How competitive is an Art Foundation place (London)?

(11 Posts)
blackcatlover Mon 20-Feb-17 17:36:18

DD has applied to Camberwell and the Royal Drawing School - she absolutely loved the latter. How competitive is it? Her school are pretty useless as far as her preparing her portfolio goes. I have looked for advice on line, art school web sites, You Tube etc and all the candidates used as exemplars are scarily good.

Being in London allows her to apply to FE colleges as well but she really wants to go to one of the above.

I feel I have let her down for not booking a 'prepare a portfolio' course at UAL or similar but I couldn't really afford to.

Does anyone has experience or can offer any words of wisdom or should I prepare for her to be let down?

OP’s posts: |
jeanne16 Mon 20-Feb-17 18:45:50

I believe the Royal Drawing school is very competitive purely because they take very few students. Camberwell is much bigger so is far less competitive.

wavedancer68 Tue 21-Feb-17 11:41:29

DD looked round the Royal Drawing School last year and was very impressed with it. I think they take in between 45 and 50 students but have many, many more apply.

Did you go to one of their open days? They had a selection of approx 10 successful portfolios on display when we looked round which was very helpful to see the standard they were looking for. With regards portfolio submission it was suggested to my DD that if her portfolio included work she had done outside of A-level it would be a good idea to indicate which was AS/A2 and which was 'other'. I think they do like to see some other drawing/observational sketching outside of A-level. Having said that, it can be very difficult as the A-level takes up so much time. My DD used the summer holiday between Y12 and Y13 to build up extra portfolio work outside of A-level.

DD didn't apply in the end as she decided to accept an unconditional offer for direct entry to Degree level which she received before the Royal Drawing School's deadline for applications.

blackcatlover Tue 21-Feb-17 12:54:49

Thank you both for your comments.

There were no portfolios on display at open day and they did indicate they were looking for 'raw talent' rather than those with a lot of input from school. It struck me they might also be targeting kids from local schools. Yes they did mention the work outside A level and it is a good idea to label it separately. Thank you.

OP’s posts: |
MinisterForSmallFountains Wed 22-Feb-17 13:08:38


My experience is from a few years ago, but I did an art foundation (and went on to study Fine Art to MA level), and hope some of these ideas might help. I wouldn't worry too much about not doing a portfolio prep course - they are expensive and a good way for a college to make some extra dosh. With a bit of focus your daughter can make sure she has covered off the things they will be advising.

Firstly, what Camberwell wants and what the Drawing School wants may be slightly different so make sure you follow their rules, for example number of works shown, how to label them etc.

It is best to keep the portfolio quite tight, ie do not just put in everything in order to bulk it out. One or two good life drawings will be better than tons and tons of the same thing. There will probably be a max of about 20 pics needed.

Observational drawing will be important, that is drawing done from life, not from photos. On a portfolio prep course (and on a foundation course) they will be taking the students to places where they can do drawing and sketching from things in front of them. Your daughter could spend a couple of afternoons in a museum or art gallery doing drawings of things that interest her, such as sculptures, 3-d objects, old stuff, new stuff. Try to do a lot and pick the best ones.

It is also good to find a place where you can observe people coming and going and do drawings of that - quick, overlapping drawings of people moving about.

Do they do life drawing at school? If so, it is good to have one or two finished, long pose drawings but also some quick, 5 minute drawings (labelled as such) which will be more fluid and have a quicker style.

One of the things they may well be looking for is the use of line. Rather than have the same strength of line all the time, make sure drawings in the portfolio reflect lightness, darkness, shading, hard lines, soft lines, ie some kind of sensitivity of hand/medium if that makes sense. You are not aiming for a photo-realistic image but something that is a record of time and space and your hand and pencil/pen on the paper at that time (sorry if that sounds a bit wanky. It's art, dahling!)

Remembering things from my foundation course, we also did some exercises where we would 'make marks' to music - very freeing. Again, might be an idea to include some of this.

A range of mediums is good to show, so pencil, pen, any printing etc. If using colour, show that you've understood and selected a particular colour, for example using a limited colour palette, maybe just three colours.

Some of the outside sketching could then be used to make up, for example, an abstract painting. Take a small portion of a sketch she enjoyed doing, play around with it, enlarge the scale, add colour. A delicate line drawing of a marble statue's bum could become an abstract painting.

Be prepared to be able to look at a piece of work and critique it. Your own work and others. When selecting students they want them to be able to participate in a group and respond to each others work. You learn a lot this way and it teaches you to look critically at your own work.

Hope some of this is helpful. Lots of luck. smile

MinisterForSmallFountains Wed 22-Feb-17 16:44:26

Just had a few more thoughts:

Might be an idea to try and include the following:

A drawing and/or painting of a collection of objects/still life

An abstract work

Figure drawing (if they don't do life classes at school, you might find a cheap local one, or get friends/relatives to post, although a professional model would be better). Also, sketchbooks done of people, eg on tube, train, bus, shopping centre, sports centre, people moving about, dancing

Portrait, eg self portrait - I remember doing a self portrait with a lot of mirrors positioned around so you got the effect of a lot of splintered views, which made for an interesting composition (and the chance of some psychological blether), which went down well!

Sketches and sketch books. If your daughter is not using sketchbooks good idea to start now, because when she gets an interview it will be good to have lots of them to show. Carry one always and use it. Stick things in it, write little ideas in it, record dreams in it, tear out little pics you like the colours of, anything and everything, and draw all the time, the rooms you are in, your feet, your cat, piles of rubbish, dinner, little sketches of anything and everything.

Set drawings in context - do not do a lovely pic of an object floating in the middle of white paper, make sure there is some context of table, room etc.

Def do some trips to local museum or library. Find somewhere free where you can hang out for the afternoon, soak up the atmosphere and draw.

Try experimenting, eg cover a piece of paper with thick, dark pencil or charcoal and then draw into it using your eraser, - this will make you look and see things differently from using black lines on white paper.

Hope some of this is useful blackcatlover

I think it would be a real shame if students had to pay loads for portfolio prep courses to get on an art course. That would be so unfair. I hope some of these ideas help your daughter.

BeachysSnowyWellieBoots Wed 22-Feb-17 17:02:59

It is a lovely school but just so you aware, it is very London centric. Pretty much all the students who applied when dd1 applied were based in London (and therefore went home at the end of the day). A friends son who did go explained that it was a bit non-social and because it wasn't part of a bigger college or uni, it was quite isolating.

I think it is far more competitive than some of the others though.

Has your dd looked at Kingston? I appreciate it's the other end of London!

Dd1 ended up at Falmouth for her Foundation and then onto Brighton Uni, both of which she's really enjoyed.


BeachysSnowyWellieBoots Wed 22-Feb-17 17:09:28

We looked at a lot of videos on youtube of various colleges and unis reviewing portfolios....


blackcatlover Wed 22-Feb-17 20:33:31

Wow thanks so much for all the input and ideas.

She has some life drawing and observational. She has sketchbooks but they are bound A3 books and much of her work is in them. She is going to cut them up I guess. She is the only one applying from her school. Her teacher told her to photocopy her work to put it in the portfolio!

OP’s posts: |
BeachysSnowyWellieBoots Wed 22-Feb-17 22:19:22

Nooooo, don't cut up the books! Or photocopy!

Just put her big pieces on mounts on A1 paper and then put the books in, open or marked at the pages she wants them to see...

wavedancer68 Thu 23-Feb-17 10:39:43

Don't cut the sketch books up, just submit them as they are.

If they are part of her A-level coursework/exam final project she will need them for that too.

The Royal Drawing School (if it is the same as last year) only require the portfolio and sketchbooks for one day. They are dropped off in the morning and are available for collection at the end of the day.

If your DD has any large canvases at school she can take photos of them and mount the photographs onto A1 sheets for her portfolio. If the canvas or other pieces of work are very large she should get someone else (maybe her art teacher) to take a photo of her sitting or standing next to the piece of work in order to give an idea of size. That's what my DD's school did.

All of MinisterForSmallFoundtains portfolio advice is exactly what your DD needs to follow. Take BeachysSnowyWellieBoots advice too and don't cut those A3 sketchbooks up.

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