Month: December 2017

December 7, 2017

8.00 am: A communion. 8.40 am: At the School:

A tiredness has crept into the diary over the past few weeks. One ought to pay attention to such a malady in whatever field of action it occurs. The condition may be indicative of a number of causes: a weary writer, a fatigued life, or an exhausted form. In this instance, at this time of the academic year, all explanations pertain. However, the latter appears to be chief among the reasons.

Something has to change. Sometimes the form – the diaristic mode, particularly – stifles the natural evolution of ideas and patterns of thought. I should review my output over the last year in order to discern the deadwood, mindless repetition (which may reflect the way life was lived at the time), self absorption, indiscretions, unclarity, folly, and dullness of mind. But what would a new form look like? The form must arise from the intent. Therefore, I should attend to intent first. In the present diary there’ll be the anticipation of what is to come. But I’ve yet to recognise it.

Raine’s informal painting:

9.00 am: A morning of third-year painting tutorials. The emphasis over the last two weeks of term will be on preparing for the feedback tutorial/assessment in January. The Christmas vacation will be period when the slack can be tightened, reparations made, and whatever is lacking made up for. 11.00 am: An undisciplined jaunt to the student common room to buy a chocky bar:

On, then, with the email catch up and preparations for the final week of teaching. The last lap is always the hardest. 12.00 pm: A readying of the lecture theatre for the Abstraction module. This would be the final double bill.

2.00 pm: I had time to return home for a brief respite before facing the growing wind and plummeting temperatures en route for the Old College. From 3.00 to the end of the day, I conducted tutorials with the MA Fine Artists. The darkness descended stealthily:

7.00 pm: Thursday evening is traditionally mop and bucket time, when the weeks teaching admin is cleared and the week ahead mapped out. This has been a long and challenging week on so many fronts.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • Habit keeps the wheel turning when every other motivation deserts us.
  • Something becomes important by the very act of giving it our attention.
  • Take the ordinary and turn it into something special.
  • The students’ Instagram and Snapchat (and their cognates) posts reflect a much more casual, open, and unselfconscious approach to image making than is reflected in their artwork. They ought to pay attention to what they produce for these media. The output may contain the seeds of something relevant to their core business.
  • Don’t aim for grand gestures. Just concentrate on making something honest and meaningful (for you).
  • Talking about our work to another forces us to come clean with ourselves about what we’re doing.
  • The greatest artists were always clear thinkers.
  • A direct correlation can be made between hard work and motivation. They always co-exist, and cannot exist apart from one another.
  • Those who rubbish others reveal more about themselves than they do about the subject of their contempt.
  • We are apt to descend to the level of our own expectations. So, sometimes, you need to let others raise you up to theirs.

December 5, 2017

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: To the Old College via the promenade. The subdued light, the last of night, imbued the landscape with a mood that was neither comforting nor dispiriting. I recalled the title of a painting by de Chirico: The Melancholy of Departure (1916):

One ought not to be fearful of endings, especially of those that are either unavoidable or necessary. We are made stronger by letting go. An ending of one thing is, simultaneously, the beginning of another. To suffer ‘the loss of all things’, the Apostle Paul wrote, opens the way for something far far grander, and which cannot be taken away.

9.00 am: The beginning of MA Fine Art tutorials for the morning. Elli’s grid:

11.00 am: Vocational Practice. We dealt with the vexed issue of using social media on a professional context.

3.00 pm: After an extended lunchtime meeting, I held a PhD Fine Art tutorial. 4.15 pm: Homeward as evening inclined towards night:


5.00 pm: The final Abstraction essay tutorial for the week.

7.30 pm: Admin catch up.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • Just working can give rise to new ideas. So when you are lost for an idea, just work.
  • Past precedent shapes future expectation.
  • After ‘experimenting’ one ought always to evaluate the outcome against the intent.
  • Don’t resist abstraction when it bids.
  • The problems of your work are tailor made for you, now.
  • It is chiefly by our response to the problems in our work that it advances.

December 4, 2017

A fulsome weekend made up of a church evaluation meeting on Saturday morning, a Holy Trinity Church /Eglwys y Santes Fair lunch on Sunday at the Marine Hotel, Aberystwyth, and an attempt to substantially compose my ‘talk’ (homily/meditation) for the Advent Light service on Friday. And so much else was taking place internally too.


Rarely have I begun a week feeling so tired and divided in myself. Throughout the morning and afternoon I conducted one-to-one tutorials with my Abstraction module contingent. This was with a view to ensuring all were responding to their chosen question in the most appropriate way. I was nailed to my office. In the spaces in between appointments, I attended to long-overdue emails and structured my final week of teaching, which would begin next Monday:

Fine art students rarely have a considerable gift where it comes to essay writing. I certainly didn’t when I began my undergraduate education. Writing demands a set of skills that aren’t included in the artist’s kit bag. I got better once I: (a) began dealing with what I was passionate about; (b) realised that writing was a creative practice. (You could develop a ‘voice’ here too.); and (c) stopped getting hung up with grammar and syntax during the initial drafts. (I’ve the poet Gillian Clarke to thanks in all these respects. She was a caring, sensitive, non-judgemental, and supportive mentor when I was at art school.) Like making art, writing has been an skill acquired over a long period of time. And, I’m still learning. As a teacher, I have to remember just how hard I found the process back then.

2.00 pm: Two consecutive telephone tutorials followed by a series of office visits from eager essayists until the end of the afternoon. 5.20 pm: Homeward:

6.30 pm: Practice session. 7.30 pm: I returned to Friday’s Advent Light service to finalise preparations.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • Keep kindred ideas together in paragraphs. Otherwise the sentences begin to read like bullet points: provisional, naked, and unconnected.
  • Too many too short paragraphs in series feel like choppy waters. Go for the flow instead.
  • Ensure that the question is answered. But don’t be afraid to go beyond the bounds of the question in searching and relevant ways.
  • By far the hardest aspect of essay writing is discerning and defining the structure.
  • Begin by writing what you know. (It may not be the first section of the essay, necessarily.) The rest will be emerge from this.
  • Aim to over-write at the outset. This will be the clay from which you will mould the final piece. Some of it will be pared away, other parts will be reshaped, and the remainder, the core of the pot.
  • Write to articulate ideas; write to generate ideas; write to interweave ideas.
  • Many problems result from starting the essay too late.

The experience of either grief or significant loss is like an intense homesickness – like the melancholy of nostalgia for a place to which you cannot any longer return. There are those we lose to death, and there are those we lose to life. The latter are still in our world, but beyond our reach in every respect. For such, our grief is unresolvable.

December 1, 2017

8.15 am: A reckoning. 9.00 am: I laid aside admin until Monday morning. Studiology. I picked up the trail where I’d left it Monday morning and confronted chaos. The challenge was to compose something both distressing and compelling to listen to. When I was young, I’d fill my mouth full of lemon sherbet in order to experience the pain-pleasure principle: that unbearable sweetness, sourness, and sizzle – which numbed my mouth, made my eyes water, and nose burn – and the glorious relief in its aftermath. (I enjoyed the ordeal, in part, because I was in control of the process as both victim and torturer.) This memory would serve as my guiding light.

While files crunched down I disassembled the rig at the centre of the room. It’d become too complex for either comfort or control. When the means of production distracts from the creative process, something has to be done. Simple structures are preferred.

I began constructing sectional components of the composition. Often, I hear the part long before I hear the whole. But in the part is the suggestion of the whole. One just has to attend very carefully in order to discern it. By lunchtime, my rats’ nest of cables had been brought to order.

2.00 pm: From then on, I interwove the ‘horror’ samples in order to generate an intensity. As the rig was simplified in the background, so the composition became increasingly austere and paired down. 3.30 pm: Sundown:

5.00 pm: By now, I’d an acceptable continuity of ‘noise’. The original track bearing the overlaid versions of all four sermons had been excluded. If a piece can work with less elements, then the additional elements must have been superfluous. The slimmed-down rig was established on the large white table. Other devices may be added, as necessary:

7.30 pm: I reviewed the day’s compositional work. It had begun to grow on me. When I listened, my mind’s-eye was filled with a vision of suffering, anger, and disorientation. This was entirely apt, given the nature of late-stage dementia. Afterwards, I began my initial study in Isaiah 9, in preparation for the Advent Light service next Friday.

Masaccio’s The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden (c. 1415) meets heroism, rigour, determination, and a final resolution: