The student guide on how to get started with Fine Art

by Cass Art

Cass Art was lucky enough to chat with student of Fine Art & Art History at Kingston University, Sophie Filipiuk who treats us to a step-by-step insight on student working, her favourite materials and an introduction to fine art practice today...

Coming from a family with zero knowledge or interest in art meant starting my art GCSE at school was the first formal introduction I was given to what fine art was all about. I had always obsessively drawn anything and everything on a daily basis from the moment I could hold a pen but I had no previous knowledge of artists or famous art before this point and had never once been taken to a gallery. Even now, I believe the true concept of what fine art was and is as a whole was not fully understood until between the end of my art A-level and the progression into my Foundation Diploma in Art and Design.

My keenness for the subject could also be owed to my parents hoarding habits over the years. Before I even knew what art was, stacks of newspapers were always piling up at home, as my dad often worked abroad, meaning he would never get around to reading them that often. I would plough endlessly through each section, especially in the additional art magazines, consuming only and all the imagery that caught my eye, cutting them out and saving them to a scrap box.

Stamps are another large factor in my interest towards art too. My parents are extremely dedicated stamp collectors and would openly encourage me to collect my own from the weekly stamp catalogue packages with stamps for sale that would arrive in the post from other members within their local Philatelic society. I would only collect the stamps I liked the pictures of animals or recognisable cartoons at the time like ‘The Moomins’ or ‘Rupert Bear’, not because of their country of origin or their  that collections are normally based upon. This was the post computer era, stamps and newspapers were my only influential source of current culture imagery.

Hoarding has now thoroughly embedded itself within my art practice along with a continual running theme of obsession and redundancy in objects, now that I am fully into my degree at Kingston University studying BA hons Fine Art and History of Art. My artwork whilst studying at Kingston started with the entirety of my first year dedicated to used postage stamps in light of my parents’ hobby. I was drawn to the physical redundancy of the stamp, no one saves them or rarely uses them personally due to email. The postmarks left by sorting offices over the decades fascinate me in their varying peculiarity from ‘Jesus is alive!’ to ‘Eat your vegetables!’. I created a 2.2m x 1.1m installation wall of these used stamps collaged together to critique my parents’ hoarding obsession. This later resulted with a series of stop motion films I created by scanning definitives, (stamps only featuring the Queen’s head)to highlight their postmarks; the symbols of stamp redundancy. I now see these as my favourite works due to the quantity of materials I had readily available to me.

Every year I deliberately alter my practice to incorporate mediums I have never dared use in order to open my artwork to happy accidents of experimentation. I have transformed from my early GCSE art starting from being a toymaker then to a painter, photographer, using only chalk and pastels, sculptor, collage artist and now would fully define myself to be a mixed media and installation artist this year! Kingston has taught me the full meaning of ‘conceptual art’ and what it is to make and present artwork professionally through frequently curating own exhibitions independently as we continue to make work.  Additionally art history modules in ‘Museums, Galleries and Public Engagement’ combined with my love of newspaper reading has made me realise I would like a future career in reviewing art exhibitions as a critic writer. I would also like to continue to be an artist on the side and potentially become a curator for a while.

Now my practice has moved towards a focus on juggling two projects, one on a book of impossible installation ideas that I think I either do not have the resources/skills to make in reality or I will not have the permission and public approval to create them.  The other focuses on novelty art installations in conjunction with my potential dissertation around the future of exhibitions becoming only immersive experiences of gimmick art regardless of their ‘good’ or ‘bad’ nature that we only go to in order to achieve our prized selfie (classic examples being the rain room at the Barbican and Martin Creed’s Balloon room recently). This has resulted in a month long experimentation to exaggerate humour in my art, repeatedly re-appropriating presented situations between a large stuffed Dalmatian dog toy and a set of inflatable dolls that accumulated due to impulse charity shop buying and leftovers from an exhibition I recently featured in, deliberately plagiarising each participating author anonymously. 

My artist material essentials begin with Staedtler Pigment liners. They are essential for any preliminary sketch for an idea I have and are my favourite tool when doing very quick poses during life drawing sessions which I always try to continue in my spare time to keep practicing my drawing skills. This is quickly followed by Seawhite starter sketchbooks and Daler Rowney ebony hardback sketchbooks to present my works thematically. The seawhite sketchbooks are incredibly inexpensive but are excellent quality and similarly the Daler Rowneys are too. Because I mainly make installations now or sculpt, duct tape and masking tape are also big factors in my practice. I get through them like water to mount work or map out where objects will go for installation plans. Last but not least Derwent charcoal pencils are also an essential for life drawing or quick sketches on the go. Less messy than sticks of charcoal but still give wonderful ash black effects on paper. I am hoping to attend some of Cass Art’s upcoming art macabre drawing salons to explore more of Cass Art’s products whilst taking in unique and quirky drawing set ups.

I normally source inspiration by going to as many events and exhibitions as possible in London, driven by wanting to write reviews for various places. In particular art fairs such as Frieze and most recently Art14 are useful for direct visual inspiration. Time Out website has been responsible for highlighting obscure day trip destinations to junkyards and quirky venues like the newly opened cat café and even just by simply walking around as people watching generates multiple ideas for works I have.

 My tips for creating amazing final pieces is to never be afraid to experiment or to worry about what everyone else is doing at the moment; focus on what you want to do and make. Obsess over ideas and test them out in different mediums and you will find the practice and the excitement of working with materials very new to you will be a rewarding and an enlightening process.

Feeling inspired? Your tools for creative success are waiting for you! Pick up a starter sketchbook and a fineliner to get started...

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