My name is Ben Chandler, I am 20 years old, I studied the Level 4 Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at South Essex College from 2014 to 2015, and this is my story.
I was very much into art throughout my entire education, figurative painting was my core; I spent many hours improving my technical ability and style, during and after school. Nearing the end of Sixth Form I found myself wanting something more than painting figures with realistic renderings so I began painting more gesturally with the palette knife and visiting more contemporary galleries to understand abstraction and conceptual art. It probably wasn’t the best time to change, but it worked out ok!
In essence, the art that I knew became less engaging for me because I was asking what art was. Figurative painting is a perfectly valid art form by the way, but it was time to move onto something else, something new. I wanted to know what other forms of art there was; the result could have been hating anything new I saw or made, but keeping an open mind in attempt to try and understand was the main objective, and doing so at College changed my practice forever.
After College I went straight to Birmingham City University on the BA (Hons) Fine Art course in 2015 and am looking to graduate in 2018. The areas I am occupied by right now are sculpture (wood, metal), text, and film. I have become a student academic leader for the Level 4 cohort so my responsibility is to pass peer feedback to members of staff and help put it into effect. A handful of peers and I have also just started a student-led, extracurricular drawing class with traditional life drawing and experimental drawing methods for both practice and a challenge!
An open creative space for youths in Birmingham has just opened, so I am looking to get involved In that too. It is a very busy time for me.
I chose South East Essex College because the College campus was the closest place to me that ran the course, and I was completely sold when I visited an open evening for the course. It always seemed to have events going on, the work produced in the art spaces was exciting, and the Southend campus had an amazing design, it was always inspiring to see it every day. I was also very fond of the College’s progressive attitude towards equality and acceptance, an environment and ethic I will always get behind.
Whilst there I learnt more about my subject than I could have anticipated which made me more able to apply myself effectively and efficiently in the arts. My confidence, organisation, time management, decisiveness, critical analysis, and knowledge all matured from my short time here. Working alongside other creative individuals not only expanded my knowledge but also my understanding of a wider variety of people; students come from all over so I felt I achieved an empathetic development, something that can help me work well with others, even if I do not know them well at first.
Having the opportunity to specialise in the subject you love is a really special opportunity. You get access to a wide variety of facilities, machines, materials, and tutors who really know what they are doing, you can really play. Your passion for your subject is mutual with others, and working beside them gives you a wonderful experience.
At the College my confidence, organisation, time management, decisiveness, critical analysis, and my knowledge all got significantly stronger. I have also gained an interest in reading, as weird as that sounds I did not particularly enjoy it, yet finding themes I did enjoy increased my interest and endurance with reading when it comes to contextual research. Libraries are crucial, I highly advise everyone to use them frequently, your vocabulary and ability to filter information will benefit.
The computer software and machinery in the workshops are very much what you will expect beyond College, and it is free access. Depending on your situation in the industry, using certain equipment will involve costs that you may not have to pay at College. It is important that they are used as often as possible to pick up all the techniques you can because they definitely translate over into University and the Industries, and you’ll make efficient decisions regarding cost and your art.
My favourite memory of the College I guess has to be when the cohort’s final exhibition finally opened to the public, with an incredibly successful private view. All of the build-up was so worth it, it was a truly euphoric moment to show my work alongside the work of my friends, and have it resolve with celebrations in the pub. All the drawing sessions, tutorials, intense philosophical discussions at lunch, creative risks paying off, it was all worth it.
South Essex College is progressive, supportive, and really gets you engaged. Young people have passions but may not have the drive or confidence to pursue it within education, the College is really good at nurturing these passions. The equipment and accessibility is fantastic and gets you experienced for university. It isn’t a college that is afraid to try new things, the course structure changes to fit with the time and always tries to give the students challenges to better themselves.
My greatest achievement has to be my rapid, personal development within one year, it is still staggering to me; how I think and the work I make is nothing like what it used to be, and for the better. One’s journey can have many rises and dips, but the course caused a hectic acceleration upward. I am a better person than before, I got nominated to be in UAL's 'Origins' exhibition in London which was fantastic, but you don’t get them for nothing. Your self-directed development is key.
In the future I aim to be happy, surrounded by the creative friends I have made, and be in a situation where I can keep improving and exhibiting my art. That is it.
There is no doubt that my time at the College has helped me embrace mistakes and work meticulously until I get the results I want. It has strengthened my interest in the arts and supporting others in the arts, too. With desire to see as much work as I can, it has increased my desire to travel and be more independent, and I hope to influence others to feel this way.