So what is this Art education thing?

I have finally put my finger on why I felt so stifled when studying an Art and Design course at a further education college.

It was no secret that I struggled to stay on the further education college course and yet university has given me a new lease on life.

College was so much like being at school and when youre thirty something having to ask permission to go to the bathroom, kind of rubs up the wrong way. But that was not my problem. I could never quite put my finger on why I so loathed the course that covered the subject area that is the love of my life.

It struck me this week. At University we have the freedom to self realise, to develop in our own direction, and to enjoy that development. At college we were spoon fed, project after putrid project, with exact instructions as to how things should be done, within very limiting boundaries and requiring us to tick very precise boxes.

At University one is given parameters within which to apply the subject and essentially left to interpret the brief within the scope of ones own creativity. Wow! As long as your lecturers can make the connection between the original outline and your final outcome, and provided your final outcome is of a quality expected at the level at which you are studying you have achieved your educational objective.

And thats it exactly - "your educational objective". I was being forced to achieve their educational objective at college not my own. While the challenge at University level requires that I think for myself and develop my own imaginative process, the rewards are enormous.The work that I present in comparison to someone else following exactly the same pathway at the same level is very different and personally unique, proving exactly that I am achieving self realisation.

Rather than being in a group that is constantly producing multiple replicas of the same piece of work, My own style has been allowed to germinate and despite it's early stages, I can feel my personal uniqueness in all this education.

I cannot deny that the practical skills that I learned at College level have stood me in good stead, particularly since I have had some serious absenteeism from University, but I take my Art work with me every where that I go. I sketch every day, when sitting in a cafe, or on a bus, or just gazing out of my window at halls. That desire never took hold while I was at college, most probably because the sketching would never be able to go anywhere.

And College focused in a very narrow way on the education at hand. It was stained glass, slumped glass, fused glass, kilns, mouldmaking etc. There was no creative input. A module in creative drawing, understanding light and darkness, perspective and permission to explore ones own design styles would have gone a long way to producing more competent college educated designers.

University is not the impersonal overcrowded scary place that the colleges sometimes make it out to be. I have nothing but the utmost respect for my lecturers and tutors. They are approachable and interested and actually I have received more one to one tutorials from them, than I ever did at college. Furthermore they treat me with respect, which instills in me the confidence to tackle almost anything.

That does not mean that there are not compulsory boring modules that have to be completed for the sake of credits toward a degree, but the exciting, stimulating stuff makes that pale into insignificance.

Feeling that I am in the right place, learning pointed in the desired direction, while having a really happy stable relationship at home, leaves me at the age of forty feeling that I have achieved what many do not in a lifetime..... and I havent graduated yet!

Ruthie Richards-Hill

Ruth, a free range human being and a middle aged mum of three adult children and very young grandmother to two little girls, is a glass artist, and a digital strategist, She retains the right to change her mind about anything and believes in a compassionate approach to most things, you can contact her using the contact page on this blog.

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