Learn the technical and creative skills needed to become a portrait painter in this one-of-a-kind specialist BA Contemporary Portraiture.

BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture*

Embrace the diversity of contemporary art practices while learning the technical and creative skills needed to become a portrait painter in this one-of-a-kind specialist programme.

Our teaching approach is unique: we keep our class sizes small, and you’ll benefit from the highest tutor contact hours of any higher education art course in the UK. You’ll learn both traditional and contemporary skills from expert tutors who are all practising artists themselves.

As well as helping you develop the in-depth technical skills needed to take your art practice forward, you’ll be encouraged to think critically about the wider theoretical and historical contexts of contemporary portraiture and apply that knowledge to your practical work.

And to further enrich your study, you’ll have access to lectures and talks by eminent visiting artists, open access to our print studio, a session learning to sculpt a portrait head (and access to further sculpture classes) and can drop in to Open Life sessions on weekend mornings. You can also take advantage of free places on our other evening, weekend and short courses (These are available at the discretion of the Academy and subject to availability).

By the time you graduate, you’ll have the confidence and ability to exhibit your work, take on commissions, apply for further study and find work in the creative industries.

Our undergraduate programmes are validated by The Open University. For more information about our BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture*, please see the Student HandbookProgramme Handbook and the Open University Regulations for Validated Awards. Please also read the OU’s Student’s Guide.

*Subject to validation by the Open University

Programme Outline

There are three stages to our BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture*, which you can complete in three years (full time) or six years (part time). You’ll need to successfully complete each stage in order to progress to the next, including meeting attendance requirements (as detailed in our Attendance Policy).

You will mainly be based at Mermaid Court (London Bridge).

There are four main components to the BA, detailed below.

Studio Practice modules: these are where you develop personal projects in response to a series of briefs. These modules are taught through one-to-one tutorials, group critiques, workshops, lectures and practical work in a studio. As part of Studio Practice, you’ll also undertake contextual research to support each of your personal projects, which includes preparatory work, research, and pieces of reflective and discursive writing.

Elective Skills Workshop courses: these courses provide you with intensive training in the technical skills you’ll need to develop your creative vision and directly support your Studio Practice modules. They include specialist courses in all aspects of portraiture, both contemporary and more traditional. Each course runs for one full day per week per term.

Art Theory, History and Contextual Studies modules: here you will build your contextual knowledge by studying and analysing artistic discourses and theories, and modern and contemporary practice. Included in these modules will be a study of the art history and theory relevant to contemporary portraiture. You’ll learn through lectures, seminars, group activities and gallery visits. These modules are typically assessed through written work.

Professional Development modules: these focus specifically on the skills and knowledge needed for future employment in the arts and creative industries, including as a portrait artist.

You can find detailed information in the ‘Programme yearly structure’ section below.

Term Dates 2022/23

Autumn term: 

Induction week Monday 12th September 2022

Monday 19th September – Friday 2nd December 2022

Reading week 24th – 28th  October

Spring term: 

Monday 9th January – Friday 24th March 2023

Reading week 13th – 17th  February

Summer term:

Monday 17th April – Friday 9th June 2023

Programme Yearly Structure

STAGE 1 (LEVEL 4)

ONE YEAR FULL TIME, TWO YEARS PART TIME

In Stage 1 you’ll focus on exploring and investigating. Stage 1 doesn’t contribute to your final BA grade and classification, but you will need to complete and pass all the modules to progress to Stage 2.

STUDIO PRACTICE MODULES

Responding to a practical brief, you’ll experiment with processes, materials and techniques as you build the foundation for your developing art practice, considering contemporary portraiture in its widest sense. You’ll start to identify areas of interest and to analyse your choices of approach and techniques through the expression of your ideas. In your third Studio Practice module, you will produce work for a Live Exhibition, working to a common theme with your peers on the Contemporary Portraiture BA programme and mounting a joint show at the end of the term.
You’ll attend Studio Practice one day a week across all three terms (full time) or one day per week across three of the six terms available (part time). You’ll also work independently on your project for at least one day a week.
During Stage 1, these modules are taught in studios throughout our buildings. Stage 1 students aren’t given personal studio space.

ELECTIVE SKILLS WORKSHOP COURSES

These courses are common components to all our academic programmes at the Academy, so you will be working alongside a diverse group of students. You’ll attend two to three Elective Skills Workshop courses each term (or one to two for part time students). Across Stage 1 and 2 three of your elective choices need to be compulsory drawing electives (or across three of the twelve terms available for part time). You’ll also have to complete the Digital Development elective in Stage 1 to prepare you for the Professional Development module in Stage 2.

ART HISTORY MODULE: ‘MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART HISTORY’

Over one term, you’ll spend one day a week developing your understanding of key artists and thinkers from 1900 to the present day, and their influences on contemporary practice. You’ll also undertake independent study and typically have to complete an essay for assessment.

STAGE 2 (LEVEL 5)

ONE YEAR FULL TIME, TWO YEARS PART TIME

Stage 2 counts for 33% of your final BA grade and classification. You’ll now start to focus on self-reflection and analysis.

STUDIO PRACTICE MODULES

These modules run for two full days each week across all three terms (full time) or one day per week across three of the six terms available (part time).

Your third Studio Practice project is an exciting live commission, where you’ll source a client, negotiate a brief and complete an artwork. The other two Studio Practice modules focus on further developing your own art practice, preparing you for Stage 3. In Stage 2, you’ll be given your own studio space to work on your Studio Practice modules independently, outside taught sessions.

There will be visits from guest lecturers and speakers, artist talks and workshops. You’ll also have access to the enrichment programme of lectures, seminars and workshops introducing you to a wide range of subjects – such as feminism, philosophy and science – which will feed into your art practice, providing inspiration for areas of investigation.

ELECTIVE SKILLS WORKSHOP COURSES

You’ll pick Elective Skills Workshop courses (between two and five, whether you’re full or part time) across Stage 2 to help refine your technique within your chosen discipline(s). You’ll need to complete the remaining compulsory drawing electives in stage two.

ART THEORY MODULE: ‘THEORIES OF SPECTATORSHIP’

This builds on the stage 1 Art History module, exploring the critical evaluation of art in depth and furthering your academic research and writing skills. You’ll attend taught sessions one day a week, across one term in Stage 2, and complete independent study. The module is typically assessed through an essay.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT MODULE

To help prepare you for life as a practising artist, you’ll also complete a professional development module, which looks at everything from PR & branding, to completing residencies, to taxation for the self-employed artist.
You’ll create a portfolio of evidence for assessment, which includes creating a website, marketing plans and evidence of the use of marketing and business tools. You’ll need to study independently in addition to your taught sessions to complete this module.

STAGE 3 (LEVEL 6)

ONE YEAR FULL TIME, TWO YEARS PART TIME

The final stage of your BA is where you really come into your own as an artist. You’ll focus on creating one major body of work that is entirely self-initiated and self-directed in your own dedicated studio space. This stage counts for 67% of your final BA grade and classification.

STUDIO PRACTICE MODULE

At Stage 3, you’re expected to be increasingly independent in the studio, but you’ll still be supported through regular group critiques and one-to-one tutorials as you hone your own practice, research your artist’s statement and prepare to exhibit at the Graduate Show.
As a full-time student, you will typically spend two days a week per term working on your Studio Practice project, and undertake independent study on your self-initiated brief. If you choose to study part-time, you’ll typically spend one day a week per term on Studio Practice throughout the two years.
This module is assessed at the Graduate Show. You’ll also submit a supporting portfolio of developmental work and take part in a viva voce with a team of tutors and an external assessor, where you’ll answer questions about your project development, curatorial choices and contextual knowledge.

ELECTIVE SKILLS WORKSHOP COURSES

You’ll choose a maximum of one Elective Skills Workshop course each term, to hone the skills needed for your final personal project (full time). Part time students will take a maximum of three electives spread throughout the two years of Stage 3.

CONTEXTUAL STUDIES MODULE

You’ll complete an extended research project – supported by your tutor in one-to-one sessions – focusing on an area of research that supports the development of your practical work.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT MODULE

In this module, you’ll build on skills learnt in Stage 2, investigating an area of practice relevant to your own progression goals through an extended research project.

Tutor Contact Time

Our BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture Degree*, alongside our BA (Hons) Fine Art Degree, offers some of the highest contact hours of any higher education art course in the UK. As a full time student, you’ll receive three to four days per week of tutored time in Stages 1 and 2 (two days as a part time student). In Stage 3, the focus switches to Studio Practice project work and preparing for the Graduate Show, but you’ll still receive up to 10 hours contact time a week, plus one-to-one tutorials covering Professional Development and preparation for your extended contextual research project.

Tutors

The lead tutors for the BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture* are:

Sadie Lee is our Contemporary Portraiture Pathway Leader. Tom Morgan Evans is our Art History & Theory Department Leader. Briony Marshall is our Professional Development Leader and Alison Branagan the Professional Development tutor for stage 1 (level 4).

Our Studio Practice tutors include Sadie Lee Roxana Halls, Robin-Lee Hall and Sue Spaull.

The tutors you are taught by within the Elective Skills Workshop courses will depend on the courses you choose. You can view all our tutors here.

Student Support

We provide high levels of support and guidance for every step of your journey – from first enquiry to your graduation. We pride ourselves on our close community, where students feel safe and able to seek advice and guidance from our staff. For more information detailing the main areas of support, please see our Student Support page.

Student Story

“It rapidly became a second home and the Academy has something particularly precious in the way it connects people from very varied backgrounds.”

My first time painting from life and using oils was at the Academy in January 2017, through a wonderful 10-week Portrait Painting evening class. And believe me, there was no way back! I fell in love with the medium, with how supportive everyone was and – I have to confess – with the building itself: the following September I became a full-time student on the Contemporary Portrait programme.

It rapidly became a second home and the Academy has something particularly precious in the way it connects people from very varied backgrounds. In many ways you learn as much from your peers as you do your tutors…READ MORE

Suzon Lagarde, FD Fine Art (Contemporary Portraiture) student

Student Opportunities

By the time you graduate, you’ll have exhibited work, built a website and social media profiles, completed a commission, created an online and physical portfolio and developed a network of contacts.

We often offer exhibiting opportunities to our students and alumni. Academy students have gone on to win large commissions and undertake residency opportunities, including:

  • Exhibiting in KPMG’s headquarters in Canary Wharf
  • Creating installations in the Walkie-Talkie building
  • A £15,000 sculpture commission for the Royal Artillery Company
  • Designing a public sculpture in Beckenham Place Park
  • Creating public art for a regeneration project in Romford
  • Working with the Old Vic Theatre to create an advertising campaign for King Lear.

Every year, we hold a series of prizes including The Kennerley Prize for Academic Excellence, the Art Academy Drawing Prize, the Art Academy Portrait Prize, The Surrey Sculpture Society Prize, The Peer Prize, the Pure Arts Prize and the Liberty Arts Prize.

Fees, Bursaries & Funding

Fees 2022/23

Our 2022/23 fees are set out below:

Programme
Per year Per term (incl 5% surcharge)
COURSEFull time BA – 3 years PER YEAR £8,000 PER TERM £2,800
COURSEPart time BA – 6 years PER YEAR £4,250 PER TERM £1,488

We review our fees annually; they are likely to increase due to inflation in the following academic years (this is capped at 5% p.a.).

Fees must be paid in advance, and you can pay them yearly or by term (incurring a 5% surcharge). We will consider payment options to help you split the cost, so please get in touch to discuss this with us.

Bursaries

Students at Art Academy London are currently ineligible for a Student Loan for undergraduate degrees or for Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) funding for our Foundation course. 

We want to make sure as many students as possible can access the high-quality fine art education we provide. As part of this, we offer bursaries to help with tuition fees for our BA (Hons) Fine Art, which you can apply for once you’ve been offered a place to study with us by completing the bursary application form. We offer two types of bursaries, and you can apply for one or the other:

If you have a low annual household income, or any other exceptional circumstances, you may be eligible for a bursary, for an amount up to the value of 50% of the annual tuition fees. Bursaries are assessed on an individual basis, based on need as well as merit, and are awarded at the discretion of the Principal and Director of Academic Quality, Standards and Student Experience. Please note, you’ll need to provide evidence of income to support your application for an Academic Bursary. The Bursary is awarded as a reduction in tuition fees, rather than a monetary award.

Any financial support is awarded subject to students complying with our Terms and Conditions and the Student Handbook. For further information about bursaries, including how to apply, please contact our academic team at admissions@artacademy.org.uk.

Please see our Bursaries page for more infomation.

Deposit

As a small independent art school we are unable to hold places offered indefinitely. If your application is successful you’ll need to pay a deposit of £100 (which will be deducted from your first term’s tuition fee) and return your signed contract to secure your place.

Refunds 

Once you’ve returned the signed contract and paid your deposit, you have a 14-day cooling off period to change your mind. If you choose to cancel during this time, we’ll refund your full deposit. After this period, the Academy reserves the right to retain this deposit if you fail to enrol.

You’ll need to pay your tuition fees before the start of the programme. Beyond the statutory cooling off period, you must inform the Academy of your intention to withdraw. If you wish to withdraw from your course after its official start date, you will be liable for a fee. Full details of the liability can be found in our Terms and Conditions. Should you need to, you can suspend study for up to 12 months. Please see our withdrawal and interruption of study policy for more information.

Please see our Terms and Conditions for more information on Fees.

Materials

While some basic materials are provided for certain Elective Skills Workshop courses, you’ll need to provide most of the materials required to complete the course successfully and cover other costs such as those associated with the final year Graduate Show.

Based on a survey from our previous students, we estimate that these costs will be between £500 and £1,500 per year, although this will vary depending on the materials, chosen disciplines and stage of the programme.

We have a small shop onsite, where you can purchase some materials at a heavily discounted price. You can find guidance on where to buy other specialist materials in the Student Handbook and from your tutors.

Trips and visits 

You’ll be expected to visit galleries and exhibitions independently, to help develop your contextual knowledge and practice. Some parts of the programme will also suggest you visit specific exhibitions; many of these are free.

We understand that where there is an entry fee, you may not always be able to attend; while we encourage you to take these trips, they’re not compulsory or essential, and your tutor will prepare an alternative itinerary of free museum and gallery visits that you can follow.

Additional costs

At the start of your final year, you’ll need to pay a Graduate Exhibition deposit of £100 in addition to your tuition fees. This deposit is refundable upon the satisfactory removal of your graduate exhibition installation at the end of the academic year. Students in receipt of a bursary are not required to pay the deposit and those who are unable to pay this deposit due to financial difficulties may be eligible for assistance. In all cases, the Academy reserves the right to seek redress for any financial losses incurred by a student’s failure to dispose of materials and/or repair work to the exhibition space (building) after the exhibition (by retaining the deposit and/ or invoicing the student).

Application Process & Apply

We welcome all enthusiastic candidates to apply. If you are interested in studying with us, please register to attend an open day or email academiccourses@artacademy.org.uk or call +44 (0) 20 7407 6969 to discuss our courses further or arrange a visit.

Application deadline

We accept applications on a rolling basis. You should note that applications are subject to availability and will not be accepted if the programme has reached capacity.

More information can be found in the Admissions Policy.

How to apply

To apply, please fill out the online application form here.

If you wish to apply by post, please email admissions@artacademy.org.uk to request an application form.

Remember, the application form is your first opportunity to tell us about yourself, as well as being a vital source of the information we need to make a decision. Please take your time to complete the form accurately and remember to check you have provided all the information required, including the link to your digital portfolio. We only accept applications on the form provided and reserve the right to reject incomplete or alternative applications.

Should you have any questions about the application process or completing the form, please speak to a member of the Admissions team.

The result

We’ll normally tell you our decision within three weeks. There are three possible outcomes, detailed below.

Conditional offer: this means we will offer you a place providing certain conditions are met before registration on the programme e.g. the completion of outstanding qualifications. Each offer is specific to individual circumstances.

Unconditional offer: this means you’ve met the academic and non-academic entry requirements and have been accepted onto your chosen programme.

Unsuccessful application: this means we have decided not to offer you a place on the programme. Applicants can be unsuccessful for many reasons and should be aware that many of the programmes at the Academy receive far more applications than number of places available.

Feedback on the decision will be given to any applicant who requests it. We will always ensure that the interviews and portfolio reviews are carried out fairly and equally. All those conducting interviews are trained to do so and fully conversant in our Admissions Policy. Although decisions to admit or reject applicants are academic judgments and therefore cannot be appealed, if an applicant feels that the interview and selection process was not conducted fairly and equitably or as described in our Admissions Policy, the process for making a complaint in this regard can be found within the policy document.

Next steps

You will be notified of the outcome by email. If successful, you’ll also receive: an offer letter, the Terms and Conditions (contract) which you will need to sign and return along with your deposit, and copies of the Student Handbook, Programme Handbook and Academic Regulations. By accepting an offer you agree to abide by the Academy’s Regulations.

You’ll also be invited to our Graduate shows, to get a sense of the community and see what you can achieve by studying with us.

Prior to starting you will be sent the course documents for the Elective Skills Workshop courses and have a meeting or phone conversation with a member of the Academic Team to discuss and agree your choices for the first term. Part-time students will also need to decide on individual routes through the first stage of the programme.

Entry Requirements

We consider each application on an individual basis and welcome candidates from a variety of backgrounds.

You’ll attend an interview (around 45 minutes to an hour) with one or two tutors to discuss your application and review your portfolio. This can be online if you are unable to attend physically – please get in touch to find out more. Remember, this discussion is also an opportunity for you to ask us questions!

As part of this, we’ll assess your key artistic skills, level of ability, and enthusiasm to explore new ways of working and develop your ideas. We’ll also evaluate your awareness of artistic concepts, and the cultural, historical and professional contexts of fine art. We’ll review your personal statement and any academic references provided (if applicable).

Although no formal qualifications are required, you’ll need to demonstrate work at least of Level 3 (A-Level) equivalent. In some cases, we may ask to see additional supplementary work.

Intake is only in term one (September). Entry is typically at Stage 1, but we may allow direct entry to Stages 2 or 3 if we think you have appropriate prior qualifications and experience – please get in touch to find out more.

Personal Statement

As part of your application form you’ll need to submit a personal statement. This is your opportunity to stand out from the other candidates, to set the scene for your interview. Your personal statement should be approximately 500-700 words and cover the following:

  • Give us some context; What have you done previously (educationally, artistically and professionally)? Why are you interested in Contemporary Portraiture?
  • Explain the ideas, concepts, and research behind your work, and tell us how you intend to expand and develop your ideas and research in the future.
  • Tell us about the materials, methods, and processes you use to make work and what you’re interested in exploring in the future.
  • Tell us how and why artists have influenced your work.
  • Why do you want to study at Art Academy London? What do you hope to gain from the programme? What are your ambitions?

Portfolio

As part of the application form you’ll be asked to submit a digital portfolio, so that we can assess your suitability for the programme ahead of a physical interview.

The digital portfolio should contain approximately 10 – 20 ‘slides’ including extracts from your sketchbooks. Digital portfolios must contain information about media and dimensions as a minimum, you may add titles and other explanatory text if you wish. This should be submitted as a PDF, Powerpoint or Word document.

For interview you’ll need to bring a physical portfolio with you. This doesn’t need to be completely different content to the digital one.This should be approximately 15 ‘sheets’ or pieces of work (no less than 10, no more than 20) plus your sketchbooks. Your physical portfolio does not need to be mounted or ‘presented’, but rather a collection of work. You should, however, consider the order in which you wish it to be viewed.

For both digital and physical portfolios you should include evidence of:

  • Drawing
  • Finished work/ projects (from research to realisation; we want to see your working process)
  • Work that demonstrates your range (include pieces that demonstrate your ability with different media and techniques)

You should consider the following:

  • We’re not looking for perfection. Including developmental, unfinished and experimental work is important too.
  • Be decisive. The ability to select and edit is important. You should have something to say about every piece and demonstrate that you can critically self-evaluate.

English language requirements

All applicants are required to demonstrate an appropriate level of English language competence to study with us. This can be through previous study in English (evidencing an approved English language qualification at Level 2, GCSE or equivalent). If you are unable to provide evidence of a relevant, formal English qualification, we will require specific performance in written English tests at interview. Appropriate level of spoken English is assessed at interview.

Admission policy 

We do not sponsor international students through the Tier 4 visa system and therefore cannot accept international students unless they are able to prove right of residency in the UK. We operate a fair and transparent admissions process to ensure that the widest range of people can benefit from the fine art education we provide; find out more in our Admissions policy and Criminal Convictions Policy and Procedure.

Academic regulations and policies

When studying with us, it’s important that you are aware of our Academic Regulations and Policies. These outline the agreed procedures and protocols to ensure you understand both the expectations and support available to you. To find out more information please see our Academic Regulations and Policies page.

Open Days

Our open days offer an invaluable opportunity to find out more about our facilities, courses and tutors, and to meet members of our vibrant and welcoming community. If you’d like to attend an open day, please complete the booking form here.

Applicants with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Application process

We are committed to supporting accessible learning and welcome students with disabilities and special educational needs.

Disclosure

We encourage you to disclose any disabilities or special needs when you apply, so we can plan any support that we may need to provide at the earliest opportunity, including during the admissions process. Admissions decisions are always made on the basis of a candidate’s ability and/or potential to complete the programme.

Accessibility and reasonable adjustments 

Provided that a candidate is suitable for the programme applied for, we will make reasonable adjustments for applicants with a physical or mobility impairment in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.

Art Academy London’s premises are old buildings which inevitably means that access to some areas can be problematic for people with a physical disability. However, work carried out on our main Mermaid Court building over the last few years means that we can accommodate most students with physical disabilities on academic programmes.

Where necessary, we will make appropriate arrangements to mitigate any accessibility issues such as rescheduling of classes, workshops, tutorials, lectures and other events to spaces within the main building of Mermaid Court, which is wheelchair accessible. It may also include the provision of facilities to undertake classes and workshops in techniques and processes outside of the dedicated space in which they normally occur (i.e. printmaking) and individual provision of facilities such as storage spaces, where these are normally in unaccessible areas. The library is currently inaccessible to wheelchair users and alternative arrangements are in place for students with mobility issues to access the library resources

Some of our buildings will remain inaccessible for the foreseeable future (our second building at Mermaid Court). We are committed to improving access to all our buildings and are working towards making all areas of our campus fully accessible to all.

Hearing technology for hard of hearing/deaf applicants 

Portable induction loops can be provided during open days, interview and in teaching spaces if required.

Other disabilities and conditions

If you have any other disability, specific learning difficulty, health, or mental health difficulty, please contact us to talk about options for support.

Student support

SEN students

We welcome students with Special Educational Needs. A bespoke programme of Elective Skills Workshop courses will be mapped if necessary, and alternative assessment models employed where appropriate to provide a parity of opportunity with non-SEN students. Our SEND Coordinator will act as a personal tutor and first point of contact for all SEN students, and will also ensure that all other tutors working with SEN students understand that student’s needs and how to support them. In the final year of study, SEN students may be given additional support as necessary as they work towards their Graduate Show.

The SEND Coordinator, and other staff members as relevant, will keep in regular contact with the parents of SEN students if appropriate, including meeting with them to discuss the progress of the student and any issues arising in their course of study.

Disabled students

Students or applicants who declare a disability, specific learning difficulty (such as dyslexia), long term health condition or mental health disability are asked to complete a ‘Student Declaration and Identification of Support Needs’ form. This is in addition to the declaration requested at application and is intended to ensure we capture the information we need to ensure a safe and successful educational career at the Academy. A member of the Academic team will then contact the student to discuss their individual support requirements and agree actions, which are made available to relevant tutors and support staff, informing them of any services and adjustments required.

FAQs

If you don’t find the answer to your question here please contact the Academic team on +44 (0) 20 7407 6969 or email academiccourses@artacademy.org.uk.

Can I study the BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture* part-time?

Yes, part-time students attend two days a week over six years; it takes two years to complete each stage (level).

Are bursaries or student loans available for the BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture*?

Students studying on our undergraduate programmes are currently not eligible for student loans. We can offer advice on possible sources of funding for students. See the ‘Fees and Funding’ section above for more details or contact us to discuss your options.

Do you take mature students for the BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture*?

Yes, applications from mature students are welcomed. Mature students make up a large part of our community.

Do I need to have undertaken any formal training before applying for the BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture*?

No, but the BA (Hons) Fine Art is for those intending to make art their full-time occupation. During interview, we will consider your level of ability and commitment through discussion and portfolio review.

Is the BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture* recognised or accredited?

Art Academy London is approved by The Open University as an appropriate organisation to offer higher education programmes leading to Open University validated awards. Our BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture is suject to validation by The Open University.

Do I need to supply my own materials?

Yes, materials are not included in your tuition fee costs. For more information on material costs see the ‘Fees & Funding’ section above.

Programme Outline

There are three stages to our BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture*, which you can complete in three years (full time) or six years (part time). You’ll need to successfully complete each stage in order to progress to the next, including meeting attendance requirements (as detailed in our Attendance Policy).

You will mainly be based at Mermaid Court (London Bridge).

There are four main components to the BA, detailed below.

Studio Practice modules: these are where you develop personal projects in response to a series of briefs. These modules are taught through one-to-one tutorials, group critiques, workshops, lectures and practical work in a studio. As part of Studio Practice, you’ll also undertake contextual research to support each of your personal projects, which includes preparatory work, research, and pieces of reflective and discursive writing.

Elective Skills Workshop courses: these courses provide you with intensive training in the technical skills you’ll need to develop your creative vision and directly support your Studio Practice modules. They include specialist courses in all aspects of portraiture, both contemporary and more traditional. Each course runs for one full day per week per term.

Art Theory, History and Contextual Studies modules: here you will build your contextual knowledge by studying and analysing artistic discourses and theories, and modern and contemporary practice. Included in these modules will be a study of the art history and theory relevant to contemporary portraiture. You’ll learn through lectures, seminars, group activities and gallery visits. These modules are typically assessed through written work.

Professional Development modules: these focus specifically on the skills and knowledge needed for future employment in the arts and creative industries, including as a portrait artist.

You can find detailed information in the ‘Programme yearly structure’ section below.

Programme Yearly Structure

STAGE 1 (LEVEL 4)

ONE YEAR FULL TIME, TWO YEARS PART TIME

In Stage 1 you’ll focus on exploring and investigating. Stage 1 doesn’t contribute to your final BA grade and classification, but you will need to complete and pass all the modules to progress to Stage 2.

STUDIO PRACTICE MODULES

Responding to a practical brief, you’ll experiment with processes, materials and techniques as you build the foundation for your developing art practice, considering contemporary portraiture in its widest sense. You’ll start to identify areas of interest and to analyse your choices of approach and techniques through the expression of your ideas. In your third Studio Practice module, you will produce work for a Live Exhibition, working to a common theme with your peers on the Contemporary Portraiture BA programme and mounting a joint show at the end of the term.
You’ll attend Studio Practice one day a week across all three terms (full time) or one day per week across three of the six terms available (part time). You’ll also work independently on your project for at least one day a week.
During Stage 1, these modules are taught in studios throughout our buildings. Stage 1 students aren’t given personal studio space.

ELECTIVE SKILLS WORKSHOP COURSES

You’ll attend two Elective Skills Workshop courses each term (or one to two for part time students), including a minimum of three compulsory drawing courses across Stages 1 and 2 (or across three of the twelve terms available for part time). You’ll also have to complete the Digital Development course to prepare you for the Professional Development module in Stage 2. The Art Theory module (see below) also takes the place of one Elective Skills Workshop course in the spring term.

ART THEORY MODULE: ‘THEORIES OF SPECTATORSHIP’

This will introduce you to the critical evaluation of art and builds your academic research and writing skills. You’ll attend taught sessions one day a week, across one term in Stage 1, and complete independent study. The module is typically assessed through an essay.

STAGE 2 (LEVEL 5)

ONE YEAR FULL TIME, TWO YEARS PART TIME

Stage 2 counts for 33% of your final BA grade and classification. You’ll now start to focus on self-reflection and analysis.

STUDIO PRACTICE MODULES

These modules run for two full days each week across all three terms (full time) or two days per week across three of the six terms available (part time).
Your fourth Studio Practice project is an exciting live commission, where you’ll source a client, negotiate a brief and complete a portrait. The other two Studio Practice modules focus on further developing your own art practice, preparing you for Stage 3. In Stage 2, you’ll be given your own studio space to work on your Studio Practice modules independently, outside taught sessions.
There will be visits from guest lecturers and speakers, artist talks and workshops. You’ll also have access to lectures, seminars and workshops introducing you to a wide range of subjects – such as feminism, philosophy and science, as well as portraiture – which will feed into your art practice, providing inspiration for areas of investigation.

ELECTIVE SKILLS WORKSHOP COURSES

You’ll pick two Elective Skills Workshop courses across Stage 2 if you’re full time and five (across six terms) if you’re part time to help refine your technique. If you haven’t taken your compulsory drawing course in Stage 1, you’ll complete these and you can also choose more drawing electives if they’re relevant to your practice and development.

ART HISTORY MODULE: ‘MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART HISTORY’

Over one term, you’ll spend one day a week developing your understanding of key artists and thinkers from 1900 to the present day, and their influences on contemporary practice, including some sessions specifically focussed on portraiture. You’ll also undertake independent study and typically have to complete an essay for assessment.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT MODULE

To help prepare you for life as a practising artist, you’ll also complete a professional development module, which looks at everything from PR & branding, to completing residencies, to taxation for the self-employed artist.
You’ll create a portfolio of evidence for assessment, which includes creating a website, marketing plans and evidence of the use of marketing and business tools. You’ll need to study independently in addition to your taught sessions to complete this module.

STAGE 3 (LEVEL 6)

ONE YEAR FULL TIME, TWO YEARS PART TIME

The final stage of your BA is where you really come into your own as an artist. You’ll focus on creating one major body of work that is entirely self-initiated and self-directed in your own dedicated studio space. This stage counts for 67% of your final BA grade and classification.

STUDIO PRACTICE MODULE

At Stage 3, you’re expected to be increasingly independent in the studio, but you’ll still be supported through regular group critiques and one-to-one tutorials as you hone your own practice, research your artist’s statement and prepare to exhibit at the Graduate Show.
As a full-time student, you will typically spend two days a week per term working on your Studio Practice project, and undertake independent study on your self-initiated brief. If you choose to study part-time, you’ll typically spend one day a week per term on Studio Practice throughout the two years.
This module is assessed at the Graduate Show. You’ll also submit a supporting portfolio of developmental work and take part in a viva voce with a team of tutors and an external assessor, where you’ll answer questions about your project development, curatorial choices and contextual knowledge.

ELECTIVE SKILLS WORKSHOP COURSES

You’ll choose a maximum of one Elective Skills Workshop course each term, to hone the skills needed for your final personal project (full time). Part time students will take a maximum of three electives spread throughout the two years of Stage 3.

CONTEXTUAL STUDIES MODULE

You’ll complete an extended research project – supported by your tutor in one-to-one sessions – focusing on an area of research that supports the development of your practical work.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT MODULE

In this module, you’ll build on skills learnt in Stage 2, investigating an area of practice relevant to your own progression goals through an extended research project.

Tutor Contact Time

Our BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture Degree*, alongside our BA (Hons) Fine Art Degree, offers some of the highest contact hours of any higher education art course in the UK. As a full time student, you’ll receive three days per week of tutored time in Stages 1 and 2 (two days as a part time student). In Stage 3, the focus switches to Studio Practice project work and preparing for the Graduate Show, but you’ll still receive up to 10 hours contact time a week, plus one-to-one tutorials covering Professional Development and preparation for your extended contextual research project.

Student Support

We provide high levels of support and guidance for every step of your journey – from first enquiry to your graduation. We pride ourselves on our close community, where students feel safe and able to seek advice and guidance from our staff. For more information detailing the main areas of support, please see our Student Support page.

Entry Requirements

We consider each application on an individual basis and welcome candidates from a variety of backgrounds.

You’ll attend a 30-45 minute interview with one or two tutors to discuss your application and review your portfolio. This can be online if needed – please get in touch to find out more. Remember, this discussion is also an opportunity for you to ask us questions!

As part of this, we’ll assess your key artistic skills, level of ability, and enthusiasm to explore new ways of working and develop your ideas. We’ll also evaluate your awareness of artistic concepts, and the cultural, historical and professional contexts of fine art. We’ll review your personal statement and any academic references provided (if applicable).

Although no formal qualifications are required other than level 2 English, you’ll need to demonstrate work at least of Level 3 (A-Level) equivalent. In some cases, we may ask to see additional supplementary work.

Intake is only in term one (September). Entry is typically at Stage 1, but we may allow direct entry to Stages 2 or 3 if we think you have appropriate prior qualifications and experience – please get in touch to find out more.

The Miriam Waterman Memorial Prize

Win a full scholarship to study BA (Hons) Contemporary Portraiture* at AAL in 2022

© 2017 The Art Academy – London / Mermaid Court, 165A Borough High Street, London, SE1 1HR / Tel 020 7407 6969 / Reg. Charity No. 1078804 / Ltd. Company No. 3801729