Student Stories

Students and Alumni share their thoughts on The Art Academy

“The Art Academy has great diversity in students and faculty which gives a really broad and engaging perspective on art which I found extraordinary. It helped me develop my practice and feel very welcomed in London. This institution helps, transforms and continues to support me even after I have graduated. “

Richa Vora, Alum Contemporary Portraiture

Before I came to the Academy, I didn’t have a solid and structured practice. For me the Academy has been an incredible experience, I would do the Foundation again and again for the rest of my life. It’s given me the input and time, and being around like minded people has really inspired what I am doing today. I picked up so many threads that became a part of my practice. I mostly work with portraiture now, which has been great because within the Academy, I have been able to choose electives specifically. Our tutors — Lynn Dennison and Alex Virji —  have been so encouraging that it has allowed me to experiment. I have been able to tap into what my work looks like today and what makes it unique to me. One of the pieces that I have been most pleased with is this portrait of my housemate, which I have made on cardboard that adds more texture and energy to the work. 

I have done a range of different electives while at the Academy. I have done some in print which have been really interesting and made me focus more on my drawing which has probably been good for my work even if I have found it hard. I also did Imaginative Composition. 

I have recently taken Susanne du Toit’s Life Painting class and that was amazing for me. Every single weekend I could see myself learning a lot and every week I could feel myself learning a lot. My work was different every week and it really aligned with what I was working on in my own time. I got the structure and input from the tutor who is really skilled and passionate about it. That is the course that has changed my practice the most. 

I applied for the BACP, the reason I chose to do that is because it is one of its kind and the only course in Europe that provides such a degree. It’s the focus on portraiture that is so important to me and I’d be able to get skills-based time at the Academy which is so unique to the Academy, as compared to other places that one can study the arts. That chance to continue doing the electives and keep studying as a practising artist. 

I looked at a range of courses and what I like about the Academy is that there is an experimental atmosphere and the tutors embrace what direction you want to go and push your work a little bit further as well. That is very exciting to me. There is also a lot of focus on skills based learning and learning within portraiture that is very exciting to me. With access to all the life drawing sessions and the evening classes which are another learning opportunity for me. I want to come from the course with confidence in my own practice. Everyone I have met at the Academy is really lovely and amazing, which is a nice environment to carry on studying.

Ella Sheltawy, Foundation Alum, BA Contemporary Portraiture

“From taking my first class in printmaking,  enrolling on the certificate course, and then completing a Fine Art BA, my experience at AAL has been fantastic.   From the beginning I knew AAL was a place where I would be welcome and where I would learn a great deal.  What a wonderful group of people:  Teachers, office staff, technicians and students all champion creativity and the power of sharing knowledge, skills and insight.  I have been encouraged to research and investigate my own creative path and I have been critically challenged in order to develop. “

Katy Cook, Alum BA Fine Art

My experience at The Academy has played a massive role in my journey as an artist. I have been opened up to new things, artists and techniques. The artists I knew were a small pool and meeting more artists has completely changed my practice, learning from so many more people. 

I tried to make sure that each term I picked a completely different elective, so I got to try print, sculpture, painting. I didn’t think I’d like print and then I ended up loving it, so that is something that might turn up in my works now. 

As I am about to leave, my goals are to keep experimenting with collage and see how far I can push my practice. Also to keep doing commissions so that I can take these techniques and put them in with other people’s ideas. 

The advice I’d give to new students is to be open to trying new things, park ideas about what you think you want to make because it will automatically feed into your work anyway. Take every opportunity to experiment.

Chikaora Obiora, Alum BA Fine Art

“I feel that lots of really good thinking has gone into designing the academic programmes. I have been able to improve my technical skills while experimenting with many other languages that are helping my practice. Also, the programme has taken me through a range of experiences, from developing new concepts to delivering a show, taking me out of my comfort zone constantly but productively

Marina Trani, Alumni FD Contemporary Portraiture

“As a member of the Chinese diaspora, the Art Academy has opened the doors to Western art education for me, offering high-level teaching and a warm, welcoming community. Through my time here, I have made significant conceptual improvements in my artistic practice. I am grateful that I made the decision to study here in the first place!

Yin Wang, BA Contemporary Portraiture

My experience at the Academy has been fantastic and it has shaped my practice. It is the ability of the tutors to offer focused, relevant and non-judgemental feedback, and that has been key. The tutors don’t tell you what to do but encourage and pull out your own potential, which is a challenge but also brilliant. 

I studied Abstraction with Benat, that was absolutely amazing. I never thought that I would engage with abstraction but because of Benat, I have ended up focusing on this more. Composition with Carl Randall, which was challenging but I learnt a huge amount from that. All the electives that I have done have been amazing, whether compulsory or not. The tutors were amazing and accommodating, they would work with what you know already and then add with new skills. 

I am setting up exhibitions with other colleagues who I met at the course and hopefully we will be exhibiting until next year. A lot of contacts made at the Academy will really benefit my future as an artist. The tutors are so supportive and encouraging. I might do a MA in the future.

Kathy de Zilwa, Foundation Alum

Before I came to the Academy, I wasn’t very experienced. I was very “normal” in what I did. What the Academy has really done is stretch myself to do things I would have never thought to do, for example, sculptures and enormous sculptures in materials that I have never used before. The Academy has moved me from painting pretty pictures to conceptually dense works. The tutors have played an important role in extending my practice, nurturing a skill. Another is the other students and artist community that you interact with at the Academy. I have learned so much from my fellow classmates. 

The Sculpture Electives have taught me things and got me to use materials that I would have never done before. That experience has been supportive by the tutors and equipped and launched myself into something new. I think there are painting electives that would do that same but the sculpture electives were my most important experience. 

Right in the beginning, we were taken to Tate Modern to look around the permanent collection and come away with pieces that would inspire us. I found that very challenging as once I have picked the work, I wondered what to do with it. It was the discussion with tutors in the first couple of weeks that pushed me into doing new things, whether it was photographing, cutting things up, collage. This started the journey into my practice. Without the tutor’s suggestions and assistance, I wouldn’t have been able to produce my work. Today I am proud of what I have achieved. 

Come to the Academy, because it is a great place. The small number of students compared to tutors makes a big difference and the mix of ages in the students I have really enjoyed.

Mark Allen, Foundation Alum