Category Archives: Workshops and Meetings

Edge-zine: A magazine for students, graduates and tutors of the Open College of the Arts

Edge-zine is a non-profit student-led publication which supports cross-disciplinary work of an international collective of present and past students of OCA and tutors. The original idea of the zine was to bring together the work of students who live and work at physical distance from each other.

The first zine (in December 2016) was put together, by hand, by the editor, Angela Johnson, who collaged pieces of work into a booklet meant to be seen in paper format offline only and photocopied on a sale basis. Support was offered by OCA for production of a pre-Christmas limited edition of zine No. 2 and 100 copies, were printed and distributed by OCA.  When a new editor, Holly Yates, took over the zine became a predominantly digital production on a free Issuu platform, although No. 5 was again printed in a limited edition of 100 and distributed by OCA.

Competing workload demands led to a hiatus in production of the zine until November 2018 when there was a call for additional members, including people who would be interested in being part of the curating team.  I was very interested in being involved so volunteered and we eventually settled into an editorial team of four who work collaboratively on zine production whilst also having specific responsibilities which further our personal and creative developments. We are editor Stefan Schaffeld, Fine Arts Student;  zine designer Amy-Sarah Opitz, Creative Arts student; funding, myself and communications Michael Green, Photography students.

See here

After much discussion we agreed our commitment to making edge-zine a sustainable and collaborative platform with impact and visibility and defined our Mission as being:

“To show work and to provide insight into a process of contemporary art practices as research across medium specificity in our visual culture.  We consider edge-zine as an evolving and developing publication and platform for creative approaches, the form and the content will continue to be fluid as water”.

We shared ideas on layout design and sought initial input and advice from Dr James Pyman, OCA Programme Leader for Illustration, Graphic Design and Visual communications.  James encouraged us to experiment with more varied approaches to design, making content more visual whilst utilising the coherence of a theme.

I took on the role of writing a detailed finance application to OCA/OCASA which included costs for the setting-up of a dedicated Wix website, capable of extension and which could support embedded videos, in addition to the free Issuu platform, and also a potential print run.  For this I compared the costs of a paid-for Issuu site, which would be ad-free, with that of a subscription to Wix which offered more scope for extension at a similar cost.  I also obtained sample papers and printing costs from three UK printing firms for runs from 50 to 200 prints.  We were pleased to be informed that the application had been successful

The zine was re-designed and re-launched by the new editorial team in July 2018, with Issue 7 “Water”, which included “Tutor Thoughts” from Dr Pyman.  Some of my images from Assignment 3 “the Silent Pool” appear on pages 18 to 22 (access to edition via this link .  The theme for Issue 8 in November 2019 was “Time” and our latest edition No. 9 “Inside” was published at the beginning of April this year.  We had chosen the theme before the end of 2019 and the title seemed so prophetic given that many of us were spending time indoors due to the Lockdown measures during the Coronavirus Pandemic.   Stefan suggested I write the Editor’s note for this issue.  I’ve never done anything like that before so felt anxious at the thought, whilst reassuring myself that if Stefan thought I could do it then I could; so I did and it’s on page 4 (access via this link)

It’s been quite a learning curve, with more to come as, after the end of June, Amy is going to be offering each of us some tuition on the use of InDesign software and website building.  We had planned to discuss a print-run once we thought the new design had consolidated but the events of this year have put all that on hold and, given the growth of student-run events financed by OCA/OCASA now, we might not be able to take advantage of the finance we had available.  Something to discuss when we next meet.

Even so, I ’ve gained a lot from my involvement in production of the zine; the sense of satisfaction that can be gained from working as a team and producing something to be proud of as well as the stimulation and challenge of tackling something new especially with a multi-disciplinary base.  It’s been quite a learning curve, but I feel proud of being associated with such a vibrant production and continually amazed at the diversity and quality of the work that gets submitted.



23rd May 2020 – An OCA South West Day with Dr Michele Whiting


An online day divided into two parts – A Workshop Style session focused on drawing as both subject and method followed by work crits. As much of the content of the day was copyright to Dr Whiting I won’t be including any of her material from the day here in my blog.

Her aim for the day was, “Celebrating us together as makers” which was an inspiring thought.

To begin with Michele told us a little about herself. She has been with the OCA as a tutor and assessor for eleven years and, for 26 years across Schools of Art & Design teaching historical and critical studies, including at PhD level. Very interested in experiential doing and experimental drawing, using fast and furious exercises to bring us back to practice. The session would be a talk first and then drawing ‘provocations’ with no pressure to share.

Michele’s Presentation was on “What is Drawing”, its history and then her own methodology which involves embodied walking without camera or sketchbook then carrying her impressions into the studio for drawings and sketches.  The materials she uses are important to her and she spent a long time investigating mediums to understand what they could do before she developed her methodology.

An important point; we can’t look at something all the time therefore drawing carries seen and unseen – something we were going to think about today.

Then followed a series of ‘provocations’ specific exercises alone and then coming back together to de-brief. During the course of them I re-confirmed what I already know; that I tend to begin to draw larger than the space I’ve allowed so that the rest has to be crammed in somehow (is this connected with the balance between exploring and focusing?) – and I don’t enjoy doing the same thing over and over again (which also applies to re-doing essays and assignments). By the last exercise I had improved slightly more proportions and worked on my block about repeating drawings. Just the first starter drawing below –


In the second session we spent some time talking through concerns about the forthcoming digital assessment against new learning outcomes with some advice to think in sections rather than paragraphs, ensuring clarity on where evidence can be located in blogs and always turn back to your practice.

We have been given a handout on how to go about crits which was very helpful – the approach being to consider what the student needs at that moment in time; consider your own biases and respectfully bring your own knowledge and experience ‘into the room’. The process being introduction of the work then feedback comprising questions, suggestions about the qualities that make up the work such as techniques, methods, subject, mediums and contextualisation in relation to movement, styles and practitioners.

The work presented was inspiring – etchings based on astrophysics; photographs and paintings of beans and the dance between the energy of the painting and the still life; illustrations for a book and paintings of water.

It was a long tiring yet exhilarating day and I very much enjoyed the experiential aspect as I had on the day with Hayley Lock.

Michele Whiting’s website is here which welcomes you with a perfect quote from Yi Fu Tuan on of my favourite writers on “Space and Place”, “…to experience in the active sense requires that one ventures forth into the unfamiliar and experiment with the elusive and the uncertain” (1977).  I see that she is also involved in an academic artists’ research collective “Space Place Practice”  and also a collaborative practice,  “Quilos and the Windmill”   with Dr Linda Khatir


Further thoughts


Thinking about embodied walking this reminded me of the different sensations I feel when wearing ‘barefoot shoes’ for my walks – the ground feels so different under my feet and I feel more connected with it. Being a beginner at drawing and art I have acquired lots of different media – paper, types of pencils and paints etc.  I have felt guilty about this but am thinking now that, perhaps, this is all a part of understanding how materials work as well as thinking myself into a creative space.  I started with all this as a way to orientate my practice towards being an artist who uses a camera as my main medium whilst using others too. It’s now a matter of integrating this slowly as I’m at an early stage.

Thinking about gaps in ‘seeing’ reminded me of photography and absence – what’s missing is just as important as what’s there.

At the moment my head is full of getting ready for assessment so it was good for me to get into some drawing instead if only for a while.













 Summary Notes from Susan Bright – Online Lecture 28th May and Conversation Arpita Shah and Dan Robinson 2 June 2020

 Summary Notes from Susan Bright – Online Lecture 28th May and Conversation Arpita Shah and Dan Robinson 2 June 2020

Susan Bright “Collaboration and Creative Practice” – Online Lecture

Summary notes from a longer version I have on file. Susan Bright’s website also provides a lot of information about her.

Bright was a curator at the National Portrait Gallery before deciding to work independently in 2002. Four years concentrated work on one project, during her PhD, meant it was hard to find her place back in the world. She became an ‘acclaimed curator” without her seemingly doing anything, following her curation of the 2013 Exhibition at the Photographers Gallery – Home Truths: Photography, Motherhood and Identity   )  I wrote about this here  

Interview below:

Her aim with the Home Truths Exhibition was to generate empathy rather than rallying protest at a time when there was increased visibility of celebrity mothers, with private thoughts becoming public.

Major political reassessments in the Art World are important to consider throughout professional lives, e.g. 2019 backlash against the amount of male shows being an open letter to the then Director of Recontres d’Arles asking where the women are; So much going online during the Coronavirus pandemic; Changes in the “Me Too” movement.

She thinks the notion of ‘collaboration’ needs unpacking and remarked on Daniel Palmer’s book  Photography and Collaboration: From Conceptual Art to Crowdsourcing (2017) where he claims that photography as a solo activity is a very paradoxical idea as there are many phases to photography, all of which involve other people.  Bright thinks this is very interesting especially when looking at documentary which involves community – involving the community doesn’t mean it’s an uncontroversial and simple action.

When it comes to vision she can’t work on her own and there’s a whole eco system around curatorial practice.  Bright illustrated this by going into detail about some of her projects, particularly ones involving Elina Brotherus who she first came to know in 2000 whilst an assistant curator at the National Portrait Gallery. When she was starting to work on the book and Exhibition on motherhood, Elina Brotherus sent her a picture from her work on Annunciation which was a private project.  Bright was so taken with this and Elina’s story that she persuaded her to show the work but on the basis that Elina would never talk about the Annunciation project.  This put Bright into the more traditional role of a curator – looking after and keeping control of the work. However, Elina Brotherus now does talk about that project because she is in a different place in her life.

Photo Espana  looks to have been a very interesting project. Clare Strand, in collaboration with her husband, in the Discrete Channel with Noise involving a kind of remote painting by numbers and about photography’s inability to communicate. Sharon Core and Laura Letinsky in Double Take created eleven images between them that demonstrate a sophisticated questioning about photographic reproduction and Still Life as a genre.  Delio Jasse, using archives of Portugese families who had gone to live in Angola where you couldn’t tell they were living in Africa with Jasse layering up the idea of identity, like a palimpsest. Patrick Pound holding his Exhibition in a museum having gone through the collection there and pulling out anything to do with air.

Bright referred to the way in which a curator becomes a member of a team where each take on different roles and hierarchy is stripped away. Also referred to the re-consideration of traditional models and how collaborative approaches demand reconsidering.

Dan Robinson asked for advance questions for Susan in their ‘Conversation’ – I asked, how Susan became a curator in the first place and what made her decide eventually to become independent. I’m also interested in curator roles – she talked about looking after work; also about being a member of a team, each with different roles and in collaboration, but not about the power of the curator in terms of who gets seen and who doesn’t. Could she also say more about the challenges of being an independent curator, including where she gets her own support from.

Susan Bright in conversation with tutors Arpita Shah and Dan Robinson 2nd June 2020

 Condensed Notes from the Zoom Meeting:-

The traditional role has been research, manage collections and acquisitions – being a ‘keeper’. Usually via an Art History degree and then an MA.  (Nowadays it’s through an MA then, possibly a PhD). Susan started in her late 20s via a BA and MA. taught for financial security.

Q.How does Susan work differently given that there are many types of curators and artists are curating too now?
A.Slowly; she is ideas-led rather than artist-led and thinks that needs an academic background. Hers was Art History & Design BA. Final lecture was on feminism – no one had contextualised for her the aspect of women in art. An MA at Goldsmiths followed – all theory – and her dissertation was on accessibility which was ‘thrown’ to the Curating Dept as no one knew how to mark it. At the PhD point she wanted to do this on motherhood.

Q.The artist and curator relationship.
A.Even though not providing feedback, has a good memory for it and will pass on to others. Elina Brotherus was the first contact she had outside NPG.

Q.Collaborations and blurring of boundaries.
A.There comes a time when you need to separate, give each other space. Curator/artist relationship is different from critic/artist relationship. A curator is more of a sounding board, an editor – working together and she gives her opinion and teases things out. Most of curation is admin so it’s good to work with artists.

Q.Artist contact with curator – tips?
A.Contact in person; be coherent, don’t be defensive, have a thick skin and be polite. Do the research about Susan and her interests. Contact people you think will be interested in your work. Don’t be drunk or stoned and ‘have a shower’. If you email give a link to your website.  She always responds even though not necessarily providing feedback.

Q.How did the “Home Truths” Exhibition evolve and how did it reflect the work.
A.Stemmed from auto/biography. Susan had moved to New York during PhD (?) and scrabbling for reading. Had just discovered she was pregnant and with a mix of emotions. She read Moira Davey’s Mother Reader (2001) which helped so much. Janine Antoni’s work seems to have been pivotal for her – portraying the ambivalence of motherhood; endurance’ having to hold everything together. She didn’t want the ‘Madonna’ mother. In the work of Elina Brotherus – the quest for pregnancy. Re hanging the Exhibition – looking at abundance and loss – wanting to carry this through into the hanging of the Exhibition, with the need to be simple, subtle with a sense of passing through and noticing.

Q.Self-curating tips for solo and group shows.
A.Don’t be sloppy, detail is important. It’s not just about the aesthetic but the detail behind it. Make a scale maquette using graph paper. Susan does use software (but not Sketchup). Think of yourself as an audience member.  Perhaps a portrait at the beginning as a welcome.  Think about the flow.  Text is tricky – you will need it at the beginning for a hook but don’t necessarily need captions on the photographs. Susan keeps a note of piles and piles of installations that she likes.

Q.Power distribution, the lack of female perspectives and changes that need to be made.
A.Susan had noted the ‘black square’ galleries posting (#Black Matters) that haven’t shown black artists.  The artist talks during the Covid 19 lockdown have mainly been by men.  Susan doesn’t like all female shows (NB said Motherhood although I recall only two male photographers).  Most photography students are women but most competitions are mostly men.  There’s a need for small project spaces for women – e.g. Whitechapel Gallery perhaps.

Student Questions – through Zoom ‘Chat’

Q.Does She ‘censor’?
A’“No’ but organisations do, e.g. no nudity in China. ‘Explicit work in Home Truths seems really explicit on screen but small on a gallery wall. You need to be secure in your choices.

Q.How different is curating of books?
A.Susan sometimes wants to write but in other cases decides an Exhibition is best. Has now written seven books and this entails a different ‘brain space’.

Q.Next project?
A.Two on hold at present and re-assessing for a while. She enjoys radio broadcasting and always has a ‘bright’ BA student in mind.

Q.Age cut-offs in Exhibitions?
A.Infuriate her

Q.Thoughts on exhibiting on-line?
A.She has never seen a good on-line Exhibition. It needs a good IT support system. Thinks Google Arts & Culture is interesting to look at for ideas.

My Thoughts

I think Susan Bright was in the right place at the right time and chose her topic for Home Truths well. Definitely a different way of looking at Motherhood, although I think some of the photographers were in the path of some of the 1970s photographers and artist as seen in the Photographers Gallery  Exhibition Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970  – not about motherhood but in being more explicit about women’s bodies.  I certainly don’t think she became an ‘acclaimed’ curator without her seemingly doing anything; An enormous amount of effort must have gone into the organisation of it all and the networking involved. I’m guessing that the early collaboration with Elina Brotherus might have enabled her to engage with a wider network too and the success of ‘Home Truths” would mean her name became known amongst photographers who would be keen to work with her. I like the idea of being ideas-led rather than artist-led and her description of the way she works does sound very collaborative whilst putting her in a mentoring role too.  Also, the very careful attention given to how the work is presented in relation to its concept, although having a bright BA student in mind as the visitor to an Exhibition might not work as well to attract those who are neither artists themselves nor experienced at visiting Exhibitions.

The advance questions I sent to Dan did get answered in general except for the one about the power of the curator in terms of who gets seen and who doesn’t so I’ll keep my eyes open for some reading on that and I’ve ordered the Daniel Palmer book.

I was very interested in Bright’s reference to auto/biography.  I do remember reading somewhere about her being pregnant at the time of the Home Truths Exhibition.  Once again, we have the evidence about the importance of personal experience in art and how it permeates through one way or another.   Good advice about artist contacts with curators and concerning portfolio reviews too I guess (a pity that Bright doesn’t do them), on reading up about the reviewers and their interests.

Her mention of small project spaces for women photographers was interesting; within a larger gallery of course but could also be a good idea for places outside London.  I also found a 2019 video on YouTube (reasonable length) with Aly Grimes who is a young independent curator and between 2012 and 2015 was co-found director and curator at Stryx – a female led artist-run project space and studios in Birmingham    . She talks near the beginning of the video of training with the School for Curatorial Studies in Venice. (See here )


Lastly re on-line Exhibitions – I think it would be good if Arpita and Dan could have shown Susan how Graduate work is being presented at the moment by OCA students.  I’ve seen three excellent ones so far, presented in different ways that fit their themes.



Davey, M (2001) Mother Reader: Essential Writings on Motherhood: Essential Literature on Motherhood. Seven Stories Press.

Palmer, D. (2017) Photography and Collaboration: From Conceptual Art to Crowdsourcing. UK. Routledge.

25th April 2020 – Virtual Study Day with tutor Diane Ali in conversation with  student Naomi Incledon


The session was organised, in conjunction with OCA South West Group, for Naomi to show her Degree artwork. The actual art is in-situ in the Landscape but the actual physical tour of it had to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus restrictions in currently in place.  Instead, we had a virtual tour, with commentary by Naomi; listened to a Q&A session between her and Diane Ali; and had opportunity to give feedback and ask questions .

There is a student event review by Diane Ali here  which also contains the video with narration by Naomi.   It has been superbly put together and I found Naomi’s gentle voice almost hypnotic in making me feel as if I was standing there right with her.  I’m so sorry that she wasn’t able to have her Exhibition day but this is a very creative solution for difficult times.  There is a padlet here   which also has the video together with a link to her press release, catalogue and her essay.  I see that Naomi is already an established artist and there is some fascinating work on her website there.

In the session we were given some questions to consider whilst we looked at the video and then listened to the conversation between Diane Ali and Naomi:-

  • Was it a good decision for Naomi?
  • What was gained or lost from it not being in a gallery?
  • How and what do we leave behind for future generations?
  • Do you think her work has marked a place in human legacy

Naomi’s immediate response was that land art offered a solution to restraints and material costs  She was actually offered space in a lovely gallery but work was better shown  in the space where it was created.

Condensed Notes from the video and the Q&A between Diane and Naomi:

The drawing of her palm over the rock, using natural pigments,  – as it fades it relates to that of her presence and also to ancient cave art. The marks show that she was there.

The miniature diaromas and tiny scale models then translate into larger land art (show the smallness of man in relation to the planet?)

An outdoor exhibition (in its place of making) is not part of an institution and marks art’s own presence in the landscape.

Her intention was to ‘mark’ landscape with a view of herself; a self-portrait – that of her foot.

The video itself is a documentation of and to record the existence of Naomi’s work, even though that itself will naturally fade.

The physicality of the work and the endurance it required – carrying equipment to the disused quarry; the decision in the end to use her iPhone,  and the need to carry plenty of water when working in the sun.

Q Are you a performer of the work – because of the endurance?
A. I imagined myself as my skin being walked over

Q are you a vandal or disturber of nature
A. Naturally occurring material was used and the small dioramas were taken away with her. The work was done in a sympathetic.  A huge chalk structure that could be seen from afar had been planned but decided against this as it would have meant picking off moss.  She walked around the pieces instead and sacrificed her original idea. (the idea of sacrifice as a measure of endurance of the artist).  One of the local people told her how much they enjoyed seeing what she was doing.

Q How many edits were there.
A. All of them were documented. Two days before the lockdown Naomi tried to do a narration in the woods but felt awkward and stilted. She had felt pumped-up and ready to go but put that to use in creating the film – made on iPhone and using iMovie. She had checked out other software but stayed with her iPhone.

Questions/comments from students

Q. The video went too quickly for me, had you considered a longer one?
A version was made without the voiceover and a lot of effort was put into a catalogue and website.

Q. Have you left anything to show that you are the artist?
A. No. I did ask the landowner for permission which was given for just two pieces of rock, otherwise there was danger in accessing, plus this was a protected site.

Q.Why was it so important for you to layer in history.
A. It was like putting a version of myself into the landscape and the work documents the fleeting quality of human existence

Q. Being isolated as an artist – what were your feelings and emotions?
A. Reference to Walter Benjamin and the ‘aura’ of a work – you lose this if you publicize make souvenirs etc.

Q. Impact on yourself – what kept you motivated?
A. I kept telling myself, forcing myself to make the effort. People were observing me doing the work at times, so I got used to not being isolated and also got a lot of feedback. It became a part of my morning exercise. The landscape is gorgeous now but it wasn’t at the point of creating the film. There were storms in January when I was placing work in the landscape to prepare for the Exhibition. Trees were blown down and I thought I would have to clear paths.

Q. With your eloquent commentary a video would have been important to include anyway. The work is reminiscent of aboriginal art and sacred spaces. You could still have an Exhibition.
A.The commentary is the one prepared for the actual planned tour. Some ideas when considering a potential Exhibition in a gallery were silent films or artworks; to work on stone in the gallery; to have good quality photographs on the walls, for sale; mud paintings on the walls.  However, I had seen Richard Long’s work in a gallery and it didn’t seem to have as much impact.

Q. I noticed that the toe pointed downwards on the foot outline on Newbury cliff – does that have significance?
A. I had planned this at an angle but the foot leaped out at me when I stood in front of it. It didn’t quite work in terms of the concept of human existence and artwork disappearing.

Q. As a viewer I saw myself walking up the cliff. Regarding cave paintings – some are protected but yours have washed away so have you left a footprint in the landscape?
A. Mine was a contemporary reply to cave art so I made my own versions . My concept was about the brevity of human existence; we all disappear. It made me fear death less and question my own existence now.

Q. In the foot piece why did you decide to show the outline form?
A. It’s four and a half metres high and involved a hard physical process using a ladder. It was challenging. How it looked in the end was slightly out of my control. Too neat and tidy at first so I had to rough it up. I decided that for people not used to looking at art it would be easier for them to look at; more accessible.

Q. All the themes resonate. Is this your final project? Will external examiners use the film (as they cannot visit)?
A. Yes. The documentary work is really important.

Q (from Diane) What next?
A. Experiential work in the studio


Important points for me in the Q&A and from looking at Naomi’s work

I think it was a good decision for Naomi to exhibit her work in the space where she created it so that the visitor can see the breadth of it and realise the amount of physical and artistic effort and energy that went into its making.  Perhaps another way of proceeding, if such was available, would be a space where there is a visitor’s centre so that visitors could both experience the art where it was created and then see photographs, touch books, see videos etc – or would that be a contradiction to both Naomi’s thinking around Walter Benjamin and ‘aura’ and the importance to her of not being part of an institution?

The idea of creating art that mirrors the fleetingness of our lives in relation to the age of Earth and its Universe appeals very much to me.  There’s something humble and respectful about taking that approach as opposed to ‘Man as conqueror of all he surveys”; putting oneself into the foreground to loom large.

There was clearly a lot of organisation needed to put her concept into action.  It was also encouraging to me to see that it’s more than okay to change ideas as you go along and follow an action/research/reflection cycle.  The miniature diaoramas and scale models were an excellent way of demonstrating how small we humans are in relation to our planet.

Unlike ancient cave art Naomi’s art is not meant to last, although I might be presuming too much about the intentions of those early artists; probably am.  Naomi’s intention was that the art would not last – it was an important part of her concept. However,  for her personal satisfaction, she knows what she has created and also her ‘making’ has been documented in photograph and film.  Naomi can show and talk about it to many people.




I was not able to stay for the work in progress crits session but thought the way Diane Ali framed this was helpful and constructive in that four questions should be considered:


  • What do we see
  • Analysing
  • Interpreting
  • Judging – is it working?

This looks a good framework to use.






OCA Thames Valley Group Meetings March and April 2020


21st March 2020

This was an online Zoom meeting organized by Jonathan and held this way due to the pending Coronavirus Lockdon. Tutor Jayne Taylor was in attendance.

It was good to see people if only online and to share  how we were feeling about the lockdown, and the virus.  Some of us are also facing a new form of digital assessment process for the July Assessment event.

Five of us shared work for feedback. I presented some further work on my Assignment 1 (full details here ).  Brief notes below on learning from other presentations.

  • Re book creation – the bottom margin on pages should usually be wider than the top. Full bleed images add drama.
  • Ways to get out of feeling stuck due to the current situation – i.e. not being really able to go out and about to take photographs for the documentary module. Take photographs indoors, through people’s windows, talk to people on zoom or skype asking them questions also taking screenshots/
  • Sometimes it can be important not to have a title for a work so that the viewer can enter into the mood (thinking about this in relation to a recent work submitted to Edgezine, where the artist was emphatic about not wanting the work to be explained.



18th April 2020


Zoom Meeting – Students only.

  • Quote from Richard Long – “The footpath exists on a map as a regulation but not as a line in reality until it is walked”. Interesting semantic point for discussion.
  • The psychology of ‘nudging’ people to do something you would like them to do and how this can be done in the landscape. (Jonathan’s mown path through his field)
  • Monochrome landscapes can be very effective in conceptual work – showing line and form etc.
  • The importance of placement of images in a series and the difference it makes seeing them in a linear fashion
  • Online presence such as Facebook – what are people missing of us through the way we ‘construct’ our lifestyle?

OCA Europe Study Session with Hayley Lock on 8th April 2020

I felt very fortunate to have an opportunity to participate in this virtual study session with tutor Hayley Lock which included a talk by Hayley on her professional practice followed by practical activities to stimulate creative thinking.  We were provided beforehand with a PDF containing an intriguing artist statement together with images of some of her artistic influences and herself engaged in the hypnotic process which places her into an altered state of consciousness where she accesses creative ideas and impulses. Her website here  provides comprehensive information on her working practice.

So far as the practical activities were concerned we were given a list of material requirements for the sessions – drawing materials, headphones, music to listen to, a book with words, meaningful photograph, three shapes on a piece of A4 paper and a favourite object.

Hayley’s artist statement was key in introducing me to the prospect of engaging with someone who approaches her professional practice from a less usual stance.

Incorporating drawing, collage, performance, sound and film, my practice attempts to capture conversational dialogues across parallel time frames, identities and locations.  Often re-staging found and imagine conversations and constructed histories I appropriate, re-imagine and mirror back a pseudo fantastical world where visions are common place and imagination is rife revealing a dark world in perpetual crisis.

Whilst working with and under hypnosis in an attempt to re-engage as an altered self, I have spent time investigating the liminal space where the unconscious appears to oscillate with the conscious, creating new systemic structures of belief. 

I am currently researching the intimate and anxious unfamiliarity we experience with our own bodies, reflecting the fluidity of our identities as they are embodied and performed, focussing on purging and the voice.


Hayley used the PDF presentation as a launch pad from which to talk more fully about her artistic influences such as Austin Osman Spare (see here  and here )  artist and occultist, who was both a draughtsman and painter and influenced by art nouveau and symbolism and Hilma af Klint    a Swedish artist and mystic whose paintings have been viewed as the first Western abstract art and whose body of work predates the first purely abstract compositions by Kandinsky. Klint  worked in trance and, looking at Klint’s work,  I can certainly see associations with Hayley’s work.

Hayley then moved on to describe her current practice which stems from hypnotherapy sessions with an experienced therapist. Some work is produced whilst under hypnosis where she works in different mind sets including automatic handwriting. In one of the videos I noticed that she began writing with her left hand but then changed to her right hand  and learned when I mentioned this that although left-handed she was brought-up right-handed – something I can identify with. Afterwards she often uses digital collage and fragments, scouring Google for what replicates what she’s seen in a trance – found images and films..  Below is a video created using found imagery


More of Hayley’s work is referred to here and as well as personal sessions she also sometimes uses these sessions as performance.

Guided Exercise Session

We were given intermittent instructions as we worked with the materials we had brought to the session. I’ll be as unspecific as possible here in case anyone else does a similar workshop session.

  • Take your book with text and open it at the page and paragraph instructed (I hadn’t actually chosen a book in advance but just picked one at random from the shelves.) but the text I found from a John Donne poem seemed very relevant to me and to the photograph I chose.


If then at first wise nature had

Made women either good or bad

  Then some we might hate, and some choose,

But since she did them so create

That we may neither love nor hate

  Only this rests, all, all may use

 I noticed I missed out ‘wise’ when I wrote this in my sketchbook!

  • Add from one of your shapes, extend as you wish
  • Take an element from the photograph and add to your page
  • Where can this go next? Put your music on (I decided to work in silence because I wanted to respond to my inner voice) and make a small series of work from the first work and add your object.
  • Photograph and re-photograph

A page from my sketchbook:


We then had a feedback session on how we found it, sharing paragraphs and images to the Session Padlet as we wished. Hayley reminded us that we can use these types of exercises to move on when we’re feeling stuck;  using perhaps fragments of what we’re working on, making them bigger, cutting-up and reshaping or extending them in another way.


I recognized the images I drew; wondered at first if I was influenced by having seen Hayley’s images and looked at her workshop but then acknowledged that I’ve  drawn similar shapes in the past when just doodling.  I’m not sure now but I may have drawn the bottom picture with my left hand.

Hearing about Hayley’s work process and use of hypnotherapy reminded me of similar experiences in personal development workshops and therapy. I know that it’s most important in working with altered states of consciousness, to be well-grounded emotionally feel secure with the therapist and have agreed procedures for ending a session if necessary.   I can’t stress that enough because, for some people, it can be unsafe for them to lose contact with their physical surroundings and lose personal boundaries.

Looking at this differently, there are other many other ways we can enter into an ‘altered state of consciousness’ to engage creative processes. I used to practice a form of visualisation via self-hypnosis through breathing exercises and realised a while ago that I rarely do this now through a belief that, “I haven’t got time”.  However, once I do begin to get deeply involved with something I lose my sense of time and feel totally engaged in that moment with whatever I’m doing, as if I can’t let go of the connection.  I’m wondering now whether I unconsciously slow down my breathing with larger pauses between breaths because sometimes my watch surprises me by bleeping and reminding me to take a breath.  The same process happens when I’m deeply interested in a book or allow myself to draw or paint.

This session supported my creative development in reminding me that there are very different strategies that can be used to gain inspiration and new ways of looking at working practices. I felt very absorbed throughout and woke up the next morning feeling more energised and enthusiastic; having been feeling ‘stuck’ for some time as a result of the impact of the coronavirus lockdown and the anxieties about the future this created for me.

The only aspect I would have liked to be different was the length of the session.  A whole day would have been wonderful.  Better yet a weekend face-to-face workshop!  Even so it was great that an online session like this can bring together so many students from different parts of Europe and studying on different creative pathways. Thanks very much to Hayley Lock for her inspiring session and to OCA Europe for arranging it.





OCA Thames Valley Group meeting: 15th February 2020

This was an informal group session with eight of us present. We began with Jonathan bringing us up-to-date on place for the rest of this Academic Year’s sessions; had some discussion about latest notifications from OCA re tracking of students’ active learning and then moved onto discussion of works in progress.


Has been preparing a PechaKucha Presentation on her MA Body of Work ‘Digital Afterlife’. I was amazed how much information she was able to provide with such a short time slot available. (I found a good resource here  for further general information).  Dawn also had an image in a recent book, Women – Inspiring Quotes and artistic Responses Vol. 2.  Dawn had responded to an open call she had seen on CuratorSpace asking for women artists to provide a quote from an artist or writer who inspires them, together with an artistic response to this. CuratorSpace looks very useful; it’s a project management toolkit for curators, organisers, galleries, and artists, which is designed to simplify managing exhibitions, competitions etc, by allowing organisations to create open calls inviting people to submit ideas, projects, and art work quickly and easily. I’ve now subscribed to their newsletter and they are also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


I had taken along 7×5” prints of my current choices for Assignment 5 which has H.G. Wells’s ‘War of the Worlds’ as inspiration and Horsell Common as a subject. I asked for feedback on the sequence and suggestions about suitable texts (as there is no text at the moment)also showed the postcards I had selected.  I also showed the vintage postcards I had bought from eBay as I was thinking about ways in which I might be able to incorporate them, and explained I would like to create a handmade book and have also thought of an ‘altered’ book as I have several copies of ‘War of the Worlds’.


Everyone was very interested in and positive about the sequence and the concept – one comment being “There’s plenty of meat in this”.  However questions were asked which indicated to me that I needed to be clearer about my choices/sequence and what I was portraying. Was I looking at Horsell Common from a Martian’s point of view, is it about  the Martian War itself, before it happens or when it’s ended?  Suggestions were made that I could follow the sequence of the story/part of the story which covers Horsell Common; or insert a link to a Martian tripod by photographing trees from underneath. Another suggestion was that, if it’s connected with the Martian having landed then it would be appropriate to end the sequence with the creeping tree roots.

So far as adding text is concerned there was a consensus that I should include quotations from the book.  Regarding the ‘altered’ book, one idea I’d had was to paint a watercolour overlay over my images (cf. the work of Aletheia Casey ) or even parts of the book.  Another suggestion was to convert my photographs to black and white and then paint over them which is something Gerry has done in the past using acrylic ink rather than watercolour because it’s brighter and easier to use.  Gerry also referred to a book he had seen where the pages got gradually redder.  So far as the postcards are concerned, I could perhaps paint over copies of the postcard and then insert them in the book.


He is continuing to enjoy the book design course and showed us a zine he created for Assignment 1. ‘My Life in Books’. It looked very professional and he is also planning to create a photo-zine.


Used his iPad to show us some of his work for Assignment 3 ‘A Journey’. This is on his website and he has created a map of the journey a with accompanying slideshow. It’s a very effective and creative way of presenting a walk .  We discussed whether ambient sound relative to the place would support  the concept of change over time e.g. even the sound of breathing, also a suggestion that instead of right to left perhaps  it would better show the direction of the journey relative to the map if left to right. Jonathan is also planning to create a giant cyanotype of the stones he collected on his walk. His Assignment 5 will be a project on land art, including a clever, and artistic, possible way of influencing walkers on a public right of way to stay on that as they walk through a private field.


Work for Identity & Place. A series which utilises a processing technique he developed before studying with OCA and incorporates landscape scenes with objects which are important to him. Very distinctive prints with a slight HDR effect and printed on Permajet Pearl paper.


Talked us through the process and shared work produced in collaboration with an artist – part of a collaborative group submitting work for the forthcoming Edgezine online magazine.  Each responded to work created by the other, from which new work was created.



Shared work he had done for an Assignment for the Illustration Module.  He experimented with using the cheapest possible ink and a foam brush. Really effective and a pleasure to look at.

During our lunch break Jonathan told us about a YouTube film which shows a 3D printer in the desert using solar energy and making glass Dawn showed us some work by Songwen Chung who has created a robot that will draw with her ,and also some wonderful work by Helen Douglas on Weproductions . There’s some ‘Poempondscroll’ (2010) a 5.7 metre x 21 cm scroll, printed on Chinese paper with ultra chrome inks. (out of print unfortunately)

The reflective expanse and circle of the pond at Deuchar Mill inspired Douglas to explore the scroll format, and gave Valerie Gillies the idea of writing a poem in Chinese form using couplets to encircle the creatures which live in the pond. The result, poempondscroll, is a horizontal hand scroll over 5 metres long, which visually evokes light and reflections on water, with an integrated text that merges and disappears within the rendered details of water insects, rushes and the pond itself.

 Evolving out of the first scroll was ‘The Pond at Deuchar’ 14 metres x 27cm, continuing Douglas’s exploration of Deuchar Pond in deeper and richer colour and at greater length. This is also out of print but there was also a digital version of this and, if you have an iPad it can be accessed from here  .

It got me thinking that perhaps I could create a scroll book for Assignment 3 ‘Silent Pool’ must discuss with my tutor.


A very useful and supportive meeting demonstrating, once again, the value of sharing work with fellow students and asking for feedback.  For me it’s actually more useful than online sessions because I can see the physical prints and books etc.

Actions for me are:-

  • Reflect on my overall concept for Assignment 5 to make sure is it links coherently with the images
  • Find suitable text from the book “War of the Worlds” to add to the book
  • Do some experiments with watercolour paint or acrylic ink as a layer over some of my Assignment 5 images
  • Discuss the idea of a scroll book for Assignment 3 with my tutor
  • Richard created some beautiful handmade books when he studied Landscape so I will get in touch to ask for more details on his process.




Thames Valley Group Meeting: 18th January 2020

Print Workshop with John Umney – “Having a relationship with your printer”


John is an OCA Photography Graduate, currently studying for an MA with Oxford Brooks University.  He has many years of experience with printing his own work for Exhibitions and also ran a Print group which met monthly for a decade. Notes below on learning – all of which was achieved through discussion of prints we’d taken along with us – ones we were happy with or ones which didn’t turn out as we expected:-

  • Having a relationship with your printer includes a human printer as well and it’s important to get to know them; see how they work; explain the outcome you’d like to get and, if possible, show a test print to them.
  • Calibrate your monitor screen
  • Always clean the ink nozzles before you print
  • If you achieve a print you like you also need to know how you got there and how to reproduce it
  • The context for a print is important. How will it fit in a series; where will it be seen – book, gallery wall etc. Think about the distance from the viewer and also how it will be affected by lighting types
  • Re b+w – if the image has warm tones then it will show better on a more ivory coloured photo paper
  • If you have to have a margin on a print (e.g. for OCA assessment) bear in mind that the margin becomes a part of the print. I hadn’t thought of that before.
  • Use test prints which needn’t be on the exact same photopaper so long as you know they provide a good approximation of the final result.

Technical  aspects and practicalities


  • Use genuine inks rather than compatible.
  • Always use the same paper for prints and the same paper for test prints. John uses Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique 310 gsm – Satin for prints and the HP Everyday photo paper 200 gsm gloss for test prints
  • Use ICC profiles for the paper you use
  • If you use a laptop have a separate screen for it so that calibration will be more constant

Effect on the viewer:

  • A high contrast print can be ‘didactic’ – is that because the brain links with the notion of either/or I’m wondering.
  • A low contrast print adds ‘ambiguity’ – illustrated very much by one of John’s prints from his BoW where the low contrast (which John prefers in his work) has a slightly ‘otherworld” sense to it. What always surprises me is that low contrast work appeals to me yet my eyes always seek clarity.
  • John showed us a large number of his prints before his Degree, which he regards as craft rather than ‘art’, and we discussed this distinction which is something I often tussle with. I decided to do a web search and the first  statements that came up were, “Art is for aesthetics. Craft is for function and they often criss-cross venues. So the answer can be quite subjective”. and, “Craft is about producing a product. Art is concerned with the process of making something and not the end product”. Looking at it another way it’s Art when someone says it is perhaps.

This was a really useful session for me good to meet up with everyone in the group again after the Christmas break and see how they were progressing.  It was also particularly good to see John as he was one of TVG’s founder members and attended from the start until he graduated.


January 11th 2020 – A “Happening in the South West of England”

The idea for this day came from OCA graduate Anna Goodchild who issued an invitation to join in a collaborative group day at her home in Devon. Her overview of the day can be found here  and here  .  Most of those involved were members of OCA South West Group but some were artists and photographers from Anna’s local artistic network.

Anna provided the inspiration, venue, some artistic resources and a gentle framework for the day that allowed spontaneous art to emerge through a theme, randomly chosen from a dice, which was then turned into collaborative art by three randomly ascribed groups of four. The them was ‘Poverty’ and, to be honest, my heart sank a little at hearing that but I managed to stop myself from a quick descent into, “I can’t possibly think of anything artistic about that” by taking a deep breath pushing the thought aside and joining with the other members of my group.


We agreed a brainstorm around the word and then moved into discussion around the results.  At one stage I began to worry that we were spending too much time on discussion without moving into action but, in retrospect, the amount of time was necessary given our different experiences of and views around that whole topic. Eventually we reached a working consensus that there are many different ways in which people find themselves living in poverty and no one is immune to it happening to them. The process flowed from then onwards as we gathered together the available resources, both inside and outside, that seemed likely to act as visual metaphors for our ‘performance’ – the weighing scales, checks and balances, leaves and feathers that clung, floated or were blown away by the winds of change.  Each stage was documented with short videos which were then edited together by Anna.  Something else was needed to complete our concept and, slowly, a brief dialogue emerged as soundtrack.  Amazingly we had also finished on time and joined the others to listen, watch, present the art from the day and then burn it – the ashes to be preserved as a start to the next ‘Happening’, whichever and whenever that might be.

Further thoughts

I’ve admired OCA South West group from afar as their meetings are just that too distant for me to travel to for a day, so it was great to be able to meet with some of them, and others, for what proved to be such a spontaneous and collaborative event.  I also enjoyed being with a group of people who bring creativity and ideas from different artistic disciplines from my own and I was very interested to see how their ideas emerged and experience the challenge of different ways of looking at life.  I’m already looking forward to other opportunities to collaborate in this way.



Meetings of Thames Valley Group in September and October 2019

Thames Valley Group Meeting 21st September 2019

A few thoughts:-

Documenting someone’s life – person and place – how much the photographer’s choice of view, composition, and resulting images affects the viewer’s perception of the subject. How does that compare with the subject’s perception of their life.  What happens when the subject is allowed to choose. (Barry)

A more unusual use of the word ‘insinuation’ (in Jonathan’s blog  ) – how the path insinuates its way into the brain.

(NB Robert Macfarlane, author of “The Lost Words” has a regular ‘word of the day’ on his Twitter feed . )

(Cecelia) Ways of integrating landscape images with portraits (e.g. Helen Sear) ()

Overlaying symbols of a country over photographs of it (Kevin)

Re family albums – we’re co-creating identity with the dead (Dawn).  My other thought on this is that we’re still ‘alive’ in some way until the last person who can remember us dies.

One image from the day – An example of the imaginative ways in which Dawn create a ‘family album’.


NB – an ethnographic approach to the family album. This book is very useful . Have it on my bookshelf.

Thames Valley Group Meeting 19th October 2019

Richard and Pauline talked about the freedom of not doing a degree because you can go in a direction that interests you.  Richard has started on the book-making Course.

Pauline studying Visual Culture but still taking photographs. She has become interested in words in the landscape with that underlying question of how words can strike at a glimpse. We discussed some recent examples – agreeing that these are more in the street photography genre. We moved the prints around, discussing which worked well together.

Really interesting to hear how Dawn is finding the MFA at Farnham. They’ve gone straight into creating collaborative work in large/small groups.  Dawn had created a tissue dress from an old pattern – linking with part of the theme of ‘generation’ . How they curated an ‘exhibition’ and then re-curated.  How crits work and the kind of questions asked – e.g. “What would you take away; what would you add?”. Dawn is also doing an online Art course. Showed us a way of ‘letting go” – masking-off four rectangles on paper and painting over the tape (see below)

Sue showed us her work on Creech Wood and how she’s experimenting with slideshows with and without audio. Discussed use of ambient recordings and difficulties of obtaining ones free from wind noise.

I didn’t have any coursework to show but talked about my ideas for Assignments 4 and 5 on landscape.  For Assignment 4 Critical Review I’m thinking of writing on the notion of “Home”.  I explained how I got to thinking about this as a result of the continuing Brexit debate and comments about nationalism and patriotism. What is it that makes people feel patriotic towards their country; what underlies this feeling – something about attachment to home which, of course, links with feeling homesick and nostalgic.  Is it possible to evoke such feelings through a landscape image – conceptual or traditional as opposed to a pure social/documentary approach?  I’ve done a fair amount of reading and note-taking and also collected together some examples including work I saw last year at the Brighton Biennial weekend. With 2000 words I need to keep my essay quite focussed whilst acknowledging links with culture and identity.  Two suggestions were to have a look at the Museum of Migration, London    and also to research District 6 Museum in Cape Town, South Africa . I was also reminded about my project on my dad’s letters, sent to me when he was in the Army in Egypt. I hadn’t thought of them in this contex so was very pleased to be reminded and talking about this also reminded me of my dreams of Sheffield in the past and how these ended once I had been back in more recent years and seen how the estate has deteriorated.

My current idea for Assignment 5 is a project based around “War of the Worlds” written by H.G. Wells when he lived briefly in Woking. Wells refers to many local places and nearby towns and I could re-trace these in the present.

I went away feeling very supported and with much more enthusiasm for coursework than I had when I arrived at the meeting. I also decided to try out Dawn’s experiment with painting.