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.
As a student, you’re the one choosing your Elective Skills Workshop courses each term, which allows you to tailor the programme to your curiosity and needs (I’m currently expending my practice with etching, and I feel like trying sculpture at some point!).
In my second term I picked the Self-Portrait class with the wonderful Roxana Halls and got selected for Sky Portrait Artist Of The Year with one of the paintings I produced during this class! Participating in this TV art show was an incredible experience and I wouldn’t have believed myself capable of such a thing if it weren’t for the support of my tutors.
On the course, we also have a very useful Professional Development module, which prepares us for many ‘business’ aspects of being a creative. We’re encouraged to get some art world experiences so it is not too much of a jump once we graduate. For example, my fellow Portraiture student Andy Szczech and I answered an open call from Cass Art Islington and turned their gallery space into an artist studio for two weeks, to create our own kind of residency: it was a great success and we even ran a Portraiture Workshop.
Every time I reflect on how much I’ve learned and grown since I joined the Academy I feel incredibly grateful for this first class I took. I’m now a part-time student, so exactly halfway through my programme, and I can’t wait to find out how everything will unravel!