The Art Academy – London

Figure Sculpture Diploma


The Figurative Sculpture Diploma (FSD) is a unique two-year bespoke course, offered by the Art Academy. Students follow a structured programme of study which gives them a thorough introduction to a wide range of technical and creative skills that they will need to create successful figurative sculptures. Students will work in a range of materials and styles, developing these according to personal preference. The course helps students to acquire both traditional and contemporary figurative sculpture skills, whilst encouraging individuals to develop their own sculptural language.

The course is written, taught and assessed by practicing artists, many of them pre-eminent in the field of figurative sculpture, including members of the Royal British Society of Sculptors and the Society of Portrait Sculptors. Students will be introduced to the subjects that sculptors have to deal with, relating to technical, structural and Health and Safety issues and the creative thinking that has to work alongside these. Students will do some relevant drawing as part of their programme and also have the option of taking some classes to broaden their practice in any area of interest to them, painting, digital or print. Students contextualise their work through sessions in art history and contextual studies, whilst digital studies provide them with the skills to use photos for reference imagery and in a professional context. Professional development sessions prepare students for the issues they would need to consider if they were later to go on to seek work as a sculptor, covering subjects such as commissions, working with galleries, writing an artist’s statement and building a website. The course is assessed by a board including members of the Royal British Society of Sculptors.

The Figurative Sculpture Diploma is a two-year course, but with the option of a further year of study, in recognition of the significant level of ability and artistic accomplishment necessary to create successful works of art within this highly skilled genre.

For more information please download our
Figurative Sculpture Diploma Course Document 2017-2018 (Subject to Change)


Course Contact
Tanya Russell

Course Location
Mermaid Court, 165A Borough High Street, London, SE1 1HR

Course Length
2 Years (Full Time) with the option of an additional year
4 Years (Part Time) with the option of an additional year

Fees 2017-2018

Course Fee Per Level Fee Per Year Fee Per Term (incl 3% surcharge)
Full-time Figurative Sculpture Diploma (UK/EU) 2yr £6,656 £6,656 £2,285
Part-time Figurative Sculpture Diploma (UK/EU)




Optional third year for both full and part time students £6,656 (or £2,285 per term).

Part Time Study – It takes two years to complete one level

Fees must be paid in advance and can be paid yearly or termly (the latter incurring a 3% surcharge). One level is a full cycle of course components, each of which has to be completed before moving on to the next level. In the full time Diploma, each level is completed in a year; in the part time Diploma, a level takes two years. The Academy reviews its fees on an annual basis, but fees for enrolled students will not be increased from year to year other than to account for the annual rate of inflation.

Start Date
12th September 2016

Autumn Term 2016-2017
12th September – 25th November 2016
Half Term: 17th October – 21st October 2016

Spring Term 2016-2017
9th January – 24th March 2017
Half Term: 13th February – 17th February 2017

Summer Term 2016-2017
18th April – 27th June 2017

Graduate Show

6-9 July 2017


Students undertake at least one sculpture skills component, a second sculpture skills component is optional. The core sculpture components take the students through a structured, bespoke programme of portrait and figure sculpture, the language of form and sculptural techniques. Courses will cover a wider range of issues including; armature making, measurement and anatomy in technical figure and portrait sculpture, expressive and dynamic figure work, language of form and materials, waste moulding and reusable mould making, plaster and resin casting, pigments, colouring and patination, large scale site specific projects, ceramics and mixed media figurative sculpture.


Drawing is an essential tool for the figure sculptor. Drawing can be used for study and reference, as a design tool and also for professional presentation of ideas. FSD students must complete 3 drawing components, the other three are optional. The required components are Constructive Anatomy, Measurement in Drawing and Issues in Drawing. Class sizes for both sculpture and drawing skills classes are a maximum of 15 students.

Optional Study Components

Full time students only have to take 2 skill days, consisting of sculpture or drawing, the 3rd skill day is optional. The third optional day could be in another discipline, such as painting, print, drawing or digital studies.

Creative Projects

The students complete a creative project each term. This is aimed at developing the student’s individual artistic vision. Studio Practice is structured around specific projects over the two years, based on our Artistic Principles. In the final term, students are expected to investigate a specific area of interest producing work of an original nature that culminates in the Graduate Exhibition.

Studio practice is taught by studio tutors who begin the development of a broad range of skills and techniques, introduced through intensive Components of group study in levels 1 and 2. These Components are intended to give the student a firm grounding in practical skills and techniques and to provide the practical vocabulary necessary for personal expression.

Art History, Contextual Studies, Digital Studies and Professional Development

Wednesdays at the Art Academy are devoted to art history, contextual studies, digital studies and professional development. For some of these sessions, the FSD students join with the Academy’s general Diploma students. For example, the Academy’s comprehensive art history and contextual studies programmes are designed to provide an essential understanding of all aspects of these fields of study relevant to any practicing artist, so FSD students join the other Diploma students for these sessions. FSD students are required to write a 2 – 3,000 word essay during their second year, on an art history or contextual studies topic relevant to figure sculpture in general and their own practice in particular. The Digital Studies programme is similarly beneficial for all artists, enabling students to develop skills in manipulating and managing photographs, in addition to considering the use of digital media as a creative tool. (students need not take any classes in subjects that they have already covered previously, a credit system applies in these cases).

Other parts of the Wednesday programme are more specifically tailored to the needs of the FSD students, who are provided with sessions covering issues such as colouring, supports and plinths and visits to exhibitions, artists studios and foundries.


FSD students are given two tutorial per term with a practicing artist, providing an opportunity to discuss their work in more detail, and to consider their development as an artist.

Creative Opportunities and the Artistic Community

The Art Academy is a vibrant artistic community, with its own resident artists, tutors who are all practicing artists and many alumni who achieve success as artists soon after leaving the Academy and remain connected to the college. With its comprehensive range of courses in Fine Art, the Academy also has a diverse student group, studying a range of different disciplines and with widely varying practices, who all also contribute to the energy of the college. All current students benefit from the inspiration and opportunities this creates. The Academy provides exhibition and commission opportunities which it encourages all its students to participate in, including its Figurate Sculpture Diploma students. It also has on offer a whole range of residencies, scholarships and other events enabling Figurative Sculpture Diploma students to extend their learning beyond that which they receive within the college.


FSD students will be expected to show their work in the Graduate Show at the Academy at the end of their second year. This show will form part of their final assessment. The course will be assessed at the end of the second year by a board including members of the Royal British Society of Sculptors, based upon work over the two years and the end of course show.


The Figurative Sculpture Diploma Learning Outcomes

1. Develop a broad understanding of traditional and contemporary figurative sculpture skills

This concerns the ability of the student to discover, experiment with and develop practical skills in a range of different approaches to figure sculpture. It also concerns the real importance for figure sculptors to learn about the technical, creative and mechanical skills needed to create and install large sculptures successfully and safely.

2. Advancing specific practical skills related to their practice and developing informed choices

This involves the ability of the student to identify a specific area of technique and to advance and hone the specialised formal skills associated with it. Motivated by their engagement with these skills students are encouraged to incorporate them within an informed approach to figure sculpture and develop an iterative process between their intentions and their formal practice, culminating in the development of their own artistic language.

3. Establish a passion for development, learning and a personal method of working

This concerns the ability of the student to evolve their interests, set about tailoring their own learning pathways and research goals, and incorporating their growing knowledge into their personal way of working. It also requires the student to fulfil their responsibility to the wider community at the Academy, through their attendance, their response to other students and their work, and their contribution to the life of the Academy.

4. To discover and evolve their core intentions and creativity.

This involves the ability of the student to understand and be able to articulate what it is they want to express, create or communicate through their work. Their core intention will derive from a desire to respond to what resonates with them or has meaning to them as an individual, drawn from their experiences, passions and interests. It requires the student to show they have undertaken a process of rigorous, imaginative, lateral thinking and ingenuity, considering their ideas as widely as possible.

5. To produce creative and authentic artworks that contribute to contemporary society

Students will be able to produce artwork that is true to their own ideas and artistic language. They will be able to demonstrate that they have considered how their work contributes to and has value to contemporary society. Through the intelligent use of skills and artistic language, students should develop new and imaginative forms of expression.

6. To research and understand the Historical and Contemporary context of their work

This concerns the ability of the student to have examined and debated relevant contemporary, historical, philosophical, cultural and artistic ideas. The student will show that they are mindful of the wider context in which they are working including surrounding artistic discourses (both contemporary and historic) and the wider cultural, social, political and environmental context. They need also to consider their responsibility to themselves, their peer group and artistic community, the art world and to wider society.

7. Presentation and curation

Students need to demonstrate an ability to present their work effectively, showing consideration for the presentation of the individual artwork, and its positioning within the wider context of an exhibition, taking account of issues such as space, lighting, structural or support systems and layout. Students also need to demonstrate the ability verbally to present their work in a concise, considered and knowledgeable manner demonstrating their understanding for the context in which they are working and their intentions for the work.

8. Prepare for an artistic career, through understanding elements of professional practice and art world activities, and to have explored and prepared for their progression path beyond the Academy

This calls for the student to research and understand the broad art market and to understand what is needed to be professional within the art world. It also requires that the student has investigated the options for their progression beyond the Academy and where possible to have gained relevant experience for it.


“I have had work accepted in numerous shows including ING Discerning Eye and the Cork Street Open.”

‘I chose the Art Academy because I was looking for a traditional art school – somewhere which teaches all of the required skills and starts from the figurative with a view to developing artistic expression from this grounding.

It has been an amazing time, there’s a huge variety of incredibly talented and inspirational artists here and I find this environment brings out the best in you. It is I should say also great fun! My art has come on enormously and my sculptures are beginning to express what I am looking to say. I have had work accepted in numerous shows including ING Discerning Eye and the Cork Street Open.

When I graduate this summer I’ll leave the Academy well prepared for life in the ultra competitive art world. There is more to being a sustainable artist than being able to paint or make – you need to know how the market works and how to promote yourself within it. The Art Academy does not shy away from teaching students about the commercial realities so that they can hopefully go on to earn a living doing what they love’.

Gary, 3rd Year Student, Full Time Diploma


“We work in an atmosphere that is relaxed, friendly and mutually supportive”

‘For me the decision to attend art college was not an easy one. I have always loved painting but found that often over the years it was neglected for work and then later the demands of life at home with four young children.

Juggling art with home life is a constant challenge. But the structure of the diploma course allows me the flexibility to attend the skills classes I am interested in each term. When I started the course I could only manage one day a week – I then had three terms off when I had my baby son. Over the following couple of years I have increased my days to two per week. I am now in my fourth year at the Art Academy and my plan is to graduate in 2014.

I have learnt the importance of composition, colour, tone, materials and supports, the fundamentals of composition, perspective, and working at scale. I have explored abstraction, portraiture, life and still life painting, using a variety of different media and surfaces. There is still more to learn.

I have also been encouraged to think commercially, with advice how to market myself as an artist. Last year I showed my work publicly for the first time, which involved writing a website, producing business cards – and being brave! The Art Academy advised me on all aspects of the commercial world – such as how best to hang my paintings, and how to price them. The response was truly amazing. For me, it was life-changing.

I am privileged to have been guided by tutors with diverse talents across a variety of disciplines, all of whom are successful and, in their own way, inspirational. My fellow students come from all walks of life, and are of all ages, and nationalities. We work in an atmosphere that is relaxed, friendly and mutually supportive.

Above all I have learnt to have confidence in my own creative abilities, and to treasure and nurture them’.

Lucy, Part Time Diploma Student





If you don’t find the answer to your question here, take a look at our Terms and Conditions, or contact us

Can I do the Figure Sculpture Diploma course part-time?
Yes, there is a flexible Part-time Figure Sculpture Diploma programme. You can vary the number of days you do per week each term, but typically students attend 2½ days a week and take 2 years to complete each level of study.

If I do part-time weekday courses, can they count towards a Figure Sculpture Diploma?
If you apply to do the Figure Sculpture Diploma we will consider other courses you have taken and decide whether to credit you with that course. Part time courses can also build towards a Certificate qualification – see Certificate Courses for details

Are scholarships, bursaries or student loans available for the Figure Sculpture Diploma course?
Not for the first 2 levels, but the Academy can offer advice on possible sources of funding for students. Contact us to discuss.

Do you take mature students for the Figure Sculpture Diploma course?
Yes, the age range is quite wide and applications from mature students are welcomed.

Do I need to have done formal art training before applying for the Figure Sculpture Diploma?
No, but the Figure Sculpture Diploma course is for those intending to make art their full-time occupation, so selection is made mainly on commitment to the course of study. We will though take some account of your ability and prior experience.

What is the structure for paying fees for the Figure Sculpture Diploma course?
Fees must be paid in advance – full details can be found on the Fees pages

Is the Figure Sculpture Diploma recognised or accredited?
Students from the Academy’s Diploma courses have gone on to do an MA at another college, or have entered the third year of a Fine Art BA course. The Academy is in the process of making links with other higher education institutions offering accredited degree courses in order to facilitate this process. See also ‘Why we are independent’ for more on this topic.

How does the Figure Sculpture Diploma differ from a BA?
The qualification that we offer is an in-house diploma. Our assessment panel always includes an external assessor from a London university.
 We offer a diploma, rather than a standard government-recognised BA or MA qualification, for a number of reasons:

We offer a very high level of tutored hours for the students which we feel is fundamental to providing the best possible education. Accredited courses cannot afford to do this, as the cost of compliance with all the requisite paperwork is so high that they have to drastically reduce the number of tutored hours, or raise the fees to an unrealistic level.

A course within that system is heavily influenced by it and has to fall in line with the structures, values and guidelines laid down by it. Our course is unique and has been very carefully considered and tested. We have no wish to lose valuable aspects through changing our accreditation.

As a professional artist, your most important assets are your portfolio and your previous experience. Very rarely is an artist asked what qualification they have. We therefore focus our attention on building portfolios and giving students as much experience as we can within our programmes.

Regarding job prospects, our Figure Sculpture Diploma is specifically designed to prepare and equip students to undertake a profession in Fine Arts. In this respect, your portfolio and experience will be the central focus. In addition to building skills and techniques across a range of disciplines, our programme includes in depth modules in Professional Development, Marketing, Art as a Business, etc to ensure students are able to translate their creative practice into a viable work life.






In order to apply for the Contemporary Portrait Diploma starting September 2016 please fill out our online application form.

Alternatively you can download a .pdf form and post it to us along with at least 5 images of your work.

On receiving your application, we will offer successful candidates an interview. The Art Academy’s Course Administrator will arrange a suitable time and date for interview with the Director of Academic Affairs. Interviews are based on the content and quality of the applicant’s portfolio, CV and application.

Application Deadline

We keep an open deadline for applications, however we can only accept a small number of students each year so we encourage early application.

Visiting the Academy

Open Days

If you would like to visit the Academy and learn more about the programs of study on offer, you can come to one of our open days (click on the TOUR tab for more information).

Individual Visits

Alternatively, please contact us and we can arrange a personal tour and discussion about your course requirements. If you bring some examples of your work, it can help to determine what course might suit you best.

EU & International Applicants

We accept applications from all EU, EEA and Swiss citizens or those with an existing visa for the UK.


If possible please bring to the interview a portfolio containing the following: If you do not have all of the below, please do not worry, just contact the office and we can speak to you about alternatives.

6 pieces of original finished work, which show your technical ability in a range of media.
1 sketch book showing your own areas of interest, individual thought process or development process of finished work.
1 example of writing, critical study work or exploration of other artists, that you have done.

Application Results

Applicants will learn whether they have being successful within two weeks of interview.

We have to be select about the students that we accept due to the high level and quality of tuition we offer. Our decisions are based on the students’ application and commitment to their artwork rather than the quantity of previous work.


It’s possible for you to take a tour of the Academy at any point in the year. Please contact the Course Administrator, via email at: We also run two open days a term which offer a valuable opportunity to visit the Academy, meet some of the staff and students and gain in depth information on our courses, teaching and student life. The Open Day will start at 2.30pm and will last for approximately 2 hours. You are welcome to bring a guest. Please book your place using the online booking form below.

School Groups: If you wish to bring a group of school students to one of our Open Days please contact us on the email below to reserve places.


25th February 2016
17th March 2016
12th May 2016
16th June 2016
25th August 2016


If you have any questions about our Open Days please contact the Course Administrator, via email at: