Saturday, 30 August 2014

Research - A Proposed Final Exhibition

I have had a meeting with the head of research and I have had an agreement that the college will help me fund a final exhibition that focuses on my long time involvement in drawing, both as a practice and as a pedagogy.
There will be several elements of this final exhibition.
The central focus will be of course a show of work and one fundamental issue in relation to this will be framing. Framing large drawings is problematic, and in order to build a lasting legacy I have decided to work with a framer who has had over 20 years experience and who understands the nature of the work.  We have already had a meeting and he has measured the drawings, the largest of which are 8 feet high. The first stage will be to make a model of the corner jointing system and backing supports, so that this can be used as a demonstration model for anyone wishing to pursue a similar undertaking in the future.   Each stage will be recorded and evidence of the process also posted to this blog. Andrew, the framer, was also a student on the first ever part-time access programme and he obtained his first job as a framer on finishing the access course, so it seems fitting that he is now part of the research and will help towards putting together the final legacy.  He is costing the materials this coming week and will also be bringing in equipment so that the framing can be done in the studio.
The whole process of putting the exhibition together, including making a gallery model, will also be used as a learning tool. 

The second element will be a publication that will be launched on the exhibition opening. This will be both an exhibition catalogue and pedagogic tool. Different approaches to drawing will be singled out and on the one hand directly linked to ways into understanding what lies behind my own drawings and on the other hand, the issues will be framed up as potential drawing starting points for students. This will be in a very old pedagogic tradition that includes Crispijn de Passe’s manual for artists, which has the wonderful motto on the title page, ‘Nulla dies sine linea’ (Never a day without a line). The catalogue will on the one hand be providing a commentary on the long history of drawing pedagogy and on the other providing drawing exercises for today’s generation of students as well as of course acting as an exhibition catalogue. 

I will also give a valedictory lecture, that will explore the narratives of drawing, both as an educational tool and as a philosophical statement. This will be an interweaving of clich├ęs, experiential learning and artist statement.

Underlying all of these issues is a long standing commitment to the exploration of visual narrative and whilst the exhibition is on, I would hope to host a seminar on issues in contemporary visual narratives.

I have been given a date of January 2016 for the exhibition, so have a long lead in and hopefully plenty of time to get this together. Writing about drawing is something that I strongly believe is more akin to creative writing than something that is accessible to academic theory, and therefore I would hope to also be able to explore much more poetic approaches to the development of pedagogic languages associated with drawing within the art school curriculum.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Using a Blog as a learning aid

One thing I have been doing this summer is to put up some regular blog posts for Fine Art drawing students. This is another activity that might come to an end when I retire, but I may find that it is a useful outlet for my thoughts on my own drawing.
I’m still not convinced as to how useful or effective blogs are as learning tools but for certain students I know they can be very useful. My experience is that initially building up blog posts is time consuming and not very rewarding. Very few students will look at posts regularly and those few that do then expect a new one almost everyday. However once the blog has been in place for a while there will be built up a solid repository of information and this is when it starts to become useful.
Because students will have a wide variety of interests and approaches to their subject it is understandable that the resource wont be of much interest initially, but once it is there, and if you add posts on a reasonably regular basis, you will find students start to mention interests to you when you are on the studio floor. Because you have put the posts up you will remember which subjects you have covered and will be able to direct students to particular posts that may support their ideas or interests. What I did find with an earlier blog I built up when I spent two years working with Digital Media students, was that in particular it was used quite extensively when students were planning for or writing essays or preparing for their dissertations. The blog became an area that allowed them to dip their toes into theory without having to read dense texts. The other thing about blogs is the serendipity of the posts. By their very nature blog posts tend to be idiosyncratic and come out of random experiences, therefore they feel as if life itself is driving the interest, rather than a pre-determined curriculum and this is perhaps the most important pedagogic lesson.
Students have fed back to me that what they like is the totally unexpected range of posts, the only thing holding them together being that every post has something to do with drawing. However the feedback is nearly always verbal, students, (except for the very confident) don’t like making comments that everybody else can see, even though this is an age of Facebook, ‘Friends’ on that platform are not the same as ‘Followers’ of Blog posts. However, what I have found is that when reading student essays, my posts have been cited quite often.  Perhaps the most useful post I have ever put up was one on Semiotics that I produced when I was still teaching on the DFGA Programme, find it here, DGFA BLOG because it was my last post I had tried to leave the students with a comprehensive resource and not only did that year’s students use it, I found students from not just DFGA but Fine Art, referring to it for several years afterwards.  I put the post up after an introductory class based session and as it was my last class, thought I’d better not take it for granted that the students had understood the set task.

I’ve also used a blog as an idea generator, putting up posts on a regular basis when I belonged to a college reading group, CLICK the posts were eventually rewritten as a series of poetic statements and collected together as a book that I then went on to illustrate. THE PHANTOM OF CAPITAL

The present Drawing Blog is here: and I’m expecting to finally begin to get some use from it during this coming academic term. (I only started it during the latter half of last year), which is why I have tried to feed it during the holidays. Hopefully it will also act as a gentle reminder of what students could be thinking about during the summer or as a basic reminder of what they are coming back to.
One final thought, blogs are sort of like a diary and they record interests as they grow and fade away. As they build up over time they do become very useful as a repository of all those stray ideas and thoughts that you might have had during the course of working with a body of students. It is amazing how quickly you can forget, (or at least I’m amazed at how quickly I forget) what happened and what was useful and what was not. Revisiting a blog after a while can be very rewarding. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


It seems a long time ago now but the research started last year has come to some sort of conclusion. This summer I have been able to finalise the idea of an Exhibition in a Box. I put together all the work I did in relation to revisiting silkscreen printing and made a complete set of 54 cards that responded to the research into Tarot. 100 sets were printed and I trailed them with an audience during a studio open weekend that was put on as part of the Chapeltown Arts festival. People seemed to quickly get the idea of how to use them and could see how they could be used to develop their own narratives.

Each set of 54 cards comes with its own box. The cards can either be used to play a Tarot type game with, or the cards can be exhibited as you would a series of small prints. I had the cards printed by a company based in Colchester and they are printed using a standard poker deck format. The majority of the cards were designed using 4 colour separations as you would design for a silkscreen print, but they were then 'flattened' so that digital prints could be made. The company were very user friendly and they print samples so that exact colour matches can be made. The final cards having a rich intensity of colour  that I believe was required to carry the weight of the possible narratives. 
Getting these cards done has allowed the final stage of my research project to now come back into focus, which is to work towards a final exhibition when I leave. This summer has been a time whereby I have been trying to write more about drawing and looking at the possibilities of combining narratives about drawing itself with narratives of life.