The course is open access but has a fixed end point. No special treatment is given at level three – all degrees are awarded for the same criteria. This means that everyone needs to make an assessment of their own starting position and decide if they have the time to put in and want to make the commitment necessary to succeed in the long term. Without enough time for the course, ideas don’t have enough time to ferment so the work tends to lack depth and there will not be enough time to find your own voice or learn the core skills you need.
Put simply, by the end of level 1 you need to have developed some fairly meaty core skills in observation and handling materials. You need to have experimented with paint and other materials and developed a visual curiosity. You need to have set up a process of experimentation and research, focussed and relevant contextual study and studio practice that operates in a kind of virtuous loop. Your sketchbook / camera / log need to be your constant companions.
It might be useful for some students to take some time to take stock – assess your core skills and decide what you need to do to bring them up to standard. Assess how many hours you put into your course and decide if it is adequate. Assess how relevant and useful your contextual study is and consider identifying artists who appears more directly relevant to your current concerns that you could look at in more depth.
By the end of level 2 those core skills you acquired in level 1 and the work you did to familiarise yourself with processes and materials will have focussed into a more coherent directed studio practice. You need to know who you are as an artist so that as you enter level 3 you can set your own projects and steer your own course – skills which you will then utilise for the rest of your creative life.
It should be a regular almost symbiotic process for you at later levels to reassess your ambitions for your work, look at the course projects and take the time to reflect on them and make them relevant to your emerging areas of interest.
At level 3 then you are in a position to be ambitious, confident in the knowledge that you have a robust reflexive working method that enables you to explore your ideas constructively.
Students talk about wanting to get a degree – but it’s wanting to do a degree that is important.
If you are enjoying drawing and painting – do you need a degree? Don’t get a degree to validate what you are already doing. You may even find that, despite having quite good technical skills you get very low marks or even fail courses because you are just doing what you always do and there is no evidence that you are learning or challenging yourself or that you are engaging with ideas at an appropriate level. Doing art within an academic environment at Higher Education level is one choice of many and it is a specific one involving a level of critical thinking and contextual research which is not useful for everyone. Some students would be better placed going for the diploma so that tutors can work with them individually.
Finally I was amazed at the assessment event to see some students were still sending in inappropriately presented work, too little work, portfolios without any attempt to be selective etc etc. The guidelines are quite clear so do please read them if you are going for assessment – and good luck.