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Study event review: Developing sketchbooks with artist Karen Stamper - The Open College of the Arts
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Study event review: Developing sketchbooks with artist Karen Stamper thumb

Study event review: Developing sketchbooks with artist Karen Stamper

OCA Student Organised Workshops on 25 November 2017 and 3 March 2018.

Sketchbook and artwork by Karen Stamper
I came across the work of Karen Stamper at exhibition in my local art gallery and immediately fell in love with the artwork and the exquisite concertina sketchbooks. I loved the vibrant use of colour and collage and the immediacy and spontaneity of the work. I wanted to take a workshop with Karen as I felt this would greatly enhance my OCA study, adding life and vitality to my somewhat tentative sketchbook work.
A little time after this I was directed to information about the availability of support for OCA students who wanted to set up groups and study sessions, and decided to see if it would be possible to obtain OCA support to set up a workshop with Karen Stamper. I contacted Karen for dates, and a local workshop venue in Ipswich for availability. We arrived at a date in November, with a follow up date the next March. A split workshop would give participants the opportunity to develop work at home before attending the second session.
With much needed help from Joanne Mulvihill-Allen at OCA, we circulated my prepared workshop details. I was pleased to see that we attracted enough people for the workshops to take place. Participants/students came mainly from Suffolk, but also Essex and Kent. We were studying a range of subjects including photography, textiles, drawing, book design and painting.
The first workshop went very smoothly – Karen is an excellent teacher. She was very well prepared and extremely generous in sharing a host of techniques and resources, as well as very practical information. Karen took the group through a number of mixed media techniques and shared a range of collage and mark making techniques. Karen had bought along many of her sketchbooks and paintings so that we could see close up the effects of the various techniques. All the activities were demonstrated and delivered in a very clear and accessible way, and with humour. In no time the group were generating a lot of visually exciting work.

Sketchbook work during the first session.
The feedback from the first session was very positive:-
‘Karen was an excellent teacher, very clear and gave positive critique. It was helpful to see examples of her work where the techniques were fully realised. A really good, creative and inspiring day.’ Tanya
‘I found Karen a very enthusiastic and interesting workshop leader who introduced me to some inspiring and interesting techniques to introduce into my work and am really looking forward to the second session.’ Pauline
‘I found Karen’s workshop well structured and inspirational. The way layers were built up in the sketchbook using various techniques, a number of which were new to me, meant that I can adapt and adjust the methods at home to suit my style of working during my coursework.  I left feeling motivated to try a range of different techniques and media.  It was also great to see and work with such a friendly group of fellow OCA students from across the visual art disciplines and see the creative work they produced during the day.‘ Gerry 
‘I enjoyed the day immensely. It was exactly what I needed to “unblock” the monotony of my sketchbook work (previously, almost exclusively in the format of pencil and charcoal sketches). As well as “freeing up” my drawing style to become more gestural, I found that the way in which Karen taught, stimulated me to think more creatively. I have put this down to the different way in which the methodology made me consider composition, and being less concerned about placing big blocks on colour on the page. I am thoroughly looking forward to testing out the new techniques, and bringing them into my everyday practice. After the workshop I was simply buzzing with ideas. I am already thinking about the next session!’ Nicky

Sketchbook work during the first session.
In Preparation for the next session we were asked to continue working on these sketchbooks, as well as to think about a theme of our own that we wanted to explore.
Due to the ‘Beast from the East’ the second session had to be postponed until 5 May 2018!
The second session was equally as good.  It was run on a similar format to the first, and again with new ideas and techniques to pursue. On this occasion more one-to-one time with Karen was built in to discuss the work developed before the session as well as the work completed on the day.

As before a lot of inspiring work was completed and the feedback was extremely positive:-
‘I wanted to say thank you for organising the two sketchbook workshops. Karen is an excellent tutor balancing demonstration, encouragement and hands on help. How can she be so spot on with composition?
After the first session I could not sleep that night because my head was full of ideas and images of collaged books. I went on to use lots of the techniques we learned and produced some work I was pleased with. The second session was a good top up to the first. Once again I have taken home useful ideas. The workshops have given creativity a boost, something I can lose when slogging away at coursework.’ Tanya
All in all taking part in the workshops was a fantastic opportunity and I did enjoy setting up and organising the sessions, as well as liaising with Karen, Joanne and indeed all the workshop participants. Without exception everyone said that they got a lot out of the experience and that they could use the techniques in the development of their OCA study and work.  
For anyone thinking about setting up similar opportunities, I would say go for it as there is a lot of support available.  As well as working with an artist and developing sketchbook work everyone was pleased to be able to get together with other OCA students to talk, work and learn with each other. Everyone left wanting to do another workshop!
Visit the OCASA site here to find out about how to apply for funding for an event.

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Posted by author: Margaret Holder
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