Part 4; Reflection: Printing Begins

The luxury of having six weeks holiday provided me with the opportunity to begin Part 4 without delay. In fact it happened so quickly that I didn’t even have a new sketchbook ready to catch all my ideas. I have ended up with a pile of notes on copy paper which is driving me crazy. I don’t want to repeat the mistake of an A4 file like I submitted for Part 1, nor do I want to waste precious printing time transferring these into a ‘neat format’ for the sake of it.

To date, presentation has been one of my strengths. Just lately I have felt a real change in my… work? approach? attitude? thoughts? Not sure exactly what it is or how to describe it! Inger identified ‘a sense of new beginnings’ which is definitely true, it feels like a building momentum. This means I am working prolifically and my thoughts are coming really quickly. My experimentation has been extensive, I did not expect to encounter so many variables in the printing process, I am really unsure how to communicate this learning. It seems more honest to preserve my ideas in the format that they arrive. It also feels quite scary to reveal this more scruffy approach and the observations that are closer to my core than anything I have presented so far.

I feel like I have connected with the process in a very different way to knitting or stitching, which feels comforting and protective by comparison. This not to say it is a negative feeling, simply a more powerful one.

My initial research into monotypes didn’t fill me with the sense of dread and paralysis that other units have. Sometimes I prefer not to research beyond the technical requirements of a new process because seeing other people’s work is really scary and leaves me feeling flat for days. This time I felt buoyed up and enthusiastic.

I have absolutely no idea where printmaking is going to lead me or what the prints are going to look like. Early tests have already shown me that I am going to have to be brave and decisive in my mark making. I need to explore the spontaneous and accidental. I can’t afford to be too controlling and careful with this technique. The removal of this filter between me and the paper feels terrifying and exciting at the same time.

 

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!

 

 

 

 

3.2; Adding Colour to Plaster, continued…

SAMPLE THREE: My approach for making this sample was quite different from what I am used to, it developed from my consideration of my Feedback for Part 2. Cari has encouraged me to: “demonstrate experimentation, investigation and growth” and to seek this above “perfection and refinement”. This advice felt really counterintuitive to begin with, I have always regarded improvement as getting better at something: as mastery of a technique. I am beginning to really appreciate the benefit of ‘growth’ above ‘improvement’.

I began with just the seed of an idea about casting the internal space of a hat. This interested me because it seems the closest I can get to casting the inside of my head. (That probably sounds stranger than it is meant!) In Sample 2, I found a way to record the space in my lungs by blowing the contents into plaster. This inspired me to think about how the mind/imagination could be represented.

I played around with some hat type metaphors and sayings for a while, then decided to grab a hat and some plaster and get on with it… I think this is key to my changing approach. I investigated the ideas through materials before ‘thinking them to death’. Usually I would: decide what to do using skills I already have, design it in my sketchbook, then simply transfer the pre-determined outcome into physical materials.

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This was what I achieved. Whether or not it speaks of what is ‘inside my head’ no longer seems to matter. I poured multiple batches of different colour plaster, I peeled and cut at the straw bonnet, I knocked shards away, I photographed and I drew. I literally learned so much when I didn’t really know where the investigation was leading that the process has become more important than the result. I know I was ‘playing’ and I think that is what both my tutors to date have been alluding to, a sort of freedom from myself?

I could continue this post by analysing the physical qualities of this sample, the shapes, colours and textures but I have already covered some of this in my sketchbook. I don’t want to repeat myself but also I don’t want to detract from the fact it was the experience that was the learning here not the finished product.

 

 

3.1; Embellishment and Manipulation

Reaching the end of Project One, I realised I now had to develop my ideas by embellishment or manipulation, using what I have learned during MMT so far. At first this led to another crisis in confidence, I couldn’t see how I would be able to do this. I wondered if I naturally do this as I go along without realising it? For example my Latex yarn experiments:

I had already changed the sample taken from the texture of a meat tray by attaching it to lengths of ribbon yarn:

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I had altered the appearance of my golf ball casting by stretching over an egg cup:

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I had already considered a different technique for casting with latex by impregnating yarn and wrapping it around an object:

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I decided to take stock of what I have created so far and leave this additional development stage for now. I began to consider what I needed to do to move forward into Project 2:

  • Write up my research into Contemporary Artists.
  • Try silicone- I noticed several times in my sketchbook I had noted that this material might be an alternative, capable of producing the desired effect. (These judgements were theoretical, made with no experience of the material).

As I put these steps into action, I found a bit of distance from the problem of developing the samples really helped. I made notes in my sketchbook and was really surprised by how I was able to link current moulding experiences with previous exercises. I now have several pages of ideas to develop, which really fortified me. I felt I had a much better understanding of how working with casting materials could relate to my own work. I feel I have applied the principle:

“Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications” ¹

Previously I would have felt overwhelmed by the generation of so many possibilities, believing that each one needed to be pursued to conclusion. I now feel quite invigorated by flexing this ‘creative muscle’.

¹MAU, Bruce: An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.

A2; Response to Tutor Feedback

My recent Tutor Feedback can be viewed here.

Overall

Cari has identified lots of positives from my response to Part 2, I was particularly pleased that she felt the work was ‘investigative and questioning’ and could see that I generated ‘some more really interesting ideas’.

Sketchbook

She has acknowledged my efforts to include more drawing and reduce the number of diary-like entries in my sketchbook. This now forces my attention to my blog, which:

‘At times, the learning log can be diary-like, focussing more on what you did rather than why or whether it was successful’

Blog

I really struggle with the blog, I find it the hardest part of the course. I need to change the way that I use it and find a way to make it work for me. At the moment, I still view it as a loathsome necessity, merely a hoop to jump through. I often leave the entries until the practical work is completed, this contributes to the ‘diary-like’ feel because I am recounting what I did, instead of puzzling what I should do next.

Having concentrated on improving my sketchbook in Part 2, I intend to now turn my attention to my blog. I want to fully incorporate it in my practise so that it becomes a useful tool, that works for me.

Samples

It seems some of my samples were well met, particularly the more experimental, less well refined ones. I predicted that ‘Washing Machine Spoon’ would be deemed successful, having taken less that five minutes to create. My ‘patchwork and quilting’ samples that took far longer were not so well received ‘a little too easy, perhaps too practised or comfortable’.

I am coming to terms with this. It is difficult, it feels like it is challenging me at my core. I need to lose my ‘neat’.  ‘Push yourself to keep exploring imperfection and irregularity’ –suggests I am beginning to do this. I want to do it but I feel a resistance- like I am going to lose who I am, in a bid to be what tutors/assessors want.

One of Cari’s pointers for the next assignment is: ‘Emphasise experimentation over refinement’. I may have to make this my mantra!

Context

I completely agree with Cari about the relevance (or rather irrelevance) of the Contemporary practitioners I used in my study. Looking back, my response to Ptolemy Mann was hugely inappropriate to the brief. My focus shifted from Joining to Colour and Pattern. I think there is probably quite a fine line between a lateral personal response and going off at a tangent!

The comment…

‘Critically consider how your research informs the work in a relevant way. Focus on artists who use appropriate materials and processes to help inform your investigation’.

…really hit home. I began working on Part 3, pending this feedback and I can now see I have made exactly the same mistake again!

I set off with really good intentions of allowing the materials to guide me. Yet in my sketchbook I can already see my attention wandering: focussing on Rachel Dein’s use of composition rather than the material qualities of plaster and clay.

Just before I received  the feedback I caught myself planning an intricate Paolozzi style cast of objects. I’m really glad the hot weather intervened and broke the clay tile because I was about to pursue a considered outcome with a material I knew very little about (latex).

‘Avoid considering outcomes/products, focus on generating a wide range of samples which exploit the creative potential of both process and materials’.

I need to go back and look at the Envisions Group again. I found their approach of exhibiting ‘everything but the end product’ helped me to understand this way of working.

Right now, I am at a bit of a loss as to how to proceed. I almost want to destroy what I have done so far and start again (not the OCA way). At least my mistakes should serve to demonstrate that I am willing to take on board tutor advice and to learn from it.

A2; Written Reflection

Although my posts for Part 2 have often expressed difficulty and frustration, I have really enjoyed it. It felt like a long and sprawling investigation of yarn and material that reminded me in some respects of Part 4 of ATV, which I found both the most challenging and rewarding.

Some of the samples I have made felt new and exciting while others more familiar and comforting. I really enjoyed working on the concept of memory during Ex 2.2 and hope this is something I can continue to think about in the future. I have loved the amount of sewing I have been able to incorporate into both Joining and Wrapping, but also the amount of drawing I have done.

Responding to my last feedback by greatly increasing the time I have spent drawing has made a large impact on the body of work I have produced. After Part One I felt rather lost, like the work didn’t belong to me, but this time I feel a greater sense of ownership.

Receiving my feedback for ATV part way through Part 2 influenced me greatly. I was advised to focus more on contemporary textile artists and to consider the context of my work.

This led to a great deal of soul searching on my part about who I am and what I want to do. These are both questions I have avoided in the past. As I described in a previous post, I have been using Jane Dunnewold’s book: Creative Strength Training to think about what drives me. I feel the work I have submitted, touches the surface of the thinking and learning I have done. Part 2 has felt rather transitionary, like things are shifting. I have a sense that my responses are a bit more grown up this time?

I also addressed my feedback by subscribing to Selvedge and Craft Council Magazines, I realised exactly what I had been missing as soon as I received the first issues. I don’t usually ‘do’ social media, beyond Pinterest, but I made myself an account, just to follow contemporary artists, galleries and stockists. This removes the distraction of becoming involved in the pets/children/dinners of everyone I’ve ever met! The Entangled Exhibition also had a huge impact on me, opening my eyes to working with conceptual ideas as well as focussing on making.

I have in the back of my mind been dreading Part 3, thinking that as someone who likes to work flat, that I am going to struggle. Reviewing my work for Part 2, I realised that actually, I have managed to produce some spatial samples. I have worked effectively with paper mache in the past and recall casting concreate for my A Levels years ago. I actually feel really positive about the next project, I think it is going to be exciting trying something that I am unfamiliar with.