'Art school can be a wonderful place if you're trying to find your voice and your style and your taste.' - Abbi Jacobson

It is fair to say that the arts education sector took quite a hit during the national education sector cuts in the UK, which saw government funding to art schools slashed and many art universities' entrance fees rise to a staggering £9,000 a year.

Yet the spirit of impassioned struggling artists on a path to express the inner depths of their imagination can never really be dampened!

The UK is proud to have an art education sector that is one of the most prestigious in Europe with thousands of students enrolling in fine art courses and art universities across the country year on year.

So, if you are a creative soul who is passionate about painting or drawing, then why not try getting into an art school to learn to paint like a pro? Don't let money worries stand in the way of your dreams, student loans can always be repaid!

The training offered by art schools and art universities, such as Edinburgh Art College, London Art College and Fine Arts College, is diverse and varied.

Graduating from an accredited academy of art will give you the technical skills needed to succeed as an accomplished artist and even to set up your own exhibition. This post will explain in more detail criteria to consider before enrolling in an applied arts course.

Are You Ready for Art School?

Why should you find a fine arts college?
Be creative and find your artistic fingertips! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Characteristics of a Wannabe Art Student

Want to become an art student and potential professional artist? Think you fit the bill and are ready to join a design school or an academy of art? Then have a look to see if you fit the profile...

  • You spent your school days drawing, scribbling, cartooning and roughly painting all over your textbooks and lost in sketches on the side of the margin during science, English lit and maths classes and even your final exams!
  • You prefer to sketch, peruse works of art or delve into an art history book when you are bored rather than while away the time watching TV or participating in sport.
  • Your creativity has no limits - you are able to invent your own stories using only acrylic paint, gouache paint or some coloured crayons on with a canvas and paintbrush (and perhaps a snack or two!).
  • You are able to tell by which artist any given oil painting was painted simply by analysing the style of the painting because you spend so much time in art galleries and contemporary art museums on visits to exhibitions to see the latest artwork in town.
  • During the school holidays, you prefer to take part in creative workshops on how to do collages, printmaking, papercutting and assemblage art so you can make a fresco image of yourself or even an alternative version of your dressing table!
  • You never leave the house without a sketchbook and drawing pencils.

If you fit the above profile then there is absolutely no doubt about it, you have creative bones in your body and art school is your calling!

'In art school, you learn that design is much more than the look and feel of something - it's the whole experience.' - Joe Gebbia

Now you just need to find out if you are really made for a fine art college or school of art and design or if another art course or internship might be more appropriate!

Each year, thousands of students apply to enrol at some of the most prestigious art schools and art universities in the country. A range of undergraduate degree programs and postgraduate art courses (like masters) exist.

There is no specific profile type for getting accepted into an art school. However, you should already have taken drawing classes and a painting course and therefore have a basic knowledge of different drawing techniques.

You may also want to investigate online painting lessons... 

What Qualities does a Fine Arts College Student Need?

  • A strong work ethic and the ability to work long hours
  • A sound grasp of drawing and other artistic techniques (sculpture, engraving, graphic design, life drawing, charcoal drawing, acrylic painting…),
  • An extremely strong creative flair
  • Perseverance - getting accepted into an art school or college is no easy feat., but it is an excellent way of understanding about how to find work in the art market, which is an industry that is very often demanding and at times ungrateful.
  • A great sense of independence and ability to work alone
  • Curiosity and openness - intrigue about anything and everything and the ability to use this fascination in one's artistic body of work.
  • Have a pensive mind and the ability to reflect on a variety of different subject matter.

You can improve your knowledge of painting by attending a course through an association like UKADIA (United Kingdom Arts and Design Institutions Association).

How to get Accepted onto Fine Art Courses

'I have wanted to be a fine artist painter, and I reached the point in art schools where I'd like to understand more about images and how images communicate information to people.' - John Hench

Entrance tests for Art schools, fine art colleges and art universities in the UK are highly competitive. There are very often more than five candidates applying for just one available place. What's more, the level of demands and pressure will increase yet more once you are a fully fledged art student.

Developing an Artistic and Cultural Background

Studying art at Sixth-Form college by choosing Art and Design at AS and A-level is a good way to immerse yourself in an environment rich in arts and culture and win points at interview.

Once you have completed your Sixth-Form studies, do not hesitate to turn your hand to preparatory painting classes that will help you later on during art school aptitude tests and building your portfolio for when interview time comes around. Due to the intense competition, the level and standard required for the best art universities in UK is extremely high.

Check for painting classes Toronto here.

Have Your Own Personality

After you finish Sixth-Form, do not hesitate to take part in an art foundation course - such as those offered by universities like Kingston University London and Leeds University. These art universities offer students the chance to study a 1-year Art and Design (foundation) diploma, which can help get you up to scratch before art school entrance tests.

Foundation art courses encourage you to develop your own style and prepare a portfolio of work that really reflects your artistic orientation through a variety of different mediums.

Most people do not have quite the maturity or perspective for art school when they apply fresh out of Sixth-Form college, which is why taking a foundation year is advisable.

Nothing is stopping you from applying directly to a fine arts college, academy of art or art university, but be sure not to close any doors and enrol yourself in an art foundation course as well so that you have the time to formally develop your own style if it turns out you are not quite ready for art school!

Make sure that you choose the foundation course and associated accredited educative institution wisely to ensure that you don't come out qualified, but not much else! For example, if the course does not encourage you to develop your own style and there is not much to distinguish you from the other candidates.

Having said that though, taking an art foundation course before enrolling for art school is usually quite a winning formula and almost 90% of art foundation students are able to get a place at the art school of their choice upon graduation.

Have you also thought about joining a painting association?

Find the best art universities to develop your artistic skills.
Develop competences in every artistic domain at art universities! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Choosing From Art Schools and Art Universities (UK)

Target the institution that corresponds best to what you are looking for rather than sending your portfolio to all the art schools and art universities in the UK. This way you will be able to put together a portfolio that is in line with the teaching ethos of your ideal school and you will have a much better chance of success!

What's more, not only will you have more to discuss during the interview but the institution that you choose will really be able to help you develop your technique once you are there as your ideas and personality will probably be a better fit than with another institution.

Each further education and higher education art institution will have its own specialisms:

  • Decorative Arts
  • Fine Art
  • Graphic Art
  • Visual Art
  • Visual Communication and Computer Graphics
  • Computer Animation
  • Spatial Design
  • Photography
  • Illustration
  • Ceramics
  • Textiles

It is up to you to find the artistic specialism(s) and mediums that work best for you!

Your prospective employment opportunities are varied and exciting, from fine art painter, illustrator, sculptor, designer, carpenter, engraver, graphic designer to caricaturist and photographer...

Are you in need of a painting teacher? Find one on the internet with the click of a button!

Take oil painting lessons on Superprof.

Preparing for the Entrance Test

Applicant success for the best art universities in the UK is low due to the high levels of competition with candidates applying from all over the world.

Of course, each college has its own entrance requirements but there are certain common criteria:

  • Background qualifications in the arts (A-level or undergraduate degree)
  • Talent and technical skills (as demonstrated by a portfolio of work)
  • Artistic flair (as demonstrated by on-site artistic aptitude test/entrance examination)
  • A good fit with the institution in terms of personality, desired career path and artistic inspiration (as demonstrated at interview).
  • A sound grasp of English (as demonstrated through IELTS - non-native speakers only).

Your portfolio should include 10 - 15 artistic works that are very varied and able to showcase your talent and capacity to adapt to different mediums. Interviewers look for candidates who are sensitive to the finesses of different mediums.

You will probably be asked questions about your motivation for applying for the course and the institution as well as past projects that you have undertaken.

Some colleges even require candidates to have taken an English language exam - make sure you know all the requirements in advance!

Some fine art colleges even have assessed group work sessions as part of the entrance test. No matter what, it is important that you are yourself throughout the process so that the institution can get a better understanding of whether or not you would be suitable.

Examiners and interviewers make their decisions based on personalities, how you interact with others during group work and the way in which they think you will fit into the college as a future student.

Check for the best painting classes on Superprof.

Create a portolio to help be accepted into the best art universities UK.
Attend an art course to build a strong portfolio and get into the best art universities UK! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Is it Possible to Attend a Fine Arts College on a Limited Budget?

In order to support art education, most fine arts colleges and art schools are actually partially funded by the government. They offer a variety of professional courses that range from diplomas in art and design to postgraduate degrees programs, masters and even PhDs. '

The good thing about art schools is that unlike other subjects you do not have to be fresh out of Sixth-Form - mature students are welcomed and even encouraged to apply as they bring with them a wealth of artistic experience.

Fine art schools usually have the option to apply for scholarships and bursaries, but if all else fails then you could always fall back on a student loan where interest rates are very low and if you earn below a certain amount you will never need to pay it back!

From Edinburgh to Leeds, specialist art schools and universities exist all over the country, although the greatest variety of institutions can obviously be found in the capital, London.

If you are really struggling to make ends meet then you could always apply for means-tested government funding if you meet the criteria or alternatively look further afield to internationally accredited degree programs in countries like France, Italy and Germany where art universities are often quite a bargain due to funding. You might have to get your dictionary out as there may be a foreign language requirement!

In countries in mainland Europe, like France and Germany, art university fees are usually as little as €500 a term or even a year whereas here in the UK they can be anywhere between £6,000 and £9,000 a year. If you are in receipt of a full scholarship, then obviously you will not need to pay a penny.

When push comes to shove though, what can be a real expense that most cannot afford is taking a foundation art course (which is highly recommended!) prior to entering a fine art college. Not only will you have to consider the cost of 3-5 years of study, but you will also need to take into account accommodation fees and living expenses.

The silver cloud to all this is that you will be able to follow your dream career path and you cannot put a price on that!

Far from the days of struggling artists like Van Gogh, the power of the internet has meant that a degree in an art-related subject is particularly sought-after!

Find some acrylic painting lessons here.

Fine arts college students create art from any material given.
A good artist or art student should be able to create art from any material! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Are you still at Sixth-Form college? Then you may like to consider taking up Art and Design at AS or A-level.

Learn to Paint at Art School - Definitions

If you want to be a top art school student then apart from artistic flair you will also need to have a sound knowledge of the art industry and all the associated vocabulary that is entailed, from painting to drawing.

What is a Colour Wheel?

A colour wheel is a circular representation of the colours used in painting. It is used by painters to check which colours are the easiest to mix.

What is a Diptyque?

Diptyque art is a French term meaning painting or sculpture created across two mobile or immobile surfaces. Generally, the two surfaces or objects complement one another.

Now discover everything you need to know about art classes in the UK...

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