What is the Portrait Diploma?
The course is a carefully structured programme written within a famework of observational painting and drawing using the human model. You will be grounded in the skills needed to work from direct observation and will be helped to develop these skills into a personal body of work. The course further aims to help you acquire the perspectives and the sense of context neccessary for working independently as an artist.
The two year Diploma Course (72 weeks) takes place on three days a week (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) over six terms of 12 weeks each.
The study of the human form has long provided artists with a rich source of inspiration, visual discipline and creative energy. At Heatherley’s we believe this to be an excellent pathway for those who wish to acquire an understanding of the language of painting. As you build strategies for painting and drawing people from direct observation you will also be encouraged to develop your own understanding of painting and portraiture.
You will take part in a carefully structured programme of portrait and figurative painting projects using models. These projects are taught by a wide variety of tutors and will offer a rich diversity of approaches. From these different starting points key questions of composition, colour, paint handling and so on will be very fully discussed. Overall, this sequence of projects aims to ground you in observational painting technique and to go beyond this to help you build a body of work which reflects a personal view. This body of work is exhibited at your final exhibition, preparing you for professional practice in figurative painting and related occupations and/or further courses of study
We select students who are highly motivated and for their potential to benefit from the two year course. We welcome graduates from Foundation and BA courses in Fine Art but sufficient preparation may also be demonstrated by sustained commitment to part time study. The school is happy to accept applications from students over 18 including mature students. Contact us if you have any questions about eligibility. Please refer to Application for details about how to apply for the course.
The Heatherleys Portrait Diploma is an independent award. As course content is closely related to the level of a Bachelor of Arts degree, our students have been able to make successful applications to Master of Arts postgraduate degree courses at Britain’s prime universities and art schools. The award is assessed internally by the Course Director and Principal with reference to an external advisor. The advisor is a professional painter and portrait painter and is traditionally a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters who is appointed by the school to oversee the final assessment process. Students without the prior award of a standard degree, who wish to qualify for teaching in secondary education, should apply for a conversion course on completion of Heatherleys Diploma. ( See also Accreditation)
Because of the one to one nature of personal dialogue and the intensive nature of skills teaching demanded by the Diploma programme, we are committed to a very favourable tutor to student ratio. Student groups will consist typically of between 12 -14 students sharing a painting studio. As well as individual studio discussion with the project tutor there are two 40-minute tutorials each term with a personal tutor assigned to you by the Course Director.
Twice a week there will be Life Drawing classes at the end of the day. You will be expected to attend one of these to develop your drawing alongside your painting.
Our team of permanent and visiting lecturers are all practising artists and include graduates of the Slade and the Royal College of Art and other internationally renowned universities. They are members of and exhibit with the professional societies including the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, the New English Art Club and the Society of Artist Printmakers. A member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters is the external advisor for the course.
- We use formal and informal assessment during the course as a way of making sure that you have understood course content and so that we can help you to develop and progress your work
- Criteria for the assessment of creative work will necessarily include a subjective and a personal element. We therefore invite the comment and participation of a carefully selected team of experienced artist educators and practising artists.
- Personal tutorials, taking place twice each term, will guide you to establish personal criteria for self-evaluation of your development and achievement.
- The first of three formal assessments takes place at the end of the first year when work is shown at the annual Diploma Exhibition in July. You will be helped to prepare and present course work and this will be assessed by the Course Director. You will be given a report of constructive advice for your record.
- The second formal assessment takes place in the fifth week of the Spring Term of your final year and this will include a presentation of a selection of work and an interview with the Principal and a member of the Director of Studies, the Portrait Diploma Course Director and the Diploma’s External Advisor. Again, you will be given a constructive report for your record. This stage of the assessment aims to prepare the way ahead to your final show.
- At the end of the second year you will take part in a Graduate Exhibition. Your work will be assessed by the Principle, the Director of Studies, the Portrait Diploma Course Director and an External Advisor. This is the third and final assessment of your work and you will receive written records of their advice for your reference.
- Written work required for submission during the first and second year must be completed for the award of Diploma to be made.
- Students must complete an attendance record of 80% in order to receive the Diploma.
- We do not grade our award and this is made on a pass or defer basis. If a student is unable to achieve the standard required he/she will be offered the chance to re-present a body of work for assessment at a later date at the discretion of the assessors.
- Where there are difficulties, due to personal circumstances or for health reasons, appropriate arrangements may be made with the Course Director, for instance to retake or defer part of the course.
- Heatherley’s Policy is to support the learning experience of all our students and enable those who are disadvantaged to benefit from the course wherever possible. Students should consult their Course Director where additional Learning Support is required and if their circumstances change.
After graduation students may wish to continue to have a connection with Heatherleys as they begin to establish their practice outside the school.
The Advanced Portraiture Course on Mondays caters specifically but not exclusively for Portrait Diploma graduates. The Open Studio makes portrait and life models available for further study and a tutor is always available. The Tutorial Support Scheme allows students to book two one-hour tutorials spread over one term with the tutor of their choice if that tutor is available. The Scheme allows a helpful dialogue to continue after graduation.
On receipt of your application form (obtainable from the website or office) we will invite you to an interview with the Course Director.
You are asked to bring with you examples of recent paintings, drawings and sketchbooks. Where it is necessary to interview by Skype, evidence of work should be mailed to the school or made available online.
While completion of an Art Foundation Course is desirable for the Diploma Course we encourage a wide range of student background and experience and recommend application from adult students of any age over 18 years who wish to develop their vocation in art practice.
Suitable applicants will receive an offer of a place after interview. You should confirm your acceptance of this offer in writing and by payment of a deposit of 10% of the first year’s fees, which will secure your place.
Throughout the course you will be helped to understand the nature of aesthetic decision making, how meaning and intention can be communicated to the viewer, how to present and express your own vision through the work and how to relate personal practice to social context and an art historical frame of reference.
Our graduate painters are equipped to make a wide variety of career choices. Many establish professional practice painting in their own studios, taking private portrait commissions, exhibiting in galleries in London and throughout Britain and internationally, winning competitions and awards.
Our graduates have been accepted for further study at a number of Degree and Master of Arts courses in renowned universities including the Slade School of Fine Art, Glasgow School of Art and the City and Guilds of London Art School. They have completed additional training required to practice in Art Therapy and have gained teaching posts in Adult Education. Our graduates have also created painting courses and artist residency schemes here and abroad.
We are proud that Heatherleys alumni may be found making and exhibiting painting, inspiring others and using their skills throughout the world.
Throughout the course a lecture programme and talks by visiting artists will help you place your ideas within a context of historical and contemporary portraiture and figurative painting. Reference will also be made to the development of ideas in sculpture and printmaking.
In each year you will be asked to write an essay of 1500 words, which is an essential requirement to qualify for the Diploma at the end of the course. You will be asked to reflect upon the nature of your own practice by making reference to the work of other artists whose work you consider to have relevance to your ideas.
In addition to your work in the studio you will be given guidance and advice on establishing your professional practice. As well as talks by visiting professional artists, there will be talks about online promotion and building a website. An ability to discuss your work will be encouraged and supported. Advice on writing an artist’s statement and curriculum vitae and choosing a portfolio is always available from the Course Director and the Academic Staff. These skills may be used to make applications to postgraduate courses, to enter competitions and to apply for scholarships.
Heatherleys has always considered the discipline of drawing to be an integral part of an artist’s development. We will help you to progress skills which are necessary for the gathering of objective information and imaginative generation of ideas. Objective analysis allied to an experimental and explorative approach will help you find the personal language you need to visualise your ideas. We provide the encouragement and support of weekly life drawing sessions for all our Portrait Diploma students who will also find that drawing is an active ingredient in most project work.
A pattern of regular tutorials with your personal tutor will provide pastoral care and learning support with the opportunity for informal self-assessment. Two tutorials will be arranged each term.
The Portrait Diploma occupies two large studios with plentiful natural light. Easels, studio furnishings, storage and cleaning facilities for oil paint are provided. Students should provide their own equipment and materials for painting.
There is a fully equipped Print Studio for printing projects. Your project tutor and a printmaking technician will guide you in the use of these facilities. You will also have access to the Print Studio one evening a week to pursue individual projects with a print tutor.
Students on the Portrait Diploma come to Heatherleys from a wide range of backgrounds and we welcome their prior experience as an enriching element of the course. They are looking for an intensive programme of study which will prepare them for professional practice as figurative painters, portrait painters and related careers and occupations.