A Principal's view: the creative process of applying to art school

London, UK – March 2019

At Art Academy London, every year we see how nerve-wracking prospective students find the application process: it can feel like they are being asked to lay their soul bare to a group of judgmental strangers. However, as with any educational path, the way to take the pressure and emotion out of the application process is the same: preparation, preparation, preparation!

Let’s start with the basic principles of preparing for your interview: presenting your work. Think of your portfolio as a snapshot of your potential as an artist – a way of showing the art school of your dreams your style, skills and thinking, and how you can develop these while studying with them.

Your portfolio should comprise around 20 pieces of work, featuring a range of research, ideas development, experimentation with different materials, techniques and media, and some finished pieces.

It’s also useful to organise your portfolio into categories to make it easier to view and present. Avoid repetition and try to demonstrate a range of your skills – and not just technical skills, but also your ability to find inventive and creative solutions to visual problems. You can include brief explanations, but avoid falling into the A-Level trap of writing a detailed analysis of your work: one or two sentences is enough.

At interview, it’s essential that you can talk confidently about your work – not only to show passion and determination, but also to justify your decisions. Each piece in your portfolio should have a thought process behind it, and it can’t just be “I made that piece because my art teacher told me to!”

“Think of your portfolio as a snapshot of your potential as an artist – a way of showing the art school of your dreams your style, skills and thinking, and how you can develop these while studying with them.”

To stand out from the crowd, think about ways of developing creativity and thinking differently (but don’t confuse this with trying to shock an art tutor, as they’ve seen most things already). It’s about being authentic to your own creativity and pushing the boundaries of that.

It’s essential that you show an interest in art, culture and society and can talk about how this informs your own work. This type of contextual knowledge will really strengthen your portfolio and show your commitment when interviewing for an art school.  However, you don’t need to limit your interests to creative fields: politics, the environment, media, history, religion, philosophy, music, theatre, cinema, literature, film or new technologies can all inspire your art. Building your knowledge on a subject that interests you and incorporating that into your practice adds a new layer of meaning to your work. And if you’re passionate and interested about it, you’ll find it easier to speak engagingly at an interview.

British Prime Minister gifts China's President Xi with two works by artist Rob Pepper

London, UK – February 2018

Prime Minister Teresa May has gifted President Xi of China with two first edition prints by artist and Principal of Art Academy London, Rob Pepper. The artworks were presented on a recent visit to Beijing, China and were given to celebrate a ‘Golden Era’ between the two countries.

The artworks celebrate the architectural heritage of both London and Beijing through pen and ink, with bold geometric shapes and colours bringing a contemporary perspective to the iconic skylines. The two 70cm-wide works were mounted together with a plaque commemorating the visit and gifted alongside a handwritten note from Rob.

During the trip, the Prime Minister commented:

“Both the UK and China have rich and distinctive cultures of which we are rightly proud. The agreements on creative and cultural collaboration announced in China mean we will work even more closely together, collaborating on film festivals, theme parks, architecture, history and much more. This visit was an opportunity to showcase the best of British. By sharing our history and culture we will deepen the strong ties between our two peoples.”

Rob commented:

“It’s a huge honour for my artwork to be given as a gift to President Xi by the Prime Minister and for it to be used as a symbol of friendship and connection between our two great nations. As an artist I’ve long admired the clarity of Chinese mark making and in my own work I look to interweave a similar finesse with a contemporary western sensibility.” 

“British culture is highly influential and well respected in China and there are many possibilities for artists and creatives. I foresee ever-increasing cultural exchange. In my role as Principle of an art school I’m excited to be exploring the potential of creating new art schools in China which will further enable partnership between Chinese and British artists and students.”