8.45 am: Off to School for my weekly round of postgraduate tutorials. Once my inbox was unwrapped, I settled to address the topic of undergraduate tutorials: their nature, and the respective responsibilities of the participants. This ‘pep-talk’ will be delivered to the second and third year painting students at the beginning of the new academic year. Both learning and teaching need to be rigorous, decisive, and determined. ‘Begin as you mean to go on’, my Mam would advise. In other words, instil a right attitude early in the course of education, and your burden as a teacher will be the lighter as a consequence.
10.00 am: An extended PhD Fine Art tutorial with one of my completing tutees. His co-supervisor from Earth Sciences was also in attendance. I enjoy our cross-departmental discussions about Sci/Art. Scientists and artists think is such different but complimentary ways. This is one of the privileges of working within a university. The Latinate root of ‘university’ combines the word ‘vertere‘ (to turn) and ‘uni‘ (one). In other words, all things (subjects and disciplines) ‘turned into one’. In this sense, interdisciplinarity has always been a goal at the heart of scholarly endeavour. One place, one mind, one vision.
12.00 pm: A penultimate tutorial with one of my completing MA Fine Art students. I’ve grown to know them over the course of five years. Their absence will be felt. 12.30 pm: A lunchtime consultation with one of our intending MA students. (The wheel of education turns round and round.) 3.00 pm: Off to the Old College for the day’s final two MA tutorials.
A sense of direction, ambition, vision, and certainty does not always arise from within us, suddenly and forcefully. More often, it consolidates imperceptibly in response to, for instance, a casual remark someone made; something we read, saw, or heard; the salutary example of respected teacher or friend; or an unanticipated moment of inexplicable calm that visited us in the mad rush of a day.
5.20 pm: I headed back across town, wearied by the humidity and the crowds of holidaymakers.
7.30 pm: Studiology. 8.30 pm: I settled to read a PhD Art History thesis that had arrived today, in my capacity as External Examiner. To begin, I wanted to view the lay of the land, discern the author’s ‘voice’, note their attention to convention, and judge their command of language.
Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:
- An artist must have one deaf ear constantly turned towards the public.
- Our lack of confidence is most prevalent when we’re considering making, rather than actually making, art.
- Trust the insight of those who have suffered hard and long, and endured.
- We don’t because we think we can’t. We think we can’t because we haven’t.
- Age is an asset.
- Self-discovery – the objective; self-knowledge – the blessing.
- Our life’s history is a lodestone for ideas.
- Creatively, we have to learn to fall off the edge of the table if we are to experience the wonders that lie below it.