Denise McHale

Denise McHale, Printmaking 1 – Doug Burton from Open College of the Arts on Vimeo.

OCA tutor and assessor Doug Burton looks at the work of Printmaking student Denise McHale. Doug highlights how she uses her workbooks – termed so because she’s brought together very different parts of her practice and critical understanding.

Denise has a rich, layered approach to critically developing ideas and research, building her visual language.



  1. Josie Thomas 11 May 2016 at 8:07 am

    Thank you so much for this, Doug and Denise!

  2. Rachel 11 May 2016 at 8:23 am

    Well…I’ve got to say I’m gobsmacked! Not only because these workbooks are stunning visually, but because I was SPECIFICALLY told I was NOT allowed to work in this manner!!! This would have been how I would have naturally worked,and the outcome would have been so much more useful and relevent than the forced and limited way I was told to do it!!!! I was told I had to keep sketchbook work seperate,not write in them,do the writing,research and analysis seperately in a log or blog…which I found impossible and tedious to do!!!! It caused so much extra work and could never have given the gestalt result I needed as exemplified by this ladys work. To allow ideas to germinate they need this organic cross pollination of layers of sketches,pictures,research and notes to grow holistically. I would be interested to know if this lady also kept a seperate log or blog? And if she did how this fitted into an already comprehensive working system?

    1. Joanne 11 May 2016 at 10:24 am

      Morning Rachel, it’s not unusual for tutors to advise students differently, part of the reason the marks at Levels 1 and 2 are not included in the final degree outcome is to allow students to develop their skills and different approaches to learning. The nature of printmaking suits a layered approach as it is a layered process. Denise did have separate learning logs, research and methodology books, sketchbooks etc, which were clearly labeled and identifiable.

      Something to be aware of is comments on WeAreOCA are automatically moderated and a large number of exclamation marks within the text may lead to comments being identified as spam.


      1. Doug Burton 11 May 2016 at 1:01 pm

        I agree with Joanne and I wanted to highlight how this approach was particularly useful to this student and in relation to printmaking. The key for me with this students work was the way she had used her critical research to identify creative outcomes within this richly layered workbook format, and as Joanne points out all the other elements of her course work were clearly identifiable.

    2. susan17 11 May 2016 at 12:25 pm

      This is how I would like to work for Textiles perhaps when I get to level 3.

  3. Mary F McCann 11 May 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Lovely work and very interesting to look at the processes Denise has used for developing her prints

  4. Gina 11 May 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Ideas and considered thought processes are brilliantly illustrated and the outcomes are beautiful and inspiring thank you for sharing!

  5. dlawton 12 May 2016 at 11:48 am

    What lovely work Denise. I love opportunities like this to see how other students approach sketchbooks. This is a wonderful resource for isolated students to see what others are producing and how. Its also to good to know the sort of work that the tutors are impressed by . More please OCA.

  6. Alayne's Learning Log 13 May 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Inspirational work books and also how I would prefer to work in Textiles as always seem to struggle differentiating between learning log and sketchbook – for me they are integrated and layered as Denise has so successfully shown.

  7. Jennifer 13 May 2016 at 4:57 pm

    I’ve also had mixed – including negative – feedback on working in a similar way, combining learning logbook, sketchbook work, project research and development all in one. This seems the standard way of working in university art departments – I’ve seen workbooks like this in exhibitions including undergraduate work, for example – but that the OCA was asking for something specifically different from us.

  8. leonieocacan 14 May 2016 at 4:44 am

    Thanks for showing this, what an inspiration! As a level 1 student I am still finding my way in putting down my thoughts and inspirations and I often end up completely messing up prints and my note books. I hope this will get better over time, because now that I’m getting everything ready for assessment I’m not quite sure if it will work. Anyway, we’ll see. I guess that it’s all part of a learning process!

  9. hortonjane2013 31 May 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Wonderful work with fantastic outcomes, well done!


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