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How it started vs. How it’s going: Ellen Sibley, BA Fine Art

Have you ever looked at an artist’s work and thought that they must have always been that good and sure of what they’re doing? It’s easy to look at a piece of creative and not understand the development that leads up to the finished product. How it started vs. How it’s going aims to highlight what goes on in the background of each creative project, as well as comparing the artist’s personal growth over time. In this episode we speak to Year 3 BA (Hons) Fine Art student Ellen Sibley, and look at the development of her work from before starting at NUA to Year 3.  Ellen tells us about the inspiration for her collection, and how it’s vital to trust the process.

What got you into fine art?

I’ve been creative since a very young age, but it was during college when I got really excited about the subject and realised the potential of a career in art. After being encouraged to develop my skills and pursue art in school, I found interests in lots of other things which would go on to inspire me to study fine art and shape my practice to this day!

How would you describe your practice, then and now?

Before university I worked full time for two years, making art during whatever spare time I had. I drew and made collages but could rarely explore new processes. Since joining BA (Hons) Fine Art, I have maintained my drawing and collage practice while also developing sculpture, film, printmaking and digital work.

Prior to university I was far more interested in style over substance and my ideas were quite boring frankly, but since realising that I am capable of making work about anything that sparks my interest, I feel my work has matured and become much more meaningful to me. 

How it started – Ellen’s work before university:

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How has studying BA (Hons) Fine Art helped you develop your practice?

Having access to so many facilities and spaces has allowed me to get the most out of every process I’ve tried, and explore my ideas in numerous different contexts.

A large portion of my practice now is digital work which I never would have imagined. While physically my work has developed at NUA, lectures, seminars and discussion have led to new ways of seeing and thinking which in turn have enabled me to make the work I am proudest of.

What have you discovered about yourself as an artist while studying?

That I love to learn! I have always been keen to absorb information but since studying a NUA I have realised just how excited I am about art and everything it encompasses.

I’ve also realised that there’s no right or wrong way to make a piece of art, and to trust the process! I used to obsess over details or how things were ‘meant’ to look, to the point that I would frequently ruin work. I’ve learnt to embrace the uncertainties and long periods of trial and error that come with being an artist. 

How it’s going – Ellen’s work in Year 3 as she prepares to graduate: 

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Are there any artists you look to for inspiration?

I have recently been influenced by Daniel Gordon and Lucas Blalock, who both combine objects, photography and digital processes in their separate practices to create surreal images.

There are many artists and people who have inspired me, but I usually find inspiration in objects and images which I find or see in my day-to-day life.

Where are you happiest making work?

Prior to the pandemic, my studio at NUA was (and still is) my favourite place to make work. I definitely feel more focused and inspired when I’m in a busy but creative and exciting environment like the studio spaces, but I am happy making work anywhere I can listen to loud music!

“I dread to think of a world without artists.”

Why does the world need artists?

I dread to think of a world without artists. Art is a powerful tool with which we can continue to make the world a better place.

I think a world without art would look something like a scene from David Lynch’s Eraserhead; desolate, scary and completely dysfunctional.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of studying fine art?

The possibilities when it comes to a subject like art really are endless, but don’t become overwhelmed at the thought of coming up with ideas! An idea can start with a drawing or a photograph of anything, even something you find in the street or see in a waiting room magazine.

Be open to finding inspiration in unexpected things because the best projects and pieces of work often come from very unassuming places.

See more of Ellen’s work on her Instagram

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