Work by West Dean MFA alumni Cherie Lubbock

MA Visual Arts 2006 - 2007

Karen Gardner


What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?

I took the concept from one of my tutors at West Dean, Gary Woodley from the Slade School of Fine Art to generate art in the local community. So in 2016 I gathered together the artists, writers, musicians, poets and anyone who had an interest in any of the art forms in our community for a solid week of community-led festival. It was a tour around our village where we had work that was installed, a writing workshop to join, or a musical performance happening. And there were so many spin offs from it – a band and a cinema were both created and there were art groups and writing groups that are still going on now. I am no longer involved in all of it, but it was stimulating and I really believe it broadened the value of our community.

Talk us through your path since graduating.

Immediately after graduating with honours, I was invited back to the College by Ed Winters who was the Visual Arts programme lead. I started tutoring at West Dean as a visiting tutor to postgraduates. I did this for a couple of years which was a wonderful experience. After finishing at West Dean, I started looking for models in the Tunbridge Wells area, left a message for my local adult education centre who called me back and said ‘we understand you would like to tutor life drawing!’ So I said ‘OK, I’ll do it!’

I love tutoring life drawing, using a load of life drawing experience at a number of different colleges in the States and the UK.

I did that for 5 years and had a couple of shows collaborating with other artists in London, nothing huge or special but just the practice of showing. I also have had shows within my own community and I stayed engaged with the community as a volunteer, basically giving my time back and running some courses in our village.

Then I started tutoring art history at the adult education centre and that was so valuable. It was incredible how much I learnt due to the huge amount of preparation needed in order to give a 2-hour lecture. And my practice improved so much from the research I was doing, which I did for 3 years.

I’ve done some artist residencies which have been really valuable in the States and in France.

Having spent time teaching and facilitating, I’m now turning to my own practice with focus.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently here at West Dean on a Japanese woodblock printing short course. So, my intention is to continue with block printing, taking the knowledge and resources that I gained from this excellent short course and see where it goes. Who knows? I may apply this 2-D practice into a sculptural form.

Do you have any tips for recent graduates?

Talk to the technicians at the College, find out how to prepare a work table surface for working on and where to source equipment. The conditions at West Dean are just perfect so if you can simulate those conditions it will help you transition more quickly.

How do you think studying at West Dean helped prepare you for what you do now?

We were so fortunate, especially in those early years. We had tutors from the Slade School of Fine Art come down and I was one of only two sculpting students, so I had access to a Slade tutor for almost the whole day. That was just phenomenal, so it was very fortunate timing on my part. Being with the other students helped me to recognise what it was like to share space, deal with other people’s activities and be collaborative.

What’s your favourite memory of your time at the College.

We had to make our own entertainment at the College due to the nature of our location. There were a number of Americans at West Dean during my time here and we celebrated Cinco deMayo where we made a gigantic piñata. The students on the sculpture course would make the figure and it would then go to the painting students to decorate. We would then invite everyone to come along and have a swing at it!

And then there was Film Night – it was a simple night where we ordered a film and then raffled it off at the end which then paid for it.

Inviting people to our studio space to share what was going on, like having a practice show or informing an audience, and those kinds of events tended to become a cocktail party! That was what kept the place so vibrant across disciplines.

Did you receive any form of funding to study at West Dean?

I received funding – as an American there were grants at the time and I was fortunate as I applied and received funding from the Edward James Foundation. I tried to get some other funding too. I’d recommend this is something that recent graduates can look into as there are grants for the arts and it’s difficult to complete the forms, but do it as you can receive a good chunk of change that can make a difference between having a project happen or not.

Did you have a different career before coming to West Dean?

I’ve always had 2 career paths – management information systems and art.

Working in IT helped me pay for my art College and working as an artist helped pay for me to go to the Old Dominion University, Virginia.

I’ve always been able to use technical aspects like voice recognition text projection in my work. There’s more about that in my paper available to read in the library at West Dean.


Find out more about fine art study here.

West Dean School of Arts Credit-Thom Atkinson

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