Introducing Sophie, a talented artist who pursued her passion for Fine Art. Inspired to reconnect with her love for the arts, she found a welcoming and supportive community at the university. Overcoming self-confidence struggles, Sophie learned to critique her work and showcase it with pride. As a recent graduate, she plans to use her degree to further her career in an arts-based collective, bringing art opportunities to her community. Read on to discovery Sophie's story.

What or who inspired you to get into Fine Art?

I originally started studying Film and TV Production at a different university in 2018. However, I quickly realised that this was not the right course or time for me to begin my higher education studies. It was shortly after this that I began to consider my love for the arts and reflected on my A Level Fine Art studies. I decided that in my own time, I would try picking up art again, and I realised that this was the subject I would love to return to university to study further. So, in 2020, I applied to the Fine Art course at The University of Cumbria.

Why did I choose The University of Cumbria?

One of the reasons why I chose The University of Cumbria was because as soon as I visited on an open day, I instantly felt a positive, community atmosphere. Being surrounded by so many creative people felt so inspiring and really got me excited about the potential of studying here. Because I had taken two years out of education, I also had friends my age who had just finished their degrees, and they couldn't recommend the university enough!

What did you enjoy the most about your Fine Art course?

The thing I enjoyed the most about my Fine Art course was the fact that not only did I become connected with the people on my course, but there was also encouragement for me to bond with people from all the other courses. This is really important because opportunities that often come up with external companies and organisations can be tailored to all courses, meaning there is a wider reach of opportunities for all of us at the university.

I enjoyed the fact that I was given the chance to have 1-1 tutorials with my tutors to discuss my work and receive guidance on how to develop my project. Additionally, there were often group crits where I could hear from fellow students and learn about their work too.

What was the most difficult obstacle you overcame in your student journey?

I think the most difficult obstacle I overcame in my student journey was my own self-confidence, especially while studying an art-related subject. It can often be challenging to detach yourself from your own work and speak about it critically. The Fine Art course has provided me with the skills and tools necessary to critique my art and the confidence to showcase my work for others to see and openly discuss. I learned the importance of receiving feedback and engaging in discussions about my work as it always presents opportunities for development.

What advice would you give to others that want to get into Fine Art?

The advice I would give to others wanting to get into Fine Art would be to definitely go for it! Not only does the course allow you to develop your Fine Art knowledge and skills, but there are also workshops available in university, such as Woodwork and Printmaking, that you can use throughout your course. This means that you can experiment with many different mediums throughout your degree and make the most of it. Additionally, the course offers modules that improve your knowledge of how to promote yourself professionally, from creating your own website to networking with other artists and organisations.

How was university life beyond your studies?

When I first started university, I thought it would be challenging for me to connect with people because I commuted from an hour's drive away. However, it quickly became apparent that even though I wasn't living on campus, there were still plenty of opportunities for me to make friends and spend time with them on and off campus. The timetabled lectures and studio time are well-scheduled, allowing for free time for yourself and to meet up with friends, whether it's grabbing a coffee in the refectory or taking a walk into town.

What did you enjoy the most about student life in Carlisle?

Something I enjoyed the most about student life in Carlisle was the number of opportunities that were given to us. The university not only helps you navigate through your studies but also assists in finding opportunities that will benefit you both during your time at university and beyond.

One of the most exciting things I did while at the university was a visit to Iceland. In the third year of my studies, we had Icelandic students join our course. Myself and two other people on my course became very good friends with one of the Icelandic students, and around the same time, an opportunity was advertised to us. The Hadfield Trust offered funding to students for a travel experience, based on a suitable proposal and interview. We thought it would be really interesting to visit Iceland and have a similar experience to what the Icelandic students had while they were here in England. After submitting a proposal and going through an interview, we found out that we were successful in our application and are so grateful to have received £1000 towards the trip.

This was just the most amazing thing, and in July 2023, we travelled to Iceland where we spent two days exploring the art scene in Reykjavik and the following five days on a camping road trip along the South Coast of Iceland. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, witnessing landmarks of such natural beauty, reflecting on our time at university, and exploring the art galleries and museums that Reykjavik had to offer. This is just one example of a fantastic opportunity that was offered to us through the university. This trip would not have been possible without the Hadfield Trust's links with the university.

Top tips for people looking to get into Fine Art?

A top tip for people looking to get into Fine Art would be to try everything you can. I learned a lot of different skills throughout my degree. For example, in my second year, I made a full-scale telephone box from MDF and timber. Before starting the Fine Art course, I certainly did not have the required skills to create such a structure. The technicians who work in the workshops go above and beyond to guide and help you bring your ideas to life.

How did the course prepare you for your future career in the working world?

One of the things I really appreciated about the Fine Art course was the large number of artist talks that were delivered to us. We were regularly given talks by artists and other professionals, where they shared their journeys and how they achieved their current positions. The most interesting part was that almost every person had a different story, which showed that not everyone reaches the same end goal the same way. Additionally, our tutors frequently sent us emails about external opportunities, such as open calls, volunteering at exhibitions, and other related activities.

What do you plan to do with your degree now that you’ve graduated?

In September 2023, a friend and I started a joint Graduate Artist in Residence program to develop our arts-based collective, SoMo. Our goal is to use our time as artists in residence to provide art opportunities to people in Carlisle and the surrounding areas, with a particular focus on students and graduates.


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Sophie's trip to Iceland, made possible through funding by the Hadfield Trust.

Sophie's trip to Iceland, made possible through funding by the Hadfield Trust.

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