Art, Blog

University cost me £9,000 and my faith in Art

Facial map, 2012, felt tip pen on A3 paper, by InkyandthePen (Aine Kelly)
Facial map, 2012, felt tip pen on A3 paper, by InkyandthePen (Aine Kelly)

Would you believe that the first tutors, in my three years of Fine Art, to tell me to do my art my own way, was the two which were assigned to me in my final year? As mentioned in a previous blog, most of my tutors in my University were not very supportive, especially those from my first and second year.

Maybe it was I who was a bad student, for I was lazy and unmotivated, or at least that is the student the Fine Art course turned me into. Prior to University I had an amazing tutor whilst attending a Foundation of Art and Design course, she would always give me good advice, believed in me, as an artist, and my art. If my attention started to stray she would give me speeches that really motivated me work hard. I went to college every single day I could, stayed in until closing time, worked on sketchbooks regularly and experimented with as many mediums within my price range. I actually think I chose Fine Art because that was her teaching speciality. I probably chose the wrong course as the end of the day, because University of Ulsters Fine Art course completely eliminated my artistic pride.

Everything was extremely unorganised from the beginning, although my portfolio consisted of drawings and paintings, they put me into the Lens and Sculpture classes, I attempted to be moved to the painters, they just disagreed with me, thus began my first year of Fine art hell. The first tutor which was assigned to me was very strange and smelt of marijuana. He straight up told me my art was bad and, because my art was pretty dark, he’d ramble about very unusual things e.g “Women who are afraid to get raped, secretly want it.” etc. The other tutors were absolutely psychotic, they kept giving lectures about conceptual art and how the idea of art was better than the art itself. There were people in the course who thrived at their ‘bullshit art’ standard as they were able to make up some deep meaning behind an artwork that never existed in the first place, meanwhile I would exhibit artwork that I worked for hours on, but my anxiety made me struggle with talking about my own art, therefore I was condemned as a bad artist.


And yes it was ‘bullshit art’. I once crumpled up a piece of paper, scribbled on it and at the next group critique the tutors went crazy over this lousy piece of paper and told me that a pen drawing I spent hours on was terrible. (Facial map, image at top of blog.) If you still don’t believe how crazy these tutors were when it came to the idea of “absolutely anything!” being art, one time a haemophobic friend pricked her finger accidentally and fainted in the hallway, two tutors then approached, critiqued her passed-out form and then walked on. They put a students health in danger because they thought she was doing a performance piece. I know there are people who really like conceptual art, but my experience made me see it’s not for me.

After pushing through the first year and managing to pass, I found myself in my second year and knew I definitely could not spend another minute in Lens and Sculpture, so I spoke to the tutors, who still disagreed, so I (embarrassed to admit) cried. I guess this made them realise even I was too weird for them and I was immediately moved to the Painting group. My first obvious problem was that everyone already in the group had spent the first year getting painting lessons while I was a stuck in Lens and sculpture. Also since second year is the year you develop your painting skills you should have learned in the previous year, they only gave us a small handful of lesson. We had to pay for some of the classes and they would not go out of their way to tell you about them. Rather they’d leave a notification on a billboard which was hard to notice and only a small number of people could do the class, so if you were late to sign it, you would be left out.

I was quite a lazy student, lacking in motivation, but every time inspiration struck and I worked really hard I would be completely let down and lose all ability to work after talking to a tutor because they would tell me I had no imagination or my art was terrible, instead of telling me how to fix it. The tutors would also make out that my art lacked quality because I could not afford the high standard supplies like everyone else in the course. This is because I am Irish and did not qualify for a maintenance loan, which everyone else had and spent on very good art supplies. The tutors would tell me to get my parent’s to buy them, which I did not like doing.

Final year was a bit of  an improvement as I had two great tutors. If there was ever any problems with my work, instead of telling me to do it a completely different way, they would advise how I could improve what I was doing. They encouraged me to pursue my own narratives in art and didn’t expect me to use money I did not have, they provided me with paper to use for my drawing. Most importantly they did not attempt to sculpt me into a painter I wasn’t, they motivated me to draw.

Despite having suitable tutors in my final years, I still lack confidence in my own art. I look back at my art before University, when I was not afraid to experiment or make mistakes, because I would find a way to make them work. For the past year I have avoided drawing, feeling anxiety about drawing remembering how bad that Fine Art course made me feel. Art was therapeutic to me before hand. For now on I am going to paint and draw the way I want to, not for how others want it.

Ride the art, my most recent art piece. It was not planned in my way, it's a doodle.
Ride the art, my most recent art piece. It was not planned in my way, it’s a doodle, by InkyandthePen (Aine Kelly)

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