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Blog of the week:  sleep is for the weak thumb

Blog of the week: sleep is for the weak

Josie George, as might be gleaned from the title of her OCA student blog, is a driven person. I’ve chosen this as blog of the week because its right up there on google, which shows how active she is on her blog. Google detects activity on a blog and pushes it up the rankings if it is very ‘active’. Josie is clearly happy (excited even) with technology: she has a twitter feed too, has made thousands of posts on it, and has accumulated a massive following: nearly 6,000 people. She stores photos on Flickr, knits, has a child, and is doing an OCA drawing course with the aim of completing a BA in Painting with us. Suprisingly, Josie has more barriers challenging her desire to study than many, and yet, she makes it work.  Josie is a single parent with a small child, and suffers from a debilitating health condition.
What of her art blog? Josie knows how to keep an engaging blog. More than that, she writes instinctively, honestly, about her thinking process as she draws, and reflects on what works and what doesn’t. She shows work in progress, drafts and studies, warts and all, and seems to be making good progress in the work she does. This is definitely a blog to watch out for!
I was interested in what keeps Josie so focussed and driven, so got in touch with her and asked her a bit more about her circumstances and studies.  First I asked why she chose OCA?  This is what she said:

‘After many battles with confidence but an increasing desire to try develop my artistic skills, I secured a place to study a Foundation Degree in Art full-time at my local art college. Unfortunately, just as I was about to start my life changed very unexpectedly and I found myself as a single mum to my two year old. Hoping at first just to delay my entry, I realised that a full-time course just wasn’t going to be financially or practically viable. I was gutted. So it was a huge emotional boost to later find the OCA and realise that they might be able to give me a way to pursue my plans after all. The flexibility of the courses would, I hope, give me a way to work round my son’s nursery sessions and though it would take much longer, give me a way to still work towards a degree. ‘
How do you make it work?
‘It’s not been easy to be honest. Having such little free time to study to start with meant my schedule was easily disrupted and I’ve progressed much more slowly with my first OCA course than I had planned too. This was compounded this year by some severe and unexpected health problems. It’s often felt like everything was against me continuing, but I have still made it work and I’m so glad I’ve stuck with it – the flexible schedule proving an invaluable asset as I’ve come to grips with the changes in my health. I’ve found doing the course as a mum and someone that lives alone quite hard. I don’t always have the luxury of going outside to draw, with ‘free’ working sessions often in the evening while my son’s in bed, and in the case of the portrait section of my course, I’ve struggled to find an available model to make use of! It’s meant that I’ve had to be pretty creative, using photos snapped during daylight hours to work from, or often starting a drawing ‘live’ and then finishing it at home later.’
What do you like about studying in this way and what do you find difficult?
‘Funnily enough though, more than the practical problems, I’ve found confidence the biggest challenge. Momentum seems to play a huge part in the ‘success’ of my progress – how regularly I’m able to find time to draw and practice seems instinctively linked to my confidence in what I’m producing. Upsets in my momentum due to frequent bouts of illness had a huge knock-on effect on my confidence making it harder to get going again and creating a self-perpetuating cycle. In the end sheer dogged determination had to win the day – pushing myself to take tiny steps, just committing to doing one little sketch or exercise that day, even just making a few marks on the paper. Giving myself permission to produce ‘bad’ work helped too – it didn’t matter WHAT I was producing as long as I did SOMETHING. Inevitably just doing something would help to make it easier to sit down the next day, and the next. It’s through this constantly picking myself up and getting going again that I’ve managed to slowly gain ground. I’m close to finishing my first course now and very much looking forward to the next.
Despite the difficulties I have loved working through the course though and feel like my skill and confidence has improved considerably. I haven’t found the drawing course particularly instructive from a technical skill point of view, having to do quite a bit of further reading from outside sources when I struggled with a particular area, but the course has given me a very much needed structure to my artistic explorations, helped to keep me focused and moving. Feedback from my tutor helped me to see the areas I needed to focus on and offer suggestions of specific ways I could open up my drawing more fully, and I’ve found this, too, to be very helpful.’
Do your health issues impinge on your ability to study?
‘I only really started developing significant health problems this year, but goodness, having chosen the OCA turned out to be a blessing on that count!  The flexibility my course offered has helped to take the pressure off some what during weeks of very severe ill health. The fact that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, that slow, steady progress is still ok, is hugely beneficial and well suited to long-term health problems. My prognosis is a little uncertain at the moment, although I am hopeful of improvement, and just on a very personal level, knowing I should still be able make my OCA courses fit my life even if I’m not so well or have periods of bad health again, is a source of enormous personal strength and fulfilment, still giving me something to aim for longer term. Practicality-wise, yes it does have a big affect on my ability to study, especially such a ‘hands on’ course. My joints and dexterity are affected as well as my energy levels and general feeling of wellness, with frustrating periods when I’m barely able to sit and draw at all. But the course has always been there to come back to, and I am slowly learning ways of working around the physical aspects of illness. So all very positive really! The effect of my health on the speed in which I’ve been able to work through the course is likely to have some impact on my funding from Student Finance England, that’s the only thing, although I’m committed to continuing anyway. I shall cross that bridge when I come to it, for now I’m very much just focusing on keeping going and continuing to make progress.’

Posted by author: Jane Parry
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11 thoughts on “Blog of the week: sleep is for the weak

  • A very interesting story and blog – inspirational on lots of levels. OCA is great for people whose lives are busy and don’t always run to plan and has helped many people pursue dreams that would not be possible in a bricks and mortar institution. Slow steady progress is a pretty good motto for most of us.
    Thanks for sharing this, and congratulations Josie!

  • These articles are so useful in making look at things I wouldn’t necessarily find otherwise. I found Josie’s Blog really interesting – I wish I could draw like you!
    Good luck with your studies.

  • I discovered this blog by chance a while back; and added it to my list of watched blogs even though I am on a completely different course. Come to think of it, I would have have followed it even if I wasn’t an OCA student. It’s fab, frenetic and full of inspiration. So glad to see it showcased here! Congrats!

  • I’ve been following this blog by email for over a year but never got the drawing stuff, it must have been another section of the same blog with no obvious connection to the OCA. How can one ensure to subscribe to the right place (the posts about drawing)?

  • A wonderful blog which is both inspirational and a pleasure to read. It’s like a modern, non religious version of Pilgrim’s Progress – full of thoughts, musings and activity. Wishing you every success in the future Josie.

  • One of the first OCA blogs I started to follow, and still one of my favourites. Find it particularly inspiring – partly because I have health issues that make conventional forms of study impossible, but mostly because her work is terrific and she’s an interesting & engaging writer!

  • I have so enjoyed looking at your blog Josie. You are an inspiration & I admire your talent & spirit. Thank you for sharing with us and I wish you all the best!

  • For many students, lack of confidence and lack of being able to keep up the momentum for one reason or the other, get in the way of producing work. I think Jose has helped us see that pure determination is the key to fulfilling your potential.

  • I was so inspired by this article about your work, Josie. Well done and what do I do to start following your blog? I’m on the drawing course myself, and find it difficult to keep going consistently, as I’m sure we all do. You’re determination in the face of such huge odds against you is really special. I like the comment that likens your blog to a Pilgrim’s Progress! All the best: Josie (Yes another one – we’re quite a rare breed!)

  • I was really inspired by this article about your blog, Josie. I’m on the drawing course too, at the first Assignment stage, so very new to OCA. I would really like to follow your blog and see your work. How do I find it? It’s hard for all of us to keep working consistently, I’m sure, but your story is really moving and your determination decidely special! I like the comment which likens your journey to a “Pilgrim’s Progress”. Well done and all the best. From Josie (yes another one – we’re a rare breed!)

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