Nancy Harper

The Foundation Year 2018-19
Newcastle University, BA Fine Art

I am going on to study BA Fine Art at Newcastle University which I am really excited about. The Foundation Year helped me get there with their support in UCAS applications, personal statements, mock interviews - as well as the creative side and getting my portfolio together. The way in which the course expanded my practice also made me feel confident discussing it with university tutors. All of the tutors and staff care about what you are doing, they support you through the whole process. 

I applied to The Foundation Year because I thought it was unique in its structure and support it offered. I fell in love with it a little bit when I looked around on one of the Open Days. The studios are lovely, and everyone gets their own space.  I don’t think I realised the value of the studio space before I applied. Looking at how my work has developed, the studio culture has been a big part of that. It invites discussion and you’re constantly surrounded by ideas and inspiration. Also, in comparison to other courses, the focus on drawing is really unique - it’s  given me a focus in my work and I use drawing now as a way of thinking and it helps me to process my ideas. 

The initial structure of the course is very workshop-based, and it’s through the workshops that you get to try lots of new media and techniques. I really enjoyed the casting workshop - I hadn’t considered working in three dimensions but after the workshop I felt like I had the skills to explore it further. Having moments to challenge your work with new techniques has ultimately given my paintings more purpose and insight. I am able to work with so many different processes now and my work has the freedom to go in so many different directions. 

As the year continues and you have more time in your studio. I think this shift really helped me as in hindsight when I left school I would not have been ready to have so much independent time. Through the workshops and tutorials you feel that by the end of the year your practice has a confidence and direction it didn’t before. I remember in the first term realising that making interesting work in my own practice wasn’t about trying to make it look as much like the original image or object. I realised there were so many more layers to making art. Now I make work which is about translating the experience of being in the natural environment. The Foundation Year pushed me to see past the preconceptions I had about art coming from A-Level. Preconceptions that I didn’t fully realise I had. 

Nancy Harper working on her final major project

The tutors were all so knowledgeable and motivating. They help you with advice and critique in workshops, as well as artist recommendations and discussions about your work in tutorials. Having a personal tutor meant that there was someone who was there to support you throughout the whole year, I also found it useful when I was making decisions about university as well. Sometimes you need someone who understands your work but isn’t completely involved in it to help you take a step back and see things differently. 

On Fridays we had a Contextual Studies day and Antje always made the lectures interesting. Being able to take in all the information in the morning and then see it in context at a gallery in the afternoon made learning the art history and theory side of things feel more connected to the work we were doing. I think the way that you interact with art in these sessions has changed the way I use and visit galleries now. 

I knew I wanted a course that would push me to work really hard but also somewhere that cared about you as an individual. Everyone knows each other well and there’s a feeling of community. For me this was the defining feature because I believe it’s in this kind of environment that you make your best work. You get a personal tutor that you have a tutorial with most weeks. This year has been difficult for me personally but all of the office staff, as well as my personal tutor and my friends on the course have been really supportive. If I needed anything I was always able to talk to someone about it. I think for me in that sense the feeling of community this year has been important. Coming to the end of this year its felt like we’ve become a big family. Being one of fifty rather than one in hundreds means that you’re valued as an individual. I felt this was unique to the year, and in retrospect has been invaluable.

At points I found the intensity of the course difficult. Most people travel relatively far to get to Trinity Buoy Wharf so it can be tiring sometimes. I feel like even with the busy nature of the course it’s been amazing. In the end the only reason it’s intense is for your benefit, you just have to make sure you have a lie in on Sundays. I wouldn’t change anything.