Name: Cheryl Field
University and degree: Glasgow School of Art, BA (Hons) Fine Art – Sculpture & Environmental Art
Title: Self-employed artist
What do you actually do?
I make kinetic sculptures in my studio that are then exhibited and hopefully sold. At the heart of my work lies a fascination with human biology; our physiology, neurology, and psychology. I’m in the very earliest stages of my career as an artist, so in order to get more experience and to supplement my somewhat meagre income, I also work part-time as an assistant to an artist who is already successful and well established in the same field of work.
Were you always interested in Fine Arts as a career?
I’ve always had a passion for the visual arts, but my route into this field has been a long and winding one. I initially studied for a BSc in Molecular Biology at Edinburgh University, which I followed with four years as a researcher in an Immunology Lab at Imperial College. I then became a management consultant with Accenture – one of the world’s largest technology consultancies. But there was always something missing, and in essence that ‘something’ was art-shaped. In 2002 I finally quit my job and applied to The Glasgow School of Art to study for a BA (Hons) in Fine Art – Sculpture & Environmental Art. I think I was always vaguely aware that there were people out there called ‘artists’. But I don’t think I considered visual art as a career possibility until I met some arts practitioners; being a management consultant brought me into contact with professional filmmakers and graphic artists who were all managing to have careers in the creative sector.
Would you undertake further study in order to advance your career?
I loved studying for my BA (Hons) at GSA and I would consider studying for an MFA if I thought it might give me a deeper understanding of my practice and lead to more opportunities (such as exhibitions / residences / commissions etc.). But right now I am satisfied with my career without returning to higher education.
What do you like most about what you do and are there any downsides?
I think the best thing about this job is it is exactly what I make it and I engage both my brain and my hands on a daily basis. It can be a real financial and emotional struggle. From the financial perspective I’m thrilled to have recently received a Visual Arts – Creative and Professional Development Grant from The Scottish Arts Council. That will go a long way towards the rental of my studio, buying materials, and all the administrative costs associated with sending off proposals and applications. I know I’ve chosen a career that doesn’t present much long-term stability, but I think that’s an acceptable pay-off for doing something that I absolutely adore.
What skills do you think you need to succeed in this sector?
Above all you need to be creative. You’ll need the appropriate practical skills specific to your field and pragmatism, determination, patience, and good written and verbal communication skills are vital too.