Getting to know you: Studying the arts

Welcome to ‘Getting to Know You.’ This will be a regular feature at Kettle Mag where we will be interviewing students with degrees in the arts to find out why they chose that subject and what their plans are for the future.

In case you missed our last interview, with Phoebe Elliott of the University of Glasgow, you can catch up here. But for our next piece in this series, Lauren Allen interviews Amy Sutters and Chloe Gatrell, of Norwich University of the Arts.

Friends since the age of 11, I spoke to Amy Sutters and Chloe Gatrell, both 20, who decided to go to Norwich University of the Arts together to study BA Fine Art. I spoke to them about what their degree involves and why Art is such an important subject to be involved in education. 

Amy Sutters (left) and Chloe Gatrell (right). 

How long have you been studying Fine Art?

A: Two years at uni, but we also did a foundation course at college.

C: So, yeah, three years.

A: We did the usual five years at school as well, then we both took Art at A Level, and then continued on the Foundation course before coming to uni.

What was the Foundation course?

C: It’s like a first year at uni, where you can experiment with everything. So you do a bit of film, do a bit of sculpture, do a bit of painting, a bit of everything.

A: It’s a time to get you out of the way of just ‘making’, starting to put concepts behind your work –

C (interjects): Challenging yourself. Finding out what different aspects there are and working out what it is that you enjoy.

A: But I did find in the first year of uni that I was repeating the Foundation course a little bit.

C: Yeah, not so much as in the briefs, but in what I was doing. It did help though that we had done it before.

A: It gave us an advantage over people who had come straight from A Level, though.

C: You could definitely tell who had done a Foundation before their first year. It’s a chance to build up your skills before you start your degree.

A: So, yeah, we’re definitely glad we did the Foundation course first.

Why did you choose to study it?

A: Because it’s just something that I enjoy.

C: I’m not very academic, so I like the creativity. I do have to write a lot, but I’ve learnt that whilst being at uni more than when I was at school.

A: It’s probably because you enjoy it.

C: I enjoy talking about my work so it comes naturally, but if I were doing something like Maths, it wouldn’t work.

What are the best parts of studying a subject within the arts?

A: I like the collaborations that we get to do, I enjoy that. Communicating with other people to try and solve the problems we have when we do collaborative work.

C: Yeah, and you learn new things when you work with other people who have different strengths.

A: I get excited when we think of something, like visualise it, and making it into an actual piece of art. It’s not always what you’d hoped, there’s always things in the way, but it’s good when you’ve got that complete piece of finished work.

Are there any opportunities to showcase your talents within the university?

C: Yes.

A: There are project spaces that we can book out. We can exhibit our work free of charge, and we can advertise it, like an actual exhibition.

C: Yeah, so there are spaces where we can display our work without it being in our studios.

A: It’s so we can present it professionally.

C: So we can show off our work that way. There are also a lot of galleries around Norwich that have a good relationship with the university which are really cheap.

A: They’re always emailing us about opportunities outside of the uni. We’ve got First Sight as well, it’s in Colchester. It’s a really big gallery, they’ve got an Andy Warhol exhibition on there at the moment.

C: We were able to put in a proposal to show our work, which we got by being Norwich students.

A: We wouldn’t have got it without the university’s input so it was a really good opportunity.

What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’d probably travel, like, ideally, but…

C: Yeah, travel first of all, but I plan to look into interior kind of stuff or architectural positions. It’s a bit up in the air at the moment, I don’t really know.

A: I probably want to look into the gallery side of it, and working with artists and their work, instead of being a freelancer, it doesn’t really interest me. I want to be involved with projects and things like that.

If you could have any dream job in the arts, what would it be and why?

C: I don’t really have a dream job.

A: Something I enjoy.

C: Yeah, just being involved within the arts is what I want to do anyway, but I’m not really sure what I want to do in it yet because it’s so broad.

A: Yeah, I’m quite open.

C: There’s just so much I want to do, there’s too much that I can’t really narrow it down at the moment. I want to try to try it all out.

A: I think it just depends on what comes up first, as well.

C: Yeaah, like what the opportunities are.

A: And where that leads you onto. Because in the arts I feel it’s a lot about networking and who you know. So you might do something with one person, and then in six months’ time, they’d be like ‘Oh, I’ve got such and such you might be interested in’.

C: It’s all through contacts and networking.

Who is your inspiration in the field?

C: Me!

A: I don’t have an ‘idol’, really. There’s a lot of artists whose work I think is really cool, so in that way, but there’s nobody job wise.

C: I like how people can put their work out there, and be so confident with their work. That is what I want to be like. And I’d like to just talk about my work so easily. But I don’t really want to be an artist per say. It’s just not a regular income.

A: I don’t plan to be a freelance artist, I will always need to have some kind of stability. Like, even just a part-time job somewhere.

C: I just want a steady job, but one that is in the arts.

A: Sorry, we don’t really have a singular person. There’s artists that we like.

C: There’s Richard Serra. He’s a sculptor. We like a lot of sculptors who look at how perspective works and the space between people, how they interact with it. It all gets very conceptual.

A: But that’s who we’re looking at now. That might change in six months’ time dependent on who we are looking at for classes.

C: Your practice changes so much. When I started, I painted. And now, I’m a sculptor. I don’t even really look at paintings anymore, I think it’s really boring.

What is your advice to future students wishing to study an arts subject?

C: Just be very open.

A: This is so hypocritical, but, yeah, you need to get involved and push yourself to do so.

C: Networking is so hard.

A: It’s so awkward, it’s like a fake friendship. I still find it so hard.

C: I get nervous when I have to talk to people. Because I feel like I have to be really arty about it. But that’s the whole thing, you don’t have to be like that, though. When you go into a gallery and have to talk to people, there’s more pressure in there because it’s a professional space.

A: I talk to people so much better when I’m relaxed.

C: When we’re together doing it we can back each other up and bounce off each other.

A: We’re basically saying don’t take our advice! Don’t do what we do. Just try and be confident and learn to take criticism.

C: Don’t be stuck in your ways and refuse to listen to anyone else’s opinion.

A: Otherwise you won’t grow.

C: Some people that we work with are really stubborn, and think that their art is the best kind and think that they’re going to get so far. But they’re not, because you don’t realise how much there is out there.

A: You have to take constructive criticism to get better.

Why is it important that we support the arts and keep it alive in education?

C: People underestimate art so much. They think you just make something and that anyone can do it, but it’s not. I hate it when people say ‘I could do that’. Well, no, you couldn’t because you didn’t do it.

A: Anyone could have actually done it, but you haven’t, and there’s more to the process than actually making something.

C: There is so much more discussion and essay writing and research.

A: That’s the good thing about a degree, and education in general, because you get to do that stuff rather than just painting. It overlaps into a lot of other subjects as well.

C: It crosses over into everyday life and relationships with people.

A: Think of how much work we’ve done with galleries and groups and collaborations within the uni, but also outside of the educational structure. It’s developed into something bigger.

C: There’s so many new galleries coming up. That’s why it’s so important to keep it going, because it opens new opportunities for people. It’s important to not put so much emphasis on the universities in London that offer art subjects. I went to one there for an open day, and it was so pretentious, whereas in Norwich there isn’t that pressure to create that arty practice. You can experiment with anything.

A: If something works, it works, and if it doesn’t then you try and make it work.

C: The only people that succeed really are the ones that enjoy it.

A: They’ve got passion in their work.

C: That’s why I can write that much more about stuff now because I enjoy my work.

A: This sounds so cheesy, but for some people it is more relaxing and it makes them happy. Some people like writing and poems…

C: Whereas we enjoy this, there’s nothing wrong with that. I just think that there’s a stigma attached to arts subjects, but we actually do so much work.

A: It’s really hard to show what work you do because it’s not all practical.

C: Some people’s work is about curating, but how can you show that in an exhibition? There are so many different roles involved in art.

A: It’s important for it to remain in education because you gain a lot of new skills, such as communication, organisation.

C: You get involved with running a gallery, and now I feel as though I could go ahead and do that.

Are you a current/former student studying an arts subject? Would you like to take part in ‘Getting to Know You?’ Get in touch via @KettleMag on Twitter and let us know!