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May 2016

'Making it out there' - my thoughts

May 26, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

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When I started my foundation degree in contemporary art practice at Shrewsbuiry College back in 2012, I didn't anticipate how much common sense I'd learn as well as experience and development in my art practice. One of the main purposes of the course was to teach students how to survive out there in the Big Wide World as an artist. This was a fantanstic learning opportunity for me as previously I had no idea how to be an artist. I just liked to draw. Period. To pass the course, I had to exhibit outside the college; I had to liaise with galleries and curators; and I had to consider issues such as health and safety, cost, income, pricing and How To Survive out there. I now realise that the content of this course, run by Staffordshire University and taking place in a number of local colleges, is actually quite a rarity at the higher education level. Although it didn't go to full BA level, it gave me a really solid grounding for my time now spent finishing my BA in Fine Art at Wolverhampton. I learnt a huge amount about being an artist on that course which I have been able to apply at Wolverhampton for the end-of-year show.

Given that the modules directed towards working as an artist are not the norm on many more formal BA courses in Fine Art at universities, I believe that for anyone serious about a career in fine art an association with AA2A could be extremely useful. The AA2A guide 'Making it out there', provides much essential information for graduating students wishing to make a career in art. One point which sticks out for me from this guide is that life after graduating isn't an 'either / or' scenario. The graduating artist doesn't have to spend all their time egaged in art. They can work anywhere, they can do other things, and they can earn money in art and in other ways at the same time. It depends on the nature of the art practice. Life isn't black and white. Living in the grey is actually very rewarding.

As for my situation, I am currently freelance as a online publishing project manager and when I'm not doing that, I'm a part-time art student and blogger. I also do voluntary work at my sons' school and I'm a parent governor. I like to keep my feet in many camps. I don't make any money at all out of the art or the voluntary work. When I finish my art education I will continue to work freelance in publishing and, hopefully, spend time pursuing my art (and perhaps not expecting to earn much from it if any). But there are certain things that anyone wanting to make a career in art needs to know: building a creative career as a freelancer takes time, networking is essential, paperwork is essential, and low expectations (at least initially) are also essential.

If the new graduate needs a single source of useful information on how to get started, this guide provides that information in a concise and readible way. It also includes much-needed encouragement in the form of comments and advice from those that are in the freelance art world. It is an insecure life, so encouragement is vital.

My own advice: Never, ever give up and never say no!

Is that all I have to show?

May 20, 2016 by Rebecca Collins   Comments (0)

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I'm fast approaching the end of my first year as a final year student at the University of Wolverhampton. (Being part-time I am studying the final year over two years.) So now is a good time to reflect on what I've achieved this year. I started the year with a blank studio, and now I've just cleared away to end up the year with the same blank studio.

My art over the last 8 months, since I began the first semester with no idea what to do, has focused on one object: the abandoned balloon. That is how I work. I find something to be obsessed with and I obsess over it for a long period until I get to the point when I can't obsess any longer and I have to exhibit something. That is where I am today.

Since October when the first semester begain, I've found or been sent nearly 300 balloons in various stages of abandonment. This all started when I found an orange balloon on the pavement in Wolverhampton and thought 'that looks interesting'. Since then, I've drawn them, I've photographed them, I've written about them, I've logged them in a folder and in Excel, I've blogged about them, I've talked about them, I've even turned them into bronze objects. I have had a fantastic year with my balloons. They have served me well. I love them. I can't let them go, at least, not just yet. Soon, but not quite yet.

I will be exhibiting at the End of Year Degree Show next month and then after that at the Asylum Gallery in Wolverhampton. Then, I think, I will say goodbye to my balloons and move onto something new (who knows what at this point).

My final pieces will consist of just two elements: an audio piece and bronze castings. Part of me wonders how 8 months work can be condensed into just two very small things: one that isn't even tangible. But, in fact, this doesn't worry me. That is what art is. Art isn't quantity, art is thought as well as object. Art is about research, exploration, experimentation and, ultimately, provoking thought in others and myself.

When you visit an exhibition (and indeed a final degree show) you will see one or two pieces per artist or student. This might not look much for one year's work but it is. There is a lot of invisible stuffing that goes into each visible, tangible art object. That is what I love about being an art student. I just love the research and thinking. I can spend days just thinking: thinking on trains, in the car, at Zumba, in the shower, at 3am and even, sometimes, in my studio space. I spend far more time thinking than I do creating.

I have created something, two things. And I can't wait to show them to the world.