Case study

my own

Richard Lapthorn is from a small, rural community where the idea of leaving is unfamiliar. He could have stayed and become a farmer or a mechanic. But Richard has broken the mould. He is an artist. His aim was always to create a new path for himself - and he has done just that.

Richard Lapthorn tells his student story

View Richard's story video transcript

Taking the leap

Richard is the first member of his family to go to university. He has made his parents, his family and friends very proud. But that is not his only leap into the unknown. Since arriving in Derby, he has found many new paths for himself.

He explains: "It was always my dream to leave town and travel. I wanted to break the norm."

Richard is a taker of opportunities. When our study abroad programme offered him the chance to study in Stuttgart, he took it. He spent five months there and learned German. 

When he had the chance to work away in Romania in a children's summer camp in his second year, he took it. And fell in love. And, together, he and his girlfriend, Shannon, are heading to Venice, this time through our partnership with the British Council. He says: "Shannon has been a huge support, we've been able to help one another, and we always have a friendly face if we're ever feeling lost and alone."

A Fine Art student working in his studio space
Richard Lapthorn working in his studio space

Changing direction

One of the things Richard loved about our BA (Hons) Fine Art course was that he was able to keep his options open and try different disciplines. When he first joined us, he was a sculptor. Now he is a painter.

That is not his only change of direction. His original intention when he first came to Derby was to become an Art teacher but university has widened his view. He explains: "Since being here, I have realised how many opportunities there are. It's surprised me. A career as an Art teacher can come later. I want to explore the world and take every opportunity. Be a free spirit, let life take me.

"I'm inspired by travel and the impact it has on art. I want to start travelling, do more 'work-aways', and try to make a piece of art at every place I work and leave my legacy everywhere I go.

"I'm proud that I pushed myself to come from something small and take every opportunity, to travel. It’s been a great experience. I've learned that there is always a way to do anything, you just have to find your way."

A Fine Art student's paint palette

A chance to grow

When Richard first came to Derby, like many new students, he was worried about leaving his family, having to speak to new people and find new friends, having to look after himself.

He says: "When I started, there were feelings of nervousness – it was exciting, but new and strange. But it felt great, because I had earned my place."

Now Richard has grown in confidence and become much more independent and self-motivated. He explains: "I was really introverted but I've pushed myself to be put in the firing line in order to learn. I'm still an introvert but I push past it. If I need to do something, I'll go out and do it.

"I feel much more comfortable in challenging or awkward situations. And learning a second language makes you look at things slightly differently. I taught myself and learned from friends. It makes you look at the world differently.

"I've learned that you have to put yourself first, put yourself forward – focus on exactly what you want to achieve and don’t be distracted by others."

The journey starts

Richard hadn't previously considered studying at Derby until he visited a recruitment event.  "I went to a UCAS Create Your Future exhibition and spoke to the Head of Arts on the Derby stand. We had a really great conversation about the intimacy of the group and the community, and that they take on only 30 students per year on the course. Then I went to interview and really loved it."

And that feeling of community was there waiting for him when he started his course. "I wanted to be surrounded by like-minded, creative people who I could collaborate with," he says. "Because of the smaller community, everyone knows everyone, which makes networking easy and opportunities easier to find.

"It's a nice environment, really friendly - and there is so much happening. But there is a difference in vibes across the different sites, which is really interesting and surprised me. I like to experience the different places.

"And, within Arts, there is a unique relationship with lecturers. There is always someone there to help, they respond quickly and always bring opportunities to the table."

Where the journey goes next ... who knows? But, as always, Richard will be ready to take his opportunity. 

"Coming to Derby has really made me focus on these opportunities. There are so many opportunities everywhere. You just have to look for them."