September 26, 2017

8.30 pm: I packed my bag and made ready for School, just as I’d done since I was an eleven years old. Throughout my secondary-school, barring my attendance for one year at a good grammar school in Abertillery, I caught the 8.20 am school bus from outside Price’s Shop, at the top of my terrace, and travelled six miles to Nantyglo and a dismal comprehensive school. Now, it takes me six minutes to get to school on foot. Some conditions in life do improve. The mothership was quiet. Today the students began the process of registration at the Arts Centre. Induction moves from the larger to the small: they enter the university, then the School, then the degree scheme, and, finally, the modules.

I cleaned my screen. ‘The eye is the lamp of the body’, and the computer monitor, a window onto a world:

On, then, with Personal Tutor (PT) matters. I’ll be seeing my new, first year cohort on Thursday. The PT is their point of contact for matters pastoral and academic. Some students will meet the greatest challenges of their university life this week. Leaving home and school for the first time is not always unproblematic. Homesickness, insecurity about their choices, shyness, lack of confidence in themselves and their ability, and a failure of conviction can have them back on the train and bound for home before Friday. (And parents need support too. Rendering up a child to an institution that’s not on the doorstep is nothing short of a mini-bereavement.)

Little lists of ‘must do nows’ were beginning to accumulate. And, then there were the in-trays to depopulate, and old admin files to turf out. ‘Show no mercy, John!’ Disposal is very cleansing. (I associate clutter with anxiety and a loss of control.) Above my office’s flaky ceiling (an objective correlative), the painting studio was being reconfigured. Mr Garrett ably slotted together dividers. (THUD!) The divisions serve not to separate the students so much as to honour the individual’s right to some personal space:

12.15 pm: A lunch time Painting Committee at the town chambers with Dr Forster. We work as a team. From 1.30 pm to the end of the day, I caught up with my PhD and MA Fine Art contingent at the School and Old College. On the way to the latter, I photographed the stucco side wall of Bethel Welsh Baptist Church. This will serve as an element in my poster for the ‘I. Nothing. Lack.’ event:

7.30 pm: Email catch up, forward looking, and a re-engagement with the event poster. 11.30 pm: Done!:

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • Whatever’s happening on the canvas is also happening in you.
  • Two complimentary questions addressed to the same artwork: What passages could be omitted? What passages could you not do without?
  • We paint towards an answer, not in the light of one.
  • Some parts of the painting are but the scaffolding that help you to erect the building. As such, they should be torn down after it’s finished.
  • Unity and indivisibility: the part is the whole and the whole is the part.
  • We learn by stumbling haplessly towards something.
  • The moment comes not a moment too soon or too late.
  • Don’t spend too long in your favourite part of the garden. Walk in the bigger picture also, and often.
  • An ideal: consistency, constancy, coherence, and integrity; in art, as in life.
  • To find nourishment and satisfaction in mere bread and water: learn the sufficiency of simplicity.
  • Be reckless when your tentativeness threatens to neuter the process of painting.
  • If you can work in the face of public and critical indifference, then you’ll prove to yourself the true measure of your commitment.
  • Don’t worry about who’s looking over your shoulder. Turn around, you might discover that there’s no one there.
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