October 11, 2017

From dreamland: I was at my breakfast table. At right angles to me sat an 8 year old girl with light brown hair, whom I’d never met. She asked: ‘How do you paint with sound?’ [This was an echo of a tutorial conversation which I’d had yesterday.]. I replied: ‘I squeeze some ‘SSSSSS’ out of one tube and some ‘BRRR’ out of another and mix them on my palette (which is also my canvas) – in other words, the software on my computer monitor, with a brush – that’s to say, my keyboard and mouse’. She smiled, approvingly. Then, I awoke.

8.30 am: Off to the Old College under a monochrome sky. 9.00 am: The first tutorials of the day were with painting students whom I’d taught last year, when they were undergraduates. We didn’t resume the same conversation. During the summer recess, they’d grown and I had changed. Painting is not like knitting; you can’t take it up again after a period of an absence. The pattern has altered, albeit subtly. 10.00 am: My first, formal tutorial with our new PhD Fine Art student. We endeavoured to establish one another’s wavelengths and discern the zone of overlap (which is broad in this case). I predict that this will be a fruitful professional relationship. Dalit’s palette:

Petrified wood forest (I recalled a Joni Mitchell song). Borth Beach was a great place to fly a kite. The aim of the course is not to obtain an MA Fine Art, principally, but, rather, to be a better artist. See more with your feelings than with your eyes. (This advice is not for all artists.) The original Polaroids were square format. I’d cut them from their mount, clean off the dried emulsion, and paint on the back of the plastic. Think of a static image as an abstraction of a kinetic encounter with the world. S: ‘You still use the word “truth” at this art school!’ T: Yes, and “beauty” and “craft” too. The old verities aren’t disallowed. We’re very liberal’ (Tutorial notes from ‘The Black Notebook’ (October 11, 2017) 266–67).

11.00 am: I established basecamp in the Quad, so that I could press on with incoming mail and ongoing admin. I used to eat my lunch here, every Thursday, when our undergraduates were ensconced in the building. Rarely do I have the occasion to sit here and write, listen, and be observed these days:

Never give up on the hope that things may be different one day: more fulfilling, deeply meaningful, loving, and fashioned according to your own needs and identity. Ask yourself: ‘What’s there in my power to change, right now?’ Great revolutions are often the aggregate of small incremental adjustments to one’s context of life and operation, orientation, ambitions, and expectations. So, begin.

12.30 pm: A lunchtime discussion with one of my MA troop, followed, at 2.15 pm, by a PhD Fine Art tutorial and, afterwards, a series of engagements with the new MA painters at the West Classroom:

Worrying and dissatisfaction are two entirely different states of mind. Even if the whole world lauded your work, you may yet be unconfident about it. The problem really begins with ourselves. You must fight in order to win. There’s no point to struggling otherwise. Begin with chaos, if you must. And maintain the energy and disorder of such, if you must. Such a painting is a bucking bronco – wild and angry – but you must remain in control and in the saddle at all times. Lucien Freud: flesh= paint (Tutorial notes from ‘The Black Notebook’ (October 11, 2017) 267).

5.20 pm: The campaign closed. All in all, a day of new beginnings, visions, and resolutions, and of renewed determination, among the postgraduates. I don’t know what it’s like to teach another subject, but a pedagogical engagement with fine art and art history students draws upon skills far broader than those intrinsic to the disciplines. This is because the teacher must first confront and comprehend the tutee’s humanity and totality before they can even begin to talk business.

7.30 pm: Admin and lecture preparation in readiness for the next two sessions on Abstraction tomorrow (Joni Mitchell’s Hejira in the background.)

An aside: On the anticipation of various endings and departings:

 

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