An End and a New Beginning: Reflection on Drawing 1

I have passed Drawing 1 and have enrolled on the Practice of Painting / Painting 1.  I am disappointed with my mark but am not altogether surprised. The main thing at this stage is to have passed and be able to continue, using the feedback to go forward and strengthen skills.  The examiners liked my sketchbook work, which they called “investigative and vital” but they didn’t like the larger scale assignment work which they described as “ill-conceived and/or overworked” and they criticised my handling of coloured pencil.  They recommend that I carry over my sketchbook approaches to my finished work.

I agree with the feedback.  I know that I also lost marks for presentation (I omitted to mount my work) and for not submitting examples of A3 work other than assignment pieces, which limited assessment of my work to the assignments.   Both of these things are mentioned in the course handbook so it my own fault that I overlooked them.  I submitted five A4 sketchbooks but, with OCA agreement, did not submit the A3 sketchbooks in order to save postage.  For the next course, I will record possible pieces for submission and remove them from a sketchbook, if necessary. I am still unclear exactly about the weighting of the assessment (the final drawing for Assignment 5? Assignments 2-5?  All larger pieces submitted?) and my tutor did not seem entirely sure either.  Judging by the course materials, it seems to be Assignments 2-5.

Overall, I enjoyed the course and have learned a lot from it.  My sketchbook skills have improved.  However, I found it very difficult, as a visual art novice, to understand exactly what was required for assignments. I felt that my work fell short of what was expected and yet I could not see another way at the time.  A creative leap involving heaps of confidence is required between the exercises and projects and the final assignments within a course. I am, so far, unable to make that leap although I will happily explore options, some of which do not work while others do, within the safe environment of a sketchbook.  This is probably easier for someone who has had at least a year or two’s formal art training with someone looking over their shoulder.  Doing this at a distance with feedback coming only every few months, is challenging.

There was some discrepancy between the tutor’s comments and assessors’ comments, which seems to be due to the difference in the requirements for assignments, which are not assessed according to the final criteria, and those for the overall portfolio, which is, and I wonder how this could be addressed in the future. I speak as a teacher who uses rubrics for student assessment and could not imagine assessing students only once at the end of the school year using criteria by which they had not been previously assessed  and had had to interpret for themselves unaided.

Having read the Ideal Study Experience published by OCASA (OCA students only have access), I agree with many of the points made, even though the student base surveyed was very small.  In particular, it would be useful to receive feedback from each of the assignments which makes specific reference to the criteria, to give us some idea of how we are progressing.  This would support students in understanding the process and expectations from early on in the course.  This is particularly important for those of us coming from a non-visual art background.  It would also avoid issues such as omitting to mount work, because were it not done, a tutor would have to comment.  Issuing grades for assignments would also serve to standardise tutor feedback within and across courses.

One last point: the course materials suggest exploring different media but they do not explicitly teach the use of those media and sometimes instinctive use falls short of effective use, as in my case with coloured pencils! I have recently discovered the Art Tutor website and have taken a subscription initially for a month to see how useful it might be in supporting skill development. After one week, I can already see that I will be taking out an annual subscription!  I have learned so much about using coloured pencils; I wish that I had sought out such resources earlier;  “live” demonstrations via video are the next best thing to “being there”.  In particular, Jane Lazenby’s (also an OCA tutor) series of videos on coloured pencils have proved very useful, and I will be using the acrylic and oil demos in the coming weeks as I take up these media in earnest.  It would be really helpful to have a resource bank of such videos on the new OCA site – perhaps they will.

We shall see what emerges from the OCASA report and how the points raised are taken up by the OCA. In the meantime, I am embarking on Painting 1 which will involve building on Drawing 1 skills and experience and having enormous fun with paint!  I look forward to the journey.


12 thoughts on “An End and a New Beginning: Reflection on Drawing 1

    1. Hello Vanessa and thank you for responding. I often felt as if I were scrambling around in the dark on the Drawing 1 course and only reaching the end elucidated the process. I wondered if other people felt the same way. When I wrote on the OCA forum post-assessment, although I received no direct response, the comments seemed to be divided between those who felt the need for clarification and those who easily understood the assessment process. I would be interested in knowing whether responses linked to extent of prior experience, innate talent or “simply” unbridled confidence…

  1. I myself find the OCA course material very brief and have spent a lot of money of books to help me understand things better. I feel they assume to much of the student. I am a accountant and have never studied art before i find myself having to spend a lot of time trying to find out what is expected etc and how to go about things.

    Your post was very interesting i will have a look at the art site you mentioned. i hope you are getting on with your Painting course ok.

    1. Thank you for your comment.  Since posting, I have looked for A level and BTEC art & design sources to help me to fill in some of the gaps in my skills. I have found the site inspiring and terrifying in equal measure. I have a better sense now of the importance of contextualisation and am trying to do regular critiques of anything that catches my eye.  I am collecting these in a sketchbook and will post them on the learning log where they lead to my own connections and ideas and, ultimately, painting(s).   I found an American textbook by Rosalind Ragans entitled “Art Talk” a useful starting point for critiquing.  This book is quite old now (out of print but Amazon currently has a few cheap used copies) and OCA tutors might be horrified at its basic level but it has helped me clarify what to look at/for in a work of art and there are some great projects which, although aimed at teenagers strike me as great fun and I will be trying them out to see where they might lead…

      1. Thank you your log has helped me alot I did not even know until reading your log that all work had to be sent to assessors. I don’t understand how they expect students to do well in this degree based on the one small file they provide. I find it very poor. I joined the art tutor site so will be looking at that over the weekend. I will also check out the info you have just given. Thank you for being so helpful.

      2. Hi Glenis,
        Great to stumble across your website and see the dedication you have towards your art studies!
        Glad you found my Student Art Guide website inspiring! Feel free to let me know how I might make it less terrifying 😛
        I should note that it seems remarkably odd that the assessment criteria of your ongoing assignments didn’t reflect that of your final assessment…
        All the best with Painting 1 🙂

  2. Hello Amiria, thank you stopping by. The Student Art Guide is beautiful – it will only seem less terrifying when – this may be a little optimistic! – my skills match those of your students. They produce work of an enviable quality. Regarding assessment criteria, these are only explicitly applied in the final assessment and I have found it difficult to grasp what exactly is expected. However, not every student on the course feels this way. It is likely to be related to the amount of prior experience of studying the visual arts – mine was non-existent. Hence, seeing what A level students are expected to produce and how they contextualise and document this is very useful. Thank you for such a terrific website!

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