Did I give up on my dream of becoming an artist…or am I right where I need to be?

So here’s a little bit about me: My name is Kayleigh, I am 22 years old and I am only half way through my university degree. However before I can get to the good stuff I have to take you right back.

From a young age I always dreamt of being an artist. When I was in secondary school I lived and breathed art. Although I was very academic I only worked hard in other subjects (history & business) so that I could get the grades I needed to get into art school.

Long story short… my hard work paid off and my childhood dream came true. I was going to be an artist!

The calm before the storm 

In September 2016 I packed my bags and moved to the big city (Belfast). I was full of hopes and dreams; nothing was going to get in my way. Throughout my first semester my attitude changed. This course was not living up to my expectations, my dreams. I changed as a person. My parents noticed how unhappy and unenthusiastic I had become. This course was draining my passion for art from me day by day.

I have been told it takes real courage to change direction.









An Insight into Art School

One thing that you should know about studying art is that the meaning is more important than the execution. For example you could be amazing at art. You could draw the most perfect portrait, or paint the most beautiful painting the world has ever seen. But the question is… WHY did you draw that, what does it mean? 

It’s pretty…yes… but it doesn’t have a purpose or a story! (This is what they will tell you)

On the other hand someone could grab a ruler and draw a straight line. Perhaps they are feeling adventurous today and draw a square. But this is no ordinary square. Their square is the lines that define society.

My point is: It doesn’t matter how good the execution/final piece is, if there is no story or purpose to the art you will not get a good grade.

So is the creative idea more important than the execution if you want to become a successful artist?

*Come January 2017 I dropped out of my degree. I felt as though my world had ended but I couldn’t continue being this unhappy.

New Strategy

In September 2017 I started a new course: Communication, Advertising & Marketing at UU. To be honest I applied for this degree blindly. My dreams had been shattered. The future, unknown.

I was taught in school that marketing was a type of business degree that involved boring people in suits sitting in an office all day long reading reports etc. You would lead an extremely boring life…but hey you would be loaded!

How wrong was I? I was led down this path for a reason.

The re-invention of myself to date

I am now 4 months into my placement year at The Irish News. Every day I am faced with a new challenge or a new campaign. We create and pitch ideas. My ideas are actually listened to and taken on board. Once we establish that magic idea, we create a brief and send it to designers. We brief them on exactly what we would like the campaign to look like. From imagery, to colours to the overall design.

So am I the artist or is the designer who knows how to use photoshop?

I may not have created the final product…. BUT I was taught in art school that the final product is worthless if it doesn’t have a purpose/a story/a message.

It was drilled into me that I had a stupid dream because being an artist was like being a pop star, “you are never going to make it” “what will you do as a job”. There was a very slim chance that the world would see my art.


“Don’t give up on your dream because it is not going in the direction you want. There are different routes to the same destination. Stay focused and determined.”-  Janice Harris      


I took a different direction to achieving my dream. The dream I am now living.

I am no Picasso or Van Gogh but I guarantee that the majority of you reading this will have seen our artwork in the newspaper, online or perhaps on the side of a bus, you just don’t know it.



Being a marketer means that my art is seen by the world, it has a purpose, it has a message and it has made a difference.


So… has my dream changed or developed? -That’s up for debate.


Kayleigh Tinney is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, current doing a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on: Instagram – @Kayleightinney and LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayleigh-tinney-76b240161/.

What to expect when you’re expecting placement

Who knew that a placement with The Irish News could give you so much real responsibility? Not that I’m complaining I LOVED it and you will love it too when you start your placement.


You’ll find when choosing placements that it’s not about the salary it’s about the experience and which business/ organisation will stand by you when you graduate. For me all the workload and responsibility shaped me into the person I am today. I have developed and improved my skills and knowledge as well as learning new ones, impossible to learn from a text book or a lecture class.


So I figured why not share my insight with you!

I remember my first week like it was yesterday. The thoughts and fears that everything I learnt from my CAM degree over the past two years was not enough and that I was going to be an awful employee who could hardly spell their words right! WHO’S WORKING FOR A NEWSPAPER!! No pressure Shannon, no pressure!

But as the months went on and the previous placement students trained me I realised I can do this. I can organise myself, plan competitions, remember to email people and organise events, yes this is working!

I’ll skim over the fact that I let a few ads run with typos, because my boss had forgave me, so I forgave myself and without those errors I would have not experienced how to better myself and avoid future errors.

My words of wisdom to the new placements students this year; is to “make mistakes, realise what they are and learn from them. You’re not going on placement to be a perfect employee your there to learn.”

My advice about placement now: be yourself and be the best you can be.

Personally, I am a very sarcastic and outgoing individual who likes a bit of crack around the office to keep things interesting. I would often challenge peoples personalities and test the waters on how far their humour can go as humour is an excellent way to build genuine relationships with people in your office. Plus it makes it that bit easier getting up in the morning…


Be passionate!

Everything I do I love! I want to be the best that I can be. I believe “If they can do it then so can I! Challenge accepted!” There is nothing more an employer loves better than passion. If you’re keen to throw out your opinions and challenge their suggestions then your boss and colleagues are going to trust and value your opinion on the team.

challenge accepted

On another note my passion for food on my placement led me and my colleagues to assign food days to the week. In our office we had “Treat Tuesday” which always involved some bars, snacks or biscuits. “Wee bun Wednesday,” a day where we would go around all the local bakeries week to week in Belfast and try them out (delicious) and “Sausage bap Friday,” the day were I would go on our break to the local restaurant on the corner of Donegal Street and get sausage baps for our team each week. I can honestly say these assigned days for food really helped you get through the week and get excited for work the next day.

I highly recommend.

Which leads me on to…building relationships & Teamwork

Within The Irish News we had many different departments which all relied on each other at different times. Teamwork is essential. You need to build relationships with the guy downstairs who you may ever only see getting a coffee in the canteen because it could be his number your dialling next week to ask for a huge favour!

in girls

When you’re working in a small department you’ll realise you get close with your colleagues and teamwork is on top priority, especially with tight deadlines and large volumes of work.

Developing good relationship with external companies is also key as you need to build up a good rapport with the client and the PR companies you work with. It’s always easier to agree on terms and make changes with people when you have took the time to create an established relationship.

Stay organised!

My final word of advice is to stay organised. In the beginning of my placement one of my flaws was forgetting to write down my daily tasks and forward planning. Organisation is key to success! I think we’ve all heard that before, but it’s true. From writing a task down to planning an event or taking contact details it’s the small things on the organisation side of things that will trip you up.

From what I’ve learnt on placement my 5 top tips would be to:

  1. Try not to multitask
  2. Have a diary/ planner
  3. Write a list of your tasks for the day
  4. Make sure to take breaks (I recommend a lot of tea and buns)
  5. Make sure your desk is clean (Mess makes it impossible to find things – trust me I’ve been there)


But to sum up PLACEMENT IS AWESOME! It’s nothing like studying the theory at university. Its real and its happening and you are the person who is doing it! If you’re still considering whether to do a placement don’t consider one, just do it. The skills and people you meet in the short time your out will carry you more than any degree alone ever can! So go for it and if you’ve already done placement and agree ‘High five’.


Shannon Doyle is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @shannond_761 / Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-doyle-28b827109