Feedback on studies and finished work

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Two OCA tutors, Emma Drye and David Winning were recently in the office and we filmed them talking about one of David’s students (Iwona Barltrop) who had just finished her Painting 1 course. I think the video really helps explain how important it is to retain vitality in your work for it to be successful. David thinks she has lots of potential, and this video shows just what she needs to do to get there. Her work is good and with a few extra steps could be excellent.
Does anyone else have the problem of maintaining the freshness of studies in the final work? I do. I feel much more free flowing and uninhibited in the work I do in sketchbooks, and its hard to carry that across to finished paintings because I am more self conscious about final work. This video has really helped me understand what I might need to do to bring vigour into my paintings.

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23 thoughts on “Feedback on studies and finished work

  • A very informative video which was very helpful.
    My tutor has also told me that a “…little of the spontaneity of the research is lost”, my question therfore is – Could the artist in the video have used her colour study of the EG vegetables as ‘the finished painting?’, would this style be enough to qualify as ‘complete?.’
    I ask this because I find my colour studies are how I like to work and present images, I then go on and work differently for an audience, in this case my tutor and the assessors when by now I am bored with my subject and over work it using a straight jacket technique…
    Interesting topic I will see if I can get a discussion up and running on the OCA website.
    Thank you again – it makes me question my working practice and my thoughts behind the production.
    Well done to Iwona!

  • Hi Dawn, yes I feel much the same way. I suppose what counts as finished is entirely your judgement, and its all about the balance between your ideas, experiments and what your intentions are, and of course, happy accidents. I bet lots of others also have this dilemma.

  • Really helpful video. I’m halfway through Painting 1, and am aware that my finished paintings are ‘tight’, the better work is in my sketchbook. My tutor has pointed out that I’m not painting what I’m seeing, and he’s right, but I’m aware of becoming so intent as I work on what is to be the finished painting that I loose what is in the sketchbook that made me choose to work that particular sketch up to a painting.
    The other problem, as Dawn said, is becoming bored with the subject by that point, and that also shows in the work.
    For me part is that I have found myself thinking that the expressionistic version in the sketchbook is not going to be what is wanted, but something far more accurate and photo realistic, so I strive for that.
    From here on in, I’m going to try and follow my instincts, they seem more in line with what was said in the video.
    Thanks for all involved with this video, its been really helpful.

  • I very much enjoyed watching the video and seeing the examples as they were discussed, interesting as well as useful. Many thanks to both tutors and to the artist for agreeing to her work being used. In the case of the red-flowered plants in a garden, I noticed I liked both the study and the finished work, which were so contrasting in stye. I was curious as to why one wouldn’t use the more stylised approach in a level one course – is it because it’s not being adopted consciously? Or due to technical aspects that my inexperienced eye isn’t yet able to pick up? Food for thought.

    • Hello Roberta, sorry it’s taken so long to reply to this. This was an edited video so it is slightly less clear but I was saying ‘not at level 1’ to my suggestion that we might see 15foot high perspex sculptures in the local shopping centre. Eeven then I think my comment was a bit fascetious as I would probably very much enjoy seing that happen! It is crucial from the word go that students look to produce unusual solutions, experiment and produce work with a personal identity. In the assessment process these three ideas are weighted with as many points as observational and material skills which might illustrate how vital they are. It is fine even to respond to what Jane calls a ‘happy accident’ too. For me, and I am speaking for myself, I would be looking for a sign in the log book and in the supporting work that the student had picked up on the potential and developed it or at least noted it.

  • I have been contemplating doing the painting 1 course, but wasn’t sure. However now I have seen someones work close up, I feel I have more confidence about my own work. I think it is very difficult not to “tighten up” an original piece of work, as I usually find that the first sketch is more full of energy, as it is the first time that you have seen it and taken it in. I would like to think (but probably wouldn’t!) that I would try 2 different styles, perhaps as the tutors suggested to keep the spontaneity. The only thing I am a bit wary of is loosing your own style and uniquness, as Roberta has intimated.

  • This was a really useful video. I was interested by the comment about not explaining to students why they are sometimes asked to “loosen up”. I am getting this type of comment on the drawing course I’m doing, and haven’t fully understood why until now.

  • Thank you so much to all concerned for producing this video analysis and guidance. I have just started Level 1 Painting and have previously only been involved in photo realistic graphite drawing. My painting is less secure and mistakenly thought that I had been working towards what I thought was ‘looseness’. This explanation of ‘seeing’ and ‘expression’ begin to make sense to me. Thanks again.

  • A very useful and thought provoking video – thanks to Emma and David for taking the time to produce it. I’ve been aware of the lack of spontaneity in my finished work. I’m doing the introductory printmaking course, but the principles are the same. I find it difficult not to produce a ‘stiff’ and ‘polished’ final product, but I am grateful to have it pointed out that I should endeavour to maintain what is lively and spontaneous. I guess it’s a difficult balance that needs a lot of practice.

  • I am currently doing the drawing course with the OCA, I found the video helpful, I have been trying to do loose work as suggested, as well as more photographic style work. I agree with others comments about not understanding fully what is expected in final drawings when you have drawn preliminary works that are loose. I feel for myself it is good to do as many different ‘styles’ as possible, and hopefully I can produce some work in the style of Velasquez!

  • I found this video very interesting.I’m rather glad to discover that I am not the only one who overworks the finished piece having painted satisfactory studies! My problem is that I feel that I have to spend longer working on the finished pieces than on the studies.If a study is just a study, then obviously a finished piece should require much more work.My tutor said to me recently that for everything that is added something else is lost-I think this describes it very well.The problem is knowing how much detail to include and recognising when it’s time to stop! I would love to see more videos like this. It was very helpful.Thanks.

  • What a revelatory video. I’ve been doing the same thing, and realise that my first impression is most spontaneous as opposed to the final picture. I never realised that loose, spontaneous brushstrokes that capture the primary essence of things was the goal. All my final stuff is uptight and polished.

  • This was a useful video to watch; I agree with all the previous students about the struggle to paint for someone else – and what’s more, an unseen someone ( whereas at a college you meet with your tutors)This is hard, after years of painting for oneself.Please could we have more such videos. Many thanks to the student who allowed her work to be shown and discussed publicly.

  • Thank you for such an interesting video. Ihave just started the Painting 1 course, last year I did Drawing in Colour,and my loose work that I was worried about was praised by my tutor,now I know what to strive for. having said that knowing is one thing and doing quite another.

  • I’ve just completed Painting 1 and am ready to send it for assessment. How I wish I’d seen this video at least half way through the course. David is my tutor and has repeatedly told me to loosen up and be more expressive. I came from a watercolour background of very realistic paintings and found it almost impossible to do what he asked. Having actually seen this now I could happily go back and repeat some of my work much more successfully. Trying to understand someone else’s outlook rather than painting for myself has been extremely difficult. TO actually SEE what he meant has been extremely useful.

    • Glad it’s been helpful Diana. The good news is that the marks for level 1 and level 2 do not affect the degree class, so there is plenty of time to learn, experiment and find you own take on painting.

  • Thank you for your reply Paul but I think that most people on receiving a lower mark than they hope or expect at level 1,simply because their work isn’t loose or adventurous enough, just wouldn’t carry on any further. After watching this several times I completely understand what’s being said but have decided that’s simply not the way I want to work. I don’t like photographic realism but I do like realism and detail and it seems that that style of painting is frowned on by OCA. Why must I change my style that’s taken me 20 years to develop? I can explore other avenues by all means and go back through the stages I went through 20 years ago but why must I change just because realism isn’t in fashion? I’ve loved this course and have learned a tremendous amount from it, especially the theory and history but it’s pushing me in a direction I just don’t want to go. Other levels are apparently all about “finding your own direction” or as you say “find your own take on painting”. What if you’ve already found it? Are the more experienced and mature students expected to go back to the experimental work they did years ago or halt their present development just to fulfil the requirements for loose exploratory work? Art is too personal to be told you MUST do it this way. Suggestions to try a method certainly but to be marked down simply because that way doesn’t suit you? Surely there’s more flexibility than there appears to be here?

  • On the college BA I teach on we have students from their erly 20s to their 70s. Many of the older students and not a few of the younger ones too, have a similar attitude to yours Diana. The first question we get them to answer is, why did you decide to do the course? Qualifying this with, if you don’t want to change why study at all? The answers are always different but rarely the same at the beginning of the course than later on, even from those who are most fixed in their ways. The idea that one can develop ones own vision on one’s own is rarely true, and the point of being a student is to explore with guidance from tutors, and other students at times, to learn from those explorations and to continue to move forward. An artist who doesn’t change over time is really not striving to fulfil their potential, they are not respecting their talent, however great or small that might be.
    That all probably sounds a bit different when said face to face so I put it here not in direct reply but by way of anecdote and if anything in it seems relevant so be it.

  • One of the lovely things about working with mature students is that they bring a lot of experience to the table and teaching mature students is often more of a negotiation than it is with younger students. All feedback is personal to your own work and should follow logically on. I suppose if you sign up to a course, then you need to be prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt. It has been structured to cover certain ideas, some of which will interest you more than others. Your essential artistic identity should not be thrown out with the bath water and I would have thought that there is plenty of opportunity within this course to pursue a more nauralistic painting style. If your work is strong, then you will get a good mark at assessment. Looseness is not an end in itself. Power, life energy etc are nearer to the mark and of course you can have quiet power, delicate energy. A good painting gives me a sense that it needed to be painted. I agree with Peter though that reflection on the reason and nature of the degree might be useful here. I hope people aren’t too dishreartened by low marks at the early stages though as I think they are probably very likely for most students, as long as you continue to improve then the marks should come up with you ready for you to make a splash at level 3 where they decide your degree classification.

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