As a tutor for the OCA I have at times had expressed to me a frustration from students on aspects of the course projects being a bit “vague”, or to put it another way, that there isn’t a clear set of instructions, such as “do this, now do that, in order to produce X,” and I thought it might be beneficial to current students to discuss this topic in a bit more detail.
Embarking on a period of study will inevitably involve a certain amount of adaptation on the student’s part in terms of their working methods, and this can seem daunting, especially for those having a career change. However, I want to highlight that far from being a negative thing, this is actually an opportunity to experiment and develop a side of their creativity which may be as yet untapped. It is also an opportunity to make the course work for them, to act as a building block in order to achieve what they want to achieve, and as I see it, this is precisely the reason why the instructions in projects are kept open. The project exercises and assignments are essentially the base for a student to work from, and rather than restricting a student’s development by putting expectations of “you will produce X”, projects are open enough to allow their individual creativity and motivation for their own development to grow and go in new and exciting directions.
A good example of this is in the work of Illustration Level 2 student Stephanie Belbin. Stephanie came to the course with an already developing sense of her creative voice, however, far from stifling this progression through focusing solely on what is being asked of her, she has used the exercises as a building block to continue to develop and adapt this voice, going beyond the instructions to produce work which not only fits the theme she’s working with, but displays an ability to consider her work within the wider context of professional illustration practice.
Take her results from the Caricature and Character exercise, Stephanie worked on developing a caricature of the singer Miley Cyrus (see below), but rather than stopping there she then produced an animated gif from her illustrations, a technique learned from an earlier exercise on animation. This shows an ability to go beyond the instructions and produce the work that she wanted to produce in keeping with the theme. In her Contemporary Ceramics submission Stephanie went beyond the exercise instructions to produce her designs ‘in the flesh’ (see above), to test whether her ideas would work beyond a drawing or digital mock-up. And one last example is her production of a downloadable book of interactive maps (see above), referencing the theme ‘you are here’.
What Stephanie’s work demonstrates is the availability for students to make the course work for them, and enable them to develop the skills they need to produce the work that they want to make.
India Ritchie, OCA Tutor.
Image Credits: Stephanie Belbin