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OCA News: Illustration

An update from the Illustration Team

Earlier this year we contacted attendees to our ‘group work’ sessions to obtain feedback from them, responding to previous student feedback last year.

We have enjoyed the sessions, the sharing and creative conversations celebrating the practice of Illustration and its constantly evolving purposes and forms. We asked the questions below and would love to share the feedback we received.

These were the pointers we gave the students in terms of topics we feel would be useful to cover in the feedback:

  • Whether sharing work was useful? If so, why?
  • If you could you add some examples/detail of how your outcomes/process moved forward would be great
  • What kind of exchanges occurred: were these contextual, technical, skills and resources sharing or other?
  • Did you feel confident attending in the first place?
  • Did you feel more confident in the sharing process after you attended?

Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond, as we look to vary and refresh the student learning experience and its formats.

Student Responses

Group sessions with OCA, in general, have been my favourite part of being a student here. They really provide a feeling of being in a classroom, without the pressure and anxiety that usually come with real-life classroom environments for me. The organizers have mostly been the reason why these sessions were so welcoming and inviting, and I really appreciate everything they do to maintain that kind of space for students.

The group sessions that the Illustration Team organizes, from what I’ve seen so far, have mostly been focused on sharing parts of your process as form of an update, sharing artists you found inspiring and discussing examples of narrative in art, all of which I think are useful things to talk about. I will say here that sometimes I don’t have new examples of narrative to share, or I haven’t found any new artists that I’d like to talk about, so I sometimes consider just joining to see what others have to share, and not to share anything new myself. I understand new students join all of the time, so some people haven’t had a chance to discuss these things before, and that the intention is that they don’t miss out just because they joined at a different time.

Generally, sharing work and seeing the work that others share, has been a lot of fun for me. I like learning about other artists that get brought up during these group sessions, and I personally enjoy doing my research and preparing material to bring to these sessions myself. I have learned about artists that I didn’t know about before, which led me to explore their work and process even further on my own, deepening my knowledge on art history and the contemporary art scene.

Whether sharing work was useful? If so, why? If you could you add some examples/detail of how your outcomes/process moved forward would be great:

Being a bit of a perfectionist, sharing my own work was very liberating. I needed the encouragement and getting the positive feedback helped me develop a more playful and experimental way of drawing.

I was encouraged to focus more on expression and message.

I was inspired by hearing how others perceive my images. One of the outcomes are that I have realized the value in including others in my thinking/working.

I am in a discussion group with a few other OCA students online once a month and I have started an art group at work and a few of these colleagues will share my studio.

What kind of exchanges occurred: were these contextual, technical, skills and resources sharing?

Whatever I needed, contextual, tips on artist that I could be inspired from, also just feedback from fellow students how my images are perceived.

Did you feel confident attending in the first place?
Did you feel more confident in the sharing process after you attended?

I was actually very excited to attend, These live discussions and feedback is one of the best features of the courses/school. A bit nervous because my English is a bit rusty.

Yes, I became more confident sharing after attending.

I absolutely love these group sessions. I haven’t managed to attend so much lately as my deadlines were too tight to join in with anything. But I will be looking at joining more regularly. I did sign up to the assessment one and then had to cancel, so I am really glad to see that has been moved so I can attend.

Whether sharing work was useful? If so, why? If you could you add some examples/detail of how your outcomes/process moved forward would be great.

Sharing work is useful as other people see different things in my work and offer different perspectives or ideas, which is amazing. Mostly, I love seeing the other students work, as I find it incredibly inspiring. 

It feels nice to feel part of a group and I really wish more students would join. I have tried to encourage my fellow students via the discord server, but people say how they are nervous. Part of me wishes it was compulsory to join at least once a month because then people would see there is nothing to worry about and they would likely join. I am part of a small group that have group sessions whilst we work so students don’t feel lonely. There are 22 who signed up to the group, yet only 4 of us that actively meet.

What kind of exchanges occurred: were these contextual, technical, skills and resources sharing or other?

All of the above. I can’t remember specifically. But I always get artists to look at recommended by the tutor or other students at your group sessions. And often feedback on my work, which quite often is me overthinking things and people being very positive about what I have done.

Did you feel confident attending in the first place?


Did you feel more confident in the sharing process after you attended?

Yes, I never think I have anything to share, but midway through I think of something. That’s possibly a lack of confidence and also just not knowing what to expect when I haven’t joined for a while.

Any points you’d like to make on additional topics would be welcome.

I love the sessions and really hope they continue. I would love if there was a weekly check in type group. 

I am currently taking a 3 month break before I start level 2, but I still would love to join and see what other students are doing and I am still studying, just specific techniques I want to learn, rather than coursework currently.

Could you specify the courses you have been on and during which you have attended?:

In order:
Key Steps in Illustration 1
Drawing Skills 1
Illustration Sketchbooks 1

I think sharing work was useful – working distance learning on your own it’s always valuable just to get another point of view, as I find I can over-think things and it’s not always clear what are the best areas are to focus on. 

I was inspired to experiment further with different methods of using colour in my work, particularly drawing with coloured ink, and using digital colour to colour hand drawn sketches. 

It was also nice to get feedback from the other attendees, things they saw in my work and tips of other illustrators to look at. It was interesting to see how others at different stages were approaching their work.

I’m currently studying Visual Dynamics and have completed Key Steps and Illustration Sketchbooks. I attended one other session right at the beginning. 

I’ve been trying to think why I didn’t attend anything in between! I think it probably boils down to – slight fear of the unknown – not knowing who else will be there, if I’ll be ‘put on the spot’, not being sure what is appropriate to share, or if my queries are the right level for the session. 

I feel more confident having attended, but I think it can seem a bit off-putting beforehand. I think – I don’t know how you’d do this! – some attendance could be made compulsory in some capacity. I think if people had to do it in the first place they’d realise what it was like and that it was a positive experience.

I’m studying L3 Illustration.

Sharing work or simply being a part of a group discussing challenges, insights and successes is an incredibly valuable part of my learning experience. One of the challenges working remotely is a lack of contact with tutors and fellow students, so I grab the opportunity whenever I can.

Group interaction has become more important as the course has progressed. As you begin to do more self-directed projects, the need for external critical review and feedback becomes an essential part of the creative process.

I use these sessions to test ideas.

Which visual approach works best? Does the flow of imagery make sense? Is the text legible? Which idea resonates the best with the group?

It’s also a great way to get tutor contact outside of the formal feedback loops.

I’ve made numerous design decisions on the back of these sessions, including making a dramatic change of direction to my final project; I learned that a totally new idea for the project was worth exploring based on the level of engagement and encouraging feedback from the group. 

That initial concept is now a 50-page autobiographical comic/graphic novel.

Most importantly, the tutors create a safe space to share. The conversations are informal and relaxed. Typically, participants share work and ask for feedback, although it’s equally valuable to just attend and listen.

The topics covered could be anything. The important thing is what is gained from the wisdom of the group. I’ve never failed to learn something new, valuable, and interesting from these sessions.

I would advise everyone to attend.

The feedback sessions are invaluable and I wish they occurred more often. I’m often stuck at certain points and being able to share really opens a new world of possibility. The last time I attended I was able to move on with my coursework as a result and was recommended artists I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. I recommend these sessions most highly and just wish there were more of them!

Image: The wool quilt makers, c.1940 (colour linocut on paper), Black, Dorrit (1891-1951) / Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia / © Art Gallery of South Australia / Gift of Bruce Debelle, Frances Gerard, Belinda Morgan, / Bridgeman Images

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Posted by author: Bee Willey
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2 thoughts on “OCA News: Illustration

  • It’s really heartening to hear so many positive responses from illustration students. Hopefully by sharing these, it will encourage other students to give it a go. Clearly group activities are working really well in illustration, so keep up the good work everyone!

  • These groups are fun, inspiring, motivating, stimulating, welcoming, looking forward to the next ones. It’s good to get a different perspective on art work, and to discuss art work with people.

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