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The student perspective at South Devon College

Artwork of baby bottles filled with chemical cleaning products
Artwork of baby bottles filled with chemical cleaning products

Written by
UAL Awarding Body
Published date
23 July 2020

As part of Origins Creatives, UAL Awarding Body has been sharing the experiences and artwork of students across the country, to celebrate their resilience and dedication to staying creative during these difficult times. Six students from South Devon College, Amber Penwarden, Angel Graham, Connor Bridgeman, Ella Mcanuff, Emily Paradine and Ruby Christie gave us their take on lockdown, online exhibitions and maintaining creativity.

Tell us about how the pandemic impacted your education this year. Have you managed to stay creative whilst staying at home?

Amber: It forced me to find new ways to make art. The feedback I have received across the web (Teams/emails, etc.) has successfully replaced previous face to face feedback. I have had the space to learn different techniques. I have been watching YouTube videos of drawing and painting, etc. Some of these have made a difference to the work I have been doing.

Angel: The recent Pandemic has affected our lives in many ways but it has not managed to halt my creativity! If anything this pandemic has positively affected my creativity by allowing me to display my ideas through a range of new online platforms, such as Instagram. It's given me the motivation to improve my digital skills.

Connor: It has forced me to think outside the box with my art because I had to get creative with the stuff I’ve got at home. I do feel the loss of the one on one time we had with the teachers. I prefer being sat in a class/studio and doing work. Being in college is an escape from the rest of my life: I go there ONLY to work… I can be single-minded.

Ella: Doing the work in a social context is much easier, having both the support of and competition with others in the class was very helpful for me. Relatively I have managed to stay creative whilst at home but it has been very difficult to remain motivated.

Emily: I have not really managed to stay creative. I need to be around other people who are creative and are doing work to help me to put out work myself. At home I am distracted by everything around me.

Ruby: It’s actually inspired me even more to do this project. It’s meant that I can’t physically go to college but I’ve had more time on my hands to experiment and do research.

How do you feel about your work being showcased online instead of at a physical exhibition? Do you think that the future of exhibitions will be digital?

Amber: I was initially nervous about this because it is very exposing for us, potentially the audience could be very wide and we may not feel our work is ready for such exposure. The physical exhibition feels a more exciting thing but the digital is a new and potentially interesting development.

Angel: Although I was happy we were able to still hold an exhibition through online platforms I’d still say that only physical exhibitions are far more interactive and intriguing opposed to digital. I hope in the future we will be able to return to physical exhibitions!

Connor: I like how the digital increases the audience in principle but my digital skills make it hard for me to access this. I hope the future of exhibitions will NOT be digital.

Ella: It was positive that my family who may not have been able to go to a physical exhibition were able to see my work.

Emily: In some ways I prefer it being online. I don’t need to be confronted by people around my work as I would be in a physical space.

Ruby: I like seeing it online because you can keep going back to it and looking at it. I think we would have both so we can physically and digitally view it.

Was the work you exhibited FMP related, developmental work or work that you created during lockdown?

Amber: My work was related to my FMP but it was done in lockdown; it was changed by lockdown because I became interested by the aspects of my project which were particularly prevalent during lockdown.

Connor: I have done bits of everything. I have branched away from my initial project to allow me to hone skills for next year. I have got back into dotted drawings for example. I am trying to increase the depth in my drawings.

Ruby: Mixture of both. I had an idea before lockdown about reflections and I liked the idea of cut crystals on a chandelier reflecting different images. I wanted the reflections to reflect my life and experiences and seeing different facets of it. Once Covid-19 happened and then lockdown I related to how this virus had a massive impact on everyone’s lives for good and bad so it made absolute sense to make the reflections about Covid and lockdown. I had managed to do experimental work pre lockdown and over the weeks I’ve evolved the experiments towards my final piece.

Tell us more about the work you exhibited – what does it mean to you, how did you create it and what inspired you?

Amber: It became about the process of everyday life and how it slowly breaks us down causing health problems. My final piece was a rotted abstract doll, it was made of a babygrow and milk bottle head with a baby hat and was stained by household chemicals and burnt. In the flesh the piece smells strongly, which is part of its power. The final piece was a digital submission which includes images of the chemicals being applied giving importance to the time-based nature of the problem I am exploring and a set of chemical labels which show that these toxins are applied with love.

Angel: My main area of work evolved around the symbiotic relationship between humanity and nature. I found this pandemic shifted our relationship with nature, intensifying it and therefore adding more importance to my project. Each piece I exhibited communicated something meaningful and symbolic about me and this pandemic, for example my piece called ‘Chaos’. Taking inspiration from Jackson Pollock, I took a spontaneous messy approach - portraying the current chaos I felt onto a canvas. This canvas included a range of frantic faces, scribble’s, over-lapping shapes and much more!

Connor: It is a storyboard for a graphic novel about how we glorify war (in WW2 particularly). I was inspired by the fact it was the 75thanniversary of D-Day.

Ella: I presented a digital submission of a half painted, half collaged photograph of me dressed as a walking billboard in the centre of my local town. I wanted to show how even when many women speak out about their issues, no-one is there to listen.

Emily: I made a litter dress about how humans treat the environment. I then linked this to lockdown with photos of discarded gloves on the streets. I struggled to be inspired despite the fact that I liked the topic.

Ruby: Clearly I was inspired by the world's issues today with Covid-19. Creating this piece has helped me to make sense of what we’re all experiencing during this time. It’s helped me to focus on the positive which helped me mentally when I would normally be going out of my head because of not being able to leave the house.

Having a number of materials at my disposal made me want to experiment with all the different mediums. I love Pinterest as a great way of getting inspiration. I looked at different artists and photographers and in particular I liked Rachelle Kearn. She’s an artist that uses arcylics to create beautiful chandelier pieces. To create the final piece for 'Reflections' I used an old ornate mirror frame which in itself would have reflected images. I knew I wanted to incorporate a grand chandelier. I photographed aspects of an opulent one and pieced together the photographs to create a large one that looked like it reflected in the ornate mirror frame. I wanted half the chandelier to be behind bars to indicate the trapped prison-like conditions with ornate words of the negative side of coronavirus. Because the virus has a pretty look under a microscope I wanted these to be in the background, as with all the positives and negatives we’re experiencing Covid is still always in the background.

What advice would you give to your peers who may feel discouraged and lack inspiration as a result of the pandemic and lockdown?

Amber: Explore the situation in which you find yourself. Create a set of techniques from the stuff that surrounds you, make your own art processes which reflect your circumstances. Having a great project before lockdown started was a big help to me… so we need to find subjects that we really care about.

Angel: I’d advise people to be easy on themselves. Art block and lack of motivation is natural and happens to everyone, especially in these weird times. I’d advise them to take a step back, gather inspiration and ideas, create some mind maps and try again with a fresh mind set.

Connor: Find one thing and focus on it. Something you really care about. Don’t create huge pieces… this causes me to lose motivation because it takes so long…

Ella: Go online for inspiration. Follow art accounts. I looked up a photoshop tutorial on how magazines edit their photos which I used in my project.

Ruby: I would say that because we’ve had more time on our hands we’ve got time to experiment and just play with different techniques. Try and channel frustration into being creative. I would go on walks and look for inspiration in things that catch my eye. Definitely make the most of how you yourself feel - what makes you feel the way you do, what things you’re drawn towards, create something that comes from you not something you think others want you to create. Create what you know and feel.

What are your plans for the future? Are you hoping to continue your education in September?

Amber: Yes. I want to stay on to do the Extended Diploma in Art and Design in September and then probably go onto Foundation the year after.

Angel: I plan to continue my studies in art developing both personally and professionally, starting the Contemporary Arts course in South Devon University come September (depending on lockdown restrictions).

Ruby: I’m planning on having some sort of career in the Arts. I would love to carry on experimenting and finding my own unique style that can be commercial where I can sell my pieces. I am not continuing education in college but I plan to keep learning from home and evolving my style.

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