BA(hons) Fine Art – First Year


As the first year in my Fine Art degree comes to a close, I figured I would do a year in review type deal where I go over some of the stuff I’ve been through, whether it helps people considering a fine art degree, helps me in the future reflect on my education or is just some text out on the internet, this is helping me procrastinate so I’m happy.

It started out fine, but that was mainly because I had spent the summer painting, so I thought I would be an excellent fit in a fine art degree, full of painters, sculptors and drawers. We had a lot of workshops to begin with to induct us into the various rooms around my uni. So printmaking and film photography, stuff like that. My class bonded and we got to know each other and kind of where we stand in all the mediums etc.

My first project I felt a little bit lost, but we were encouraged to do a wide range of work so I ended up with kind of crummy oil paintings, sketch drawings, half a sketchbook and a bunch of A1 charcoal drawings to show for my first 3 months. I passed and it was all good.

My second project was where I struggled. We had to fill half a sketchbook again, needed a few experimental pieces, and contextual and visual research folders. It was the actual pieces I think that pulled me back, it was very rushed because I was too busy trying to find my footing with inks and water colour. My whole theme was doors and windows, and I honestly have no idea how I got to that point? I think I was starting to think maybe I’d made a mistake choosing fine art at all and I should have gone for illustration. It certainly didn’t help that I didn’t even pass. I got an extension and did it the second time around, but my grade was capped at 40%.

After a long talk with my tutors, I took one main quote away which drove the rest of this year. “We’d much rather you do loads of illustration work than no work at all”. I mean after what.. 14 years in education? I kind of understand how the criteria works. It’s not very rigid and I realised that actually, I could do all of this course just doing illustration work as long as I show an awareness of contemporary art.

I wrote my next brief for my third and final module of the year as broadly as I could. “Cynicism and Satire in ink”. I was angry at my own confusion and wanted to know where the line between Illustration and Fine Art were drawn (get it), and I wanted to do that using illustrative methods but presented in a fine art context. I would stick this one through to the end, and although I had planned on much more creative presentation, I ended up with more or less what I expected.

I decided to explore what I could satirise, and ultimately came to the conclusion that politics would be the easiest. This was more of an effort to focus on my practise rather than subject matter so I had no problem with choosing something easy. Although part way through the module I was struck with the unexpected influence of the comic industry. I had been a big fan of graphic novels for years but I had never really looked at actual comic art, and something in my brain clicked and I finally did. I collected dozens of comics pre 1980s and have been admiring the art and structure since. This shone through to my final pieces as 3 out of 4 of them are pieces shown as a comic page.

There’s a lot to it I suppose, and there’s a lot to learn with any avenue of art, especially fine art, but I feel that it’s taken this entire year to finally ground myself in something I enjoy, feel comfortable with and am good at. I have a sneaking suspicion the second year will be a little easier for me.

Collateral copy

So all in all my first year has been really good, I have learned a lot about art, myself as an artist and even myself as a person. Although I considered switching to Illustration, I have decided to see this through to the end mostly because of the crazy amount of freedom they give you, I mean you literally write your own module briefs! Of course people rip into me about going to art school and all that, but at the end of the day I’m happy and I’m learning, and if you’re passionate about art of any kind, I would definitely consider a fine art degree. It’s a fight at times and it’s very hard work but nothing worth fighting for ever comes easy.

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