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The Graduates: Part 1

By The Drum, Administrator

August 19, 2002 | 9 min read

From top: Tommy Perman, Sheena Macrae and Claire Kissock.

Tommy Perman graduated with a degree in fine art, painting at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen.

Three years ago, at the end of my first year, I made the difficult decision to study Fine Art rather than design. For almost a year afterwards I was not convinced that I had made the right decision. My reason for choosing painting over visual communication was that I felt the Fine Art department would push me far harder. I was right. It seems to me that there is a lot more depth to the painting course, whereas there seems to be a certain level of complacency in the visual communication department. In my experience (although this is not always the case) Fine Art students tend to be more dedicated. They seem to get thoroughly absorbed in their work - a lot of design students seem to treat college as a part-time occupation.

I was keen to develop my drawing ability and three years of compulsory life drawing definitely helped. I also believed that Fine Art would offer me more freedom although it took me three years of persistence in order to get to do exactly what I wanted to do. I enjoy working in many disciplines and like to be able to use the appropriate media to suit each different idea. For the first two years both the vis com and painting courses set fairly strict briefs. In fourth year, painting becomes completely self-motivated while vis com students still have to produce some work for set briefs. In the painting department I was able to work in digital media, print, all types of painted media, film, photography, audio and music.

The contextual studies department added another important layer to the Fine Art courses. While design students also study art and design history and theory, there seems to be less emphasis placed on it. We were frequently encouraged to do a lot of reading and research to inform our work. This is a particularly good habit to get into for work in future professional practice. Overall, I think that studying Fine Art has given me a greater understanding of the visual arts than a design course could have. It has developed skills that can be applied to both Fine Art and design; composition sensibilities, colour theory, light and shade, and so on.

For the last couple of years I have been looking for some recognition to reassure me that I have indeed chosen the right direction. I have had a successful year that has really boosted my confidence in my work. First, winning a prize and selling my piece at the RSA exhibition (McLellan Galleries, Glasgow), then exhibiting one of my books in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, winning another prize at the Aberdeen Artist exhibition (Aberdeen Art Gallery) and being presented with a British Airways Student Travel Award for my degree show work.

I believe that a degree in Fine Art has given me a broad education and I am in a very fortunate position, being able to go into work in both the Fine Art and design worlds. (Something that I do not think could have been possible if I had chosen the visual communication course.) Since graduating, I have managed to get two solo exhibitions; one in Sumo, Sheffield (, in September and one next Summer in the Foyer Gallery, Aberdeen. I have also contributed a small painting, which was on display as part of the Beyond Conflict exhibition, coinciding with the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, and I have just registered my own domain name,, as a self-promotional tool.

Sheena Macrae graduated with a degree in Journalism at Napier University.

One of the most important things in journalism is to be inquisitive. OK, some may mistake it for nosiness, but if you manage to get a decent story at the end of it while offending as few people as possible it is a job well done.

I knew I wanted to be part of the media buzz as soon as I walked into the office of BBC Radio Scotland as an overly enthusiastic 16-year-old on a week’s work placement. It resulted in a job as a runner for The Brian Morton Show (formerly The Usual Suspects) for four years during the Edinburgh Festival. Valuable experience, despite what people say about runners.

It is a great wee window to the world of media luvvies. Not only did I get to star-spot but I also got to see shows completely free. Ahh, the wonderful world of the press pass.

Three summers ago, I did a two-week stint on the Dereham and Fakenham Times in Norfolk, where I got my first placement as a roving reporter. I went back the following year and managed to get a front page with a story about lottery funding for a nearby leisure centre.

The feeling when you see your by-line running alongside an article you have written, especially on the front page, is pure satisfaction. I want that feeling again. I want people to recognise my name in a paper.

The ability to write is only the start. You also need to be able to talk to people and, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am rarely short of things to say. It certainly acts as a good ice-breaker.

Studying journalism seemed the right thing to do. I was happy to take the risk, despite many working journalists believing that it is a skill that cannot be taught. I am glad I took that risk. Napier proved the only Scottish course of its kind and it also meant that I could save a few bob by staying at home. Graduating this Summer was one of my proudest moments.

The big question that everyone seems to be asking now is what am I going to do with my life? Am I staying in Edinburgh, do I want to do broadcast or print journalism? Am I going travelling round the globe to find myself before I start a career?

Writing is where I want to be, whether it is for a national or local newspaper. Of course, being a good writer is important, but knowing a few useful people does no-one any harm at all.

The Sunday Herald has taken me on as a researcher for the Edinburgh Festival, which is the perfect area for me to work.

The arts fascinate me and I think being in Scotland is important as everything is constantly changing. Product Magazine, a Scottish arts magazine, is re-launching in the Autumn and I am happy to say that I am a part of it. I like the title of editorial assistant. I think it suits me.

Claire Kissock graduated with a degree in International Business and Modern Languages at Strathclyde University.

In July I graduated from Strathclyde University with a degree in International Business and Modern Languages (IBML). The principal subjects of my degree were Marketing and German. I chose IBML to combine the study of foreign languages and business studies, with a variety of options available, allowing me to study a number of business subjects before having to select my principal subjects. Although I enjoyed the majority of the classes in the first two years, marketing soon became my main area of interest, mainly due to the diverse nature of the various classes and the wide choice of courses available.

I spent a year at Innsbruck University, Austria, where I attended a number of courses that I previously had not covered, in particular, marketing in service Organisations. The approach adopted at Innsbruck University was very different to that of Strathclyde, but it was nevertheless very enjoyable and interesting and provided a good preparation for some of the work in my Honours year.

In my final year I focused more specifically on international marketing, services and relationship marketing, and marketing communications. The dissertation was also a major (and at times stressful) task in my final year. My study looked at the development of relationship and internal marketing and whether the principles of internal marketing could be applied within a local Area Tourist Board. Conducting the primary research for my dissertation was one of the most enjoyable elements of the project as I had the opportunity to meet and interview a number of tourism officials and business people, often with varying and conflicting attitudes towards the importance of marketing in the Scottish tourism industry.

To gain some practical experience of marketing in a business environment, I secured temporary positions within two companies. First, I spent a month with a major wood panel products producer, which focused particularly on B2B marketing. Then I spent a week with a marketing agency, which gave me a much greater insight and understanding of the relationships between an agency and its clients. This allowed me to see how much of the theory I had previously learned was used in practice.

This experience, combined with my degree, led me to apply for a number of jobs in marketing during my final year. Like many of my friends, I applied for a number of jobs with no success. I was therefore lucky when my dissertation supervisor advised me of a potential opening at the Glasgow office of Harper Macleod, Solicitors. Having attended interviews with the marketing director and managing partner, I was offered a position in early June.

I only joined the firm three weeks ago but I am already learning a great deal about the role and importance of marketing within a professional organisation. Through attending meetings relating to the various Practice Groups and undertaking some work relating to the European Legal Alliance, I feel that I am gaining a greater understanding of all the elements of the firm.

There is no doubt that I still have a great deal to learn but I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience so far and I look forward to becoming more involved over the coming months.


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