A3; Response to Tutor Feedback

I have been thinking about this post for a while. By concentrating my efforts on my tutor’s Pointers for the Next Assignment from Assignment 2 feedback, I seemed to make good progress during Part 3.

Pointers for the next assignment (A2)

  • Explore the broadest potential of the materials and processes you’re exploring – be experimental with structure, scale, shape and volume, as well as pattern, texture, colour and decorative elements.
  • Push yourself to keep exploring imperfection and irregularity.
  • Avoid considering outcomes/products, focus on generating a wide range of samples which exploit the creative potential of both process and materials.
  • Emphasise experimentation over refinement

I am pleased that Cari acknowledged the range of approaches I used as I explored the potential of different moulding and casting materials. I tried really hard to break the habit of pre-planning outcomes, allowing the materials to determine what I did instead and Cari recognised this:

“The process of experimentation was thorough and logical but you’ve allowed yourself room to play.”

I did gain a much greater appreciation of the importance of being playful, which was an important lesson to learn. I find my previous hesitancy to ‘play’ quite ironic as in my day job I work in a Reception class (4-5year olds) where we are constantly extolling the virtues of learning through play! This brought to mind a quote by Kleon:

“A day job puts you in the path of other human beings. Learn from them, steal from them. I’ve tried to take jobs where I can learn things I can use in my work later- my library  job taught me how to do research, my Web design job taught me how to build websites, and my copywriting job taught me how to sell things with words.”¹

In other words we work with what we know, I do actually know how to play- I do it to make a living, I just hadn’t made the connection to my art work before!

For me, Part 3 was about the shift in my perspective, I feel that I changed considerably as I forced myself to challenge my preconceived notions of perfection: ‘By being less precious about the need for things to be correct or perfect, you’ve generated a really enthusiastic body of work.’ Searching for ‘imperfection and irregularity’ and indeed ’emphasising experimentation over refinement’ were central to this. I need to continue to work with these values throughout Part 4 (and beyond). Even I can see the benefit this is having on my output.

I wrote a lot! I found the process of reflection really useful and Cari seems to agree: it’s clear the questions have made you think differently about the work’ However she also noted the vast word count: ‘Your entries for part 3 alone total over 12,500 words. If each part was that long, the total for the module would be 60,000+ words.’ I feel the quantity I wrote reflects the period of introspection that ran alongside Part 3, but appreciate that I need to try to be more ‘succinct’ as she puts it.

Cari identified one the questions I asked of myself as interesting: “Am I capturing the texture of another material or am I creating a new one?” She says:

‘This interplay between what is real, what is a copy and what is completely ‘new’ is a really interesting question relating to innovation and the creative process. At what point do two materials combined lose their innate personalities to create something wholly new?’

I find this comment inspiring, I am keen to investigate it further as I progress through Part 4.

One of the things I identified as a potential stumbling block as I began Printmaking was my reluctance to layer. In the past I have often made the excuse “I can’t layer”, what I mean by this is: I can produce ‘something’ but then I don’t know what to do with it. I think this is related to my perfectionism and fear of spoiling what is already there. Cari advised:

‘If you don’t layer, you won’t know if it works or not, so you have to test it! In terms of ‘spoiling’ what you’ve done, that’s already an anxiety inducing moment! Depending on how much you like the original print, and how much time you have, you could always photograph and print out small images of the print onto which you can draw new layers to get a sense of how it might work. At least then you can feel fairly confident that the compositional arrangement will work.’

I like this safety measure, but I am really keen to build on the developments of Part 3,     (seeking out imperfection, irregularity and experimentation) by now addressing this ‘precious’ attitude I seem to have acquired over the years.

All quotes from Tutor Report 15/08/17 by Cari Morton, except ¹ KLEON A. Steal like an artist (2012) WORKMAN PUBLISHING COMPANY. P124

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A3; Tutor Feedback

Feedback from my tutor, Cari Morton for Part 3:

  • Overall Comments
    This is an investigative and playful body of work, supported by a thoughtful, challenging and reflective learning log in which you question the process, material and yourself. You integrate theory and practice really well, both in the sketchbook and learning log.

    Assignment Feedback Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis, Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity
    You’ve produced a body of samples varied in colour, texture, surface, structure and form. You’ve been really inquisitive about the various materials and challenged what they’re capable of. Your curiosity about the potential is clear in the range of approaches you’ve taken (moulding, casting, extruding, dipping and manipulation…), as well as in your use of different casting forms and inclusion of materials. Latex discs are great as a series due to the colour variation and subtle changes in form – like a series of Petri dishes specimens in a lab.

    Expanding foam can be difficult to control but the extrusions through the lace have produced more controlled wave-like forms. It’s great that you discuss the connotations of the materials you use, such as the sexual and feminine connotations of lace, even if you are actually avoiding using building on these ideas at this stage. You’ve deeply analysed your contextual research, considering the nature of the work and relating it to issues you’ve been exploring (e.g. imperfection and irregularity). That you relate back to it so often through the discussion of your own work in the log and sketch book is a real strength, as it integrates the inspiration into both your process and evaluation of outcome. It’s also great to see so much varied and strong drawing. Your sketchbook integrates thinking, making and recording really well.

    The process of experimentation was thorough and logical but you’ve allowed yourself room to play. It’s great that you’ve stopped planning outcomes and instead focussed your energy on constraining the nature of the initial enquiry, so you are more likely to be surprised by the outcomes. Setting yourself the aims such as “to preserve the transient“ was a great way of providing a conceptual goal for the material investigation. And your constant questioning raised the level of the investigation, e.g., “Am I capturing the texture of another material or am I creating a new one?” This interplay between what is real, what is a copy and what is completely “new” is a really interesting question relating to innovation and the creative process. At what point do two materials combined lose their innate personalities to create something wholly new?

    Similarly, “I can’t decide whether it is a creative solution or a tangential response?” Whilst I’ve encouraged you to have of more focus for your exploration and consider more critically what you’re trying to achieve, sometimes it is the tangential spurs that take us to the most interesting outcomes…

    By being less precious about the need for things to be correct or perfect, you’ve generated a really enthusiastic body of work. You’ve responded to this direction so positively and so thoughtfully. It’s interesting that whilst you feel happier, you are more apprehensive about sharing the work. Is this because the work feels more raw? If you’ve been less controlled about its creation, perhaps people’s responses are less predictable? Your enthusiasm about the work versus a resistance to share is an interesting conflict.

    Learning Logs or Blogs Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
    Your evaluations are critical and detailed, with clear evidence of continual evaluation of your approach in relation to your aims and your response to the work , referencing my feedback and your contextual research. – The evaluative questions were designed more as prompts, and I hadn’t intended for you to respond to each of them in every post, but your answers are really interesting and it’s clear the questions have made you think differently about the work. – The questions have given you more structure for evaluation, resulting in a thorough but quite long discussion. Your entries for Part 3 alone total over 12,500 words. If each part was this long, the total for the module would be 60,000+ words. That’s a PhD thesis! I’m wary about asking you to reduce the word count in future posts, as I don’t want too much stripped out– the discussions you have with yourself about the outcomes, the process and even the questions themselves are fascinating. Consider how you can discuss your work to the same level, with practice and theory integrated and evaluated so well, but more succinctly. – “I should have kept my contextual research focussed on the materials and the process.” I think analysing the aesthetic qualities and the ideas behind the work is important as it relates to the use of materials and processes, but I agree that spending time doing a detailed drawn copy was not necessary.

    Suggested reading/viewing Context
    MMaterial by Fernando Mastrangelo is a series of cement furniture with salt, sand and other inclusions, which relate to your samples with fibrous inclusions. – This is a great reference for material investigation but it’s also interesting for print. The Colour of Hair project by Fabio Hendry and Martijn Rigters http://www.thecolourofhair.com

    Pointers for the next assignment

  • Reflect on this feedback in your learning log.
  • Continue to use drawing to record and develop your prints.
  • Consider using your drawing from pt1-3 as visual inspiration for your prints.
  • As the process in pt.4 gets more 2D, can you use processes from pt.1 to create a surface relief or sense of 3D? Consider how to demonstrate what you’ve learnt so far within the print section.
  • Continue to explore and build on my feedback and your own evaluative pointers from pt.s1-3 to pt.4.

 

A3; Self Assessment

 

DEMONSTRATION OF TECHNICAL AND VISUAL SKILLS:

I was quite ambitious with the number of materials I chose to experiment with: clay (air-dry and kiln), plaster, latex, thermoplastic, silicone, resin and expanding foam. I gained an understanding of some of the properties of each one, although I could happily have continued investigating for months to come. I didn’t find any of the materials too difficult to work with, although some are more enjoyable than others. To begin with I was slightly worried about measuring and mixing some of the more challenging materials, such as silicone and resin but the logical part of my personality managed this without incident. It was actually plaster that caused the greatest problems despite being comparatively simple!

Using my Tutor Feedback from Part 2, I tried to move away from pre-planned outcomes and be more experimental. This has definitely reduced the number of refined samples and increased the number of happy accidents. When sampling the skill was in noticing what worked and what didn’t, not in trying to create something I had designed beforehand.

As I said in my Written Reflection, drawing held the key to my enjoyment of Part 3. Inspired by Rachel Whiteread’s sketching, I too began to use Correction Fluid as a drawing medium, I found the unpredictable flow rather freeing. I also began using Inktense Blocks instead of my preferred watercolour pencils, which was pivotal because  it really loosened me up, not just in the drawings but in my whole approach to my work.

QUALITY OF OUTCOME:

I can see a massive improvement in this sketchbook to my Part 1 submission (and probably Part 2 as well). I think I proved that I can still maintain a good level of layout and presentation, while at the same time being less formal. I think there is a lot more of myself in this sketchbook, but instead of this meaning more of me ‘talking to myself’ I am ‘showing myself’, through the inclusion of more imagery. I used diagrams, sketches and resolved drawings alongside photographs, fabric scraps and notes.

I was much less sentimental about the Selection Process this time, obviously weight was a key issue but looking at the samples I could easily see which ones held potential and which ones could be disregarded. Discernment seems to be developing.

DEMONSTRATION OF CREATIVITY:

Strangely, despite being happier with what I have created, I am more apprehensive about sharing it. I think this is part of my slightly reserved and guarded self. During the Selection Process, I reflected that this sample feels like a metaphor for myself: refusing to be contained. Although I have considered this before in the way my drawings often spill off the paper, the work still seems to have become more personal.

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Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth (as recommended by tutor) had as much impact on me as Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist did during ATV. It felt good to be reminded of these principles and I have little doubt that they have instigated changes in the way I think.

A few weeks into Part 3, I felt really at odds with the course, I was at the stage where everything felt difficult and once again I was questioning my worth and ability. I think this is a natural part of the Creative Process as it happens to me repeatedly. I got over it by holding onto Cari’s comment: “this course, of all of them, will challenge you to explore methods and approaches that feel uncomfortable- embrace that!” and I did, and so I grew!

I guess many creative types would agree there will always be more that could have been done. I regret not exploring scale but given the restrictions of cost, time and weight and the number of materials I attempted, this was not possible. On reflection what I could have done was draw on a larger scale…

CONTEXT:

I tried to compliment the contextual research in my sketchbook with more academically toned posts on my blog. I still feel happier when the research is embedded in my sketchbook, where I am more confident about displaying images and passing ‘judgements’. This was particularly true when I reflected on works that evoked more complex emotions than “I like it because”. I don’t really feel qualified to judge other people’s work, it feels like criticism but I suppose to some extent when anybody places their work in the public sphere they are opening themselves to the opinions of others.

For Part 3, I have tried to improve my blog posts by responding to a set of predetermined questions. I cut and paste these onto each post and focus my response and analysis around them. I don’t always answer every question but having them there has definitely sped up my thought process. In addition to being mindful of repetition, this gave me much more time to draw and make. This is probably why I have met my deadline for this assignment!

When I summarised my samples for the Selection Process, I noticed that I was providing narrative, I have tried to keep this to a minimum and only use it where the curation of my ideas seemed necessary.

 

A3, Written Reflection

Returning to the start of Part 3, to begin the Selection Process, illustrated to me how far I have come in just ten weeks! As soon as I received my Part Two Feedback, I realised that I was on the wrong path, making the same mistakes of over planning outcomes and allowing my research to distract me:

Researching Botanical Illustration and making prints was interesting to me but was not focus of Part 3. Nor were Paolozzi’s collage and prints particularly relevant.

I also found myself planning outcomes before trialling materials. Luckily my feedback arrived and I was able to address this by incorporating Investigative Play into my process, in place of this controlling predetermination. I also tried to remind myself of the objectives of my research in order to stay focussed.

I actually feel almost embarrassed by the first samples that I made but it is important to show them to highlight how much progress I have made:

The tiles do celebrate my love of repetition and pattern but I have come to realise that there are other ways to do this in less contrived and more unexpected ways:

Working with a host of unfamiliar materials was exciting and not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. I think my methodical and logical (controlling) side was engaged by the process of measuring and mixing, which allowed my freer side to be more creative! I was able to try plaster, latex, silicone, thermoplastic, resin and expanding foam. I don’t regret leaving out papermache and concreate as I have worked extensively with these in the past.

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As always, I appreciated finding a way to incorporate knitting although I felt some of the samples were too closely related to Rebecca Fairley’s work. This observation led me away from this investigation into the pursuit of super smooth surfaces more like Victoria Ferrand Scott.

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I had to be especially careful at this point that my controlling side didn’t take over and try to make things too neat, finding Maarten de Ceulaer and introducing colour helped combat this.

Cari’s ‘Pointer for the next assignment’ to: continue to explore imperfection and irregularity, was also instrumental in this consideration. It made me more aware of how flaws can be used to the best advantage. As well as seeing this in my own work I tried to apply it when looking at the work of others, it really helped me to understand how Rachel Whiteread’s sculptures connect to their history.

I hadn’t forgotten the plaster/knit samples and still wanted to find a way to make the investigation more personal, which did not happen until my final sample; even though it is crochet rather than knit. What is different about this sample compared with my previous work is that it sort of evolved quite naturally and I had no idea what it was going to look like in advance. It progressed from a test to see if the expanding foam in the crochet sphere could be replaced with plaster. It builds on so many things I have learned: the choice of yarn, how to colour the plaster, not entirely unwrapping it, adding yarns and threads. Each one of these findings has been discovered through previous experimentation during MMT.

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As I became more familiar with the materials I found I was able to play more freely. I had several sessions where curiosity drove the investigation and I made decisions intuitively. This was a big breakthrough for me but even more important has been the effect that working in Mixed Media has had on my drawing.

I love to draw… but I always forget how much, discovering it like something new and exciting every time. I am deeply grateful to Cari for encouraging me to draw more. It feels like the key to my enjoyment of MMT. I began to think about how my samples could influence my drawing rather than how I could use drawing to plan an outcome. As soon as I stopped regarding the samples as finished or refined but merely a stepping stone to the next drawing they ceased to be so important. I began to shake of the precious notions I had: breaking, painting over and sanding back. As soon as I stopped worrying about creating beautiful things, I found they just started to happen.

I am concluding Part 3 feeling a lot happier than I have throughout the whole of MMT!

 

 

 

 

A3; The Selection Process (2)

A continuation of the samples I selected as holding the most learning and potential (see part one here). Note that the narrative is designed to curate the work; links are provided to provide more background and analytical discussion.

SELECTION 8:  POLYDOH BALLOON (Relevant post here)

A continuation of my search for an alternative material for the Balloon Pebbles after latex covering had to be removed revealing pristine plaster that was uninviting to touch. (Actually, similar to Ferrand Scott’s aptly named sculpture: ‘Restraint’, I still wanted to touch the pebbles but felt I shouldn’t… this would be an interesting idea to explore later. Similar to museums where you aren’t allowed to handle artefacts, or when you tell a child to “look but don’t touch”).

Once again multiple circles decorate the surface, this time the they are irregular in size, shape and arrangement; the only thing holding them together as a composition is colour and the form of the sphere (egg!).

SELECTION 9: CASTING THE INTERNAL SPACE OF A CASTING OF AN INTERNAL SPACE (Relevant post here)

Here I tried to push the investigation a little bit further by exploring what was going on inside the Polydoh casting. The resulting silicone is a dense, pitted lump that was quite unattractive, but fun to draw. My intention is to explore the differences between this and the polystyrene casting pictured below, as the surface qualities are very different.

 

SELECTION 10: EXPANDING FOAM AND LACE (Relevant post here)

Exploiting and manipulating patterns is probably one of my strengths, it is certainly something I find incredibly rewarding and enjoyable. Once I discovered this technique, toward the end of a lengthy exploratory play session, I realised the potential this has for development. There are infinite possibilities of materials that could be treated like this.

The casting material refuses to be contained and pushes at the boundaries of the vessel, this feels like a metaphor I can relate to. The absence of visible constriction or binding is really important to me; there is nothing sexual or ‘fetish’ about this constraint, it is not brought on my any external force- the only thing holding me back is me…

 

SELECTION 12: EXPANDING FOAM AND CROCHET (Relevant post here)

Another example of a ‘failed’ containment, using the principles of the investigation above (selection 11). I enjoyed exploring the irregular shapes that escaped through an regular arrangement of holes. This is another pattern that I would enjoy working with (perhaps in Part 4).

 

SELECTION 13: COLOURED PLASTER ENCAPSULATED IN RESIN (relevant post here)

In my last feedback, I was asked by my tutor to continue to seek out imperfections. Here I am communicating my new found appreciation and understanding of this by encapsulating the broken pieces of a previous sample in a material that reveals all and conceals nothing.

 

SELECTION 14: COLOURED PLASTER WITH YARNS AND THREADS (Relevant post here)

A culmination of lots of previous experiments, the sample represents many lessons learned. For example: the crochet vessel in which it has been cast has only been partially removed to give the impression something precious is being revealed, an idea supported by the inclusion of gold thread. This improves on the Bonnet sample where I over zealously tore the hat away.

A3; The Selection Process (1)

My first attempt at reviewing what I have produced during Part Three led to another spurt of making. There is so much more I would like to do but for now must be content with identifying the samples with potential and collating them here.

As I presented each selection I noticed I was providing narrative, I have tried to avoid this over the rest of my posts. I decided to continue to summarise my thoughts as I curated my work but included links to the relevant posts where discussion is more analytical.

SELECTION 1: LATEX DISCS (related post here)

I learned that latex could be coloured and poured in layers either over or around textural surfaces. I found the samples work best as a collection as the regular size and shape counterbalances the imperfections.

The Latex/Sand combination was not what I expected at all, I had hoped to pick up a fine, gritty texture but the result was a strange spongy foam, with a crust like butter set over pate! Further work could be done to either improve this result or exploit it.

Encapsulating yarn led to further investigations into how Latex can be used in a rather more linear format (see selection 2).

SELECTION 2: LATEX YARN (Related post here)

I felt these samples deviated slightly from the brief, I include them to show that I quite naturally sought to develop the samples as I went along, rather than waiting to be instructed to at the end of 3.1

Impregnating yarns with Latex solves problems I have come across in the past. It hardens the yarn whilst still allowing it to remain flexible, this will allow me to sculpt with it like wire and to emboss the texture of the form I create from it, albeit knitting, weaving or crochet. A really useful discovery.

SELECTION 3: LATEX, GOLF BALL AND AN EGG CUP! (Related post here)

Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type! I felt quite frustrated by the authoritarian tone of many of the moulding tutorials I came across, I sought a creative solution inspired by the principles of Bruce Mau. (Thank you Cari)

The shapes and pattern in this sample became thematic during the course of Part 3, they can be seen being developed across many of the following samples.

SELECTION 4: MULTI-MEDIA RESPONSE TO TWIGS

I was keen to explore the pointed ends of the twigs rather than the surface area which seemed more predictable. This ‘end on’ idea was inspired by Sanne Schuurman who has a rather unique way of looking at the materials she uses. The ends were pressed into Mouldable Polymer creating a spiralling pattern, made up of smaller circles.

I developed the Polydoh sample with embossing and casting in alternative materials. I am very keen to work on this some more, I particularly want to use the Silicone casting as a print block and to try and elongate the depth of the holes (perhaps by drilling) to create spikes rather than dots…

SELECTION 5: PLASTER AND KNIT (Related post here)

The samples I made with knitted swatches appear to reference my research into Rebecca Fairley’s process, however, the inspiration also came from Victoria Ferrand Scott. At the time I was feeling really unhappy with MMT, I identified with Ferrand Scott’s frustration over the delays of her Holocaust Memorial Project and decided to adopt a more physical approach to my sampling, just as she did. (more on this in sketchbook too)

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This was my favourite of all these samples, I like the regularity of the stripes combined with the imperfections of the stretched knit texture and embedded fibres.

SELECTION 6: PLASTER BALLOON PEBBLES (Related post here and here)

Whilst I understand the need for imperfection in Whiteread’s sculptures, I sought to eradicate the flaws created by human use, more in line with Ferrand Scott’s smooth, silken shapes. The balloon allowed me to do this.

Difficulties filling the vessel created palm sized samples that are really tactile and cry out to be held and felt like pebbles. Unfortunately the impermanence of the latex covering meant I had to unwrap them. In their pristine state they are less inviting to touch, this led to an investigation into alternative materials for casting (Polydoh/Resin) and methods of colouring.

SELECTION 7: COLOURED PLASTER: (Relevant post here)

Introducing colour to the plaster with Brusho was effective. In these samples the vibrancy of the colour enhances the textures. Finding Maarten de Ceulaer, heavily influenced my thinking here. He welcomes imperfections and uses them to his own benefit, this was a lesson I needed to learn.

 

The Selection Process continues in my next post…

 

A3; The Selection Process Begins…

Beginning the Selection Process was a bit of a ‘False Stop’ (as opposed to a False Start!), just when I thought I was done I suddenly found myself with a host of new ideas! With a bit of time and space between me and some of my earlier samples, I began to see other possibilities.

A discussion with fellow course mate Inger, led to me considering the use of scratching and sanding as means of embellishment. This was something I hadn’t considered before- interpreting embellishment as the addition rather than subtraction of materials. This realisation led from these:

Becoming this:

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Which led to this:

I know that I should be avoiding this sort of narrative: “I did this, then that” etc. However, this seemed really quite important: I would never have dreamed of treating a sample like this in the past. I would have been too precious and ‘afraid’ of spoiling it to try and alter it. All the playing in Part 3, has led me to be much bolder in this respect. Even though the samples are not resolved or refined, I can appreciate them for their part in my learning.

The negative space in this Balloon/Plaster/Brusho sample was interesting:

I explored the possibility of a Kintsugi style join on shards of plaster left over from the Bonnet sample. This was inspired by a technique I tried during Part2, using a glue gun and transfer foils:

This method proved unappealing but this was useful because it forced me to consider another alternative:

Learning from the Whiteread ‘paperweight’ situation (read here) led to an inclusion in Resin which isn’t perfect: it has multiple air bubbles and a dirty great finger print right on the top. I started to wonder how much these things matter- the learning is more important!

Finally, I just couldn’t shake the feeling there was more to the Crochet Spheres…

I combined the two ideas above and using lessons learned from previous sampling created this:

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Drawing this sample in my sketchbook felt like a better conclusion to Part 3, than where I had previously decided to stop. It serves as a joyful reminder of what Mixed Media can do for me!

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