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Group work review: Fine Art - The Open College of the Arts
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Group work review: Fine Art

Caroline Wright, Programme Leader for the Fine Arts degree pathway announced a programme of Fine Art Online sessions in December last year. Luckily I’ve been able to attend each session. There are three main strands: Studio work hosted by Caroline, Critique sessions hosted by Helen Rousseau, and Investigation into artists practices and approaches with Dan Robinson.

In February, with Caroline, we had a joint studio session over 4 hours. We all did individual work (new, or continued work-in-progress) and shared our progress through the session.  I was able to video myself doing a still-life drawing of an orchid using a pencil taped to a 4.5 ft bamboo cane, part of an exercise in my Drawing 2 course. Checking in on the screen every now and again I saw fellow students beavering away at their own work. We were all working together in the next room of a virtual studio, spread thousands of miles apart. At the end we shared our work on screen for a mini-critique. It was a great feeling to be part of a temporary community all working together. It was exhausting and very rewarding. 

In Dan’s sessions we look at different subjects, examined through artists’ practice, ideas and approaches. Dan sends out details of relevant artists prior to the session so we can do some limited research. And these artists are very cross-discipline, including the traditional fine art subjects to installation work and happening, through music and literary works. To be honest, I find these sessions to be mind-bending. I am challenged to consider broader artistic concepts and how they might affect my own practice. Thankfully other students are better versed in these various disciplines, and I learn a lot from their responses.

Helen’s sessions are all about critiquing our work in different ways. We come to the session with a piece of our work, already complete or in-progress.  It may be something we’re doing for a course exercise or an assignment, or something made in pursuing an idea. We start with a silent 30 second critique: we show our work without commentary – and how uncomfortable is that! Then we split, as small groups, into virtual breakout rooms and look at each others’ work in more detail. After 10 or 15 minutes, we reconvene for a broader discussion.  The technique of having our fellow students make a commentary on our work is very enlightening. 

In one of Helen’s sessions I was able to move through a case of artistic block. My tutor had asked me to respond again to an assignment piece to make it more dynamic. My original painting was of pine cones and leaves, painted using identical items (so, using a pine cone to represent the pine cones). Simply being able to discuss possible ways forward revealed so many possibilities. It gave me confidence to fracture the picture plane by cutting and collaging the work, creating a vivid disruption to a passive image.

The work I make in these sessions all contribute to my learning log, adding depth to my own reflections. My blog writings show my tutor and assessors how I’m engaging more broadly with art concepts and with the broader student community.  They really are an exciting addition to my ongoing development as an artist and I’m sure all participants have similar feelings as many of the same students return time after time. 

I want to give a big ‘thank-you’ to Caroline, Helen and Dan for their dedication in developing our skills within the Fine Art framework. At these times of increasing social distancing and isolation these sessions will be a huge motivator, and I would encourage all students on the Fine Art Pathway to join us. 


About the author

David Bell

Living in Sanremo, Italy and studying with the OCA since 2015. 

Currently studying Drawing 2: Investigating Drawing on the Fine Arts Degree pathway.

Image Notes

(IMAGE A)  Still-life of an Orchid Plant,  90 x 53 cm, drawn using pencil attached to 1.4 metre bamboo cane, on lining wallpaper.  

(IMAGE B) The Agony of the Lonesome Pines, 52 x 85 cm,  acrylic paint on paper, applied using a stone, a tool fashioned from a leaf and a pine cone, cut and collaged onto acrylic variegated orange paper support.

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Posted by author: David Bell
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One thought on “Group work review: Fine Art

  • Great summary, David, and I echo your thanks to Caroline, Dan and Helen – these sessions have been really useful to us Fine Art students – many of us feel even more isolated in our studies at this time of lockdown, so it is great to be able to share work and talk art and ideas with like-minded colleagues.

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