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Study event review: OCA East of England – A student’s perspective

Aldeburgh. 12 October 2019

We have been meeting up every two months for about a year, normally in the Hub at Melbourn with Andrea Norrington leading a session. This was our first jolly, sorry… sketchbook day.

There were two elements to this… meeting other students and sketching.

Meeting the other students was key for me. We’d all had a bit of an adventure driving to the coast in the rain and were hunkered up in a posh hotel with good coffee and lots of smiles. Without a set time to start (we always chat before a session and at breaks in the hub but that always has a cut off point) we had a big round table discussion – and lots of split offs – which was qualitatively different to the discussions we’d had round one small coffee table in Melbourn or at an ‘official’ event.

The context of just getting together (though Andrea did a noble job and supplied us with a little booklet of ideas and a tutor chat) as an informal group for a day changed the whole dynamics.

Without going into details about individual chats – we stayed about an hour before we drifted out into the cold and wet – my main takeaway (and the best bit of the day) was how supported I felt. I was an art student with other art students. Everything I do art wise outside the OCA is with adults doing art as a relaxing hobby, the official meetings feel like going to a lecture/talk, but this felt like a social event with fellow students… or my first day at uni when you start to get to know people. It helped me feel that I’m an art student studying with the OCA… the OCA/UCA is my university and I’m part of a cohort not a loner taking a correspondence course.

We are a very disparate group but we all have the OCA in common.

Secondly it was brilliant to talk to other students about specific issues others could help with, suddenly you find that other people have the same concerns and issues and you are not alone.

Sketchbook wise I’d decided I wanted to sketch a boat and then make an abstract blocky sketch of the colours of the beach and sea. So I headed off alone, I could have paired up but it didn’t happen naturally and I didn’t feel the need to.

Fish and chips were first – I only mention this as being part of a group (even if they weren’t there) made me a lot more confident. I announced to the waitress I was part of a sketching group, asked about the weather (she’s a local… it would rain all day… and yes, it’s always busy at weekends)… and was told the best and driest place to sketch. Had I been on my own, I might have been embarrassed but everybody I spoke to was friendly and helpful and in my shelter visitors were interested or just let me get on. So, this will make it easier for me to sketch in public on my own, which I need to be able to do.

The boat was so difficult and I had so many alterations I decided to overpaint it, so spent all day in my beach shelter with various visitors. At the end of the day we had a show and tell session which was interesting, but by then the day was really over.

All in all a great idea (at first I’d not been too sure how it would be without a teaching element) with just the right structure and input from Andrea. It just goes to show you can’t tell what something will give you without trying it.

Paul is studying Understanding Painting Media with the Open College of the Arts, read and follow his posts on his blog here:

Image: Paul Butterworth, Boat… A4 ink pen and watercolour sketch in sketchbook.

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Posted by author: Paul Butterworth
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