Programme: Fine Art - MA

Year: 2005

Rosamund West is Editor-in-Chief of cultural magazine The Skinny. She studied Fine Art - MA, and has worked at Inverleith House art gallery and The Scotsman newspaper.

Tell us about your time at Edinburgh College of Art

I came to Edinburgh College of Art [ECA] on an open day and it instantly felt like home. Two of my teachers at school had been there and had a real love for the place that they somehow instilled in us. One of them had done what was to be my degree, the Fine Art - MA joint, and the other had graduated in Sculpture, which became my specialism, so they were pretty influential!

It was tough to get into, and a tough course to study. We were basically doing two programmes simultaneously, and looking enviously at our studio mates in Sculpture as they seemed to spend endless days experimenting while we had to trudge off to lectures every day. I think it was worth it, though. The balancing of schedules and meeting the same assessment demands of students who were full time in either programme was a real training. I attribute a lot of my ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously to the timetabling of uni.

I think the crit-based learning, while quite daunting at the time, actually creates an ability to collaborate that no other learning does. I can tell the difference between people in my team who have been to art school and those who haven’t because they can easily switch off their egos and work with others to finesse something that’s maybe not quite there yet.

Generally, I had an amazing time at ECA. Most of my strongest friendships were formed there and that peer group has influenced most of the things that have happened in my life personally and professionally.

Tell us about your experiences since leaving Edinburgh College of Art

The first year after graduating was very hard, suddenly being without a clear route to creative expression. I was writing for The Skinny, where I am now Editor-in-Chief, but that was only a monthly thing at the time. I did an internship at MAP magazine which was fascinating but wasn’t going to lead to a job. I worked as a waitress and on a switchboard in a law firm.

After a year, I went travelling. I lived in the rainforest in Ecuador for 6 weeks, travelled the west coast of South America,  worked in an 80s bar in New Zealand, and then travelled around India and Nepal. It was an opportunity to learn a world of weird and wonderful things, and experiment with writing and drawing.

I came back to face up to real life and worked in Inverleith House art gallery and then the Scotsman as an online journalist. I also became Art Editor at The Skinny, then Chief Subeditor (due to my extreme pedantry). The Scotsman was a fascinating insight into working in a newsroom that I was in no way qualified for, but quick to learn. Doing the football blog on a Saturday is an experience I am in no way keen to repeat, though.

Covers of The Skinny magazine where Ros is Editor-in-Chief
Image courtesy of Ros West
Past covers of The Skinny magazine

"I think the crit-based learning, while quite daunting at the time, actually creates an ability to collaborate that no other learning does. I can tell the difference between people in my team who have been to art school and those who haven’t because they can easily switch off their egos and work with others to finesse something that’s maybe not quite there yet."

Ros West, 2005 Fine Art - MA alumna

When the editor job came up at The Skinny I applied and got it. The Skinny is a publication which launched in Edinburgh and Glasgow shortly after I graduated, founded by a group of volunteers including several ECA graduates. It’s since expanded to the North of England, and celebrated its 10th birthday two years ago. I have been working here, building the publication, and expanding its reach and hopefully the level of respect in which it is held.

I’ve also run quite a few exhibitions through the magazine, the latest of which was an Edinburgh Art Festival series presenting graduate artists. I’ve been running the Showcase section of the magazine since 2008. It offers a platform to early career and graduate artists, with a double-page spread of their work in the centre of each edition. We’ve built up a pretty decent spread of notable artists who’ve had their first coverage in those pages, people like ECA alumni Rachel Maclean and Kevin Harman.

Alumni wisdom

Make sure you’re good at writing, because you can’t fake it. Be prepared to spend your 20s (and beyond) working way beyond the 9-5. Understand that you will have to juggle multiple jobs to support yourself while you hone your skills and gain experience. Embrace every experience that comes your way because you never know when it will come in useful – sometimes I find myself thinking ‘I learned that in the 80s bar.’


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