Student blog

The summer in-between 2nd and 3rd year

In the last few weeks of 2nd year, everyone starts to discuss dissertation topics. Now personally if I were to be taking a history degree my choice would be easy, Civil Rights in America, or The Poor Laws of Lunacy. However I have really struggled considering my dissertation in art. It’s something that I’ve been considering since day one, yet it’s probably the hardest decision I’ve had to make during my time at uni.

  1. I’m a proud feminist. Sexism in the art world, feminist art and particularly  the Guerrilla Girls have always interested me.
  2. I’m also interested and heavily influenced by mental health, Vincent Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo are both fantastic artists to look at their work with their mental health in mind, their self portraits for example are incredibly personal.
  3. My studio work has been inspired by the idea of self in art, particularly self portraits. So when we had to submit our ideas, needless to say I had too many to include.

I narrowed it down… sort of. I created an idea to look at ‘self’ and how ones mental health and/or ideals influence self portraits.

Fine Art inspiration

 Selection of books I've bought to read for my dissertation.

I was going to write a long blog about dissertations and how to handle them, however my fellow student blogger Katie Briggs wrote a lovely post in April, so I wont reiterate similar points. 

The small bit of advice I will give is that once you’ve decided and planned your dissertation, in the summer between 2nd and 3rd year, read as much as possible on your topic (don’t forget your bibliography - ref works is your friend), and aim to have at least a quarter of your dissertation written before you get back to Uni (on average 2500 words), it will help you immensely with getting it finished before your hand in date.

During the summer, not only do you need to focus on your dissertation, you also need to keep pushing your ‘studio’ focus. I blogged previously about how I use my sketchbook to help keep working during the xmas holidays. However the summer holiday is a lot longer.

Continuing with your ‘studio focus’ can be difficult if you return home to parents, or live somewhere without much space, however this can actually be helpful and a good time to consider how you will continue your art practice when you leave Uni and no longer have a studio space. It helps to be able to think about whether you need to rent a studio or create a space at home. It really does depend on your materials and mediums.

Painting doesn’t necessarily pose many problems, but scale can be difficult, I personally work on large paintings (100cm x 150cm) I want to work on 6ft x 4ft paintings but scale and time to complete can be rather awkward.

Clare Chapman art work

A collection of my work I've been creating throughout the summer. Large scale paintings and smaller trials.


Many of you may be reading this and thinking “but I’m working” or “I’m busy this summer” some may even be in a position like myself saying “but my kids are home”. Now I totally get it, time is precious and quite frankly difficult to find. But if you can find those 10mins to an hour where you sit relaxing in front of the TV and you start to think maybe you could paint/draw or even just write down your ideas, in a TV break perhaps.

If you’re a photographer, maybe you can take some photos of anything that takes your fancy, in your house, in your garden, even if its just a colour you like or a shadow. I know nothing is ever as easy as it sounds but anything you can get done during the holiday will help you to get your creative juices flowing. Therefore helping you to think through, decide and create some work for your ‘studio focus’ giving you a head start. 

Clare Chapman art workClare Chapman art work Clare Chapman art work Clare Chapman art work

Some of my late night working through the summer holidays.

At uni I get to mingle with other creatives, our crits can be time consuming and sometimes annoying, BUT I get to talk about art, inspiring ideas or helping to dispel some. In summer and other holidays I can’t talk about art, not in the same way I can to other artists and friends at Uni. 

So these few minutes of sketching, painting or writing my ideas down, help me to move forward criticising my own work and to consider my ideas in a more thorough way before I return to Uni.

If you still think 10mins a day is too much, why not try 10mins a week, or just scribbling down ideas as and when you think of them.

Like Tesco always reminds us 'Every Little Helps'!