AAL alumna, Rhiannon Salisbury, talks about how comfortable she felt at the Academy, and how this helped her develop as an artist this blog post:
I have a distinct memory of the first time I walked into Art Academy London. I felt like a child who had just walked into Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory. It was a completely new world to me, but one I immediately wanted to be a part of. I saw fabulous large sculpture being built from various models, life drawing, painting and much more, there was so much art work being made everywhere, but real tangible living art and artists of all ages and disciplines heavily involved in their work. I was enthralled straight away. I had been to many art schools in London before but had never entered a space quite like this with such a practical hands on approach. I was mesmerised by the quality of the work and the intensity of its production. It was like a living dream to see huge sculptures and awe inspiring paintings being created in such an immediate, physical way. Waiting to find out if I had been accepted was agony, I had never wanted to go somewhere so much before.
In a time fraught with discussions on art vs. craft if skill is necessary in contemporary art practise, The Academy is situated in a very interesting place. You are taught a foundation of artistic skills, you learn how to draw, paint and sculpt from scratch on the Fine Art programme. Some people today would argue this kind of learning is unnecessary, for my development as an artist it was invaluable. Painting is a visual language and you need to learn how to speak this language before you can use it effectively as an artist; you wouldn’t expect a child to write before teaching them the alphabet, and for me it was the same for painting. What is special and unique about the Academy is that alongside teaching traditional skills, you are also given the creative freedom to engage in a contemporary art practise. Skills are offered alongside independent projects, critical theory, and professional development.
The professional development is an essential part of the course, taught through lectures and visiting professionals, however I learnt the most about what it means to be an artist from working alongside the tutors. The tutors who work at the academy are all practising professional artists alongside their role as tutors and are keen not only to share their expertise but also teach the students what it means to be an artist in real terms.
The Fine Art programme was a very intensive course. We had group tutorials once a week, as well as regular individual tutorials whenever needed. I have never experienced or heard of this level of tutor contact in any other college. Our artist needs were nurtured by the tutor’s in the college, and there was an incredibly strong support network in place for us as students. Art Academy London, is incredibly flexible when it comes to meeting student needs, and the course can be tailored to suit the individual. In my last year I decided to go part time due to external circumstances and a feeling that I needed longer to work out my creative direction before leaving the course and they were more than happy to accommodate changes to my course to help me.
The Academy has a unique and personal feel, over the four years I was there as a student it became like home. I have made a group of friends who still meet up regularly to discuss our work, or visit exhibitions together. The Academy was a place where meaningful and lasting relationships like this could develop because of the deep sense of commitment of its founders and the caring creative environment they have created within the college. I arrived at the Academy with a desire to immerse myself in art, I left four years later equipped with the knowledge and skills and most importantly the confidence to pursue my career as an artist.