Nancy Pilkington

The Foundation Year 2018-19
Glasgow School of Art, BA Fine Art: Painting & Printmaking

The transition from studying art part-time at school to a highly compact, intensive, full time course was huge. My artistic practice was at the forefront of my mind constantly, rather than being a part of various other things. Because of this drastic change, I could see how my, and every student’s, practice progressed dramatically over the course of the year.

The structure of The Foundation Year does not filter into specialisms so the first two terms are filled with experimenting in different mediums, techniques and methods. This means by the time you get to your Final Major Project at the end of the year, you can really hone down the skills you’ve learned and use them to your own benefit. I found the Final Major Project a brilliant opportunity to bring together everything I had learned over the course of the year, galvanizing all the skills I had acquired. Where a lot of foundation courses finish as soon as students have their places at university, the Royal Drawing School gives you a further few months which is very special and you see everyone’s work really mature significantly. 

The course left me in a very good place to work from at a degree level - I am going on to study Painting and Printmaking at Glasgow School of Art. The hard working discipline of The Foundation Year has enabled me to reach the best point I could at this stage and I feel prepared to study art for a further 3 years. The course made me continually evaluate how I could be pushed further so I feel that I am now always looking for ways in which I can further my practice. 

The Foundation Year is unique in comparison to other courses in London because there is a small number of students and so it feels really intimate. There is a feeling that people are there to develop their practice rather than have a wild time which might be more akin to some degree courses. Because of this there isn’t too much social pressure which is nice, everyone knows each other and everyone is friendly. As a result of this close knit environment, teaching is very thorough and guidance, if needed, is always accessible. Seeing the level of organization and consideration put in by the tutors defiantly makes you want to return the same amount of commitment. This results in a very nice level of respect between student and teacher and an industrious atmosphere.   

For me, one of the most difficult aspects of the course was the life drawing sessions. They required a lot of focus and concentration and most of the time the sessions are used to develop certain skills in looking and representation, rather than making a piece of art that is personal - it can feel quite tiring. However, in hindsight, even if your work outside those classes is not figurative, you definitely learn to be more persistent and careful with observation because of it, which I found really useful.

A particular highlight of the course was working collaboratively with other students, whether this was in the banner project or a collaborative drawing - it opened up a whole new way of working I hadn’t engaged with before. It also built important skills for working in a team, listening to others and compromising. The Contextual Studies programme on a Friday was also really important - we had a morning lecture and then visited galleries in the afternoon. I think particularly having debates and discussions after an exhibition is really interesting, it’s not often that you get a platform to discuss exhibitions with lots of different opinions in the air.