November 30, 2015

Yesterday: the start of Advent; the beginning of the first ‘coming’ (Greek: parousia).

Today: 8.30 am. The days, these days, never seem to come to full bloom. My study is cast into perpetual gloom from early morning until around 4.00 pm (when it gets properly dark). And ‘the rain it raineth every day’. This day began, following Monday’s now established pattern, with tutorial admin, followed by PhD correspondence. Because so many of our PhD students study part time, and live away from the university, fairly regular exchanges of emails between tutor and tutee are common and very necessary.

A box, masquerading as one containing a guitar, had turned up:


It turned out to be the box which contained my new heavy-duty record turntable … which is far smaller than the box, and squarish. I could hardly contain my disappointment.

11.00 am. Back to School, to pick up module assessment forms, set up materials for the afternoon’s lectures, and prepared for the day’s re-routed third and second year tutorials. 11.30 am. Off to the Old College, battling against the rain, feeling like Mr Turner strapped to a mast in the storm (only walking).

1.40 pm. Back to School (again), to set up for the Abstraction lecture. Three more to go:


3.00 pm. The remainder of the afternoon was set aside for micro-tutorials (15 mins), in order to make up for the regular ones that I couldn’t deliver last Thursday, due to my indisposition:


I went through the module criteria assessment sheet with each student in turn, to ensure that they understood the nature of the rope by which they’d be hanged in January. (Some found this to be a somewhat alarming metaphor.) By the end of this week, my aim is to have them fully aware of all that they must require of themselves by their return to studies. Some observations and principles derived from today’s classes:

  • Sometimes, it’s the things we do on the margins of our core activities (unselfconsciously) that prove to be sign posts pointing the way forward.
  • Failure is the necessary underpainting of success.
  • You might be a stranger painter than you could’ve ever imagined.
  • When looking at the work of an artist whom we admire and are influenced by, we see a partial reflection of our own visual identity. In other words, our influences are not arbitrary; they’re drawn to us by a principle of natural affinity.
  • When in doubt, do! (This is not a piece of advice for any other department of life outside of creative practice.)
  • Richard Diebenkorn grew as a painter by yielding himself, very conspicuously, to the influence of a great many other painters. They were the fertiliser to his soil. One must be influenced. To imagine otherwise is hubris and self-delusion.
  • Celebrate your eccentricities.

A new guest or an infiltrator?: Thomas Johnes, best known for his development of the Hafod Estate in Wales. (‘Don’t blink! Don’t even blink! Blink, and you’re dead!’):


6.30 pm. Practise session 1. 7.30 pm. modular adminery. I fielded eleventh-hour requests for advice of the Abstraction submission, which are due in tomorrow, and disposed recommendations to fellow sufferers, as a fellow sufferer, on how to deal with this darn cold.

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