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Student stories: Martine Elliott - The Open College of the Arts

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Student stories: Martine Elliott

As Programme Leader for students in the painting and drawing departments at OCA I am so pleased for student Martine Elliott that she was selected by internationally renowned and UK national treasure Grayson Perry for his immensely popular art programme on Channel 4. I asked her to write a blog about her experience to share with other students as I am sure it will inspire many of us to be braver (and more organised) about entering things. Through doing this Martine has had experience of talking about her work, submitting work through an application process and having her work publicly viewed – all key aspects of the working life of an artist. The painting is really lovely – well done Martine.

Emma Drye.

Three years ago this May I retired after 23 years of flying as cabin crew for British Airways, taking voluntary redundancy (in hindsight it was the best decision of my life!) as I wanted to pursue my passion for art.

I went to local art classes and even had one-to-one lessons at home with a local artist, but I needed more structure and focus.

I found the OCA whilst browsing the internet. I enrolled and am currently progressing with my third module of HE4 (Understanding Paint Media). I have gone from B.A. ‘air kisses’ and “chicken or beef” to a B.A. painting degree pathway.

It has been very challenging, especially during a global pandemic with restrictions and gallery closures.

The OCA has provided so many resources for my development, including individual tutor guidance by Zoom, online workshops and academic support. I continue the degree with determination and creativity (both trolley dolly attributes) from my ‘spare bedroom art studio’.

This painting ‘Cabin Crew 20 minutes to Landing’ was created during the lockdown in that studio from many photographs and the memories from coming into land after days away on long haul trips. I painted it for my fourth assignment Practice of Painting and decided to submit it to Grayson Perry’s Art Club, the travel episode. For those of you who have not seen the programme it features artworks submitted by artists from across the UK and chosen by Grayson and his celebrity guests. The chosen pieces exhibited as an incredible chronicle of the changing moods of Britain in lockdown – a lasting record of the times we have lived through together.

Watch the episode here: https://www.channel4.com/programmes/graysons-art-club/on-demand/71736-008

Many people are desperate to get away and fly off somewhere; I was always desperate to get home, now my wish has come true.

Being at home during the lockdown and having this privileged opportunity to pursue that goal of gaining a degree is something I feel guilty about as many people are facing incredibly challenging times; including many of the cabin crew I once worked with.

I have discovered that my passion for travel, culture, memories, and experience of the moments I hold within says something about me when I recapture them on canvas.

These genuine feelings brought me to want to share my art, hoping that looking over the vibrant green fields would bring pleasure, hope or inspiration for future travels in these uncertain times.

The OCA tutors guidance, specifically Diana Ali’s advice to ‘paint about your experiences’, Keith Ashcroft’s patience with my haste, advising me to ‘slow things down a little’ and Michelle Whiting’s reflective writing course, these have all enhanced my ever growing skillset. OCA colleagues have given me confidence and provided much-needed support along the pathway. I have a close connection with an OCA Lisbon study trip, group of students (we managed to achieve a trip to Lisbon just before the initial Lockdown) and I find this extremely beneficial and supportive.

As I write this, I find myself overwhelmed, and delighted because Grayson Perry is including my painting in his exhibition. Seeing myself on Channel 4’s Grayson Perry’s Art Club was surreal. On social media, my painting was inundated with encouraging comments from the public and from people who relate to my work, my memories and feelings. Brushstrokes put down on the canvas, painted from experience, from the heart and with hope for our return to the skies.

These comments include;

Beautifully encapsulates all that is good about flying.

This totally hit home to me – I always love seeing the green fields when returning from holiday – will just have to wait a while to see them from that height again. 

Love your painting, and your story, you totally uplifted me! I’ve flown over Britain so many times, face pressed to the window, and your art has I love looking out the plane window at the little towns and villages below and wondering what life is like there  given me such lovely memories…thank you

I have missed this view so much, even though I don’t like flying. Our world is a beautiful place from an airplane cabin!

I’m an ex BA girl and this painting and lovely story really struck a chord with me too.

I love that so much and can relate to that feeling of relief and familiarity flying into England

Instantly reminded me of arriving back in England after leaving my daughter and her babies in Hong Kong – those were hard journeys. However, they live very nearby now. See? Art is all about feelings

Loved seeing your painting! And yes I felt uplifted!

Love this – always wondered how to portray that awesome view out the window! Is that my house!

Feels as if I am flying – gives a big feeling of freedom.

Your piece reminded me of all the emotions I felt when flying home from the states where I lived for a while it brought back all those emotions- isn’t art wonderful?

I used to travel a lot with my work and for this exact reason I sat near the window, to see the skies and sunrises, the lands changing across each county, and to the excitement of seeing home. A wonderful picture, who cannot resist the lumpy bumpy green fields of UK. 

You really have captured “coming home.” You just know when you see the rich tapestry of our beautiful landscape beneath you! 

Although I have traversed the globe this degree pathway has taken me to the most unexpected and enriching places. I would encourage you to continue creating, learning and experimenting. Who knows where it will take you?

Martine Elliott

(Ex-trolley dolly and artist in training)

Image: Cabin crew 20 minutes to Landing- acrylics on primed canvas 90cm x 60cm.

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