April 19, 2018

Presently, I cannot see the way forward. But I know, with clarity, that there’s no way back. Because things will never be as they once were. 

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Off to School via Tesco Express, where I bought a light fruit n’ yogurt n’ nut lunch. 9.00 am: Third year painting tutorials. The temperature is rising in more senses than one. I’m in my ‘instil a sense of imperative’ mode. At this point in the process of preparing the students for the exhibition (which opens in one month’s time), the kid gloves are off. They must aim to achieve better than the best that they’re capable of. It’s a matter of personal dignity and integrity in the end. Dogged determination, undiluted hard work, and critical dispassion are the call of the hour:

What I’m saying to one, I’m saying to all at this stage in the development. The distinctions between students and their work get less defined as they start to converge upon a common endeavour: to conclude, refine, prepare, select, and display. Most of the students on the shop floor are well set to meet their target. Others have already done so, by and large. And yet others are still lagging behind, by their own admission. All will cross the finishing line eventually. That’s an expression of my determination and commitment, rather than an inevitability.

Across the board of final year student attainment in fine art, one principle is always conspicuous as they approach the conclusion and apotheosis of their studies. Some who showed great potential in the first and second years haven’t realised it to the full, presently. Others, who’d struggled and lagged behind initially, have exceeded all expectations. Thus it has always been.

1.00 pm: A staff photograph was taken, by the staff on behalf of a student. (It’s complicated.) Getting all staff (and some were missing) together in one place for a single purpose is a task in itself. We behaved like children. (Honestly!):

1.30 pm: After lunch, and in a space made by a tutorial cancellation, I took time out to walk around the town and across the Promenade. Today has been the harbinger of the Summer to come:

2.15 pm: I held a drop-in session for any of my personal tutees who needed their module choices for the coming year verified. There was time to catch up on admin, set out my teaching for next week, update my diary, and, withal, fuel the illusion that I was getting on top of things. I’ve had my first moment of teacherly melancholy, as I reflected on the coming parting of the ways, when students will graduate and go into the world to live their lives.

Mid afternoon, I popped in on Mr Webster’s first year life class. I’m always heartened by the persistence of traditional disciplines such as this at the School, and the genuine enthusiasm that students demonstrate in their engagement.

7.30 pm: Back into the studio to continue stretching sound and finding scratches and clicks as the basis for further beat tracks:

Principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • Avoid playing to your weaknesses. What you like doing is not necessarily the same as what you’re best at doing.
  • The artwork will be judged upon its objective visual integrity, and not upon either how confident you feel about it, or how much you enjoyed doing it, or how much it means to you, or, even, how satisfied you are with the outcome.
  • Making art may not always be a pleasurable experience. But it should be a fulfilling one.
  • You must be convinced that it’s a fight worth fighting.
  • Be patient, and wait to enjoy the fruit of the harvest. Now is the time for tilling the soil, breaking up the rocks, and working by the sweat of your brow.
  • Pictures aren’t babies: they don’t need to be named after you’ve brought them into the world.
  • A title ought to arise out of the work. Ideally, it’s should fit the image like a piece of wood inserted into well-crafted joint prepared for the purpose. Often, the title can, instead, feel as though it has been rudely nailed in place.
  • Prioritise quality over quantity. There’s no point making a few more works when the existing set still needs further refinement.
  • Without a singleminded determination to expend your best hours and energy on the task ahead over the next few weeks, you will disappoint only yourself. Your teachers and your peers wont have to live with that outcome, but you will … for the remainder of your life.
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