The subject has evolved to combine traditional skills with new media technologies, says Linda Shortt of the University of Hertfordshire


The study of fine art demands high levels of self-motivation, intellectual curiosity and imagination; everything else can be taught. Traditionally, the education of artists emphasised drawing as a skill for observation, recording, analysis and communication. This remains true of some institutions, but the advent of new technologies is challenging the old order.

Fine art programmes emphasise imagination and creativity, but they are also designed to develop the student's intellectual powers and communication skills. Course are based in large studios, in which students have individual workspaces. Year groups usually comprise 30-50 students.

Fine art courses often begin with the acquisition or development of skills such as painting, electronic imagery, installation and photography. Because new technologies have eroded traditional media boundaries, many institutions enable fine art students to share facilities with design students.

This breadth of media and skills might suggest that fine art courses are expensive. The materials you use will determine how much you need to spend. Before applying for a course, always ask what is provided and what you must pay for yourself. Students who are resourceful may be able to negotiate "freebies".

Many fine art courses have been redesigned to prepare students for life after graduation. Their curriculum may include business and professional awareness components or modern languages. Fine art programmes employ visiting lecturers who are professional practising artists. In many courses, students may also complete placements, residencies or live commercial projects, and some faculties have their own galleries, with regular creative input from exhibiting artists.

After graduation, many students continue to practise as artists and support themselves through the sale of their work, commissions, grants and residencies, and other employment. Many go into teaching, community arts work, curating, arts management and administration, or other areas of the creative industries, including advertising, film and video production, software design or as a self-employed artist or designer-maker.

Many disciplines within art and design have been identified as major contributors to the creative industries. This has led to government recognition of the wealth-creating and culture-enhancing achievements of art and design. Increasingly, graduates in fine art are finding employment in areas unrelated to the subject but which value and actively seek their creative abilities and skills. Your own talent, drive, perseverance ­ and a little luck! ­ will determine what you do.

Further Information:

Nearly 2,000 fine art courses are listed on the UCAS website at: www.ucas.com Allow yourself some time to work through them!

Linda Shortt is the Chair for the National Association for Fine Art Education (NAFAE), which advocates the interests and continuing development of fine art education in the UK. Membership is open to institutions and individuals. See http://nafae.lboro.ac.uk for details.

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