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Study event review: OCA Europe - The Open College of the Arts

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Study event review: OCA Europe

As part of our annual virtual meetings with other international students, the Europe regional group invited tutor Hayley Lock to join us. Earlier in the year, many of the group had mentioned feeling a bit trapped by the medium of their degree and whether something ‘fitted’ into painting or photography or textiles. Hayley’s practice seemed to offer an opportunity to talk about breaking free of medium-specificity.

Before the session we were asked to collect together an intriguing set of items: a sketchbook, drawing materials of any kind, headphones and music, a book with words, a personal photograph, three shapes on a piece of A4, a favourite object and a camera/smartphone. Hayley began by leading us on a tour of things that inspired her, her process and her work. One of the things that struck me about Hayley’s process was an openness to chance providing the stimulus for a creative response. In her work with hypnosis, the trance state leads to works of drawing, painting, moving image, performance, sculpture, digital or physical collage—whatever form the work wants to take. It was all about not getting too comfortable and using fragments to keep developing the ideas.

The practical part of the session was new to a few of our participants but worked really well. Many of us would have happily carried on working for longer than the hour we had. Hayley gave us instructions to follow however we liked, bringing in the fragments of text, shape and photograph to create drawings or doodles that we could then begin to develop. As a photographer, I tend to shy away from drawing but I became completely lost in the process of connecting my fragments. So much so that I felt completely calm and still afterwards. It was a perfect antidote to the stress of current times, and something I will use again maybe as a warm up exercise or when I get stuck. Inger comments on her learning log reflection about how the different fragments seem to come together perfectly with other things that she had been thinking about or researching. I felt much the same way and then next day finally saw through some recent experiments to a new project about flight.

Here are some thoughts from other students.


I’ve done similar exercises but never with so many parameters involved. I think it has made a switch in my mind and gave me another layer of understanding how I can use everything around me as an impulse to create. This is something I was exploring lately so it really resonated yesterday. 


It was a really a stimulating and fun experience! I feel so grateful that I could meet Hayley and for the way she shared her creative process and the ‘pleasures of putting it out’ as she described her openness to create. I have been at a place of limbo and needed this space to continue. I was really nudged by Hayley. I took away so many ideas to use in my own creative process and have learnt about not getting too comfortable and asking more questions and searching for other ways to problem-solve. 


Having the presentation document beforehand enabled me to get a sense of the overall way in which Hayley approaches her work and her artist statement provided me with a wonderful model statement. I would have liked the session to have been longer.  A whole day would have been wonderful.  Better yet a weekend face-to-face workshop!  Even so it was great that an online session like this can bring together so many students from different parts of Europe and studying on different creative pathways. 

This session supported my creative development in reminding me that there are very different strategies that can be used to gain inspiration and new ways of looking at working practices. I woke up the next morning feeling more energised and enthusiastic; having been feeling ‘stuck’ for some time as a result of the impact of the coronavirus lockdown and the anxieties about the future this created for me. Overall, I felt very absorbed in the listening to Hayley talk about her work and in the creative exercise. I was reminded of creative development workshops I had participated in in the past, particularly creative visualisation and transpersonal psychology sessions. 


The drawing I made in around 10 minutes. I started by reacting to the music to create a random network of lines on the page, working with the beat.  This relates to some recent exercises I’ve been doing where I’ve used the wind to create a drawing machine, and I then go on to interpret the lines and shapes to make a narrative scene. Then I added the rectangles – I guess each represents my wife and my friend as separate entities but in close proximity. Then I interpreted the shapes using Caran d’Ache pencils and watercolour paint.  The movement and vitality in the swirling shapes and colours record the vitality of the party, the music, the jokes, dancing and laughter.  The music in my ears help this energy and vitality.

Hayley explained how the process we had undertaken unlocks our creativity.  It’s something which can be done easily and quickly as part of the ideation process. This was a brilliant session, and a particularly timely exercise for me as it aligns with Assignment 3 where I’m asked to make work in response to music.

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Posted by author: Emma Pigott

One thought on “Study event review: OCA Europe

  • Thanks for taking the time to write this experience up Emma. Indeed a good exercise for bringing forth what-is-already-there and making it new and exiting. Somehow the randomness of the the process (look at x page at the y paragraph) was oddly freeing, because the brain was out of control. But the things we each have inside then came out to bring the puzzle together.

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