Confessions of an art student: Introducing Paul Butterworth - The Open College of the Arts
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Confessions of an art student: Introducing Paul Butterworth

I’d tried, and failed, to study the degree when I was working full time with a teenage son and a lodger… but as soon as my son was lodged at film school I tried again. I can’t remember my drive being anything other than wanting to paint.

However, though I have learned some painting skills, learning to look and question has been much more important. By 60 my world view was set but the OCA has turned it into sand.

The other revelation was that painting is all about ideas, not the skills you need to express them. You can learn craft skills watching You-Tube videos and sell paintings but it won’t turn you into an artist.

Now I know exactly why I’m doing the degree. I want to be an artist and earn money at it. It’s going to be my pension and my joy. 

And I’m already selling paintings, not the sort of paintings I want to paint, but enough to know that I can earn money at it.

Having done a degree years ago the academic side has been easy. The hardest part has been to learn to be a child again, for it not to matter, not to want to get it right, to learn to play (both with ideas and images) and… well… to have fun.

I’m an actor, and HE 5 feels like I’m going to be back at drama school with paint and a canvas instead of people and a script.

The biggest struggle has been finding the money, but, I think you probably need to be quite disciplined and driven too. The courses are brilliantly written and my tutors have all been perfect for my developmental stage – dedicated, inspirational, fair, and challenging.

The course has far exceeded my expectations.

Sunlight through Cherry Blossom Leaves, oil on canvas, 60 H x 60 W x 4.3 D cm, 2019

And I’m nothing like the artist I thought I’d be, I thought I’d be painting pretty landscapes with maybe a cow but I’m starting to paint what’s inside me, not what’s outside. it’s like swapping out a mini for a Rolls Royce and I’m very happy with that.

Distance learning is tough as you don’t naturally feel part of a cohort, but being part of a local group  has helped hugely. And magically, I’m suddenly making contacts… I don’t quite know how but I’m meeting other artists… people are suddenly taking an interest in my work and asking me to keep them informed. And artists generally, I’ve found, have no ageism (not a problem if you’re under 40 but it kicks in as you pass 55) and full time art students talk to you like an equal… established artists want to help. Suddenly there’s a whole community of people opening up and I don’t think I’d have had any of that if I’d self taught via the internet or just gone to a local class.

I’d say if you want to be an artist the OCA is the way to go, just be prepared for it to be life changing…. in the best possible way.


Paul has just completed Understanding Painting Media, check out his final assignment on his blog here

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Posted by author: Paul Butterworth
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