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  • Writer's picturecchennells.artwork

You Don't Know Where You're Going Until You Know Where You Have Been...

As I have been thinking about my professional development I have realised that in order for me to establish the direction I want to take after my degree I need to look back at what my motivations where to start this journey in the first place, what I wanted to achieve and how those aspirations may have changed or been affected over the past 3 years. However as essential as this is to gauge where I am at the moment it does not need to be a prolonged exercise - after all too much looking back can prevent us from moving forward, so I have used this "reflectionaire" to focus my thoughts and keep myself on topic.

• Why did you choose to study for a BA in Fine Art?

There were several contributing factors to this decision - both personal and professional;

Personal reasons: 3 years ago I had made some life changing decisions that involved leaving an unfulfilling career and relocating from Birmingham back to Essex which also meant moving back in with my parents. At any point in your life these can be very hard decisions to make and left me feeling an acute sense of lack of achievement - the thought "I am approaching 30 and what do I have to show for it" stuck on repeat in my head. Something that had been a particularly hard pill to swallow was having to leave university while studying architecture due to health reasons. So completing my degree seemed almost like a point I need to prove to myself to give myself that personal sense of achievement. The decision to study Fine Art instead of Architecture again came from the benefit of hindsight - I had chosen Architecture because it had a very specific career path and that came with certain pressures that the degree became paramount to your future success, this time I wanted to choose a degree that was out of interest for the subject - and could allow me to focus solely on that and not put too much emphasis on the after degree implications. In this respect it was something I had very much chosen to do for myself, my own well being and personal development.

Professional reasons: Having chosen to change my career/location/lifestyle I was aware I needed to support this through gaining qualifications that would open up other opportunities and experiences other than the restaurant industry. Before applying to the course I had been working as an exam invigilator in a local school on a part time basis and found myself really enjoying the environment - which lead me to thinking about my own secondary education - particularly the advice and influence of my art teacher and how that has stuck with me. This comfort I felt in an educational environment led me to considering the potential career opportunities there as well as feeling that I myself was in a receptive position to consider returning to education for myself.

• Have or how have your reasons, aspirations, motivations changed / developed / expanded over your time of study?

At the beginning my main focus was simply to complete this degree to the highest standard I could without the pressure of what would come next - after that I was open to considering an art technician position within a school or a PGCE after the degree if I wanted to continue with my own education. At the beginning of the 3 years it was possible to put my blinkers on and focus on that, but as I have approached the final year what comes next has been drawn sharply into focus so as to avoid falling into a post educational abyss. With this realisation the decision has become more focused between MA and PGCE - partly because I have proven to myself that I am capable of applying myself to the course and achieving good results but also because of the positive response my artwork receives and its potential to develop into a professional practice.

• What do you want to 'be' when you leave art school? ( artist, workshop leader, technician, illustrator, shop owner, maker, teacher, curator, event manager etc)

This is hard to define because my route for progression still hasnt been decided at this point- but I am also aware that if I want my main profession to be "artist" this will need to be supported by other roles.

• What kind of artist do you think you are becoming? ( keep this to one or two words)


• What are your main concerns as an artist? ( this could be theme, approach, methodology?

My work focuses on the interplay between temporary structures and imagery - there is a strong connection to architecture and structural forms using found objects, photography and digital manipulation.

• What do you want to do next year? (Practical elements - Further study work, travel, move house, get a studio etc)

I would like to establish my professional practice which will involve – entering competitions – pursuing a masters degree and setting up a home studio - when my family moved house there was a shed designated as "my space" but it very quickly became a general dumping ground and needs rescuing and a serious overhaul to be my home studio with potentially an external storage space added for the amount of material I have accumulated..

• What, if anything, do you need to do in preparation to make this happen?

Organise a list of applications and the deadlines both for competitions and potential masters courses - research funding for MA degrees

• Do you think you are missing any skills that might be valuable post- art school? (keep it relevant - you don't need to be able to do every process using clay for example)

Definitely could benefit from being more proficient with photoshop and I'm not sure it is the skill set that I am missing so much as the confidence to dive in without the assistance or support of the technicians

• Consider and name two things you could do to improve or gain this skill during the rest of your time at art a school.

I should work on my self sufficiency by not defaulting to a technician or tutor as soon as I question myself and develop my photoshop knowledge during open access sessions

• What are your aims and aspirations post-art school? Think big!

After art school I have aims of completing a MA and PGCE course. Working in the industry in London would be an excellent way to build professional experience and knowledge either alongside or after any further education pursuits. Blue sky thinking an internship with Rachel Whiteread would be amazing - and not a completely plucked out of nowhere idea knowing where her studio is in London I just need the confidence to write an amazing letter, an awful lot of luck - right time right place.

• What might you need to do in order to achieve this? think of an action

Put myself out there - through applications, competitions and opportunities. I will need to be persistent and resilient

• What do you hope to achieve / complete with your work within the first year of leaving art school?

Within the first year I would like to have exhibited my work in a professional gallery space not related to the college

• What do you think you need to do in order to achieve this? think of an action

Identify and pursue appropriate opportunities

• What about in five years?

Completed MA – established a professional practice with a supportive job role in the industry – i.e. gallery position.

• Considering all this - list at least three practical actions you could begin to work on in preparation for your hopes, ambitions, aspirations

Assemble a working portfolio

Establish a professional presence online

Research and identify suitable opportunities – i.e. 3 competitions a year to enter?

Compose a internship letter

• Then list three sources of research, resources, help etc that you could potentially follow

research New Contemporaries opportunity

My cousin runs a website design company that could help me to understand successful online presence

Guardian website lists art industry job opportunities every Wednesday - even just looking would help me establish what kind of jobs I would be interested in.

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