Royal Drawing School, The Foundation Year - Blythe Brett

Oct. 27, 2016

Blythe Brett came to the Royal Drawing School from Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge and completed The Foundation Year in 2016.   She has since gone on to study Design for Performance at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. We asked Blythe to give us an insider’s glimpse into her experience on the course and how it has shaped her future studies…

Before joining The Foundation Year course I had found it difficult to relate my interests in spatial and structural design with traditional forms such as drawing and painting from life. Within the first few weeks of workshops covering a range from observational work to printing and sculpture, I began to see through the restrictions that tend to set in during an A Level course. Instead of every piece I made needing to be precise and well finished, I saw how experimenting and making mistakes is a vital process in coming up with a well-rounded and exciting body of work. This gave me the freedom to begin to explore the ideas and forms which most intrigued me within all of my work – for example relating architectural structure to the figure placed within it.

The Figure in Space - Blythe Brett blog

'The Figure in Space’ Life Drawing Exercise

The variety and helpfulness of tutors on the course was great, all of them really got to know us and we were free to ask them questions about our work as well as their own practice. Spending time with them in the studio as well as during gallery days meant that we learnt about the practicalities and realities of being a professional artist. Having constant input from a range of tutors really helped my work to develop, especially during personal projects, when the tutors could introduce me to new theories and artists that had great relevance to my work.

The Friday gallery visits and the lectures at the Royal Drawing School on Wednesday evenings were a vital part of the course to me because they introduced me to a huge range of new inspirations. The talks given to us by Antje Southern each Friday morning were endlessly interesting – I built up a knowledge of artists and art theory of which I had no concept before, which in turn developed my own ideas and gave my work a deeper level of research and understanding.

Sculptural piece - Blythe Brett blog

Sculptural piece looking at the figure in space, part of Personal Project 1

Experimentation became the most valuable feature of the course for me, especially within my final personal project. One of the group sculpture workshops in the second term had introduced me to a playful and open attitude to materials – trying out different combinations with many different structures to find the best result. Using this newfound freedom I set myself to play with as many new materials as possible during my final project; from taking apart abandoned machines and reassembling them, to moulding delicate structures in wire and wood.

Headspace - Blythe Brett blog

One of a collection of sculptures exploring ‘Headspace’, Final Personal Project

The most challenging part of the course is the schedule, being full time every day can be demanding but it’s worth it. On most other courses you are only in for 3 days a week and see a tutor maybe only once a month. Being in the studio every day means you can really get involved with the work and your stream of ideas isn’t interrupted, also because of the facilities there is always the opportunity to try new methods – sculpture, printmaking, painting and photography. I really got into photography and working in the darkroom in the last few weeks of the course, I would really recommend it to any new students. I had never found digital photography particularly useful but the stages of developing an analogue print are exciting and there is a lot of experimentation you can do with the enlarging and exposure process.

One of the things that had drawn me to the foundation course with the Drawing School was the location of the studios: Trinity Buoy Wharf is a fascinating place with a huge variety of architecture and scenery to draw inspiration from. I also really enjoyed the Friday gallery sessions when we often had opportunities to draw out in the London cityscape, including one trip to draw from the Crossrail construction site at Liverpool Street and another situated on a rooftop looking across at the Southbank of the Thames. My sensitivity to architecture and structure definitely increased as a result of these experiences, and it has now become a major part of my inspiration and drive within my work in spatial and theatre design.

Drawing Out excersise - Blythe Brett blog

Drawing Out Exercise, North Bank, London

I am going on to study Design for Performance at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and I feel that my time on the foundation has definitely prepared me for my development as a scenic designer. Over the year I found a freedom of working with new methods and materials, I also really improved my drawing skills which will be essential in the future. The tutors and workshops helped me to appreciate that not every piece of work needs to be perfect; instead, you can learn from mistakes and gather together many small ideas to create one well developed body of work. The thing I value most is my new knowledge of artists and themes, which has broadened my awareness of art and design in the professional world. Some of the designers from whom I take most inspiration were those I discovered whilst on The Foundation Year, and I am continuing to explore the themes from my work on the course in my current projects - including installations for Cambridge Fusion Theatre Festival and work for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016.