Wednesday September 25, 2019

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.