Last time we spoke about the ideas that lie behind the Drawing from the Past. This time I want to focus on what students will get from completing the course.
Bryan: It’s not an assessed course, not part of a degree, but when we were writing it, we imagined what an ‘ideal student’ – perhaps ‘typical’ is a better word – would get from the course and what they could take forward onto degree level study.
Cheryl: At this point, it might be useful to consider who might be interested in and benefit from studying Drawing from the Past. It would certainly be enriching for those who are interested in or might have previously studied an art history or cultural studies course. These students will gain an additional set of research skills and methods to supplement typical text-based research methods. It might also be refreshing for students who might find a heavy text-based course a barrier to understanding art history. Visual artists and students engaging in drawing may warm to using drawing as a research tool. It certainly might lead them to making and understanding connections between their own and others’ work in interesting new ways. It could also offer visual artists a number of fresh strategies to apply to their own drawing and making methods in reflective and visual terms.
Bryan: When writing any OCA course the authors work to a set of ‘learning outcomes’ that have been agreed on. For this course they are as follows:
On successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
- use drawing as a way of getting closer to works of art
- gain insight into varied types of art practice
- reflect on your experience of making in writing
- research and establish links between different artists and their work
Without going into too much detail, students are tasked with working through different ways of understanding different kinds of work and then with reflecting on what has been learned. It amounts to a kind of ‘toolbox’ of techniques for engaging closely with art.
Cheryl: The course structure and content have been written specifically to reflect the distinctive nature, strategies, and methodologies within the art works and of the carefully selected artists. Each project has its own particular, sometimes idiosyncratic, flavour to reflect thematic ideas and concepts.
Having read the course, I notice that you treat art history in a particular way. A way that might seem novel to some students.
Bryan: Yes. This is important, but we can’t claim that it’s entirely original. Rather than working chronologically through art like a narrative, we follow the method that Tate Modern uses. We group things by theme. One section is concerned with representing the body and the face, another with more process-based approaches to making, and another uses analysis of composition to understand narrative. We also ask students to document what they’ve learned in a non-linear, diagrammatic way. Art is a complex subject, too complex for simplistic ‘stories’ in which one idea leads neatly to another. We’ve tried hard to place the viewer, or rather the student, in the middle of that complexity, allowing them to start from where they already are, with what they already know, instead of dumping a whole load of facts and figures about art and artists on them.
Cheryl: We see Drawing from the Past as offering a different set of research tools from more typical art historical study. These tools might feed into students reflective, critical, observational, and making skills and would be an enriched addition to text-based research. Ultimately we believe that Drawing from the Past refreshingly designates a direct visual and haptic connection – that is, primarily physical – with works of art, and that this engagement can offer real insight into artists’ making and thinking processes.
Finally, how do you see this Foundation integrating with other OCA courses?
Bryan: It’s not uncommon for students to start degree-level study after completing a Foundation course so our hope is that people will complete Drawing from the Past and have a taste for studying and perhaps consider enrolling on one of the OCA degrees. It’s also important to acknowledge that for many students, this might be the only course they do so it had to be ‘complete’ unto itself. As it stands I believe Drawing from the Past works as a ‘stand alone’ course of study that would interest anyone who enjoys looking at art and wants to dig deeper but is perhaps unsure whether they want to be an artist or an art historian. If people are thinking of studying to ‘be an artist’ this gives them a grounding in understanding lots of ways of making, and if people want to be art historians, we offer ways of closing the gap between the commentator and the maker.
Image: OCA tutor Cheryl Huntbach.