We know the path to success doesn’t always go smoothly, so we asked our lecturers about the ups and downs on their path to the University of Brighton. Today it’s Phil Tyler who runs our fine art printmaking degree and says that as a boy he was told “get a trade and a proper job” but the school art room and inspiring teachers meant art college was where he found his solace.
Hi Phil. So, tell us, what were you like at school? Were you a diligent pupil?
“I was largely ignored at school, was a bit or an outsider, out of kilter with the rest of my peers. I was never particularly academic, found sports very difficult and was bullied all the time.
‘The art room became my place of escape, where I could gain confidence in myself and where my talents were first recognised’
“The art room became my place of escape, where I could gain confidence in myself and where my talents were first recognised, by two art teachers who I still remain in contact with. They changed my life and showed me an alternative world to the one I grew up in East London.”
Why did you decide to go to university?
“It was an opportunity to change my life, to get away from my home and to find myself.”
Above: Swimming Pool by Phil Tyler
How did you decide which subject to study?
“My foundation tutors gave me a list. I visited all of the London art schools but knew that I wanted to move away from home. I visited Cardiff, Newport, Leicester, Nottingham and Loughborough. When I walked into the studios in Loughborough I felt at home.”
‘I visited all of the London art schools but knew that I wanted to move away from home’
What did you do after graduation and why did you choose that path?
“I worked 60 hours a week doing three jobs: working as a barman, a voluntary art teacher and I was a slide librarian. My first job as a slide librarian was to label three filing cabinets full of unnamed slides. It took me two years to label 8,000 slides, and I did that by looking at every single book in the art school library.”
Above: Phil Tyler in the Sky Portrait Artist of the Year competition
At what point did you decide that you wanted to teach others?
“Growing up in East London I was constantly told that I should get a trade and a proper job. My dad wanted me to be an electrician like my brother. My art teachers at secondary school made me realise that being an art teacher also paid well (at the time) so I always thought that was my career path. I was accepted onto a teacher training course after my degree but decided at that time that I should try to be an artist.
‘Growing up in East London I was constantly told that I should get a trade and a proper job. My dad wanted me to be an electrician like my brother’
“When I was accepted onto my MA course in Brighton in the late 80s I wrote 100 letters to art schools asking for work, listing my skills. Out of the 100 letters I had one interview which became my first paid teaching job at Richmond-upon-Thames college. I have taught full time since 1990 but have still maintained a career as an artist.”