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5 things I wish I’d known before starting my Art Foundation

5 May 2022

6 mins

Hi, I’m Emma a final year Graphic Communication and Illustration (basically Graphic Design) student here at Loughborough University. I started my journey back in 2017 with an Art Foundation year at Loughborough. It’s my 5th year in the bubble now, as I did a placement year at the Met Office.

I think whether or not to do an Art Foundation is still very much a difficult decision for students, post creative A-Levels or college courses. Do you shoot your shot and apply straight for a degree, or do you go for an Art Foundation? Will a foundation be a waste of a year? Do you even know what degree you would want to do? All of these questions were swirling around in my head and at the time, it felt like the most important decision of my life. I want to reassure you that everyone goes down a different path and often what is right for your best mate, won’t be the best option for you.

My advice would be to weigh up your options, speak to people who have done Art Foundations, and search the internet for degree specifications, to figure out what route will suit YOU.

5 Things I Wish I Had Known:

1. Everyone is there for a different reason and your reason is valid

Prior to researching Art Foundation years, I assumed that it was a route to a degree for the people who perhaps couldn’t achieve the necessary A-Level grades, to go straight onto a degree. How wrong was I?!

There are lots of reasons people choose to do an Art Foundation and it’s important to be accepting of all these different paths. I had friends who went into Art Foundation thinking they would go onto to do Fine Art degrees that ended up doing Architecture! For some, it might be that extra year to figure out what degree path will suit them best. However, my reason was different and that’s okay. I went into my foundation year knowing that I wanted to do Graphic Design, but I did it to gain confidence and have that extra year of freedom to learn whilst experimenting.

You have to remember people come from all sorts of different schools and backgrounds. I felt my portfolio and skill set wasn’t quite ready for a degree and that was partly because my school didn’t offer Graphic Design A-Level.

2. It won’t set you behind

A year in your life in the grand scheme of things is nothing. I was worried about graduating later than my school friends, but I don’t think I’d be where I am today if it wasn’t for my foundation year. As far as my career goes, I don’t think I would have had the confidence to go out into industry on placement, without having had that extra year prior to starting my degree.

There is often that fear of entering a different cohort to your school peers and being behind by “wasting” a year, but I can reassure you; a year is nothing. If anything, it has made me make more friends throughout my University experience, as I have met many interesting and different people during my 5 years here at Loughborough.

I feel the reason my career will be accelerated post-graduation is partly due to having had a full-rounded education experience at Loughborough, which all started with that Art Foundation.

3. Get the idea of being a perfectionist out of your head

An Art Foundation really gives you the freedom to experiment and I don’t think I realised that many of my bad habits from school, would begin to be fixed during my foundation year.

I got taught how to use a sketchbook, had a go at life drawing, and quickly learnt how to “let myself go” through drawing. As someone who has never been confident at drawing and who actually felt quite anxious about going onto a course where I knew people would be better at drawing than me, I wish from the get-go that I knew an Art Foundation was meant to be a year to experiment. You will realise you are good at things you didn’t even know you were good at!

I got quite into photography and also did a bit of stop-frame animation on Art Foundation, which I loved. Once I no longer stressed about perfect outcomes, my work actually ended up being way more unique and interesting.

4. You are part of the Loughborough University family, and it is your first year

An Art Foundation is a great stepping stone to University life. Upon first starting mine, I didn’t really see it as my first year of University, when in fact it was! I wish I had seen it as my first year of University from the get-go, as it would’ve helped me feel less different to my friends from back home and made me jump into all of Loughborough’s activities sooner.

Whilst on the Art Foundation at Loughborough, you are totally immersed in the University and can join the array of sports clubs and societies. Art Foundation even gets its own section of the degree show, which provided an exciting opportunity to exhibit my final major project, alongside the final year degree students. You can read more about the degree show in my previous blog here. I also found that having two first years in effect (foundation and first year of my degree) allowed me to settle into Loughborough and make the most of my uni experience. I just fell in love with the community and campus feel of Loughborough, which is why I stayed here for my degree.

5. Be proud to be doing an Art Foundation, everyone is on different paths and that’s okay, own it!

Before starting my foundation and in the first few weeks of making friends, I would be embarrassed whenever I got asked “what course do you study?”. I always felt like I had failed as if I wasn’t worthy enough of being a technically first year of a degree like everyone else. I cannot express enough how valuable my Art Foundation truly was for my creative skillset, as well as on a personal level of confidence to taking that leap of independence to move away from home. You should be proud of the path you are on and know that everyone will be going at a different pace. An Art Foundation is only a year and that year may be everything to get you to your next step and the step after that. Even many of my tutors say they wouldn’t be where they are today without their foundation years!

If you are embarking on an Art Foundation this Autumn, enjoy it! Make the most of that time to try something new, experiment and be free. Good luck with wherever your journey takes you.

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