February 8, 2018

8.00 am: A communion. 8.20 am: An arduous day lay ahead, and my reserves – which I (like a local council) have dipped into too often this last fortnight – were drying up rapidly. Beyond this morning’s conference, I had a full afternoon of teaching to fulfil, an evening of email catch up, and to prepare for my day in hospital tomorrow, as well as the knock-on effect of taking off two working days next week in order to recuperate. 8.30 am: As part of my pre-delivery routine, I went through the presentation against the clock. There’d by no surprises, as far as it was in my power to ensure. In my final pass over the script, I made some radical excisions in order to keep the presentation well within time. (Strand chairpersons hate contributions that exceed their allotted limit. One overspill can throw the timetable for the whole session.) My last task was to make the top, right-hand corner of each page of my script dog-eared. This permits me to turnover effortlessly, without the risk of skipping a page.

10.20 am: I arrived at the Arts Centre, registered for the Digital Past 2018 conference, and was told that my session had been moved from the Cinema to the Theatre. No big deal. But I’d never spoken there before and, therefore, needed to get acclimatised to the acoustics and depth of the auditorium. I’m more comfortable when knowing how the space will respond to my voice:

10.45 am: Time for tea before I looked at the various heritage stands in the Great Hall:

I took time to review my script and, then, sat myself in the auditorium ahead of time and considered how I would walk from my seat to the lectern to commence, and from the lectern back to my seat after the delivery. Once I’d pre-visioned the bookends, what lay between would take care of itself. It sounds nuts. But it works.

I was down for the end of the session, so I was able to learn from the efforts of others contributing before me. My paper was rather left of field in respect to the heritage theme. Something of a wild card. But, what the heck! 12.15 pm: I took to the floor …

… and launched:

The audience were generous with their response (and, I’m sure, not a little bemused). However, their questions implied that they’d grasped my endeavour and its future implications.

After a speedy lunch and a searching conversation with one of the delegates, I pressed down towards the School to undertake what would have been the mornings third-year Painting tutorials. One student has been painting flowers and taps. (Don’t ask. It does make sense.) It struck me that their palette had begun to take on the quality of the bouquets quite unselfconsciously:

7.15 pm: I caught up on the day’s waiting emails, this dairy, and the events of the day, while making preparations for tomorrow’s hospitalisation. In an anonymous package, I received a lovely surprise gift from one of our former MA students and the cover designer of King Crimson’s album Lizard (1970). I’m looking forward to reading the book during my recuperation:

9.30 pm: An early breakfast. (I’d have to fast tomorrow morning).

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • What if blue was thought of as a warm colour?
  • One of the hardest things a student has to create is a sense of imperative. (Tempus Fugit.)
  • When you draw, it’s not only the drawing but also the experience of seeing, understanding, and rendering through drawing that’s of value.
  • Sitting in the front seat of a car is a peculiarly cubist experience: through the windscreen there’s the view in front, and through the side- and rear-view mirrors, simultaneously, what’s to the left and right and behind.
  • Avoid quoting from your own paintings. Originally, the quotes had a context, raison d’etre, and history that cannot be replicated authentically.
  • Unless you feed your ideas by drawing upon something outside of art, the artworks will become increasingly a paler and paler echo of themselves.
  • There are times when the scale or size of the format feels like an ill-fitting shoe.
  • Make your studio space efficient – fit for purpose; beautiful in its own way.


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