Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Open College of the Arts

Ecology Park Ponds Series - 2nd January 2009 - #3
Canal View Bridge and Moor Hen Pond

10" x 14", coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Some of the members of the Watermarks group have been posting on their blogs about linocutting recently. This morning Gesa Helms - Paint and Pastel reminded me about an educational resource which I've not highlighted before.

The Open College of the Arts is an educational facility based in the UK which makes a structured set of courses available to any student of any age anywhere in the world. It was founded to cater for people who wish to develop their abilities but who see no present way of engaging in the traditional pathways of full-time education.

It offers people the opportunity to:
  • study for fun
  • develop your skills
  • get a degree in creative arts
The OCA has over 200 tutors, based throughout the UK, who are all experienced teachers - as well as being practising artists, photographers, designers, writers or composers.

The OCA’s courses in Fine Art help you develop as a visual artist. You can explore a range of disciplines and you can follow a study pathway which can take you right up to degree level. Or, if you prefer, you can take courses just for your own pleasure and interest.

We offer a foundation programme in Art and Design which forms a platform for further study with the OCA. Or you can use the course to create a portfolio of work in support of applications for full-time study at art college or university.

At post-foundation level, we offer specialist courses in drawing, painting, sculpture and printmaking.

In most cases, these disciplines are available from Level 1 through to Level 3. These are progressively challenging, highly rewarding courses at higher education level which require a real commitment in terms of time and effort.
Guide to Courses 2008/09 (pdf)
The courses are based on distance learning and a prepared set of course materials supported by one to one tuition. You can use post or email to send your assignments to your tutor for a written report, feedback and advice. You can find details of how tuition works on the website.

There are three levels of courses in the following topic areas. The numbers indicate the levels from Drawing and Painting. Click the link for more details about each course - the course aims, content, teaching method and assessment.
This course has been designed to allow you to explore printmaking techniques which you can learn at home without the need for complicated equipment or materials. You will carry out a series of projects and experiments and undertake preparatory work including analysis and selection from visual sources. Design, composition and colour projects will help you to turn your ideas into printed images. The course is aimed at complete beginners or more experienced printmakers looking for a new and better approach to their work.
Course content:
  • Monoprinting
  • Relief printing
  • Collatype collage prints
  • Combined processes.
Course overview
plus a set of courses about textiles.

There are also specific workshops held in different parts of the UK. An example of one running this month is given below
Still Life: a Bold Approach
on 31st January 2009

This workshop aims to develop student approaches to still life painting with particular reference to the function of colour in composition. After looking at the work of a selection of still life artists such as Morandi, Scottish Colourists, students will learn how to lay down and build up a composition using acrylic and a broad brush whilst considering colour harmonies and contrasts.

  • When: 31st January 2009 10:00-16:00
  • Where: Michael Young Arts Centre, Barnsley
You can find out more about the courses in a booklet which is available to download as a pdf file Guide to Courses 2008/09

A degree in creative arts - with a difference

For those interested in taking a degree in creative arts
Key features of the BA Hons in Creative Arts
• No entry requirements
• Enrol at any time
• Study in your own time
• Wide choice and combination of subjects
• Previous studies can count towards your degree
• Combine study with other work and commitments
• No need to travel
• No compulsory summer schools
• No sit-down exams
• No accommodation fees
• Highly cost effective.
The courses can be taken in such a way that a student can obtain a degree - a BA Hons in Creative Arts. This is because nearly all the courses are accredited which means they carry higher education credit points. If you successfully complete enough courses this can lead to a Certificate or Diploma in Higher Education or to an Honours degree in Creative Arts.
  • a Certificate requires 120 credit points at Level 1
  • a Diploma requires 120 credit points at Level 1 plus 120 points at Level 2
  • a BA Hons degree requires a further 120 points at Level 3.
There are some information sheets which help people to decide whether or not this is for them

The above is just a summary of what can be found on the website. The institution has been around for a while and the scope and content of a number of the courses appear to offer opportunties for learning which are a tad different from many short workshops.

I'd love to hear from anybody who's completed a course with the OCA and to hear about their experience of the set-up and how well it worked for them.

[Note: The drawing was developed from the sketch I did and the photos I took on 2nd January - see yesterday's post on my sketchbook blog An introduction to the Ecology Park Pond series]



Caroline said...

Hi Katherine,

Open College of the Arts is great! I took a few courses with them when I lived in Newcastle and recommend them. I took Art&Design then Painting 1 and started 2 before I moved. I had monthly tutorials with a fairly large group of all skill levels. At first I was a little intimidated by the experts but our tutor was excellent and feedback was always very specific to our levels. Comments from other students were very helpful and we had some really interesting discussions.

The course books they provide are well-written with plenty of pictures and space for notes. I still refer to them for practice exercises or projects when I'm scratching for ideas.

OCA course are available by mail but I had less success this way - I needed the deadline looming to keep on track. Also, meeting more accomplished artists was a huge help in finding resources as well as practical advice.


mongoose1 said...

Wow, Katherine!
This sounds amazing. Thank you as well Caroline for the information.

I like the idea of this but I'm a little nervous about the idea since I live overseas.

Caroline, what was the total length of time you studied there?

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I guess the exchange rate could be influential for some people

It's so advantageous to people living outside the UK that we've got people from the Eurozone arriving in droves to do their shopping at the moment!

Gesa said...

Oh, I like the serial sketch here - it achieves such an amazing effect of intersecting (almost mirrorlike) planes right throughout the whole composition. Fantastic!
This is a good and rich post, Katherine - funny that you never wrote about the OCA. I've since 'met' a few fellow OCA bloggers, many of them photographers (there's a very active flickr group); a few painters and just one other on the printmaking course - I think there are about 20odd people doing the printmaking course; but with the distance learning bit it can easily be very distant. I will make a note to write about it once I've posted this assignment off.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Gesa - you hit on exactly what I liked about this one. The flats in the background actually provide quite a neat contrast to the natural forms of the pond and a complement to the constructed forms of the bridges

Caroline said...

Hi Mongoose1,

I studied with the OCA for about 3 years (painting with in-person tutorials) and I also took a writing course by mail. My writing tutor was extremely helpful, sending detailed and constructive criticism of my writing. I had trouble finishing the course because I struggled with motivation. To be honest, motivation was a real issue at the time anyway - my day job was very draining.

In-person tutorials can be great for meeting other painters, but now that blogs and websites are here I think there are a lot more ways to exchange ideas with fellow artists than there were when I took the courses (over 6 years ago now!).

I don't know how much the courses cost now, but I don't remember them seeming terribly expensive at the time - maybe give one a try? Painting 1 assumes pretty much zero painting knowledge which is about where I was at the time. I think there was a portfolio process to skip over the basics. Funny to think back and realize how far I have come - thank you for this Katherine!

harrybell said...

I first took up painting in 1989 with the OCA and stayed with them for about 8 years, before going on to do a BA(Hons) in Fine Art at Newcastle Uni. I'd never have made that move without the input of a particularly good OCA tutor and I know I wouldn't be where I am today (wherever that may be!) were it not for the OCA. The sad thing is that were I in the same position now as I was in 1989, I don't think I could afford their prices.

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