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UCL Public Engagement Blog



New Ways of Seeing: Printmaking as an Introduction to University

By Caroline Francis, on 8 July 2020

This post is the sixth in a series about the Printmaking Project, which is part of a programme for secondary schools in east London. It is written by Nia Fekri, a final year BA student at the Slade School of Fine Art.

Printmaking workshops, 2019.


For two years I have led the printmaking workshops at the Slade School of Fine Art, with Mataio, a fellow student in my year, as part of UCL’s Widening Participation programme for school students aged 14-18.

This is a list of the five questions visiting school students ask most frequently, and my personal thoughts on them.

1. What does doing a fine art degree look like?

In a fine art degree you will not have projects or themes set by your teachers like you do in school or college. You have to think about what YOU want to do.

You will have studio space to make art in.

You will have access to facilities like printmaking workshops, wood workshops or digital facilities. These may vary depending on the university you go to.

You will have group meetings with students and teachers to talk about your work. You can present your work, and collectively think about what’s working, what needs improvement. Or get advice on what you might be interested to watch/read/listen to.

There are technicians who help you figure out how to bring your ideas into reality! Teaching you skills and helping you problem solve.

There will be art history and theory lectures or visiting artists talking about their work with you.

Most importantly: when I started uni, I thought I would have to sit there and someone would teach me everything. That’s not true. You will have to seek the knowledge and skills you want to have. It’s a lot of trial and error and hours and hours of learning through making.

Printmaking workshops, 2019.

2. I’m not good at drawing, can I still apply?

It’s time to bust the myth that you need observational drawing to be an artist or a creative person.

For me, art is about exploring or representing something. It can be a feeling or a concept. Art can explore scientific materials or a political history. It can also be about personal experiences, or things you find funny. Choosing what medium to use is all up to you: can you explore your idea through a sculpture? A poem? A live comedy sketch? A sound installation?

3. Is fine art the only art?

Doing a fine art degree is not the only way to be creative!

Here is a list of some subjects you can study if you want to do something creative:

• Fashion / Fashion Photography / Fashion Illustration
• Graphic Design
• Film and Moving Image
• Furniture design
• Theatre Design / Costume Design
• Acting and Performance Arts
• Advertising and Marketing
• Sound Arts and Music
• Journalism and Publishing in the creative field
• Game design and development

… and the list goes on. Do your research, because there is so much more to art than fine art.

Printmaking workshops, 2019.

4) What jobs can I apply to with a fine art degree?

The creative industry is very competitive and that is something you have to consider. There are lots of different jobs in institutions/companies/organisations that are not just about being an artist. It’s not so much about the degree you have but more about the skills you perfected whilst studying. For example, if you did a lot of video art, you can look at the film and video industry. If you did a lot of performances, you might look into the theatre arts industry.

It’s about applying the skills you learnt along the way. And it’s not always about the obvious skills. For example, I am working on a short film. I had to manage finding a location, actors and a crew. I had to be really good at scheduling and communication. These are my transferable skills, valuable skills I can use in many jobs within or outside the creative industries.

5) Art school seems really intimidating.

When I first started uni, I felt overwhelmed, because there were a lot of people who had experiences and skills I didn’t have, or knew about things I’d never heard of. There are a lot of people in the creative industry/institutions that come from a variety of privileged backgrounds and imposter syndrome can be so real. Especially for people from BAME backgrounds or less economically privileged backgrounds, or those with disabilities. But I think these are the perspectives that need to be heard the most right now. There is no ‘right’ way to make art. Your references, experiences and interests are valid and important because there are always going to be people who are interested in them. There is such a variety of art out there, and there will always be things you are into and things that you don’t care about.

So that’s it- my answers to the most frequently asked questions from the school students participating in the Printmaking Project. Best of luck to everyone thinking about studying art in higher education!

The Printmaking Project is part of the UCL East School’s programme run by UCL Culture and supported by the Access and Widening Participation programme.

Read the first , second, third, fourth and fifth blogs in this series.

In light of the current situation, Slade School of Fine Art is hosting an online Slade Degree Showcase for the students graduating this year. The online platform is an opportunity to celebrate the work of students graduating, before a celebratory physical exhibition next year. Nia’s degree show is available to view online now. 

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