What's it like to study... Fine art

Saoirse Crean studied Fine Art at Lancaster University, and now works in art marketing

In the first week of lower sixth, my art class went on a field trip to the Lake District. A whole week of painting and drawing, undisturbed and being at one with nature. At the start of the trip my teacher said, "After this week you will never see the world in the same way again. Everything will be a potential photograph or painting. You will always see the world through an artists eyes."

Mr Power was right, and some years later I was studying Fine Art at Lancaster University.

I chose Lancaster for a number of reasons. The art department has 24-hour studio access which was a real selling point. Being a professional artist isn’t a 9-5 job, so if you wake from a crazy dream at 3am full of inspiration, then you could act on it. The lecturers would constantly emphasise the importance of 'studio culture', and the 24-hour access certainly helped with this. Students were able to work together outside of a formal structured learning situation which helped create a more professional environment.

Students are treated as professional artists from day one. This can be pretty daunting, as you are expected to be independent and self-motivated, but the lecturers were always there to guide us and provide weekly critiques.

This independence extended beyond 24-hour studio access to the field trips we took in the first and second year. A week in Berlin and New York respectively. The degree is what you make of it, and on the trips, we were trusted to structure the week to see the galleries we were most interested in. Both in Berlin and New York, my group chose the hardcore option of early rises and late finishes, packing in as many galleries as was humanly possible - with quite a bit of sightseeing and cocktail drinking in between. It all went fairly smoothly - although the photos of me looking confused at a map might suggest differently.

I think the hardest part of the degree was the workload. Juggling a full-time degree (studio practice and dissertation), a part-time job, relationships and the all-important volunteering and internships could prove to be quite taxing. But it also equipped me with excellent time management and organisational skills. The internships that I worked on were invaluable for my CV and finding a job after University. As one of my lecturers once said, 'network or die' - and this is certainly the case in the art world.

There is also a level of uncertainty with an art degree - it’s not like a mathematical equation where there is a right or a wrong answer. You could pour your heart and soul in to a piece of work for viewers to just not get it. This could be heartbreaking, but it definitely helps you build a thick skin!

At Lancaster there is a real emphasis on becoming a professional in the art world - whether that is as a practicing artist, working for a gallery, or going on to further academia. The whole course is structured to provide you with the skills to enable this to happen.

The first year is fairly structured as you spend time completing projects in each of the different disciplines: painting, drawing, sculpture and digital. There is also the opportunity to work on group projects and collaborations, which help to promote the studio culture.

Being able to explore the different disciplines proved invaluable for me. As with many fledgling artists, I began the degree thinking I would be a painter or drawer - but by the end of the first year I was specialising in digital and performance. In both the studio sessions and art theory lectures we would constantly analyse what was important to us as artists – what did we value in art? E.g. visualness, the process of making art, or the meaning behind the work? My work was about people and society, and I felt performance and digital media was the best way for me to express my message.

Lancaster was definitely the best place for me as a digital artist as the staff really are experts in their field. One dilemma I faced was whether my dissertation lecturer would be flattered, or would think I was looking for brownie points for quoting one of his books in my thesis! In studio practice we would also have regular practical tutorials, or 'tech methods'. For the digital group this would range from how to use an SLR to creating an animation. Our lecturer would tailor these sessions to meet the group’s needs.

The culmination of any art degree is your degree show. This is your opportunity to present yourself to the world as a professional artist. Students spend the year fund-raising, marketing, promoting themselves and putting together the exhibition catalogue. Organising the degree show equips students with skills that are transferable to the business world of art. I was responsible for the promoting of the show, which included social networking, inviting VIPs, applying for funding and gaining drinks sponsorship (It’s not a decent exhibition if there isn’t free booze). Through this I discovered my passion for arts marketing and went on to complete an internship in this area.

I now work for an arts marketing company in London, this is all thanks to the emphasis the Fine Art department gave me in the importance of networking, CV building and having a professional attitude. I can also thank Lancaster for allowing and encouraging me to be creative and expand my mind for three years. Understanding the history of art and the power that art can have - not just in reflecting what’s happening in our world, but shaping it as well - has helped me to see the world in a different way.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

MBDA UK Ltd: HR Advisor - Recruitment and Graduate Programme

Competitive Salary & Benefits: MBDA UK Ltd:    What’s the opportunity? We...

MBDA UK Ltd: Software Graduate

Competitive Salary & Benefits: MBDA UK Ltd:   Role Title: Softwa...

Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support - Surrey - £28,000

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpdesk / Devel...

Guru Careers: Graduate Database Administrator / Junior DBA

£20 - 25k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Database Administrator / Junior DBA is nee...

SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks