October 10, 2017

7.00 am: I awoke with a melody running through my head. It wasn’t so remarkable as to require setting down. From whence had it arisen? Was it the soundtrack to the night’s final dream – forgotten in the instant of regaining consciousness?  Mental music as the residual echo of a dream. 8.30 am: Off to School. I often take the long-route on the outward journey. It’s 3 minutes longer than the short-route, which takes only 4 minutes to complete. Now this is commuting. I look forward to the walk; it gives me just enough time to gather my thoughts, prepare my soul, and steel my nerve for the start of the day:

With acknowledgement to Google Maps

9.00 am: I’d two re-routed 3rd year painting students to teach. The first tutorial of each new semester is focussed on the student’s and my understanding their past, present, and prospective trajectory:

On discovering a subject matter: S: ‘I really didn’t know what it was at first’. T: ‘But you can discover it in the process of painting’. There’s always a subject that lies behind the subject. You must, at the same time, turn your eyes inwards; painting is not just about what’s ‘out there’. Painting is like a chess game; the ideal is to play and win using as few moves as possible. When you find the appropriate subject you’ll also find yourself. The watch-word: integration. Winnow: shake your work through the filter regularly, so that the chaff of redundancies, irrelevancies, and inconsistencies falls through the mesh, to leave the wheat of quality and relevance (to you). T: ‘All I can do is give you a map and a set of instructions (principles) that, if followed, may one day lead you to yourself’. S: ‘When I come home from a party, drunk, I take off my shoes, bra, and earrings first’. [To anyone outside the culture of Fine Art, such a statement would seem bizarre. Today, in this context, it opened a door to a previously unconsidered possibility.] Aim to include an element of surprise. All considerations are subservient to the needs of the painting. Painting: it’s another world that’s only based upon this world. Laundry in a basket as a still life. (Tutorial notes from ‘The Black Notebook’ (October 10, 2017) 265–66).

10.00 am: I popped in at the life room to see how some of my painting students were developing in this area of their studies. The morning’s model had an extraordinary command over her pose. She knew how to test the students:

10.30 am: Administration and preparations for the MA Vocational Practice at 11.10 am. Today we dealt with techniques for small-group teaching. The session ‘rocked’! Together, they’re a formidable, no nonsense, clear-thinking bunch. I learned so much.

2.00 pm: An afternoon of MA Fine Art teaching:

Something being prepared; something falling away. Where does your picture take your mind? What’s it saying to you? Determine the fundamental, non-negotiable, and necessary attributes of the work. Then strip everything else away. T: ‘It reminds me of cathedral walls that I saw in Florence’. Do we go back to artists that were important to us during our formative years, or do we meet them once again on the outward journey. Formidable but not assertive. Look at Rembrandt’s Self Portrait with Two Circles. Did it ever occur to him to paint only the background? Don’t pressurise yourself to work any faster; let the work draw you forward at its own speed.  As artists, insecurity comes with the territory, and may be a necessary condition for creating something of value. The older I get the greater the significance and poignancy of the still moments become. Tradition is like a blackhole; if you dance too close to it, It’ll suck you in.  (Tutorial notes from ‘The Black Notebook’ (October 10, 2017) 266–67).

3.30 pm: A breather. I walked around the School and enjoyed witnessing work in progress downstairs in the Printmaking areas. The first year students were exhibiting an industriousness reminiscent of a medieval guild in operation:

4.00 pm: The final tutorial of the day. It has been good to resume discussion with some of former undergraduate painters. 5.20 pm: Back to home.

7.30 pm: I took time to order tomorrow’s teaching, made a response to the implications of today’s engagements, and opened emails that I’d been avoiding. These tasks were interwoven with Instagram updates and arrangements for the Exploring Your Archive project.

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