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Student Stories: Helen Jones

Helen lives near Halifax in West Yorkshire and is a culminating her BA Hons Painting Degree. "Now approaching 70 I have embarked on a second career as a painter following 40 years working as a nurse."


What is your previous educational experiences and what drew you to OCA?

When I was approaching retirement I wondered what I would spend my time doing as life had been full of work and bringing up a family. I started attending evening watercolour classes and caught the painting bug. With more time available I determined to learn more and see what I could achieve but felt I needed a structured course which would help me develop my painting but also learn about contemporary art. I wanted to make art that was unique to me not an imitation of established artists. It was a sudden decision to enrol with OCA when I saw an advert in Artist and Illustrator.

Can you describe your OCA journey?

On stage 1 I sometimes struggled to understand what was being asked of me in the coursework. I was challenged to paint things I had never painted before and found this difficult but satisfying to achieve. My motivation is strong and I had the luxury of plenty of time to work through the course at a steady pace.

I was enjoying the research through reading especially in unit 1.3. On stage 2 I understood better the need to experiment and play with materials. I was also able to turn the exercises into what I am interested in. I did some valuable reading and research which I use now. I was surprised by some of the work I produced.

By stage 3 I had begun to see what my passion is and focus on translating my experiences and emotions related to nature and life into abstracted paintings.

What was the Tutor and/or Peer Support like on your course?

My tutors have been helpful and supportive by giving me artists and ideas to look into. Programme Leader Emma has a very student centred approach and I have found the monthly meetings for my level very supportive both as an opportunity to catch up with news, ask questions but also to comment about difficulties with the course materials. Ilsa, Paula, Clare and Diana have all been excellent and enabled me to thrive. As a member of several peer support groups I have benefitted from the sense of being on a shared journey, knowing that we all have similar concerns and experiences settles some anxieties. Students on different degree pathways share the same love of creativity and can bring new perspectives.

What does studying with OCA mean to you?

Studying with OCA has given me meaningful work to do and continued my learning. It has also given me a structure within which I have developed as a person by doing something I love that is not about looking after other people. At first studying painting felt self-indulgent, but when I read feedback from viewers of my exhibition, I have been able to bring some joy and hope through my paintings which is important in this troubled world. Achieving a degree will add to my CV and feel good.

What's next?

My exhibition Delving Deeply is currently in Dean Clough Galleries, Halifax until 27 May open daily 10-4. I will be doing an artist talk to a local network group called Art Lab on 13 May at 7pm. I have been invited to put a painting in a group show and I will also be exhibiting in the Dean Clough Artists Inaugural Biennial Show from 22nd June. I am likely to apply for further formal study or mentorship as I want to see where my painting can take me and I love learning.

Any advice?

If I can do it you can. Throw yourself into the work and experiment. Discard self-limiting beliefs. I have learnt that over time you can build a practice process so that you know that the ups and downs are all part of it. When you have this you just need to believe in yourself and the process and keep going. Days of reflection and looking are as essential as making and doing.


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4 comentários

Emma Drye
Emma Drye
5 days ago

a lovely show Helen!


I love your art 🤩! It's so inspiring to learn about your journey and see it culminating in this stupendous exhibition! Thank you for sharing x


Fionagh Bennet
Fionagh Bennet
30 de abr.

We both thoroughly enjoyed our day with you and your exhibition. The paintings were absorbing and are of the quality where the observer finds new things in them with each viewing, a sign of great art!

Helen Jones
Helen Jones
01 de mai.
Respondendo a

Thank you so much Fionagh. I really appreciated the fact you had travelled a long way to see the exhibition. I am glad it was worthwhile.

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