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Confessions of an art student

At 10:45am on 20/10/16 I received confirmation that I could contribute “Monthly Musings” to the OCA Weekender E-Bulletin. I was excited and intimidated in equal measure. Excited because the offer made me feel validated. Intimidated because I had to write something and the pressure of the blank page took hold, exposing my apparently empty head and a correspondingly blank expression. There was paralysis by analysis because I was aware of an audience – consequently I was too self-conscious and my creativity ceased. I recognised this feeling, the newness and uncertainty of writing for the bulletin is analogous to my studies with the OCA. Paradoxically, the feeling of inability became the catalyst to this first musing and I found “a way in.”
I am at the start of Level 3 (assignment 2) and experiencing the same feelings I had with my first course, Drawing 1, in what feels like a life-time ago in 2012.
It is the same with any new beginning. My first course, my first assignment submission, my first contribution to a forum were all met with trepidation and no small anxiety. I am sure I am not alone. I feel raw and exposed and out of my depth. Every time that I find myself outside my comfort zone. But I believe that challenging yourself, being courageous enough to tackle the new, to make a beginning, extends your parameters and what was once seemingly impossible becomes attainable. This is growth. The challenges I am prepared to face now are greater and would have been staggeringly unfeasible and inappropriate if presented to my more novice student self.
Your studies are paced.
May I encourage you to get stuck in to your course work? Make your first piece evaluate it and make another because the more you make the more experienced you become. Progress is measured in pieces with each work bringing you closer to your personal goals.
My Major Project course literature included “Reviewing Your Work” activity in a section called Cosmology where you contemplate the range of influences that are “satellites” orbiting your creative practises. Like the stars in the sky, they may be taken for granted and constellations need to be studied for their “patterns” to become identifiable. Easier with practise and easier still with a synopsis of your oeuvre.
Through this process of self-analysis I became increasingly aware that I was interested in entropy- a tendency towards chaos. Once I had articulated it to myself I began to see multiple embodiments of it everywhere; from my personal health, to social and cultural issues and even communication breakdown. It has become the dark matter that holds my cosmos together.


This image, called “October News” is a study of social entropy. It is a random assemblage of bad news items collated from tabloid newspapers. The composition is chaotic and I deliberately selected the more salacious stories that bombard the reader daily. Upon reflection, I wish I had chosen the stories by drawing clippings out of a hat as this would have supported my message through an enacted pun. The aesthetics of chance is another aspect of entropy.
Reassessing my previous work also revealed a passion for portraiture and an attraction to the human face. At time of writing my tutors have been instrumental in focusing my attention, (which has a tendency to drift towards disparate interests,) towards self-portraiture. I do not wish merely to convey the topography of my own features but to get below the surface to something more significant. I am puzzling how I might achieve this. Fragmentation seems promising.
I am asking myself, “Is there a sense in which I can call this piece a self-portrait? Are the media and the message congruent? Mutually supportive?”
I suspect this getting below the surface is a metaphor for progress in our OCA studies. I find I am becoming more interested in metaphor and symbolism as I desire to leave representational art behind. I believe you will find that as you progress through the OCA, your interests will become more focused and the message you wish to convey more sophisticated, less superficial- somehow deeper and uniquely true to your own voice.
Find ways to challenge yourself and summon the courage to extend your comfort zone, slowly, incrementally, as I have done in writing this. My page isn’t blank anymore and, now I’ve started, I’m not so daunted and curiously looking forward to the next instalment.
Are you affected by any of the issues raised? Feel free to engage with this article, and my work, in the comments below.


Posted by author: Adrian Eaton
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8 thoughts on “Confessions of an art student

  • Thanks Adrian. Your timely first contribution to the E-bulletin has encouraged my first tentative venture into the OCA online community with this comment.
    I enrolled on Level 3 Major Project and Contextual Studies yesterday and, in writing to my new tutors to introduce myself, I have been contemplating my own development since Painting 1 (back in 2008!).
    Experimentation and risk taking have been really important in the development of my work. Initially I found that time constraints mitigated against any risk taking – the less time I had the less likely I was to experiment in case it ‘went wrong’ and I ended up with nothing. But when I eventually dipped my toe in the water, I found that with failed experiments came new ideas which have enabled my work to develop in unexpected ways, with some exciting outcomes.

    • I really like your attitude to experimentation and I identify with the phrase “with failed experiments came new ideas”. If we don’t challenge ourselves we do the same things with similar outcomes. Predictable. Risk taking introduces you to a different version of yourself and not knowing makes study exciting. Good luck with your new course.

  • Like Beverly your contribution has encouraged me to make my first comment here too – though I am right at the beginning of this adventure – Drawing 1, Assignment 2 (I did Foundations last year). I’ve read your piece through a couple of times now. Thank you for being so generous – not only sharing the feelings you’ve experience through the course, but also in giving specific advice.
    Particularly helpful is how you describe the pace of the process – I won’t sit about waiting for the light bulb moment – I will get ‘stuck in to the course work’, and ‘find the courage to extend my comfort zone, slowly and incrementally’. I won’t forget those words – thanks!

    • I am glad you found something worthwhile. We can all learn something from everyone and that means we can contribute positively to everyone else’s experience whatever stage we are at. “waiting for the lught bulb moment”- love it. Right now you are able to positively affect others’ studies.
      It seems to me we can consolidate a strength or challenge a perceived weakness. Consolidating leads to artropy (?) is that the word? I’m trying say restricting a creative supply. Sameness. But challenging a perceived weakness leads to discoveries and self-discovery. Thank you for commenting.

  • Thanks for sharing this Adrian, as I know putting yourself, your work and your thoughts about making your own work is another form of exposure. I think your point about ‘getting stuck into your course work’ is a very good one and something every OCA student can identify with. Fear of failure becomes fear of even trying, and the longer the procrastination the harder it is to break the cycle. Just do it, instead of over analysing. Wise words. Thanks Aidy.

    • I am aware that I am where I am at right now because of the encouragement and inspiration of colleagues such as you. It builds trust and with it the courage to bear your soul.
      I appreciate your kind words and encouragement.

  • Quite a relief to read how other students are struggling. And very insightful to read how you reflect on your own journey, what worked and what not. I am fully with when you write that ‘the more you make the more experienced you become’. So true. Talking about failure and self-analysis is something that do not come for granted but with practice and experience. One of the first challenging questions that i came across during my first course unit was to discern success from failure for your self. Self-analyis and self critique is at times a kind of liminal experience. But with time and distance it will work. I am with you about the imortant element of chance. No to fight against it but to welcome as a creative response. Thanks Aidy.

  • As someone who has just started at the OCA, it’s good to know I’m in the same place as others when they started. The want to have focus and direction with your art but unsure how to attain it. The overwhelming fear of failure, wasting time and for me, with ME, energy, is a profound battle I feel ready to face. Thank you for your inspiring words.

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