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A conversation about the Drawing 2 course thumb

A conversation about the Drawing 2 course

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This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
Emma Drye (course author of drawing 2) in conversation with student Alison Churchill:
E:As the author of drawing two it’s great to be able to speak to one of the first students to go through the course. I tried to build a framework that allowed as much freedom as possible whilst also giving enough structure to aid momentum. The exercises foreground creativity, inventiveness and sensitivity, which I can imagine might put quite a bit of pressure on. Have you found the course is supportive enough to enable you to explore those sides of your thinking?
A: I think I’m only just beginning to realise what potential there is in the course to develop these aspects!  You can really take it as far as you can.  It’s a real step on from Drawing 1.photo (2)
On the surface the course looks relatively straightforward.  Part 1 is called “exploring composition” and has 4 projects: 1) observational drawing, 2) using space, 3) changing the scale, and 4) the human form.
I thought I more or less knew what composition was, for example — all to do with where you placed things, which angle you draw them from, what to include and what to leave out, etc.   The cup to the right, or the cup to the left perhaps….?
The instructions are clearly and simply laid out.  In fact it’s deceptively simple!  The learning is experiential.  By doing Project 1 I learned to look for design, relationships and how pattern is repeated.  That choice means being selective and focussed.  You include things for a reason.  And by so do doing there is greater attention and care to what you yourself have chosen.  You learn to look more carefully.
In Project 2, I learned to be aware of the relationship between forms, and the energy between the edges of the objects and the edges of the paper, or the world you are creating.   I learned how the energy explodes outwards when you put a small drawing onto a larger piece of paper and expand the lines into the new, large space.
In project 3 I experienced how it feels different working at different scales.  When drawing small, there is a sense of intimacy and care towards the object being drawn, and when drawing large — A1 or A0 — there is an exhilarating sense of freedom and expansiveness.  I chose a garlic bulb to draw inspired by Ayla Morten’s superbulb.  First of all I drew it actual size, then expanded it to A2 and then to A1, by which time it had stopped being a garlic bulb and had turned into a mountainous landscape! I then took the scale right back down again, by photographing and transferring the image into a sketchbook using Image Maker and extending beyond the edges to create different imaginary landscapes.  Again, very exciting.
I could go on — that’s only the first 3 projects of Part 1 of a 5 part course!
So it’s not so much about drawing different types of objects, but experiential learning of the  fundamental principles or laws of drawing.
I now realise, after my tutor feedback, that I could have gone a lot further with each project….. Instead of doing two or three drawings for each project I should have really pushed through to create a whole series to really get the most benefit out of the course.
E: That is very interesting. That was certainly my main concern as I was writing the course, and of course is cropping up again as we finish off the new level 3 courses. I think the exercises and projects are like a ramp, or maybe even a gangplank. If you casually toddle up the ramp you will just fall off the end, but if you really run at it you might fly. I can see that you have gone for it here though and the work looks fantastic. Another concern I had was that some students would balk at the constant pressure to be creative and inventive and perhaps worry that that meant they had to be revolutionary or make work that didn’t feel like their own. It is important to push out of your comfort zone on an undergraduate course but I did try to remind students not to lose sight of themselves. Maybe it would be a good idea for students to re read the course intro before each chapter. Do you think that the course allows for personal development so that those students who want to make more traditional drawings can still develop that using these exercises?
A:  Yes, I’m sure you can.  Some of them are a bit “wacky”, such as the automatic drawing project where you get a moving object to make the marks for you, or the one where you go out and do a kind of “Andy Goldsworthy” in the environment!  But in most cases the instructions are quite straightforward.  For example, when I did the series of garlic bulbs/landscapes, the instructions were simply to draw a cluster of small objects, focus on a cropped area and then make a larger drawing which gives the impression of a landscape view or architectural detail.  If you are doing it for personal development you can focus on those projects which help you go in the direction you want to go in.
E:  I think there is certainly scope for all students to do extra work for those projects that really grab them. Thanks again Alison, I love the garlic bulb waterfall in your sketchbook!

Posted by author: Emma Drye
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15 thoughts on “A conversation about the Drawing 2 course

  • Hi Emma and Alison. Thanks for sharing your experiences of this new course. If I wasn’t already finished at level 2 I’d be wanting to enrol!!
    There’s been some discussion on one of the student pages about how prescriptive the LEVEL ONE drawing course feels to some students. Some folks are finding the exercises seem to lead them to less exciting finished pieces.
    As quite a few students seem to feel this, I wondered if you had any advice?
    Would you have any thoughts about how to approach that course to get the most from it?
    Is the expectation that the final pieces must be realist, or are the assessors looking for creative expression?
    Do student have to stick to the subject matter in all projects, or can they follow their passion?
    Any advice on how to loosen up, or how to make the projects more personally exciting?
    Many thanks

  • This is an interesting question which is hard to answer in a general way.
    To answer your question about whether the expectation is that the final piece must be realist or whether the assessor is looking for creative expression for example – the two are not at all mutually exclusive. We are looking for evidence that a person has made a genuine enquiry into the nature of the subject and the materials they are using.
    Looking at materials; throughout drawing 1 the course extols students to explore their materials and open up to be as experimental as possible with how they might use the various drawing media. Despite this though, I find many students have a wee go at experimentation in their sketchbook, scribbling in squares or whatever, but then pack that away and don’t bring it in to their work in a more meaningful way.
    Looking at subject; no assessors will not penalise you for drawing a lobster on a plate instead of a fish on a plate (although actually fish on a plate always works well for students for some reason) or going to a stately home to draw quick sketches around the house. The subjects at level 1 have been chosen to be manageable but students who can take on more or who feel they would like to explore a certain subject are free to do that, both in their sketchbooks and in their assignment pieces. Drawing 1 has subject matter ranging from landscape, townscape, still life, figures and animals. Within that it should be possible to make art work on any subject of your choosing I would have thought. Certainly we regularly see exciting and inventive use of subject matter from high achieving students at level 1.
    The OCA degree course is open access and as such we get students in with a wide array of experience. For every student who might be pushing for more, there will be 10 who are scared witless and more again having the time of their lives. Level 1 is definitely about building core skills which is mainly about training your self to look differently (often much harder) at things around you. It is also about experimentation and invention and exploring what for some might be very new ideas. At this level the development of a personal voice is not stressed in the assessment criteria, but it is certainly not discouraged.
    I think your tutor would be able to guide you in each instance as to what would work best for you. It is key to build up awareness of tone, line, visual relationships, form etc and close observational work gets this done. However, if you have come on to the course with a high degree of technical ability for example, your tutor will be able to help you develop from the point you are at. I find the really good students tend to go beyond the brief when an idea clicks with them – no-one is going to penalise you for going further and pushing the brief if you have ticked all the boxes on your way through.
    In answer to your question about making the projects more exciting I would say your own creativity and invention is key here, but also your corresponding contextual study and how it feeds into your practice. Another common occurrence at level 1 is students looking at art and making really sensitive comments in their log but then struggling to find a way to use what they are clearly capable of recognising in the work of others in their own work. Artists past and present can provide great ideas for different approaches to subject matter. The conclusion of a project should be the point where you feel you were most successful. Your tutor is there to advise you and help you develop your discernment and judgement, to build on your self belief and encourage you to take ownership of your work as your progress through the course. Drawing 1 is a key building block of the degree course and there is enough flexibility within it to enable all sorts of responses, whilst ensuring that students put in the graft to develop visual skill.

  • Thanks so much Emma. I think your point about using contextual research to inspire our own practice ( and drive some personal experimentation) is spot on. It’s so important to develop this approach.
    I also like what you say about doing more mark making/ materials experimentation and then challenging ourselves to find ways to get the experiments into the final pieces.
    Great advice

  • Great discussion, and good to hear about drawing experiences. Alison, presumably these are your sketchbooks – what beautiful drawings! I can see a real relationship between drawing 1 and the superbulb aspect. Also very interesting to hear Carol about prescriptiveness of Drawing 1. I teach on that course and I feel very strongly that it is good for students to learn the basics and the discipline of Western drawing. But I also think that some exercises are overprescriptive. I for sure am happy to see variations on a theme and positively encourage my students ‘to let rip’ a bit. Perhaps the current course is making students a bit overcautious and pedestrian at times…
    The other thing I noticed is that the step from the first two still life and object based parts to the outdoor drawing is quite a big jump. The outdoor drawing unit is pretty loaded. I love teaching that unit or part because my practice has been about sense of place, and I care passionately about landscape and environment – but of course students don’t only have to draw landscapes and trees, but also have to learn to cope with perspective and urban settings. This is then followed by a crash course in life drawing. In some ways drawing 1 could very easily become two separate courses – one dealing with objects and perhaps allowing for greater technical and creative experimentation as Carol seems to be asking for, another part dealing with landscape, outdoor and plein air. Where would that leave the figure I wonder? Another drawing course altogether – one dealing with interior and figure/ human subject in contexts (landscape/ townscape/ interior)? This would lend itself towards a drawing into painting course.
    So here I better stop – instead of two drawing courses I would love to see five!

    • Hi Doris – I love your excitement and passion
      and I’d really love to see some of your drawings if you would be willing to post them. I’m guessing they would be quite inspirational.

      • Hi Carol
        you find some of my work on my axis site – they are not that expressive actually – at least not the new work which is quite controlled and analytical. My most recent work I have not documented yet professionally, but if you send me your email I can attach some recent work. So I have made a journey in reverse to what most courses advocate – from expressive to analytical and observational. Having said that – perhaps these are just phases which alternate in my life depending on life, basically….
        I don’t think I can embed images in blog comments, can I ? I am such a luddite!
        Anyhow my axis pages are: http://www.axisweb.org/seCVWK.aspx?ARTISTID=8885
        Good to have this discussion.

  • This is a really important thread. Thanks to everyone who has been contributing to it. How wonderful to see several tutors encouraging students to “let rip”!
    I’m nearing the end of Drawing 1 and am working on my final assignment at present. Your comments are timely, well thought out, and have given me encouragement.
    Moreover, your comments regarding the exercises being over-prescriptive resonates with some of my own frustrations on the course:
    It seems to me there is a disconnect between the exciting exploration of mark-making at the beginning of the course and the very academic instructions for many of the subsequent exercises. This has been really frustrating as a student because I’d hoped to expand my mind and creativity. Instead, the directions are often so detailed that I ended up feeling stymied as I try to “follow the directions to the T!”
    Here’s an example of the overly detailed instructions that can often be found: “Use coloured pencils, markers, inks or pastels….Choose a hatching technique to help you to show the different shapes and tonal values….Gradually build up the colour of the objects. The line you draw has to be sensitive enough to allow you to build towards the darker colours….”
    Why not just say, “use a hatching technique to draw xxxx in any colored media. Focus on areas of dark and light to differentiate the shapes and tonal values.”
    Reading your comments in this thread has given me permission to “let ‘er rip” on my final assignment. So very glad I still have a chance to have that mind opening experience. Thank you!

    • Hello Pepperdog. The aim of drawing 1 is certainly to open things up. For some students being given some ideas of how to approach a drawing on a step by step basis may well be helpful, whereas for others the suggestions may, on reflection, trigger ideas for other possible solutions. This is inherent in the nature of higher education study, but does need to be done in the spirit of openness and a willingness to learn new skills. A trap might be that students plough through a course ‘doing what they always do’ which would not demonstrate learning or experimentation. I certainly think that the final assignments in drawing 1 have lots of scope for real invention. Having said that, at the latest assessment event we saw all manner of creative, witty and inventive solutions to drawing 1 projects. My favourites were a still life of what appeared to be dead pets, and a solution to ‘capturing the moment’ (for non drawing 1s, all about capturing the speedy movement of an animal) where the student chose a tortoise as subject. Enjoy your final assignment Pepperdog.

      • Emma,
        would there be a way to create a gallery of some (or all?) of the final project pieces from Drawing 1? Maybe seeing the variety of approaches that you speak of could encourage current students to take a few more brave steps of their own, and look for more new ways to approach the assignments?
        I know how easy it is when we are pressed for time, to take the shortest route (ie follow the instructions, or draw exactly what’s in front of us as we see it). For my recent level 2 painting of a nude my tutor pleaded ‘please, not another naked husband on a sofa’. Luckily for me I don’t have a husband so I was forced to drag a man in from the street…(not really – I used a model). But it did make me think harder about how to be surprising, or at least not so obvious in my approach.
        Seeing the creative ways that others have approached the same brief can be very inspiring.

  • I think there are various ways to unlock the potential in all of the projects. I realise now that when I was doing Drawing 1 I could have done a lot more contextual research to find out what others had done and what the possibilities were rather than just working within my own limits – and I still need to do more of that for Drawing 2! Also, my tutor keeps urging me to experiment with materials in my sketchbook to find out what they do, so I have a “vocabulary” to draw on, so to speak. What I did do, though, when I got a bit stuck with landscape, was to focus on what I was most interested in. I started off drawing trees, and then found I was more interested in the reflections of trees in water. And then because the reflections changed so quickly it was only possible to do quick, impressionistic sketches, rather than complete drawings, which turned into a series. I took photos as well to try and frieze the movement to understand it. The more I looked, the more amazing the water patterns. So, in my experience, you need to learn the skills but it’s also about finding the aspect which fascinates you. And then you can’t stop!

  • Hello everyone,
    Drawing 1 was the first course that I did with the OCA and so at the time I was, like many others, following, quite prescriptively, the course materials. I can see how a student with no prior instruction in the arts might find the detailed instructions helpful, but for those with more experience it is hard to know how exact to the instructions you have to be. I have now (3 level 1 courses later) realised that I need to produce work that it more about what I am interested in, and yet the temptation to follow blindly is still there. That said, I really like some of the work that I produced for Drawing 1, and I am really looking forward to going on to do Drawing 2.
    For many I think that beyond the course materials, tutor feedback is the most important factor for pushing and developing the individual. If I had received the same detailed feedback that I got for my other level one courses then maybe I would have pushed myself further with Drawing 1. With that understanding under my belt, doing Drawing 2 seems a really exciting prospect, an experience that can only inform my painting, and enable me to push my work further. In many ways there is way too much to try and cram in to each course, but this allows you to develop your interests and be more selective. I think that it is important as well that Drawing (the basis of so many other forms of art) is encouraged to be continued and explored at later stages of the degree pathways as well.
    Alison, thank you for sharing your work with us; it is always so inspiring and informative to see other student’s work, and I hope, therefore, that you will show us more as you get further into the course.

  • Great to be talking about drawing in such a personal way! Thanks everyone for the comments.
    I am so looking forward to signing up for Drawing 2. It sounds to be pushing hard at that most difficult of areas – creativity and finding that other dimension of personal response and inspiration.
    I’m on the last leg of Level 1 Painting so have found these comments from you all very interesting. Drawing 1 was the most amazing of courses for me – it held everything…strong foundation of skills but with the breadth and flexibility to encourage individual response. My tutor demanded incredible personal leaps from me, always encouraging me to take the skills and use them in my own personal response. I felt to grow as an artist!
    I have learnt however that this area of creativity must be the hardest of all elements to embrace and it must be extraordinarily difficult to compose courses at level 1 which include it while at the same time focusing on skills. I have needed the skills to be able to experiment, ‘lift the lid’, break the rules and I’m glad to have received this foundation. What I do with it all is up to me.

  • huge food for thought here, We’ll be looking at the Drawing 1 course soon to see how it might be adjusted in light of your comments. thanks everyone.

  • I too am looking forward to Drawing 2. I signed up for Drawing 1 hoping to improve my draftsmanship and composition skills to inform and support my printmaking. I am thrilled to have discovered so much more in every conceivable direction and dimension. I too have really grown as an artist, but know I am just at the beginning. Drawing 2 sounds just the course to really push us further.
    This discussion is a healthy counterpoint to the current groaning about marks.

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