Our guide to fine art courses


There is something rather appealing about the term 'Fine Art'. Perhaps it is the juxtaposition of the words 'fine' and 'art' which conjures up an aesthetically pleasing concept for all you culture vultures? Or is it that, historically, fine art is all about producing an art work merely for its beauty rather than any practical aspect, and in doing so merges intellect and aesthetics (that's brains and beauty in layman's speak) across many disciplines: painting, sculpture, drawing, graphics and architecture. If you fancy exploring five of the truly finer things in life – and many more – why not embark on one of the varied fine art courses that are taking place all around the country. It might just be the creative challenge you have been waiting for.


What is a fine artist?

Put bluntly, fine artists create fine pieces of art, generally limited editions or one-of-a-kind pieces that have been commissioned. Artists can specialise in a certain subject such as portraiture or landscape and might work in a specific type of medium, say oil paints or watercolours to create their original pieces of art. But nothing is set in stone and the title 'fine artist' is a broad one and artistic passions might be ignited by a number of different mediums from the following categories:

• Two dimensional work: drawing, painting, collage

• Three dimensional work: sculpture, installation

• Four dimensional work: moving images, performance


Fine art for the 21st century

Even though the fine arts started life in the 17th century, hundreds of years on, the subject still remains a popular and important one. Some definitions stick solely to the visual arts while others include music, poetry, drama and dance. To bring fine arts firmly into the 21st century, fine arts can include film, photography, printmaking and conceptual art for a modern-day makeover.

An undergraduate course in fine art will give you a brilliant grounding of what this subject is all about. Usually spanning three years, such a degree course will cover the practice and theory of art and design through workshops and studio projects in painting, printmaking and sculpture, and many more. Some courses offer an all encompassing approach to the arts and include modules on enterprise and employability as well as providing a clear understanding of past traditions - a perfect blend of old meets new. Others will link in with a range of other subjects for real diversity: so you might take a BA(Hons) in Fine Art Painting and Drawing and then add in drama or creative writing or other modern-day skills such as events management or television studies for an all-round 21st century skillset.

If you've got your GCSEs under your belt, then why not take an AS or A level in Fine Art where you will have the opportunity to explore various skills and techniques through drawing, painting, printing, 3D and textile work?

A wide range of part time courses are sure to whet your creative tastebuds too. There are short courses on preparing a portfolio if you want to apply for a Foundation course; Fine art digital printing using Photoshop; and advanced courses if you've already finished your Foundation or degree and just need some extra support and feedback from tutors and peers.


Can I make a living?

Works of art are often sold through galleries, private commissions, word of mouth or even the web. It might be a hard slog to get your name known but fine artists can sell their work to individuals who love their particular style of work and wish to own a signed original to hang at home. Many businesses also commission art work to brighten up and personalise office buildings and often have budgets set aside for such projects. Fine art work, such as paintings and sculptures are usually one of a kind pieces. However, some sculpture, prints and fine art photography can be sold in additions. An addition is the number of prints or copies of a work sold. For example, an artist creating a limited edition set of prints might only print 50 before destroying the plates. The bottom of the print will be clearly marked with, say, 6/50, so the buyer knows that this is a sixth print in a series of 50.

Fine art is a passion but if you want your work to become your main source of income, day to day life won't be as simple as putting up an easel and painting to your heart's content. You will also have practical issues to deal with such as finding and running a studio, administration, creating publicity, managing a budget, writing funding applications, liaising with gallery owners, curators, artists and the public as well as maintaining a portfolio and website.....


Fine art fairs to check out

Gain masses of inspiration and insight into the world of fine art with a visit to a fine art fair…

LONDON ART FAIR Definitely worth a visit, this annual fair is billed as the UK's premier destination for Modern British and contemporary art. Held at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, the main fair showcases around 120 carefully selected galleries from around the country. View work by established artists and new emerging talent. Visit www.londonartfair.co.uk

OLYMPIA INTERNATIONAL ART & ANTIQUES FAIR From contemporary Chinese sculpture to Lowry paintings and Miro lithographs, this London-based fair is a feast for the eyes with 180 specialist dealers from the UK and abroad exhibiting their best pieces. Visit www.olympia-art-antiques.com

BRITISH ART FAIR Held at the Royal College of Art, this fair focuses on Modern British and post-war art and is a great opportunity to see work by some of the 20th century British greats such as Hepworth, Hockney and Moore. Visit www.britishartfair.co.uk


By Lara Sargent

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