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Creative Arts, Part 3: Why are skills so important to becoming a creative artist? - The Open College of the Arts

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Creative Arts, Part 3: Why are skills so important to becoming a creative artist?

This might seem like an obvious question to answer, and perhaps I wanted to open a discussion on what opportunities there are for developing skills on the creative arts pathway. In Part 1 of this collection of blog posts, I considered what interdisciplinary means to the creative arts, and Part 2 looked at this concept through the lens of making and doing. Now I want to look at what constitutes a skill for Creative Arts students and how they are applied.

Skills are a gateway to creating, a way to make something that emerges out of our ideas and ambitions. So, it is helpful to bring in a bit of context taken from our building blocks for teaching and learning. The QAA for Art and Design 2019 (The Quality Assurance Agency) talks about Knowledge, Understanding and Skills as the three pillars for developing our creative practice. But, of course, there is an overlap between these three areas that contribute towards making. So, focusing on skills, we can explore the following:

“Art and design skills, particularly those in ‘making’, contribute to cognitive development and engage learners. Through engagement with materials, processes and ideas, ‘making’ develops creativity, inventiveness, problem solving and practical intelligence.” QAA 2019

We can think about how we apply skills to develop our creative language, both visual and non-visual. A helpful analogy that a friend told me is to think of a three horsed chariot, and at any time of your learning, one of the horses is pulling slightly more than the others; that is the case with skills here.

I’ve been a passionate leader for access to as wide a range of skills as possible for creative arts students. Many creative arts students join because their interests are broad and perhaps sit outside of the traditionally defined pathways. A need to explore across disciplines and represent a creative language formed from a hybrid of disciplines characterises their creative approach.

I have always felt that we need to test and explore skills to find what engages our creative aspirations. The creative arts programme has responded to students’ requests for flexibility of access to a range of skills, and so the Skills Hub was conceived as a creative response to this request.

A snapshot of the skills hub showing some of the skills on offer (in development) May 2022

So, what do creative arts students do when they have acquired a skill? This is when we ask students to apply those skills to their learning which in turn fuels their making. The application of skills is a crucial part of our teaching and learning because it connects us back to the themes of the creative arts programme that I have touched on in the previous parts of this series and will continue to explore in future posts.


Hybrid – The development of a distinct creative language that connects with several disciplines. A hybrid approach defines a method for developing multiple skills, both visual and non-visual, forming part of an interdisciplinary practice.

Flexibility – Affording creative arts students a wide choice that allows for testing, experimenting and selecting over the duration of their studies.

Application – How skills are applied to teaching and learning themes that are an essential part of creative arts learning.


QAA Subject Benchmark Statement for Art and Design 2019, [Accessed 04/04/2022 www.qaa.ac.uk]

The Skills Hub teaching and learning resource available on the OCA’s dedicated e-learning platform.

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Posted by author: Doug Burton

2 thoughts on “Creative Arts, Part 3: Why are skills so important to becoming a creative artist?

  • I have just started level 3 textiles and I chanced across this blog post. I am finding your “Skills Hub” resource extremely useful, both as a source of creative strategies and way to expand my horizons beyond my current discipline. Just reading through the documents and prompts, I got so excited about the possibilities of new directions in my work. The material also helped me understand the overlaps between textiles and other creative disciplines, hinting at areas where collaboration might be appropriate. Thank you !!! I will keep checking back to the Padlet for new documents and updates.

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