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Rise of the machines

OCA MA student Mark Daniels shares his experience of studying with the OCA and tells us a bit about his personal art practice.


Why did you decide to pursue your art education?
I make photographic art using an iPhone, and I also draw. I joined the OCA MA Fine Art course in 2013 to improve my understanding and practice of art. I also wanted to consciously bring my art practice to the center of my life. I committed to a three year course while working at a job full time and with responsibilities to my family, and I wanted to show myself that my art practice is no longer a clandestine sideshow performed on stolen time.

How do you deal with balancing life and study?
During this course I passed six decades on the planet, have dealt with several serious business, personal and family crises, and had some health issues. But I still managed to spend at least thirty hours a week on studies and practice, not through a superhuman effort, but by eliminating the unnecessary.

A bit of background. As a former California Silicon Valley tech geek, I worked in technical disciplines throughout my professional life and have had the opportunity to visit and work with universities throughout the world. Those included small and relatively unknown colleges as well as some of the the most famous institutions in the world. I gave technical seminars at places like Yale. Many years ago I studied architecture at the postgraduate level at a major university in the States. I am also familiar with the fly-by-night online schools, or those hybrid programs that are serious but are also outrageously expensive. And so I have a reasonably good grasp of the academic world that provides a basis for assessing the OCA MA experience.

Why did you choose the OCA’s MA programme?
For the MA I wanted an engaging program led by professional artists and experienced educators, and a dedicated cohort with diverse experiences and interests. It needed to have one foot firmly in the practical world of work. I needed a flexible program with no residency requirements. And above all it needed to provide high quality and comprehensive instruction. I enjoy the online meetings as they are focused and task-orientated. I find studio and classroom-based learning too distracting, so the OCA system is better for my learning style.

How do you think your experience compares to that of a bricks and mortar student?
The MA course has exceeded my expectations. We have a diverse group of eleven. Most are older than average MA students (but includes much younger students as well), and three of us live in Asia. The course requires discipline and focus and a willingness to handle ambiguity. But the tutors are great, as have been the visiting artist lectures. It has helped me fill gaps in knowledge (and there are many) and pushed me to explore many new avenues. One thing is for sure: in no way do I feel less prepared than those in formal residency-based programs, and in some ways perhaps more so. I would strongly recommend the course to anyone seriously committed to practicing art.

Image Credit: Mark Daniels, Rise of the Machines.

Posted by author: Joanne
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7 thoughts on “Rise of the machines

  • I echo the sentiments about the course, although I’m struggling time-wise. I’m not sure I could manage that 30 hours/week myself… certainly not on top of work and all the other stuff that crops up. Well done for keeping that up!
    Is there any news on when and where the end of year show is planned yet?

  • I support OCA students on the undergraduate courses, so it’s great to see MA work and students sharing their experiences, thanks Mark. Can you share a link to your work or blog so we can see more of it?

  • I think we undergraduates would all love to see some MA work. I met a couple of the MA students at the UCA degree validation session, and I think there is a lot undergrads could learn from their interaction and commitment and, of course, we would love to see work!

  • The MA Show is going to be held in the Barnsley Civic Gallery this year. The show opens on Wednesday 15th June with the private view from 7pm and continues until 25th June 2016.
    All OCA students are most welcome

    • Thanks Caroline – I’ll try and make it there. Might be good if a few of us from the UK can meet up there too, if only to get a flavour of what next year will be like…
      If anyone is interested, my public MA blog can be found at http://www.iamrobtm.co.uk, I’m currently at the midpoint – halfway through the second year. Any comments would be most welcome.

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