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Ella Kearvell — My time at AUB has been both inspiring and challenging in equal measure


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  • Performance Design and Film Costume


Over the past two years, my time at AUB has been both inspiring and challenging in equal measure, mostly due to the unprecedented events of 2020.

From a dramatic change to online learning, we have all had to get used to a virtual classroom. When your course is mainly practical teaching, this makes a huge difference. With classes taking place online, we have been encouraged to work digitally when producing and uploading documents for projects, whether this be scanning analogue work, or working digitally on apps such as Photoshop or Procreate.

My first unit of year two involved designing costumes and sets for The Magic Flute, where we could put our own twist on the original 17th century opera. My initial research for The Magic Flute began with a thorough read of the script. Printing it out at home, I highlighted and underlined important scene breaks and characters throughout the opera. Looking back now, that paper script was the only item I printed out in this project, unlike many units before it.

The thought of working completely digitally a few months ago scared me. I firmly believed that analogue art was not only better, but harder to produce than digital art, taking more time and skill. However, I decided to keep this unit online based for several reasons: firstly, to try and think more sustainably as an artist. Often, I find myself gathering a book full of pages that I have generated over a project, some of which have had very little relevance to my actual work. Secondly, as a way of collating my ideas more effectively - drawings, font and photos could be assembled on a page in half the time. I was able to spend more time on my actual designs and creative thinking, than on worrying about printing off hundreds of pages, and making them look presentable. Over the years of working with sketchbooks, especially in a school and work environment, I have found that the layout of a page is often one of the trickiest parts and can really stump you with the need to create an ‘aesthetic’. It would also feel so strange to create a beautiful, 3D sketchbook, and then scan all the pages into a digital, 2D format.

I wanted to expand my understanding on the subject, and began this project digitally, which takes me to my third reason. I recently bought myself an iPad, and with it the digital drawing app Procreate. Over lockdown, practising drawing and painting has been really enjoyable – digital drawing offers amazing precision, and requires just as much effort and skill as analogue drawing. In order to develop my skills throughout this unit, I designed all my sets and costumes in Procreate, which I’ve found both incredibly rewarding and challenging. But as we move into an increasingly digitised world, I feel as though I am learning an essential skill set.

This has been a great unit to help reinvigorate my thinking and awareness of digital art and technology-based communication. It has been a refreshing change to my usual creative approach and has also been an essential tool for engaging with art practitioners outside the university, as well as inspiring alumni from AUB.

When I started at AUB, I had very little understanding of digital artwork. Although COVID-19 has been a massive disruption to everyone’s learning and education, I feel as though this shift to online teaching has opened up so many doors to a new digitised world in the arts. Engaging Zoom lectures with past AUB students and teachers have been really inspiring. It highlights a community of artists who are still as capable and enthusiastic to create and share work as ever, even through these difficult and exceptional times.

Something to think about

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