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Our Journal

Supporting young artists with Martha Pengelly

19-year-old BA (Hons) Illustration student Martha Pengelly, after attending Young Arts clubs at Plymouth College of Art from the age of four, has come full circle and is now supporting Young Arts students as part of her role as a Student Ambassador, alongside her degree.

First-year BA (Hons) Illustration student Martha Pengelly has come full circle in her relationship with staff and students at Plymouth College of Art - after first visiting for our Young Arts clubs as a child nearly fifteen years ago, Martha now studies here full time and helps out as a Student Ambassador, supporting the next generation of artists to attend Young Arts.

We sat down with Martha to find out more about her journey, why she chose Pre-Degree study instead of staying at school for A-Levels and what the Students’ Union has offered to help her relax alongside her studies.

Martha Pengelly Photo by PCA student Georgia Eason

Martha Pengelly - Photo credit: Plymouth College of Art BA (Hons) Commercial Photography student Georgia Eason

What are your earliest memories of Plymouth College of Art?

“I’ve been coming here for as long as I can remember, since I was old enough to attend the different kinds of Young Arts clubs that were running at the time. I’ve always been interested in art and I absolutely loved coming into the college, it was great.”

“The college gave me opportunities to try things that I wouldn’t have done at home, from printmaking and ceramics to things like photography. I was drawing regularly, but there were resources and equipment in Plymouth College of Art that I had no access to at home. Here I could practice and learn new skills. I really appreciated that. I actually attended Young Arts and Saturday Arts activities here off and on until I was 15 years old.”

Why did you choose Pre-Degree study with us?

“Alongside Young Arts, I went to secondary school nearby in Plympton. I loved art and did pursue it at GCSE level, but the problem was that I never really enjoyed being at school, so my enjoyment was overshadowed by all the elements of school that I didn’t like. For me, school meant having to do things that I didn’t want to do, every day. I had no interest in a lot of the lessons there.”

“I thought about staying on at school to do A-Levels, which feels like what you’re supposed to do, but I knew that studying art was the only part I would feel genuinely motivated to do. Because I already knew about the sorts of things on offer at Plymouth College of Art, making the decision to study a Pre-Degree qualification in Palace Court felt like the natural choice to make. It really felt like an opportunity to do something that I actually cared about.”

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What was your specialism?

“The qualification that I chose was a UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma in Creative Practice: Graphics, Illustration & Game Arts, because I’ve always been passionate about drawing and painting. I love comics, I love video games and I love to draw, so it felt like the right choice. When I applied I thought that I would focus on digital art, but since then I’ve moved more towards painting.”

“Studying in Palace Court was great, I absolutely loved it. It was such a big change from school, I cared about working hard a lot more than I had done and really enjoyed every day.”

“I had thought for a long time that I’d eventually go into studying BA (Hons) Animation & Game Arts, but my experiences in Palace Court led me more towards BA (Hons) Illustration. Having that time to dedicate towards my creative practice before choosing a university degree gave me a much clearer idea about what I want to do in the future.”

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Was there a time when you weren’t attending Plymouth College of Art?

“Yeah, when the pandemic began, I felt like I wasn’t ready to go to university. I wanted to give myself a little more time before I started and I’m so glad that I did, because after taking a year out of education and working in a supermarket, I couldn’t wait to get started! After my positive experiences here, I knew that I wanted to study for my degree at Plymouth College of Art.”

“I’m in the first year of my Illustration degree now and I’m enjoying it so much. There’s a lot of work involved but because I’m doing what I want to do, it doesn’t feel like work. I’m having so much fun. One of the projects that we’ve completed was creating paintings for a story about Dartmoor myths and legends, which I enjoyed. I’m also looking forward to one of our next projects, where we’ll be collaborating with students from other specialisms, which should be a new and interesting experience to take me outside of my comfort zone.”

How did you come full circle and end up back at Young Arts?

“One of the most exciting opportunities that I’ve taken advantage of as an undergraduate student was signing up to act as a paid Student Ambassador, which gives me a chance to earn money around my studies and give something back to the college. As a Student Ambassador I’ve been helping out on Saturday Arts sessions for school-age young people, which is weird but amazing. Every now and then it hits me that I was attending these sessions when I was their age and now I get to help run them.”

“So far I’ve helped out while participants have done screenprinting and ceramics. I love it. Knowing how happy it made me when I was their age and knowing that attending Young Arts might help them to discover what they want to do when they’re older, I love being able to support that.”

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How are you finding the first year of your Illustration degree?

“Life at Plymouth College of Art is really good. Although my family still live in Plympton, I made the decision to move into student accommodation in the Old Dairy, just across the road from our main campus. It means that I don’t have to get the bus and I can be totally immersed in university life. Even when I’m not timetabled to be on campus, I can walk across the road and work in the studios.”

“I’ve met so many new people since starting my degree course. I’m friends with lots of people in my class and all of my flatmates. All but one of the students in my flat are also Plymouth College of Art students and they’re all on different courses, from photography and costume design to painting, drawing and printmaking and the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design. It’s a great mix.”

“The Students’ Union has also been really helpful. Through them I’ve joined the PCA Zine Society. We meet most Mondays. I find it really relaxing to sit down and draw and meet new people every week. I’m so happy that I chose Plymouth College of Art for my degree.”