The Fine Art course taught me how to work and operate self-sufficiently
Alumni spotlight | Kayleigh Smyth – Fine Art BA (Hons), 2019
As a freelance virtual reality (VR) artist and illustrator I create bespoke, hand-painted environments in VR for a variety of immersive experiences and purposes, such as music videos, concept art, 360 videos, launch campaigns and advertisements. I have created VR art for the likes of the Royal Opera House, Sony and Audi.
- Course: Fine Art BA (Hons)
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you've been doing since you graduated
Towards the end of my third year, I had made a few contacts who were interested in commissioning me for both conventional digital illustration and VR endeavours. My initial introduction to self-employment started with my commissioned digital illustrations for published author, Elizabeth Lindsay. Since then, I have developed a more VR-based portfolio, creating VR art for clients such as the Royal Opera House, Sony Entertainment and Audi. Alongside my commissions I enjoy creating my own music videos for my covers, which I upload to my YouTube channel, ‘Kayleigh Eliza’.
I have been using this platform to expand my audience and demonstrate ways in which VR programs can be used to create engaging experiences for online, 2D material. I also like to participate in podcasts and interviews online to talk about my work because it is so niche and uncharted still, as I love to share my experiences and possibly inspire more people to try VR if they get the opportunity.
What have been the highlights and challenges of your career so far?
In the early days of my self-employment as a VR artist, there was a period of uncertainty and a lack of confidence surrounding my practice, which only increased when networking and events had to stop due to Covid-19. It meant I had to take a new approach to connecting with people for collaborations and commissions, and get used to meeting people via video calls, which would become the basis for all my collaborations and commissions for the following year. However, thanks to some very supportive contacts (especially Co-op Innovations in Leeds!) I was able to be given the opportunity to work with the Royal Opera House remotely, for whom I created a spiral-formed environment they used for a 360 video and Trap-Opera experience ‘Munkination’. This was my first ‘big’ commission, and this work led me to other exciting projects that followed. Especially since we created the entire work during the first lockdown, it was definitely a proud moment of my VR art journey so far!
How has your experience studying at Leeds Beckett influenced you and your career?
My experience of the Fine Art course taught me how to work and operate self-sufficiently, due to the nature of the course being heavily independent. This suited my transition to self-employment and working as a freelance artist which is also very self-regulated and autonomous. Discussion of plagiarism also made me aware of my work and the significance of originality, as the course often questioned the integrity and purpose of your practice.
What advice would you give someone thinking about studying this course?
There is no straightforward answer for ‘what is fine art?’, which in theory should mean that there are no boundaries. But that does not mean if you try to push the boundaries no one will question and challenge you and your work. Always strive for success if you believe in what you do and do not give up until you have made the thing that you envisioned to make. Someone will recognise and support it if you’re passionate about it.
What's next for you?
I would love to continue to grow my YouTube channel and social platforms, to create more of an awareness of my work. Future projects in the works include potential theatre productions, an application in which people can access my VR worlds and listen to my music inside them, and participating in more virtual podcasts and events. Naturally, after creating concept art for immersive productions, I would love to try art-directing an experience, perhaps even outside of VR, where I can hold the reins and create the brief, as that is where my true passion lies – creating fantastical environments.