Star Students

One of my last cultural outings before the lockdown was the opening of the Royal British Artists annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. It is always a moment of great pride for our team and Societies to visit our room in the exhibition: a space with paintings and sculptures from aspiring young artists, identified and entered in our Star Students competition by local Arts Societies from all over the UK and abroad. The competition, now in its 10th year and run in partnership with the RBA, relies on the fantastic work of our volunteers and teachers. Above all, it showcases the fantastic amount of creative talent and vision among young people who express themselves through their art.


This year 41 artworks were chosen from over 200 entries. The works were shown at the Mall Galleries and from there moved on to be hung at the Royal Over-Seas League - where, sadly, they are now on display without being seen by the public. So we wanted to change that on our Connected Site Gallery. I hope you enjoy this fantastic display of artistic talent and passion.


Today’s post was written by one of our Star Students, Grace Stansall-Seiler, who was entered into the competition by The Arts Society East Herts:


Hi, my name is Grace and I am a young artist.

So a bit about myself and my work: I completed my A-levels last year, with Art being one of my three subjects. Within my projects, I explored themes of Nature and Fragmentation, taking a particular interest in Portraiture throughout. Following A-levels, I decided to pursue my passion for Art by enrolling on a yearlong Art Foundation Course at Hertford Regional College. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience and something I would definitely recommend to anyone who is interested in the field of Art but unsure of what next steps to take.


Grace with BBC Arts editor Will Gompertz at the opening of the exhibition earlier this year.

I was entered into the RBA competition by my Art A-level teacher and was aware that past students from my school had been successful in getting their work exhibited (including my older sister). However, I knew that the competition would be tough and therefore was delighted that my piece not only made the top 40 but also the top 21. My piece was a Succulent made up of multiple patterns of natural elements within the structure of the plant and acted as the final for my project entitled ‘Patterns in Nature’. I was inspired by the range of plants and foliage in the hot houses at Cambridge Botanical Gardens. The key message I was trying to convey was of the co-existing variety in nature and the ways in which it can be brought together to form a subtle and beautiful composition.



The curation of my work at the Mall Galleries and the ROSL Gallery was excellent and the venues held such sophistication that it really felt special to be a part of it all. Finding out that I was one of 2 awardees of the President’s Award was truly the cherry on top of an already bursting cake, especially having seen the very high standard of young artists! Another surprise was having the opportunity to meet Will Gompertz, the BBC’s Arts editor, who took an interest in my work and for that I was very flattered!


Having since been able to reflect on this fantastic experience, I am so grateful to my teacher for putting me forward and giving me this amazing opportunity. I am also very thankful to all the people involved in the organisation of the RBA/The Arts Society competition, who made all of this happen. As young artists, we don’t tend to get many opportunities for exposure, except through social media platforms and art accounts etc., and it is not always easy to put our work out there, especially with still being amateurs in the art world and lacking the necessary confidence. I personally felt a weird mixture of embarrassment and pride when strangers were discussing my work at the exhibition and then it occurred to me that the reason I felt this way was because I’d never heard an outsider’s opinion on my art before! This inspired me and provided me with motivation to create new work!


So now, as we enter into our 4th week of “lockdown”, I have been thinking about the ways of creating art during this time. I think many people will agree that “lockdown” is a difficult time for artists! You wouldn’t think it, because we spend most of our time cooped up in small spaces - often in our rooms or studios, in a little world of our own. Why would “lockdown” be any different to our day-to-day reality? I think the key differences lie in our sources of inspiration. I personally take my inspiration from galleries, people and new surroundings, opportunities that are clearly missing in “lockdown”; so it makes our lives a little bit more difficult, doesn’t it?

Presently, I am trying to produce work that is inspired by current affairs and other broader topics, such as culture and female expression, to keep myself going! Post “lockdown”, I hope to make up for lost time and explore all the galleries that I didn’t have a chance to see before, and to produce work that reflects on my time in quarantine, before hopefully going on to Birmingham University in September to read History of Art! I also hope, like everyone else, to see the people I have missed the most. If this time has done anything of significance, it has really made me value the people in my life and the need to be social and interact... face-to-face rather than over a screen!


Grace Stansall - Seiler


Art account: @graceworks_ (insta)




Thank you Grace for this post!


We will be sharing more about the Star Students competition and how our Societies help in fostering artistic talent and give young people a first taste of displaying art in public. Look out for articles, social media posts and a new competition for works created during the current social isolation.


This blog is composed by Florian Schweizer, CEO of The Arts Society, and made up of contributions by him and invited guest bloggers.