Has anyone ever told you what actually happens after art school? The ‘are you going to be an art teacher?’ question is commonly asked by friends and family. What else is there really? This week Central Station has asked art school graduates to share what they’ve been up to since their graduation in the Life After Art School series.

Ellis O'Connor

Ellis O’Connor is a visual artist specialising in printmaking, photography and drawing. She is currently based in Dundee completing her MFA at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. Since graduating from her undergrad in 2014 at DJCAD she has exhibited extensively whilst travelling to make new work and has been selected for a number of artist in residency programmes.

Ellis O'Connor - Traces, A series of prints
Traces, A series of prints

Since graduating with a BA Hons Degree in Fine Art from Duncan of Jordanstone in June this year, I have been involved in many projects including two artist residencies. As my work is based on the idea of ‘place’ and our connection to remote landscapes, I am constantly travelling to capture new remote lands. Straight after graduating I travelled around the islands of Scotland for three weeks. This was a way of getting as much inspiration as possible and making new work on site. It also refreshed my mind as I was able to take some time away from the studio.

Ellis O'Connor - Close-up detail: Elements of the Shore
Close-up detail: Elements of the Shore

Ellis O'Connor - Edges
Ellis O’Connor – Edges

In July, I was chosen to be artist in residence on board an expedition around the Northern Isles of Scotland with the Clipperton Project. We travelled around the Isles of Shetland on a boat for four weeks and I collaborated with other artists whilst teaching artist workshops to communities on remote islands. I then travelled out to Florence for the months of August and September as I was selected amongst nine other Scotland based artists to receive the RSA John Kinross Scholarship. This was an incredible opportunity and really gave me the support to make new work whilst being inspired from a new setting.

Since the amazing residency and scholarship, I have returned to university to undertake my MA in Art and Humanities at Duncan of Jordanstone. I feel that it is completely different from being an undergrad, as it is more focused on your practice and working as an artist on your own. I wanted to undertake this course to develop more of the written part of my work and give me a chance to delve more into the ideas within my practice. Since returning to education, I have also just come back from Iceland where I was artist in residence at the Fljotstunga Eco farm in collaboration with Geo Park Iceland. I have taken part in two exhibitions: The Black Cube Collective’s Annual show in Edinburgh and ‘Waypoints’, an exhibition in collaboration with the Clipperton Project on the Isle of Eigg.

Ellis O'Connor - Series of Prints Framed
Series of Prints Framed

I am currently making new work based on my time spent around the remote islands of Scotland and working to large scale size for the RSA New Contemporaries 2015. I have also been selected to take part in artist residence programmes next year in The Bothy Project Sweeney’s Bothy Scotland, Cill Rialaig Ireland, and Norway’s Agder Art Centre. I intend to keep making work based on the atmosphere of remote places whilst documenting my travels out there to put across to the viewer. The only way I can keep making work is by travelling and so being selected for the opportunity to make work in organisations around the world is perfect for me!

Ellis O'Connor - Tidal Flow
Tidal Flow

My advice to graduates would be to apply for things and just go for it. There are funding and scholarships out there if you look for them. Central Station and Creative Scotland are particularly great. If you are truly confident in your practice and what your ideas and purpose of your work are as an artist, you will be fine. Don’t be scared of knock backs. The worst thing someone can tell you is no. You’re not going to lose out on anything by simply applying. I have purposely applied to awards and residencies that are going to better me as an artist and that I will gain something from, so just keep going and believe in your work!

Comment below or on Twitter using #LifeAfterArtSchool & mentioning @CenSta with your experience after art school.

Stay tuned for more updates from art school graduates all this week. In the meantime see a preview of what to expect from the Life After Art School features here.

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