Patricia Farrar coloured my world | The Open College of the Arts
Explore #WeAreOCA
Skip Navigation

Patricia Farrar coloured my world

I am heartbroken to have to share the news that OCA student and artist Patricia Farrar passed away at the weekend.

Every single drawing and painting student (and many beyond) has some connection with Patricia as her work illustrates our course units as exemplars of practice. Many of you know her very well indeed as a generous peer and a friend.

Patricia has been studying with OCA for twelve years and I was with her as her tutor for Drawing 1 (the first course) and for Sustaining Your Practice (the last). I have known her for over a decade and feel privileged to have done so. The last time we spoke over zoom she was ensconced in her beautiful studio, speckled with paint, eyes sparkling and grinning from ear to ear. “I’ve done it!” she said. We were discussing her amazing degree show which she had completed and is now online, and her enormous sense of achievement and peace in her relationship with her own painting.

Patricia arrived at OCA whilst still working as a principal in a busy girl’s school. Like many, she had been deterred from pursuing art as a career by concerned parents and now, as she looked towards retirement she was giving herself that chance. I remember right at the outset her saying that her husband was arranging a studio in the garden for her – perhaps that was my first moment of student studio envy! (not the last). Family support is crucial for many OCA students, but so too for many is the garden.

From the outset Patricia’s connection with her garden was intense and creatively potent. She was a competent draughtsperson before she began her degree, making evocative and sinuous drawings from observation with ease. There was a moment though in assignment three of drawing skills where she sent me a dark and powerful small drawing. It had made the paradigm shift from observational research to art. The dark black of the space underneath and behind shrubs was the star of the show and the trees had become geometric girders traversing a dappled green space. It was electric.

Many on the painting degree will recognise that tension, often productive but sometimes not so much, between drawing and painting. Patricia wrangled with that middle ground with more intellectual courage and forensic material investigation than anyone I can remember in my time at OCA. There was a time at level 2 where she reached out to me to say the situation felt impossible and it had rocked her. When is a drawing a painting, what does painting do that drawing can’t? How can the immediacy of the performance of drawing and its relation to sound and thought that she harnessed so intuitively be reconsidered for painting?

During her final graduating suite of studies Patricia wove a complex web of ideas and intuitions together. She had initially wanted to make work celebrating the older person’s creativity and then became interested in sound and birdsong, but a trip back to the Australia of her birth cut across her thinking like a thunderclap. She realised that the colours of the garden flowers in Surrey she was so drawn to were connected somehow to a memory of colour from Australia. Her sense of herself as displaced, as a migrant, as an Australian abroad rose up in her. Her contextual studies tutor Diana Ali helped her form a research plan around this and I was by her side as she worked through how to paint her way into those feelings and colours. The secret we tutors all hide is that we more often than not get as much or even more form having tutorials than the student. It is incredibly energising and exciting to be a part of someone’s learning and to share those moments of insight and passions awoken. Patricia’s intelligence and sense of urgency meant that our conversations were incredibly rewarding for both of us as we considered aspects of painting about which we were both fascinated. She completed her studies with a hard won but totally secure painting practice. She was an artist.

At the end of our recent tutorial Patricia said to me that her degree had been so important to her and she didn’t know quite what she would do without it. I am sitting here just now realising just how important Patricia was to OCA and wondering what we will do without her.

It says something crucial about Patricia that even though she had completely finished her work for us, she offered to write a piece for WeAreOCA about the relationship between Major Project and Contextual Studies to help others understand the level. Last week she sent me the copy for that article and so I am in the position now of posting it here posthumously. Thank you Patricia. 

Voiced by Amazon Polly

Posted by author: Emma Drye
Share this post:

15 thoughts on “Patricia Farrar coloured my world

  • This is such a moving tribute, Emma. It’s salutary to remember that all of us – staff and students – are people making human connections. Your words come from that deep place so that even those of us who never knew Patricia can feel how much she meant. What a sad thing to have to write.

  • Wow, such a potent experience reading these articles. I didn’t know Patricia but I can feel the esteem you had for her through your words. It must have been a privilege to share in her artistic journey. Her generosity in feeding back to us all is appreciated and is especially moving given this very sad news.

  • Thank you, Emma, for sharing Patricia’s spirit and insight with us and for sharing your memories of her. What a beautiful tribute.

  • This is such a beautiful tribute to Patricia, Emma! I know how upset you are. I didn’t know Patricia personally but am familiar with her light-filled, colourful and exuberant paintings. I would imagine that she put everything into her artwork and it paid off. It’s very sad that she will not be around to continue her work, but at least she finished her degree, which I’m sure made her very happy. My condolences to her family, her tutors and her many friends in the OCA student community.

  • This is so beautifully written Emma. I am happy for Patricia that she found her identity in her home country, as one can see in her work. Condolences to her family and friends.

  • I was deeply shocked to hear this very sad news. Emma’s eloquent words have allowed those who didn’t connect with Patricia to appreciate her remarkable qualities.
    I admired Patricia’s work during the early years of my study, particularly her drawing ability & was eventually able to make a connection with her through our level 3 online crits & zoom sessions where she was always very generous with feedback & support. We recognised a shared migrant experience, although in opposite directions; she an Aussie in England & me a Pom in Australia & both with a teaching background.
    Patricia’s bond with her homeland was steadfast. She had told me “despite more than half my life in England, I would without hesitation class myself still as an Aussie” & she was effusive about the sounds, colours & textures of the Australian landscape. She enjoyed the memories triggered by seeing images of my work on our cattle station “I remember that landscape so well – I could even smell it as I watched your video…”
    We had talked of a possible collaboration through exploratory drawing in 3D media encompassing the impact of our home countries on our creativity. She was full of ideas borne of an innovative mind & meticulous attention to research. Her enthusiasm was infectious.
    Patricia’s virtual degree exhibition is a credit to her & the audio of her poetry reading is particularly poignant. She felt poetry to be an integral part of her painting process. The paintings literally strike a chord with me, sounding out the deep emotion connected to place.
    A very sad loss.

  • So sad news and a beautiful tribute!
    I have admired her work, she was a great inspiration to me and I believe to many other OCA students, as well..
    My deepest condolences to her family and friends.

  • What a beautiful tribute Emma, so very sad to read about such a very generous lady who I connected with when I began my OCA course. I thought she was very talented and so kind to anyone new to OCA. She will be missed by all who knew her. I am sure you will pass on our condolences to her family on behalf of all the students at the OCA.

  • My dear condolences to Patricia’s family, friends and all who knew her. Emma, what a beautiful and heartfelt tribute. She was a passionate student and artist who really did ‘get into her studies’, made for innovative work and believed in herself through her studies and life. She was a pleasure to teach and as said by Emma, I, as a tutor, learnt so much compassion and eagerness to how we use our art to encompass our difficulties and confront what we have often wanted to say. During our tutorials, Patricia made me realise I love my work with students and it is such a sad loss to know she is no longer with us. Her work, commitment and enthusiasm can only be an extraordinary example to us. It is extremely sad hear of this news. But let’s celebrate the fact that she did it and we should be so proud. I know she most definitely is. Patricia most certainly coloured my world too.

  • Patricia’s work was always so full of ‘colour’ and ‘sound’. During our level 3 group sessions, she was always generous with her comments and feedback. I found her work intriguing, thoughtful and inspirational. My thoughts are with her family.

  • This is a very moving tribute, my heart goes out to Patricia’s family and friends. Patricia’s work is beautiful, and her story an inspiration to us all.

  • I was very shocked to hear of this sad event. Patricia has always been just ahead of me on my OCA painting journey so I always found her blogs informative and inspiring. She had just completed her journey but now sadly will not be able to fulfil her plans and all the creative ideas she had.
    My heartfelt best wishes and condolences go to her family and friends at this sad time. She may be gone but will live on in her work and our hearts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to blog listings