Student work uncovered: Margaret O’Brien


This is a post from the archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.


OCA tutor and assessor Richard Liley examines Margaret O’Brien’s work, and picks out her sketchbooks for special attention.


  1. mags 29 May 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Lovely work in this sketchbook – I only wish we could see more! Like Margaret, I have a particular fondness for water-based media, so these sketches are of great interest.

    As for Richard’s closing statement, ‘Don’t try to make drawings!’… what a leap of faith that requires. It’s possibly the hardest thing to let go of, the idea that work must be ‘finished’. Perhaps it’s what constitutes ‘finished’ that needs to change in my mind.

  2. Jennifer 30 May 2013 at 9:05 am

    My tutor’s made a similar comment, on the difference between sketchbook and exercise work and the final assignment painting on the work I’m doing on the watercolours course. I think expectations and assumptions are part of our problem, but the possibly there’s something else, to do with the path of development and learning.

    In the sketchbook work, we’re often focusing on one thing at a time, and on a smaller scale piece of work. Come the assignment, I feel I’m trying to go further and put a lot of things together ina way I’ve not done up to that point. And that conscious putting together of pieces in a jigsaw does result in more ‘worked’ work, which can’t also integrate such sponteneity, for example. I think that’s reasonable – a stage of development you need to go through – but also think that’s the point at which my course is asking me to send in the work itself.

  3. Margaret O'Brien 30 May 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Richard is so right….I was trying to make drawings in my assessment work and they were so laboured as a result, I enjoyed the sketches far more. I think I have learnt this lesson now and as I progress with my Painting in Watercolour and The Practice of Painting modules I am trying to remember it!

  4. s3kzycwp 31 May 2013 at 10:05 am

    Margaret’s work is very fluid and expressive. The Assessors coments are very helpful but after Assessment. I think there should be more instruction before we get to either the final drawing or final painting stage. My Tutor has also advised me to think of the exercises as experiments and not try to do a final painting for each exercise and this has helped to free me up and take the pressure off.

  5. CarolAnneS 2 June 2013 at 9:47 am

    I really do enjoy these spontaneous sketches – lovely flowing stuff. The tutor’s remarks about incorporating that spontaneity in the finished piece is problematic for me. So much so, that I’ve found it liberating to not spend much time in preparation and sometimes no preparation, particularly so in the case of self portraits. I find too much diddling and fussing about has a stultifying effect. We’ll see what my own tutor has to say about this approach….

  6. oliviairvine 4 June 2013 at 3:43 pm

    You may have hit the nail on the head, Jennifer, when you say that sketchbook work is often small and finished work larger. One way around this is to get a large sketchbook and really loosen up on this scale. It’s amazing what a difference this can make. Similarly, final work can be small. Size does matter.


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