The Story | Patrick O’Mahony ‘My first week at the RCA’

My aim for this blog is to offer insight into the industry and also follow the journeys of the many creative students that supply the design world with new and innovative designs. I hope that it will allow someone, somewhere, to think a little differently and perhaps take a risk to do what they love.  I’ve wanted to get stuck in and follow someone’s complete journey so when my university friend / neighbour made it into the RCA this year I asked him if he wanted to document the process. Thankfully he agreed, so meet Patrick – the Irish illustrator and animator who’s worked pretty darn hard to get to where he is today. He even used our basement as his studio to complete his degree so actually I guess he owes me one. We’re He is gonna try and make this a regular thing but we’ll see how it goes. I’ll also be showcasing some of his work along the way. If you have any specific questions drop me an email but for now here is Patrick’s story so far….

“A couple of years ago, the idea of doing a Masters, let alone at the Royal College of Art was merely a dream in the distant future. I mean, three years ago graduating from the University Of East London seemed like a life time away, yet here I am with three years living in London behind me and two years at the RCA ahead.

What made me decide to study a masters you ask? The idea came from being inspired by many ex-RCA students coming to teach and talk to us during the final year of my BA at UEL. Each of them had made amazing short films and maintained a strong presence in the medium, whilst also giving us valuable advice on our own films. The likes of Sarah Beeby, Mikey Please and my own lecturer Will Bishop-Stephens, inspired the start of me wanting to go to the RCA. I wanted to follow in their footsteps whilst also developing my own skills to a more professional standard. 

As a late applicant (it took me a long time to finally build up the courage to submit my application) I finally heard back about an interview in early July. At first I wasn’t fazed – I was confident in my ability to proclaim my love for animation and talk about my own work. However, on leaving the interview I felt it was the end of the road. I can’t pinpoint why but something in my head told me I wasn’t ‘RCA’ enough (whatever that means). During the interview I had been told I would be notified within two weeks and after week three I began to re-think my entire life and what I would do next. A month later I received an offer email – cue punching the air in delight multiple times and then a serious realization of what enrolling at the RCA meant – a lot of hard work.

During the build up to my first day, I continued to ask myself more questions. Who would be on my course? What exactly would they be like? Will I ever learn the building layout? (It’s complicated. Trust me) What exactly would I be doing? Most of these questions were answered on the first day through intros, talks and tours although I still don’t know the layout I was lucky enough to meet people during this time who were also studying animation. I established quite early that these were people who were as passionate as I was about puppets, pencils and paper – phew! I won’t forget the amazing moment when everyone shared their past work and we all eagerly asked each other questions about how it was made and so on. For an institution with such a high reputation I felt the RCA had a great casual attitude and I was put at ease by the friendly, thoughtful lecturers and like-minded peers. 

The second day consisted of more welcome talks and an induction to the variety workshops. For each workshop, we could sign up for a two hour induction to be able to use them throughout the next two years but not signing up meant they were off-limits. To me, it seemed obvious to take part in all of these. I don’t know if I’ll need to create a life-size bust of my own head using a block of wood and a lazer but it’s better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it.

During the sessions we continued to tell everyone all about where we’ve come from and what we’ve done without spoiling the personal presentations we need to do next week – another chance to try and remember everyone’s name. After my classmates and I went to sit on the decking area between the two main buildings which is overlooked by the Royal Albert Hall. It should be noted that the first time I went to visit the RCA I did believe the Royal Albert Hall was the RCA and after declaring how fancy it looked I was told that I needed to go across the road to the smaller, greyer, less round building.

The final day of my first week consisted of a party along with the second years. I think this is when it hit me the most where I was and what I was doing. As all us newbies sat around a bench in the middle of everyone, feeling like we had completely gate crashed. I could hear talk of the ‘freshers’ and people saying ‘I’d hate to be where they are now’. I began to feel very young and out of my depth. According the RCA, the average age for people studying there is 27 and being only 23, I questioned whether going there straight out of university was a good idea. Nevertheless, I was quickly reassured by knowing there were other people my age on the course and all was well again.

It’s hard to know how the two years will go from my first weeks experience. With recent budget cuts to the school looming over the minds of some of the students along with the strong reputation the RCA has, conversations can seem a little negative. What started out as a hobby for me over nearly 10 years ago has now become a way of life and on my 7th year of studying animation (3 years in college, 3 years in uni and now two years at the RCA) I can’t help but hope that everything will work out. For the moment though, I’m just going to enjoy it all, remember that it’s what I make of it and that nothing will change the fact that I’m in this lucky little bunch who have been given a great opportunity!”

Stay tuned for more from Patrick on the RCA and follow him on twitter for regular updates: @RickpatArtpick

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