Has anyone else had a mediocre experience in a UK art school?
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    Has anyone else had a mediocre experience in a UK art school?

    I'm not going to discuss which school or any real details, but I am in my third year of study on a degree which is supposedly training me for concept art type roles in the creative industry. From animation to games, book and fine arts.


    Long story short, I've yet to have a lesson on anatomy, colour theory, or any painting method. I've attended all lectures and classes for 3 years and I'm finally ready to admit that I've wasted £20,000. The problem is, I need my BA, and to get that I need to be in classes and lectures every day of the week, and when I'm not in uni I'm working, so I'm drained. Financially and mentally.

    Is this just my school? Or is this UK art education? It's not like we are not doing anything.. We learn about visual language and do a lot of design work, as well as business planning, but no meat and two veg, as it were. Maybe they don't think art skills are wanted in the job market? I hear a lot of talk about business knowledge getting you farther than being able to draw.

    I am now frantically trying to learn to digitally paint, and trying to learn advanced anatomy and colour theory. Has anyone got any advice on how to cram that in fast?

    I don't really know what else to say, It's depressing to say the least, but I'm very ambitious, so hopefully it works out.

    Anyhow, please share your stories, and don't hold back. I'm sick of defending my school to people. We can't even get good grades unless we suck ****. Let any tales loose, maybe we can warn other UK youngsters not to waste £20k.

    Last edited by Pennyj; December 4th, 2009 at 09:23 AM.
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    All university courses are like that all over the world, except maybe a few.
    And they're only good if you want the degree to teach others.

    Had something similar in Belgium. I only paid 500 euro per year for the school though.

    Best thing for you to do is start a sketchbook here and show some work, maybe get some crits and depending on your level, it might take anywhere from 1 year to several years to get to an industrylevel.
    So basically, after you graduate, you'll be suffering a part time job while learning for a few years. But it's far from impossible.
    You'll just need to suffer a bit

    Good luck.

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    I'm both sad and glad to hear that.

    Can I ask something else. Does the grade of my degree matter? Will a studio notice a 1st over a 2:1 or 2:2? If grade doesn't matter then I think it's time to start putting more time aside to practice my painting and drawing!

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    Have no idea what a 2:1 or 2:2 means, but studios hire by portfolio. If you can add to your CV that you also have a bachelor of a master degree in art, it might make em look twice, but beyond that it's pointless.
    If you don't have the skills, you don't get the job. But if you already wasted so much dosh on getting your degree, you might as well finish it. It won't put your chances any lower in any case.

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    Unless its the date, I dont think art directors even acknowledge numbers in a portfolio.

    Unless it's between two very similar artists.

    But I have a hard time thinking it's been 3 years and you had no anatomy training. If this continues, I'd consider a lawsuit. You paid the 20,000 to learn to draw and if you weren't properly taught....Well its like someone paid for a pizza, but the parlor never put cheese on it.

    SECONDS: Do you work from life of photographs?
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    Pennyj, which university is this? Also, what course are you studying? Illustration?

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    Their answer to that is "That is part of your self directed study". Which of course makes no sense, because it's a fucking art school.

    We have had about 10 life drawing sessions over 3 years, and in the last 5 I was told to stop doing gesture drawings, because they were "pointless".

    We had one session (5 hours) on line of action in figure drawing, but that fizzled out into very basic stick men doing 1000 different shitty poses.

    We also had about 5 hours of still-life drawing in one of my earlier classes.

    Besides my own time spent drawing and painting, that is it. The rest is based around visual language, design and learning software like illustrator and flash. There are an equal number of modules for business planning and art & design.

    If I'm 100% honest, I think the work I posted on my old account here, 6 years ago, may be better than my current figurative work. I know a LOT more about business, design, software and other stuff, but that isn't what an Illustration degree should be about... Is it?

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    Well, now you know a bit about how to market yourself and you also know how to use the programs to get specific effects.
    So now it's up to you to get the artistic skills again, I suggest lots and lots of lifedrawing and finding a job which requires you to sit on your ass all day so you can save your strength for the evenings when you draw and paint.

    I recommend watching a livestream when drawing, like Bobby Chiu's or MrDelicious, it's always nicer to draw with the guise of other people. Seeing how they do it, then get frustrated of constantly failing.

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    I really don't want to say. I know this may sound silly given what I've told you, but a lot of my lecturers are actually really nice. They are good at what they've been hired for. The problem is that the course planners don't hire in teachers for core-skills. They put them under "self directed study".

    If anyone is in a position to confirm that this is legally wrong, I may tell you the name of the school. It has a fairly good reputation in Fine Arts and a world class reputation in a particular design field.

    Another thing I will reveal is that despite spending over £100k on new hardware recently, the university wont allow graphics tablets to be used in the labs unless you 'hire' one and leave collateral. I GET this, but if I was the dean I would sooner expel students who abuse equipment than not put essential hardware in labs.

    Last edited by Pennyj; November 16th, 2009 at 07:22 PM. Reason: Don't want to risk someone from the school reading that!
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    Thankfully my job allows me to sit on my arse, and I fully intend to start sketching at work. Until now I have used my offline time at work geeking out on my various obscure modules, but as I've said, I now realise it is a waste of time getting an 1st class BA in Illustration when my portfolio looks the same as it did when I was in school!

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    Illustration isn't the same concept art - In the UK at least, illustration courses focus a lot on experimentation of different mediums and communicating ideas. Knowing about business is a valuable asset so it hasn't been a total waste.

    I'm interested in knowing the name of your university, though? Even if you PM me... I dropped out of a reputable university myself here in the UK, and share your frustration to an extent.

    Last edited by B u r l; November 16th, 2009 at 07:33 PM.
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    Shit, I just wrote a long explanation and my connection dropped when posting.

    A short version: I also studied a foundation course in Fine art and a mixed fine art and illustration course at the same uni. Im a complete idiot. All the courses have contained NO real training in anything other than basic softwares. I have no other interests/qualifications, so I've just stuck around for all these years hoping to bump into interesting people.

    Also, the illustration degree was explicitly sold as a figurative drawing, concept art and book illustration style course. We have never had practical lessons about experimentation. Only graphic-design based modules based around visual language and idea-generation. There's nothing wrong with these modules by the way, they just don't teach us how to compose even basic illustrations.

    The uni isn't reputable in illustration by the way. I will PM you.

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    Has anyone else had a terrible experience in a UK art school?
    Yup, next question.

    In all fairness I was young and didn't realise what I was actually signing up for.

    We were a poor fit.

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    Your situation sounds scarily like mine. I can't say I've regretted my course, at least because it's opened my mind and I've now got printed out sheets of business info. But that's about it.
    It's pretty much "Inspiration: The Course". :p

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    If this is the case then what courses in university DO teach drawing and painting? I'm on an Art and Design course now and if 3 years of uni is going to teach nothing but business skills then whats the point.
    Is game art more idealistic in this sense.

    Sorry for the quick thread hijacking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aesir
    I fully intend to become rich as fuck through art. How you ask? By being awesome.
    Awesome artists get rich. You guys just don't love art enough to get rich. Maybe if you cared about money more you might have more motivation to get awesome.
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    ZenzybaR: Are you at college? I spent a year in college doing what is practically the lowest level BTEC diploma that you can get - Lower than a GCSE C in art by most counts - Yet I was taught more than my three years here.

    I can't go into a long list of recommendations because I'm just about to get kicked out of the computer lab, but just keep working in your own time and try to find a mentor in the industry.

    One thing you should seriously consider is study abroad. In Canada, France or the US.

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    Yeah i'm doing a foundation Diploma in Art and Design. I failed GCSE art.
    But we never get taught much, we just do stuff. I think it because they're focused on us making a portfolio that will definitely get us into uni. And it's a 1 year course. (this year.)
    And i have to apply to uni through UCAS by the end of Dec.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aesir
    I fully intend to become rich as fuck through art. How you ask? By being awesome.
    Awesome artists get rich. You guys just don't love art enough to get rich. Maybe if you cared about money more you might have more motivation to get awesome.
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    I've not been through uni but good god, A-level sucked. I found it even worse than GCSE personally. At least in GCSE I had to draw from life a little (bottles and simple still lives), and paint a basic colour wheel. Not only was I not taught anything about drawing or painting at all in A level, I was actually encouraged to stop drawing/painting altogether at one point. In an art lesson!

    Funnily enough though the place I'm at right now is nothing but learning how to draw/paint well, and while I'm improving constantly on the technical side of things I can't help but find myself missing the more creative side now. I guess that's where my sketchbook and free time come into it

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pennyj View Post
    I'm both sad and glad to hear that.

    Can I ask something else. Does the grade of my degree matter? Will a studio notice a 1st over a 2:1 or 2:2? If grade doesn't matter then I think it's time to start putting more time aside to practice my painting and drawing!
    Bad idea. You have spent 20K on this, and 3 years. The best thing you can do right now is to complete this degree and get the best grade you possibly can.

    Dropping out of a course in the first few months, as Adam/dumpling did, is one thing - that can show decisiveness - but dropping out at the end, or getting a poor grade, doesn't look good.

    You have the rest of your life to learn how to draw and paint (though I completely understand that you'd like to achieve mastery of technical skills a lot faster than that!).

    The "signal" you will send out at this point by changing direction is that you are impatient, lack focus, and have difficulty in seeing something through to conclusion - not messages you want to be sending to potential employers.

    If the course is teaching you about marketing yourself, business skills etc - and providing an opportunity to "network" - make full use of those opportunities, as many artists are hopeless at business aspects of earning a living from art.

    Stick out the Uni nonsense for a few more months and you'll end up with a 1 or a 2:1, and then you can concentrate on technical skills, find other training for this such as an Atelier, or doing an Atelier-type course of study in your own time.

    Dave

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    f this is the case then what courses in university DO teach drawing and painting?
    As Hyskoa mentioned, most art colleges and universities are the same in that respect - there isn't much of a focus on painting, drawing and technique.

    If you want to learn fundamentals and techniques of drawing and painting on an advanced level, look for a classical-academic art school or atelier. Here's a list of some: http://www.artrenewal.org/asp/database/atelier_list.asp

    I'm a student of Angel Academy of Art, and it has exactly the kind of art education I was looking for since I was 15. I had, however, almost enrolled in art university because I assumed that they, too, would teach me to draw; and I think I was lucky to find out beforehand that it just simply wasn't was I wanted.

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    Thanks for the advice guys, I definitely intend to stick it out. I have another year by the way. I did a foundation year so this is my 3rd of 4 years.

    ZenzybaR: I can give you first hand experience in this. I did the same diploma, then applied for the foundation diploma at uni. If you get a distinction in your foundation year then other (better) unis will take you for their BAs. I had intended to move to a different uni, but money is so tight I knew it would end in disaster.

    Save as much money up as you can and research different unis. Start planning now, and get a distinction in a foundation diploma (uni foundation yr) even if it kills you.

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    Pennyj: Thanks. I do need to kick myself into gear cause i'm actually slacking a little with the work. The way everything seems soooooo pointless annoys me. Constantly telling me to annotate with what i think, when all i think is that what we're doing is BS. But i guess i need to think about the bigger picture and grow up.

    Thanks for the advice, it's helped a lot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aesir
    I fully intend to become rich as fuck through art. How you ask? By being awesome.
    Awesome artists get rich. You guys just don't love art enough to get rich. Maybe if you cared about money more you might have more motivation to get awesome.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pennyj View Post
    Is this just my school? Or is this UK art education? It's not like we are not doing anything.. We learn about visual language and do a lot of design work, as well as business planning, but no meat and two veg, as it were. Maybe they don't think art skills are wanted in the job market? I hear a lot of talk about business knowledge getting you farther than being able to draw.
    On the flip side, the most common complaint I hear from graduates of American illustration programs is that they weren't taught enough about the business side of things.


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    guys why arnt you posting the names of these courses? all your doing is keeping the waters muddy


    on the flip side, can anyone recomend any courses / uni in the uk? ive seen the old uni thread and doing my research currently, but crazy workload and 1st hand opinions are always king

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    Nrx you're right, but I still have a year left at this uni and I'm really good friends with some of the lecturers. As I said, it is the uni's course planning that is rotten, but it's the lecturers who will catch shit when complaints are filed.

    Now that I know that it is fairly unacceptable I will be contacting the dean with suggestions, with the support of the lecturers, so it's all above board. I know the changes wont be made until I've graduated, but this isn't about me.

    One thing I've been told fairly often by the lecturers is that classes are and were cancelled because only a couple of people attended. So I'm not even sure how much of this lack of teaching comes from bad students.

    Elwell It's a huge positive about my uni, but it has crept into the courses to the extent that 60% of our time is spent on business planning.

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    It was a funny week at my school. I don't know why, but there have been huge improvements.

    Wacom tablets are being put out into the labs soon, instead of gathering dust as they are now. Talks by interesting artists. Also we got a visit from someone who works with Disney, and has been very active in the UK industry. Truly inspirational, and the best bit? He gave us a 2 hour life drawing class with a focus on gesture! The funny thing is, now EVERYONE is clambering to join me in the cafe to do gesture drawing!

    There was a downside. A well known figure in the UK games industry came to give a lecture, which was painfully lame. He then made a racist comment to a room full of international students, and insulted women by saying they don't play games unless they're on Wii. To top it off I spoke to him afterwards hoping he would be apologetic and he basically told me to fuck off, and that his company doesn't need concept artists because they can "do procedurally generated characters"!! I'm just glad I met him now, before I took time to attend his studio's internship interviews!

    I just hope this is a sign of things to come and not a teasing taste of what could be if the admins gave a shit 365 days of the year, instead of 2.

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    I had a good experience doing a foundation ba art course, we did basic dark-room techniques, life drawing with nude models, colour theory, composition, clay sculpture etc. all in one year and for free, didn't pay a penny. That also helped me decide against doing a 3 year art course- I prefer it as a hobby, an individual pursuit.

    I would recommend taking a life drawing course if you have the time (they usually run for about 6 weeks), it's a good way to learn about anatomy first-hand. Either that or read http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Drawing-...9606580&sr=8-1 the book covers all the basics

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    The only genuinely useful thing my course did (apart from the business side) was to let a storyboard artist come in and give us a talk. He gave us all the terminology etc, and assigned us a short storyboard to do which he took. Stupidly, one of my lecturers then denied any of the terminology he gave us. She seemed pretty insistent that spending time to create recogniseable figures in a storyboard was a waste of time, since all the action can be told through stick figures.

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