Isabeau Gervais

The Foundation Year 2013-14
BA Illustration, Brighton University

Before enrolling on The Foundation Year, I was a student at the Drawing Clubs' free weekly after-school programme. The first Drawing Club I went to was based in the Natural History Museum, and once I turned 15 I moved to the 15+ club on Saturdays in the Royal Drawing School’s Shoreditch studio, which was really influential on my skills and techniques as a developing young artist. I had never experienced life drawing before this. It had a real impact on the way I worked and changed the way I saw the human figure. Going every Saturday allowed me to meet some really nice like-minded people my own age, as well as being able to work with tutors who were practicing artists themselves. They really encouraged me to continue my studies at the Royal Drawing School’s Foundation Course and were hugely supportive of my application.

Observational Tonal Collage

The course is really like no other Foundation offered, and I am so glad that I decided to attend. Being one of only a small number of students (on my year) compared to one in 100 or even one in 700 is such a luxury. We get such great guidance and attention, and you do become really close to everyone on the course, which creates a niche little community. The tutors really care about helping and teaching you – you’re a person with a personality, not just a number.

Trip to the Zoo

The course is full time so it feels more like school than Uni, but the teaching style is really different. Unlike school where your art teacher not only teaches you but hundreds of other pupils of various ages, the tutors here are just focused on you. Having subject-specialist tutors in sculpture, printing, and painting provides the best insight into new ways of working. Before this course I had never worked with sculpture and had very little experience with printing and etching techniques.


The variety of tutors is great, but having two main programme leaders (Sharon Beavan and Gethin Evans) allows for consistency and contact on a personal level, while all the other tutors provide fresh eyes for a tired personal project or help in their specific area of expertise.

Liverpool Street Station

Of everything we did on the course, I really enjoyed the access to the printing area and the Friday visits to galleries the most. We had weekly classes with  the art history tutor Antje Southern and visited both contemporary and traditional galleries. She guides us through the works and exhibitions and provides lots of insight and knowledge. Taking History of Art for A-level was a great companion for my Fine Art studies, and I’m so glad that could continue at Foundation level.

Research File

I think the most challenging part of the course was the demanding schedule, as like most people on the course I live quite a trek away from Trinity Buoy Wharf. The days are quite long and intense but really stimulating, so totally worth it. I had a Saturday job during the course so juggling that and school work was a balancing act, but I guess that’s just a ‘welcome to the adult world’ sort of situation.

Bob Dylan with Sandwich

I had a real breakthrough when I was working on my first personal project, based on creating illustrations from other people’s dreams. This was the most exciting and most personal project I had done to date, and made me realise that I love work that involves community interaction and working to a brief. I saw that my love of illustration and working to a brief with a community went hand in hand. From that project my joy in illustration, which had purely been an obsessive hobby, transformed into a career path. I’m currently studying towards a BA in Illustration at Brighton and I know that The Foundation Year prepared me with a wealth of work as well as skills and techniques necessary for this next step.