Reviewing Level 1 (HE4) feedback

Drawing Skills 1: 56%

Practice of Painting: 61%

Understanding Painting Media: 67%

On the face of it, this shows linear improvement in that the overall marks are going up. But looking at the detail, all of this improvement comes from two of the assessment criteria – Demonstration of Creativity and Context (reflection and research – the blog posts) while the other two have stayed almost exactly the same.

Essentially this means I’m much better at thinking the think and expressing it than I am at actually making the physical work and this really has to be addressed. After all, this isn’t a creative writing course.

Some of the deficits I can possibly, if I’m being generous to myself, be attributed to doing the majority of this work – PoP and UPM certainly – in virtual isolation with no access to people to draw or places to go that might offer subject matter. Sketching didn’t qualify either as exercise or essential travel. But there is also the problem of my own motivation – what am I doing here and why? What’s the aim of it all and how can I judge the quality of anything?

I still don’t know the answers to those questions but what changed recently, following the release of a draft PowerPoint containing samples of work from all of us who went through the Summer assessment, was a sudden glimpse into the quality of other people’s work. There we all were, from Level 1 to Level 3, in a stunningly impressive range of techniques, ideas, and executionary skill. They had all done this under much the same circumstances as I had experienced (for the sake of history, this was the COVID-19 pandemic) and somehow made vibrant, colourful, intimate, expansive, meaningful art.

There are, broadly, three kinds of group membership*. The first is called Compliance; you follow the rules so as not to be evicted, but you have little commitment to the group. The second is identification which is when you begin to see the group as one worth mentioning to others because it has value to you, you like the glow it confers on you. Finally, there’s internalisation as the group’s ideals and goals, its successes and failures become important to you and you begin to operate within it to enhance its worth as seen by others. It’s no longer just about what you get from the group but what you give.

I think the PowerPoint tipped me from compliance to identification because I saw the community in a way I had not before. I felt the pride of the head of department who had compiled it, and this sat alongside my own after watching a number of online degree shows put on by bricks and mortar universities. We compare very well and, apart from two of us, we are not yet even graduates.

Identification is an important transition because it begins the shift towards not just working for myself but for OCA too; its community and reputation and its standing as an educator of artists. And while some forms of internalisation** can tip over into exclusivity whereby nothing else has any value at all, I expect to bring my intellectual objectivity and rationality with me into evaluative and critical work as I grow into this new area of enterprise.

Technical and visual skills, quality of outcome: I see you and I’m coming for you.

*These broad categories come from social influence research going back to Herbert Kelman in 1958. See https://www.simplypsychology.org/conformity.html for a straightforward account.

**Cults and conspiracy theories arguably fall into the exclusivity category of internalisation because they allow for no other view and often vehemently defend their position with decreasing rationality.

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