pay was weak and I was “overqualified” as it pertained to my education. But it helped me get the experience I needed.

The secret?

Image by Sony Notes app 2015


4. At the moment you’re an Art teacher, where would you be when you’re not teaching?

I just published my second book the first of which was Life After Art (book review to come guys!). I am really enjoying building my skills on the potter’s wheel when I don’t have class. My wife and I just had our first child, so that’s a big thing. But we like to spend our free time (which seems like an oxymoron these days) outdoors – hiking, camping, that kind of thing.

5. What are some perks and challenges in your industry? And what do you enjoy most about it?

Education has a myriad of challenges. I avoid many of those common challenges by teaching in a private school, but there are always challenges. Teaching is fun, but it can be stressful. The kids don’t always seem grateful for what you are trying to do for them. And it’s easy to get bogged down with a lot of tasks that don’t really pertain to your core job description. And as the Art teacher, I sometimes feel like I have to justify my existence. Art doesn’t always seem “practical.”

6. Describe a typical day in your job.

The short answer about a typical day as a teacher is that when I go home in the afternoon, I never feel that I have accomplished everything. I always go home with more to do the next day than when I started. When you get to that place, you know you’ve moved from a “job” to a “career.”

I get to school at about 7:20am and I hustle until 3:30pm. During my plan times, I might prepare for upcoming classes or create demonstrations for a new project. I have to stage the room and clean up after each class.

Art History with the seniors comes in the afternoon, so I have to review my notes. High school electives are in the afternoon, which might be Ceramics or Yearbook or something else I signed up to do, so I have to make sure I’m ready for those right after Art History. In between teaching and prepping, there are the other duties that teachers have to do: recess supervision or morning car line or faculty meetings. And then in between all of that, there is the steady drip of random tasks: framing and tagging artwork for display at a fundraiser, creating something for the office or something like that.

If I'm not

Image by Sony Notes app 2015


7. What are some of your top career and university highlights?

My final year of design school, I was working with an elite group of student designers on real-world projects. It was invitation only and was a great opportunity to do some pretty high level stuff.

My greatest career satisfaction has been stepping into my current job, in which the Art space was obviously an afterthought, and remaking the whole program from the ground up. Building something that big takes a few years, but is immensely satisfying. This program is me now. It’s going to be hard to give it up. I have the kids do amazing things, and that always makes it easier when I want to ask for expensive new equipment from the administration!

8. If you could share your top tips and advice for students wanting to pursue a career as an Art teacher, what would they be?

My stock advice for all of my senior students is the advice I would give myself if I could go back in time. If you are not pursuing degrees in law, medicine or some other field like engineering that are very specific, then give serious consideration to double majoring in Business. I did not think I was a “business” type in college (ditto here, never saw myself doing business but ha, here I am! 😉 – I was a free-spirit! But understanding how to leverage your creative talents I think just makes life easier.

Even if you are teaching, you probably have a “side hustle.” If you don’t have a side hustle, definitely get one! (See Danny Rubin’s reasons for sidehustles post )(Something that you do outside of work like for me being a unibookworm blogger, it’s like a side work personal project!) Or if you’re into art, it’s the ones that you want to get into an exhibit! Give yourself an advantage in any workspace and give yourself a few left-brained skills to match your creative side.

Want to find out more about Matt?

Follow Matt @Matt_Appling =)

or check out the Life After Art book!

Life After Art

Image by Moody Publishers 2013


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