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.