Contemporary Portraiture student Constance discusses the challenges and rewards of studying art part-time

After two years of working full-time and squeezing in the odd painting I realised I wanted to pursue art more seriously. I began exploring part-time study options in London and visited Art Academy London on a cold March afternoon. I loved what I saw. The building is a little rough around the edges, but there’s a real sense that everyone who was there really wanted to be there.

I met with Darren from the Academic team, and learnt about the flexibility of the programme, and the incredibly high amount of tutor contact time you receive. When I went home that night and discovered over Facebook that an artist I had been admiring for years occasionally works as a tutor there, I decided that this was something I really, really wanted to do.

However, knowing you want to do something and having the means to do it are different things. First off, work: Art Academy London offers a part-time course with two contact days, so I knew I’d need to quit my job and find part-time work. Then there’s the matter of course fees: the Academy has a great bursary culture, and I was lucky enough to be granted a course fee reduction, but I’d still need to fund the annual balance on a part-time salary. In the months before the course began in September, I began saving as much of my full-time wage as possible, and hunted for a new part-time role. After a few interviews, I secured one with a September start, and I just snuck into the Academy’s 2018 intake.

Working and studying part-time is incredibly rewarding but not without its challenges. In the nine months that I’ve now been with the Academy, I’ve seen my art progress in bigger leaps than ever before, and I’m so excited by the new skills I’m learning and developing. I just have to focus on that when I’m eating my fourth 45p Lidl soup of the week and trying not to think of how much of a botch job I’ve made of my DIY haircut! Of course, there will be things you miss out on and other goals, like saving for a house deposit and progressing at work, that need to be put on hold.

A saving grace has been art commissions. I began taking on portrait commissions when I was raising money for Alzheimer’s Research UK in the summer before I started school. I produced four paintings, and realised I should start doing this more seriously once I was working part-time. I took the Academy’s ‘Digital Development’ module in my first term, and built my website. Since December, I’ve produced eight paintings for paying clients. Over a year, this will make me enough money to cover my course fees and keep my head above water, and it’s so rewarding that I’m actually using the skills I’m developing at Art Academy London to support myself.

Our Life Size Figure Sculpture Masterclass had some fantastic results this August! Students created a full human figure from clay, working both with a life model and self-directed without a model. Lasting four weeks, each student completed a fully formed sculpture. The finished works are a testament to the course; they are fantastic studies of the model’s form.
The Masterclass is a truly immersive experience from start to finish. Starting with the construction of a steel black iron foundation, students then used clay to build the full figure. As well as developing the technical skills of measurements, plumbing, anatomy and clay application, students honed their creative skills, developed an understanding of sculptural texture and forms, and learned how to capture the model’s unique expression. The finished sculptures were both products of anatomical study and works of art!
If you are interested in taking this class, email, for more information on future course dates.

Art Academy London in partnership with The Open University is delighted to announce that it has launched its validated BA (Hons) Fine Art and Foundation Degrees in Contemporary Portraiture and Sculpture, starting September 2019. The art school and charity, based in Southwark, has worked with the Open University since 2017 to become an accredited higher education provider.

The Academy is an artist-led institution that has built a reputation for investing time in supporting each student through tailored, hands-on tuition. It offers the best of an old-school atelier combined with the vibrancy and diversity of a contemporary art school: students have the freedom to explore their own art practice while building a solid foundation of both traditional and contemporary skills, and learning about the practicalities of working in the creative industries through Professional Development modules.

Rob Pepper, Principal, Art Academy London says:

“This is a real testament to the quality of us as an institution and the art education we offer. We’re delighted to bring a new BA and Foundation Degree to the table, offering art students something different: a tailored course designed and delivered by practising artists.”

“We truly believe in art education for all, which is why we’re offering every first-year student joining our BA or Foundation Degree in September 2019 access to the AAL Academic Bursary for the duration of their programme. This will significantly reduce our fees to below the national average for degrees, breaking down yet another barrier for students looking for quality arts education.”

The Academy has also recently launched its Honorary Advisory Council to support it as it seeks to broaden its reach, its resources and its facilities. The Council is comprised of a host of leading figures, both within the art world and in a diverse range of other industries., including Jo Baring.

Jo Baring, Director, The Ingram Collection comments:

“The Academy has been self-sustaining for almost 20 years and it’s an exciting time to be a part of its growth. This partnership with the Open University will allow the Academy to open up its unique teaching approach to even more students.”

Applications are currently open – more information about the programmes and bursary can be found at programme/

Thank you to everyone who came to our 2019 Graduate Show, which celebrated the hard work and achievements of our graduating Diploma, Fine Art Foundation and Certificate students.

Our private views, held on 3rd and 11th July, were buzzing with interest about our graduates’ work. Artworks were exhibited across the three floors of our Newington campus building, covering a wide range of media and subjects.

The first private view included a speech from Academy Trustee and Managing Director of Cityscape Digital, Damien Fennell, who spoke about art and industry. Principal Rob Pepper announced the Trustee’s Prize winners: Elaine Hanlon won the Trustee’s Foundation Prize for her installation piece ‘Obstreperous Lady’ which included an impressive printed wall hanging that was commended for being both humorous and thought-provoking. Julia Thompson won the Trustee’s Certificate Prize for her striking oil on board portrait ‘Small World’ (congratulations Elaine and Julia!).

The Diploma private view saw Henry Little, Academy Trustee and Associate Director at the Fine Art Group, providing words of advice for our emerging artists. With all the fantastic work on display, our Trustees had a tough job of selecting the Trustee’s Prize winners: congratulations to Contemporary Portraiture student Chantal AuCoin and Diploma students Charlotte Smith. Chantal’s triptych ‘Creation of Human 2.0’ and ‘Cincinnatus’ questioned the influence of technology on today’s society, while Charlotte’s mixed media installation incorporated text and sculpture. Congratulations also to Idris Woodroffe, whose collection of abstract paintings exploring how our minds perceive experiences, won the Natwest Prize.

We also had an impressive collection of artworks on display at the Print Show, two of which won prizes from our sponsors: Elizabeth Dawson won the Intaglio Printmaker Prize for Outstanding Print with her soft ground etching ‘Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere, Mata Hari’, and Emma Lucia Reyes won the John Purcell Paper Prize for her woodcut ‘Underworld.’

This year’s exhibition included a number of inspiring works, with many sharing some really moving messages. The show marked a significant stage in our graduates’ aspiring careers, which we are very excited to be a part of. Congratulations to all of our graduates for putting on such a great show!

Well done to Sculpture degree student Jo Holt, the winner of the 2019 Surrey Sculpture Prize! Her piece, ‘Eye of the Beholder,’ comments on the tragedy of coral bleaching and the brilliance of biofluorescence, and explores how a change of perspective can bring life into a new light. Jo was awarded £500 cash, a 12-month membership to the Surrey Sculpture Society and a future exhibition opportunity.
Another entry noted by the judges was Masa Travijanin’s ‘Inverted.’ Masa’s sculpture began as a layered latex cast of her body, which she then cut up and embroidered, incorporating textiles, jewellery and make up. The piece was acknowledged for its imaginative framing showing the embroidering aspect of self-presentation.
Alexanda Rendle-Short’s piece ‘Beginning of life,’ a series of black clay coiled pots, was also recognised for its representation of DNA through the varying clay shapes.
Thank you to everyone who entered their sculptures for the prize, and congratulations again to Jo for winning!

Join us in congratulating AAL Contemporary Portraiture student Paul Starns, who won the AAL Drawing Prize 2019 (of £100) with his fantastic life model drawing. Paul’s drawing was commended for its formal accuracy by judge Brendan Kelly.
We had a number of excellent submissions this year: honourable mentions included Emily Russel’s non-figurative piece, which Brendan felt respected the two-dimensional nature of drawing; Fiona Feng’s life model drawing, which was noted for its consistency and skill; and Minnie Scott’s piece, the only entry which used colour, which was deemed ‘creative, energetic and fearless’.
Thank you to everyone who entered, and congratulations to our prize-winner Paul!

Congratulations to AAL student Heidi Sundvik, who won the Pure Arts Prize on Friday! Heidi wins the opportunity to exhibit two pieces in the fair in October and will receive one year’s mentoring and professional development support.

Congratulations to 2nd year student Ed Beerbohm who won the 2019 Kennerly Prize for his Art History essay. Art Theory tutor David Hodge said:

“Across his two years at the Art Academy, Ed has consistently shown a subtle, penetrating mind as well as great interest in art theory.  This year he wrote a formidably ambitious essay on postmodernism, which carefully considered what art can tell us about world history and vice versa.   Especially impressive is Ed’s ability to make fine-grained distinctions within complex bodies of thought.”

Ed wins 6 hours of tuition with David Hodge.

Congratulations to everyone at the Academy who was selected for the 2019 RP Exhibition at the Mall Galleries, including our tutors David Caldwell, Anastasia Pollard, Toby Wiggins, Tim Benson, Caroline Bays, Andrew Hitchcock, Andy James, Sarah Jane Moon Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco and Melissa Scott-Miller.
Don’t forget there is still time to apply for our FD in Contemporary Portraiture, see our website for further information.

On Monday 24th June 2019, students on our Contemporary Portraiture programme are bringing our popular pop-up studio back to London Bridge station for a free three-hour life drawing class on the lower concourse. Hosted in partnership with Network Rail and Space and People, the life drawing class will allow members of the public to join in to try their hand at drawing our model alongside our students. Easels, drawing materials and handy tips will all be available for free!

We have been a part of the community for almost 20 years, and are delighted to work with Network Rail once again to showcase the incredible cultural hub of London Bridge and Southwark. We champion art education for all, and are thrilled to give passengers the chance to get involved and be creative.

Please do join us on the lower concourse (near the St Thomas Street exit) between 11am and 3pm on Monday 24th June – there’s no need to book in advance.

And we’ll be bringing our pop-up studio back to the station in mid-July for another session – follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with our life drawing classes at London Bridge.