Principles and Observations: A Compendium (October 2, 2014-April 29, 2021)

While contemporary art school studio spaces are much the same as they’ve ever been, their occupants aren’t so attuned to listening-in on their peers’ tutorials as I was when an undergraduate fine art student. Attitudes have changed. Students today, overall, don’t like to be overheard; and, in some cases, they’re more cossetted about their work than were those of my generation.  They regard the tutorial more like a doctor’s consultation than an open and public professional exchange. The students’ peers, for their part, are often sealed-off from the context by entertainment and communication technology. Nevertheless, the discussions between a tutee and the tutor still touch upon dimensions of the subject far broader than the individual’s immediate concerns. Moreover, frequently the ideas that arise from the improvisation between the two players (tutee and tutor) deserve to be set down.

Much of what passes between the participants is either forgotten or lost and, consequently, unable to benefit others. The traditional wisdom is that students remember only what was important. My experience tells me that students remember only a small part of what was important. And, of course, what may be of importance need not appear to be so at the time of the tutorial, but only later.

So, the one-to-one tutorial is problematic for several reasons: its time and labour intensive; focussed on the individual rather than upon the collective; without residue (other than in the learning experience of the student); difficult to capture, either in its essence or particulars; and, yet, having a content and significance that are relevant to others in the cohort, and, in some cases, worthy of repetition.  

My endeavour has been to develop methods of encapsulating, preserving, and disseminating the salient content of one-to-one tutorials for the good of the learning community. These methods respond to the students’ predilection for privacy and to modes of communication and mediation that they enjoy using habitually.

This project was in-confluence with another, which had begun several years earlier. Since July 2014, I’d maintained an online and publicly accessible diary-cum-blog that presented an account of my day-to-day life and times as an academic. It was intended, primarily, to raise my level of consciousness and cognizance regarding the nature and fruit of my own activities across research, teaching, and administration. Secondarily, my aim was to create, as it were, a glass wall through which those outside the School of Art could see into its operations. Each diary page consisted of a textual narrative that followed the timetable of my day, together with photographs of salient moments during the same.

Increasingly, I became preoccupied by the difficulty of trying to both recall and summarise in the diary my one-to-one tutorial engagements. Some days, I’d conduct up to twelve tutorials with as many students, each with a distinct profile of operations. What I didn’t want to do is to record the proceedings. The introduction of technology by the teacher disturbs the dynamics of the proceedings; the student tends to proceed more cautiously. Interestingly, the same doesn’t happen when they oversee the technology. Since most students have the capacity to record sound, either on a smartphone or pad, I encourage them to do so, with a view to reviewing and making notes on the exchange later. Postgraduates do, often; undergraduates, hardly ever.

The better way, it seemed to me, was to develop a way of distilling the dialogue discreetly. My approach was very old school. I wrote down, in a notebook during the course of each tutorial, only those emergent ideas that seemed to have a broader import. That way, I didn’t distract my mind or the student from the discussion unduly.

Furthermore, the exercise actively trained my mind to spot and essentialize salient principles on the hoof. The result was a series of aphorisms (for want of a better word) that obviated the specific context and content of a particular interaction, while eliding the spirit and principle of many. In this way, the confidentiality of each tutorial was ensured. Only the student whose tutorial gave rise to an aphorism would recognise themselves in it.

The focus of the aphorisms is upon general principles, reflections and considerations, truisms and axioms, counsel and advice — as well as my own ruminations on teaching – within the two concentric fields of activity and experience. The inner circle represents concepts related to the practice and study of fine art; the outer circle comprises pedagogical, attitudinal, and life-encounter concerns. In the tutorial, these two spheres always interpenetrate. They’re inseparable.

The inner and outer circles:

The aphorisms are, subsequently, bulleted on my dairy page following the prefix: ‘Principles and observations derived from the day’s engagements’ (or some such expression). 

I was concerned that the ‘voice’ and ‘tone’ of the statements and, indeed, the whole culture of aphoristic pronouncement, would be perceived as either being too authoritarian and moralistic, or belonging to age and outlook that was remote from the students’ own. The style of writing combines and adapts proverbial and didactic mode of expression derived from classical and biblical wisdom literature. Thus, I was more than surprised to receive comments from my and other tutors’ students, posted to the blog and in emails, encouraging me to continue with the practice and sharing practical ways in which they’d benefited.

(This text has been extracted and adapted from a paper entitled ‘One-to-One-to-Many: sharing the fruit of individual instruction with the learning community using social media’, presented at the AU Learning and Teaching Conference 2017, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK (July 10, 2017).)

October 2, 2014

  • Students tend to pre-conceptualise their work far too much. As as result, the paintings that ensue merely illustrate an idea.
  • One does not require a ‘big idea’ to begin a painting, only an intent (which need be no more ambitious than getting the paint off the brush and onto the support, in the first instance).
  • It is fatal to try and envisage a painting’s end (or outcome) even before it is begun.
  • Conceptualisation should be in tandem with the act of painting, usually. (Design and making must go hand-in-hand, as Ruskin and Morris insisted.)
  • Painting is a dialogue between the artist and the image that they materialise on the support. Ideas arise, and are negotiated, somewhere between the two.

October 23, 2014

  • When students say ‘experiment’ they more often or not mean ‘explore’. The former intent is orientated to process, hypothesis testing, and demonstration; the latter, to a journey through unfamiliar territory and to an open-ended inquiry.
  • A palette knife has its virtues, but injudiciously used it can be, quite literally, a blunt instrument. Square-end, hog-hair brushes would enable them to achieve a similar mark, but with a greater degree of control and variation. Use both, then.
  • The painting that comes too quickly and completely is both a blessing and a curse. The student is suspicious of instant success, and helpless to replicate the conditions under which it was made. Mercifully, such ‘gifts’ are rarely given to us.
  • Students need to see other artists’ paintings ‘in the flesh’ more often. Their visual sensibility is too narrowly circumscribed by the limitations of reproductions.

October 30, 2014

  • Painting is incapable of saying anything explicit. It’s a non-propositional art form like music and architecture, but unlike literature. But therein is its virtue: painting is consummately able to be evasive, suggestive, and evocative — hinting at, rather than pointing to, things.
  • Responsible, personal time management is of the essence of creative endeavour. Good ideas, consummate skill, and notable intentions require a temporal arena in which to be applied and developed. One of the hardest tasks faced by an artist is to establish a routine for consistent creative engagement within the framework of their busy lives. We would do well to learn from musician-performers in this respect. They are committed to regular and structured practise, without which their professional form would quickly deteriorate.
  • A limited palette is not a limiting palette. Quite the contrary. The number set 1, 2, and 3 has six permutations. How many permutations has a set of three colours?
  • A working knowledge of colour recognition, mixing, and harmonies would appear to be every student’s most pressing need presently. Too often, they arrive at the correct colour mix by way of what can only be described as a chance procedure.

November 6, 2014

  • Discover ways by which to defamiliarize the artwork at hand. Make it look strange to you or other than your own.
  • A sense of fun, enjoyment, and fulfilment are not reliable criteria by which to judge the success or otherwise of an artwork.
  • However, if there is no fun, enjoyment, and fulfilment in the doing of it, then, something is seriously amiss.
  • Resign yourself to producing a great deal of nonsense. It provides the necessary coarse aggregate of your foundations.
  • Perhaps we learn more from the mistakes of others than from our own.
  • Attend to the process and the product will take care of itself.
  • Think and act (conceptualise and practice) together; never one without the other.
  • We all have ‘demons’ who insinuate that we’re insufficient for the task. They come in many forms and whisper different lies.

November 11, 2014

  • Some students stay in the race, persevere, and achieve academically in spite of insuperable personal or contextual difficulties. It is they, and not the most gifted, necessarily, that incite my greatest admiration.
  • A lack of self-confidence is more likely to stymie our progress in the discipline than a want of technical and conceptual proficiency.
  • We habitually position ourselves along lines between two opposed/supposed opposites: abstraction – figuration; determinacy – indeterminacy; Avant Garde – academic; esoteric – populist; colourist – tonalist; loose – tight, and so on. What would a map that integrated those plotted polarities look like?
  • Sometimes the best you can do for an art student is to point them towards another artist.

November 13, 2014

  • We don’t have to determine the rules of the game before beginning a painting. More often we discover the rules of the game in the process of painting.
  • The question: ‘What do I want to say with my painting?’ is redundant. Painting is incapable of saying anything. If you must say something … you say it instead.
  • Most problems in painting have a reasonable chance of finding a solution if the student establishes a consistent pattern of working. It’s in the mundane and habitual practice of our discipline that an answer often presents itself. So, we, too, must be present and available to greet it.
  • An interesting subject does not, of itself, make for an interesting painting.
  • A dull subject may be interestingly painted.
  • Returning to an early preoccupation (be that a subject or a way of painting) may suggest either an appalling lack of imagination on the part of the student, or that this interest remains significant for them. In any case, its better to repeat one’s own, rather than someone else’s, work.

November 17, 2014

  • You have to, yourself, construct a bespoke art education around the needs of each painting. For example, this education may require you to search out artists (of quality) who are relevant to the painting, and to set an agenda for exploring new ways of applying paint. (New to you, that is). Push beyond the boundary of what you know you know, and can do.
  • Sometimes the subject matter finds you. You just need to be ready when it turns up.
  • There may be an answer to the problem that you struggle with in your painting, elsewhere. For example, in the work which you produce for a different practice-based module. So, review everything you create together, and regularly. Think of ways to cross-fertilise the fruit of different modules. Show the work made in one module to the tutor of your other module.
  • We paint best what we know best.
  • There is no shame in being influenced. (The very best artists have all been influenced). But there is shame in stealing the fruit of another artist’s labour.
  • We each have more ideas, more interests, more facility that we can possible develop, meaningfully, in a lifetime. One of the hardest challenges for the artist is deciding what not to do.

November 19, 2014

  • ‘I want sound to be in the background of the animation’. The concept of sound being situated, spatially, in relation to an image is interesting.  Sound can also be in the foreground of an image. But can image and sound be on the same plane? And can they both be in the middle distance (whatever that might imply)?
  • The sound and image should be analogically alike: conceived, constructed, and processed in the same way, qualitatively and characteristically congruent, and equal.
  • In relation to the image, sound should not be an afterthought. Rarely is it a forethought. Ideally, it should be a para-thought.

November 27, 2014

  • At this point in the year [third year, semester 2], ‘integration’ and ‘consolidation’ are the watch words. This implies, on the one hand, a process of editing out extraneous material and concerns and, on the other hand, amalgamating the best elements.
  • At this point in semester 1, the student needs to be thinking in concrete terms about the number, range, and completion of works to be submitted for the January assessment.
  • Presently, for the majority of painters, their most pressing need is neither productivity nor quality but, rather, to fully-resolve each work. Psychologically, resolution is that moment when you can finally put down your brush with good conscience. Practically, it is a condition when all the elements of a picture are fully-optimised, and nothing more can be either added or taken away without despoiling the whole.
  • Should one submit all the work undertaken for a module at the assessment and feedback tutorial? My view is, yes. The totality of the output is a good indicator of effort and provides the substance of a narrative that the student can tell about progress made over the semester. However, it’s important to segregate the least good from the best work. This demonstrates a capacity for discernment and sound judgement.

December 1, 2014

  • Freedom presupposes authority over one’s means. In this respect, freedom is the fruit of discipline.
  • Failure is the necessary precursor of success. Reckon on it.
  • On occasion, we produce work that either surprises or unnerves us. It’s as though someone else had made it. Often, at first, we can’t even judge whether it’s either good or bad.
  • You know when you’ve become a painter (and being a painter is always a process of becoming) when you’re more interested in the paint and the act of painting than in what is being painted.
  • Simply enlarging the scale of the surface on which one paints can significantly improve fluency, dexterity, and ease of painting.
  • Buy the best brushes, paints, palette, and supports you can afford. Together, these small investments can lever a huge improvement in the work.

February 16, 2015

  • There’s a temptation to over-design the final exhibition. While it’s helpful to have a vision for the whole, one ought not (in most cases) to have a blueprint. Rather, better attend to the paintings at hand, and let them determine their successors and, thus, the overall outcome. Better, too, to make more pictures than necessary, and to choose the exhibition from among them.
  • There’s a temptation to succumb to the desire to ‘do something different’ in semester 2, rather than stick to the straight and narrow road that you began to walk upon at the close of semester 1. Do not deviate!
  • S: ‘When shall I begin making my final work?’ T: ‘Last week!’

February 24, 2015

  • Our lives, abilities, tastes, and proclivities may shape our work either positively or negatively. The choice is ours, actually.
  • It’s insufficient merely to do something, even extremely well. Once must also understand why we do what we do. What does it all mean? Answer that question, and you’ll have discovered something profound about yourself too.
  • A little encouragement goes a long way. (I know that from personal experience.)
  • Treat painting like a 9-to-5 job. In the end, the making of art is just honest labour.
  • Unlike the operation of the ‘muse’ or inspiration, hard work never lets you down; its always available to help you, when you’re ready to apply yourself.

February 19, 2015

  • One should paint through a problem to its solution. Answers aren’t usually found without a brush in one’s hand.
  • Better to paint a dozen poor works than nothing at all. One must trust that something of quality will eventually emerge.
  • The following conditions are fundamental to success as an art student: sufficient sleep, at least moderate exercise, a balanced and healthy diet, periodic rest and distraction, a comfortable work and life environment, and meaningful and supportive relationships.
  • I endeavour to suppress my consternation when a student — having been a cold, austere Minimalist last semester — now wants to paint portraits of their friends’ pets.
  • When we run away from a problem, where are we running to?
  • The worst of what we were and have done (in either art or life) in the past shapes significantly what we are and do, presently — and sometimes for the good, mercifully.

February 26, 2015

  • Some forms of painting are like improvised jazz — you don’t know what you’re going to play until you put the horn to our mouth: You’ll only know when you blow, as it were.
  • If you lose several days work through ill health (and who doesn’t), it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes not working for a period can be immensely productive. This is something of which you become aware only when you return to work. One cannot overestimate the benefits of rest. Love yourself. Honour your body and mind as though they belonged to someone else.
  • Our physical and psychological infirmities shape who we are. They have more influence, for good, on the development of character than unremitting good health ever will. The history of art rings loud with the testimony of artists who achieved great things in spite of (and, I would venture, also, because of) the battles that they fought with their body, mind, and soul.
  • The student is not the boss; the tutor is not the boss; the work is the boss. Listen to the boss!

March 5, 2015

  • When a train driver enters a tunnel, they don’t know what they’ll meet and there’s no guarantee that they’ll see the other side. Similarly, we must pass through dark passages on our journey through the study of art in order to reach our destination; that involves an unnerving risk — an act of faith.
  • Woe unto the student who’s entirely confident of success, that they’re doing the right thing, and equal to any exigency.
  • To create, we must be willing to destroy even our best works.
  • A concept without craft, like craft without a concept, is limited in its potential for depth and development.

March 12, 2015

  • Do not be quick to pass judgement on a new piece of work. First impressions are notoriously unreliable.
  • Work when you have the opportunity so to do, and not when the inclination takes you.
  • It’s never the painting that requires the most work; it’s us.
  • A reliable sense of self-confidence is predicated upon one’s past success: a proven ability to overcome difficulties. Expressions such as ‘I know I can do it!’, in the absence of a track record, are merely aspirational and often delusional.
  • Failure is a state of mind long before it becomes a fact.

March 19, 2015

  • We paint more than we know! For some artists, intuition and instinct proceed cognition. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s incumbent upon us, nevertheless, to understand what we have done and the reasons for so doing, afterwards.
  • The anticipation of confronting a problem is far, far worse than actually engaging with it.
  • If a particular process of making a painting feels wrong, then it probably is (for you, right now). At some level, there has to be a fit between our who you are and what you do.
  • Never say ‘never’! To do so is presumptuous and undervalues your potential for one day doing what might, at present, seem impossible.
  • A solution found to a problem encountered in one module can often be the applied to a problem encountered in another.
  • Just one more picture can may make all the difference for the good. So, don’t give up.

April 16, 2015

  • For the exhibition: Don’t choose the best works. Instead, choose those that work together the best. (These may also be the best works.)
  • As they say: talent, alone, won’t get you anywhere. But you won’t get anywhere without it.
  • If I had to choose between teaching a student who, one the one hand, possessed an enormous artistic ability but a poor work ethic and one who, on the other, had only a modicum of artistic ability but a considerable capacity for hard work … I’d always prefer the latter.
  • There’s a great deal of difference between being simple and being simplistic. The former is a gift; the latter, a pejorative.
  • Ideally, a title should be artwork’s textual analogue. For example, if the artwork is metaphorical and allusive in nature, then so should the appellation be.
  • Every artwork contains the seed of its own resolution. Solutions that lie outside it are always borrowed.

April 23, 2015

  • There’s ‘A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing’ (Ecclesiastes 3.5). It’s entirely appropriate to abandon either a medium, a subject, a course of action, or an expectation, when the logic of so doing is inexorable.
  • Bless your limitations. They direct the path you take as surely as your conspicuous talents.
  • Weigh the judgement of others before submitting to it. Sometimes, it’s you who knows best.
  • To make advances, one must take chances.
  • Easy solutions are rarely fulfilling.
  • If another student’s work impresses you, tell them. We each of us need informed encouragement.
  • If a solution doesn’t present itself immediately … wait, patiently. You cannot force the bud to bloom.

April 30, 2015

  • Listen to your heart. Hearing the counsel of tutors and peers is both necessary and wise. But knowing when to reject that advice requires greater wisdom by far.
  • Take photographs of your workspace and colleagues before you leave university. As you get older, you’ll realise that memories alone are an insufficient means of recollection.
  • Reckon on it: as you approach the exhibition, it’s likely that you’ll experience profound shifts in your estimation of the work which you’ve produced. One day, you’ll be close to ecstasy; the next, despair. Regard neither. These are responses that arise from mere feelings that, themselves, arise from tiredness and stress. A sober judgement is required — one that must be informed by the mind and a criteria and opinions external to yourself.
  • ‘Integration’ is one of my watchwords: the bringing together or fusing of the myriad aspects of who one is in a single artwork.
  • ‘Art is greatest which conveys to the mind of the spectator, by any means whatsoever, the greatest number of the greatest ideas’ (John Ruskin). I don’t agree with, what is otherwise, a well-expressed sentiment, but his emphasis on an appeal to the mind (rather than the eye), through ideas (rather than perceptual phenomena), and ‘by any means’ (rather than traditional fine art forms only) has always struck me as prophetic of late-twentieth century art.

May 6, 2015

  • One of an art teacher’s duties is to be a soul counsellor.
  • Remember the past, live in the present, and think about the future.
  • Develop, at least a provisional, sense of your own trajectory. Consider what your work might look like this time next year.
  • An enthusiasm for your work must be founded on reasoned observation and good judgement, rather than feelings alone.
  • You will be as inconsistent in art, as you are in every other department of life. This is the human condition.

May 7, 2015

  • Do only that which is either sufficient or necessary. All else is elaboration and surplus.
  • Reckon on it: one day, your best and worst works will likewise turn to dust.
  • Reckon on it: one day, you and your work will likewise be forgotten.
  • We aren’t bound to continue along the path that we set out upon. After all, where we wanted to go may not be where we should be heading.
  • The most fearful words that you will ever hear at an assessment are inaudible; they are spoken by that inner voice, which conjectures: ‘I have let myself down!’

May 11, 2015

  • Our first instinct will be to hang much in the exhibition; whereas, you need only hang enough.
  • Your care in the small things is far more evident to others that you’d ever imagine.
  • This is not the time to major in minors.
  • You must reconcile the last two statements.
  • Everyone else’s ‘hang’ is far more straightforward than your own.
  • Artistic judgement is most liable to error when you’re under stress. Therefore, seek advice.

July 13, 2015

  • Woe betides any artist to whom misfortune never visits. It brings in its wake opportunities, potentialities, and ideas that might not otherwise present themselves.
  • An accident may be fortuitous; acting upon it is always deliberate.
  • Don’t look so far down the road that you fail to see the hallowed ground beneath your feet.
  • Our virtues will be our undoing.
  • You’ll need to weigh the anchor from the seabed of tradition if you’ve any hope of getting underway.
  • Learn to play, learn from play, learn by play.

July 22, 2015

  • Do the most difficult thing in the hardest manner for the best reasons.
  • Be always planning, promoting, communicating, and reflecting.
  • Talk to yourself, either out loud or in writing.
  • Cleaning the studio clears the mind.
  • A bad idea is sometimes a good idea at the wrong time.
  • Fear repetition more than failure.
  • Truffles grow best in dung.

August 17, 2015

  • Trust neither the praise nor the criticism of others. Instead, be your own best judge.
  • Nothing is ever wasted: neither our failures, nor abandonments, nor misdirection, nor cul-de-sacs.
  • Resolutions come in their own time; they cannot be pre-empted.
  • We are just as likely to fail for reason of being over ambitious as under ambitious. Aim for a singular, measured, and realistic response.
  • The chief-end of study is no more the grade than an Oscar is the principal objective of filmmaking.
  • Look only to the next step, rather than to the final outcome.

August 19, 2015

  • We perish for want of just one good idea.
  • We perish from a surfeit of good ideas.
  • Good ideas come to us either too soon, at the right time, or too late.
  • Technical and methodical dexterity, an enthusiasm for and sensitivity to materials, an informed awareness of the context of our operations, great ambition and determination, and a sense of our own identity are insufficient. There must be vision also.
  • We evolve as artists in fits and starts.

August 26, 2015

  • Our failings in our own eyes and our failings in someone else’s eyes are of an entirely different order. The former is unbearable; the latter, understandable.
  • Other people’s failings are forgivable.
  • Confidence is, in part, the fruit of another’s confirmation.
  • We are shaped by tragedy, cruelty, unfairness, and despair like sheet-metal by a hammer.
  • Art school is a home for misfits.

September 7, 2015

  • Why are we surprised when, having committed ourselves to dispiriting grind, determined to be resolute, learned from our past defeats, and firmly understood what the work requires of us, we either improve or succeed?
  • There is a risk involved in any new venture. One might be exposed, overwhelmed, cast adrift, court failure. Alternatively, one’s life could be changed immeasurably and for the better. Such a possibility make some risks worth taking.
  • Darkness and light, acting together, are necessary to model form. So, too, our limitations as much as our capacities shape the outcome of our endeavours.

September 10, 2015

  • Neither the course, nor the tutor, nor the resources are crucial to a student’s success. (They help to create a level playing field only.) Success is chiefly the result of an individual’s triumph over ignorance, misunderstanding, inability, stupidity, laziness, a lack of confidence, defensiveness, defeatism, criticism, petulance, and egoism.
  • We may know of a surety that we want to do something long before we know what it is that we want to do.
  • It may take twenty or more years for you to discover an individual ‘voice’ as an artist. And, there’s no guarantee that you ever will.
  • Art never lets you down.

September 16, 2015

  • It’s important to include works in the exhibition that are balanced in terms of their visual impact. A good painting that shouts too loud can too easily drown the voices of other good paintings that speak more softly.
  • Aspire to independence: learn to stretch a canvas, make a stretcher, frame a painting, and cut mounts and caption boards.
  • Develop a ruthless alter-ego: one who will stand back from you and your work and shoot from the hip, mercilessly.
  • After success, failure. Always.
  • Our success teaches us very little; failure is the great instructor.
  • We will each, one day, ask: ‘Who am I?’ Then the adventure begins in earnest.

September 30, 2015

  • The more ‘mature’ MA students have been among those who have made the greatest leap forward since Exhibition 1. Age is no obstacle to artistic vitality and growth. On the contrary, it may be contributory factor.
  • More than native talent, cognisance of the context of one’s operations, technical expertise, and intellectual wherewithal, the capacity for hard work is the necessary foundation for success.
  • We should expect to exceed our own expectations (and, indeed, those of others).
  • We may not feel success, even when we have achieved it.
  • We may feel successful, even when we aren’t.

October 1, 2015

  • We can be burdened by our failures and underachievement in the past. This heavy rucksack needs to be dropped at the foot of the mountain before we make our next ascent.
  • Natural talent is not fixed. You can enter art school with great ability and it atrophy for want of exercise. Alternatively, you can enter art school with a modicum of ability and it grow significantly with exercise.

October 8, 2015

  • We can all be equal in our measure of commitment to the subject and capacity for hard work.
  • Trust that you are capable of extraordinary things. Sometimes you must have a faith in your potential that flies in the face of past achievement and your own and others’ the low expectations.
  • Don’t anticipate the outcome of an artwork at its inception. (Destroy preconceptions with the passion of an iconoclast.) Let the idea determine the process determine the evolution determine the outcome of the work.
  • A direct correlation can be drawn between attendance and attainment.
  • You do not know what you’re capable of; but, then again, neither do I.

October 12, 2015

  • Secondary schools no longer prepare students for essay writing. School pupils rarely have the opportunity to write more than paragraph-long responses to questions, or reports at best, before they begin higher education (which is now not so high as it used to be, because its staff are having to laid foundations that, a decade ago, the schools would have been responsible for.)
  • Fine Art students often struggle with essays due to a lack of a prolonged and consistent application to the discipline. They make images on a daily basis, but essays are written only when a deadline demands it. Some form of writing needs to be routine.
  • For some students, the first-year experience was a rough passage between the two harbours: the one, of secondary school, the other, of university … with attendant seasickness. Adapting to an entirely different educational culture makes considerable demands on them.
  • Some students avoid taking art history modules (even those they’re passionate about) which have examinations as one of the assessment components.
  • Cumulative stress is a problem for some students (as I suspect it is for us all on occasion). It strikes in the final third of the semester, when time is short and assessment looms.

October 13, 2015

  • Art is a game that we invent and play with ourselves. If the rules are not sufficiently difficult to follow, the risks sufficiently great, and the prize worth attaining, we lose interest.
  • Participation is an indicator of confidence in ourselves and of our commitment to the community.
  • Artistic growth involves the perpetuation, extension, and variation of what we do best.
  • Every idea that we have is of significance: either now or in the future; either as a contribution to, or a consolidation of, or a distraction from, our present trajectory. Discernment is everything.
  • We’re apt to hit around the nail before we hit upon its head.

October 15, 2015

  • Sometimes, we do not know what to do because we know not who we are. Sometimes, we discover both together. That is one of the blessings of art.
  • Leave your presuppositions and assumptions about how a painting ought to turn out at the foot of the easel. ‘Let it Be’, as the Beatles would say.
  • Painting is not capable of conveying every thought or perception or feeling. Its field of competence is circumscribed. Get to know the limitations as well as the virtues and capabilities of the discipline and medium.
  • If you don’t manage time, time will manage you.
  • At this stage of development, the key is to establish a step-by-step methodology for dissecting the creative process into its varied and sequential parts before assembling them again in the finished work.
  • To see our way forward we must look backward; the clues regarding where we ought to be lie in our past — in where we’ve already been and in what we’ve already done.

October 22, 2015

  • A personal style and a personal visual identity are not the same things. You may need to wait two decades to achieve the former (and there are no guarantees); the latter is always available to you … when you apply yourself.
  • If you apply yourself to anything consistently and for long enough, you’ll get better at it. That is a principle.
  • Eavesdrop on other people’s tutorials. It’s not rude. More often than not you’ll overhear principles that are applicable to your own work. Headphone culture robs you of this possibility.
  • One of the most important thing you can do at this point in your life, with these opportunities and resources, and those talents, is to study art. So do it with all your might.
  • Sometimes, joint-honours fine art students miss a trick in not exploiting their knowledge and expertise in the ‘other’ subject. For example, if you’re interested in the evocation of mood in landscape, study the depiction of such in the novels of Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf, and Margaret Drabble, among others.
  • You’ll start to find your way in painting only when you realise that you’re lost.
  • Don’t fetishize texture. Painting is not Artexing.  The texture of a painting is the sum of its accretion; the end product, rather than a starting point.

October 29, 2015

  • When a musician practises and muffs a piece, there’s no residue of their lack of competence. The visual artist is often in the unfortunate position of having the bruised fruit of their labours preserved in a tangible form for others to see.
  • Significant changes to one’s practice should be made gradually and progressively, one element at a time. Make too many changes too soon and without sufficient consideration, and you’ll end up with another version of the problem that you were hoping to resolve.
  • Just once, aim to make a bad painting. It’s liberating! And, ironically, it’ll likely turn out to be a good painting, but one made without the anxiety of having to be successful. Now, what does that teach you?
  • Do a risk assessment? If you discover that you aren’t taking risks, you’ve failed it.
  • The A-level doctrine of so-called ‘supporting work’ is devilishly hard to exorcise from students. It’s a pedantic, deterministic, self-serving, dull, and wasteful exercise, which fails to acknowledge that true creativity does not necessarily proceed methodically. Each type of work demands a bespoke mode of preparation. One size does not fit all.
  • Don’t try to envision the finished work. ‘Visions’ of the end product tantalize and frustrate us, for rarely do they come with instructions on how to achieve the goal.
  • All things are possible things, but not all things are either necessary or appropriate.

November 3, 2015

  • Not being able to articulate what you’re doing should not be confused with not knowing what you’re are doing. Some ideas and intentions begin below the level of words.
  • Sometimes, you know what you’re doing only because you’re doing what you already know. There’s no merit in this.
  • Begin modestly, proceed cautiously, and end ambitiously.
  • ‘Woe unto you when everyone speaks well of you’ (Luke 6.26). Good art will always have its detractors, just as surely as insipid and unaffecting work will always attract a large audience.

November 5, 2015

  • We’re apt to over-burden ourselves with the expectation of consistent success and unremitting improvement in our work. However, in reality, at best, we work — like we live — inconstantly, haltingly, oscillating between virtue and baseness, charity and meanness.
  • Endure boredom nobly.
  • Just because everything in Poundland costs a pound doesn’t mean that everything in painting need be paint.
  • Exercise: Paint a transcription of another artist’s work. Remaking is just as instructive as making.
  • So often, whether we’re dealing with a landscape, the figure, a still life, an interior, or an abstraction, our paintings of such are also covert self portraits.
  • There comes a point in a tutorial when we need to address the meaning of the work in relation to the bigger picture of our life, belief system, values, and hopes. What is art, if not about these things?
  • If your preparatory work didn’t prepare you to undertake the final work, why did you make it?
  • Each finished painting is the next’s preparatory work.
  • Any creative act necessarily involves the implementation of certain specific skills at the expense of others. We can’t exercise all that we are capable of in any one work.
  • Avoid ‘the flowery way that leads to the broad gate and great fire’ (All’s Well That Ends Well). In painting as in life, choose the challenge, embrace the difficult, stick to the narrow and hard path.
  • Never steal the fruit of another artist’s labour. Always acknowledge your debt.

November 10, 2015

  • When we learn how to paint, we’re always teaching ourselves. Little of what we need to know, little of what is really important, is understood from words alone. Knowledge worthy of the name comes through the exercise thereof.
  • The best that a tutor can hope to do is articulate their own experience of the same, in the belief that this might spark a glimmer of recognition in the student.
  • When we mix a colour we also combine perception and recognition with insight and illumination.
  • One cannot overestimate the importance of persistence.
  • We do not need to understand what we do in order to do it. Although it’s incumbent upon us to understand what we’ve done after we’ve done it.
  • You don’t have to enjoy painting in order to be good at it. By the same token, You can be a poor painter, and still enjoy it.

November 12, 2015

  • The painting is its own reality, governed by principles and requiring decisions that may have very little to do with the reality which it seeks to depict. Learn to let the picture be what it needs to be.
  • The tyranny of the photography: photographs can be a useful point of departure for a painting; but unless you have some stylistic commitment to photorealism, you shouldn’t feel obliged to slavishly adhere to it thereafter.
  • One may learn to paint by teaching others to paint. And we may all teach each other by showing and sharing what we do.
  • An army marches on its stomach. An art student studies on a nutritious diet. Your stomach may seem along way from your brain, but they’re intimately connected. Look after them both.
  • Your life is of incomparably greater value and importance than your work. Therefore, first, look after the bigger picture, and the little pictures will take care of themselves.

November 19, 2015

  • Economy is the watch word. A grand master chess player will attempt to win the game in as few moves as possible. Likewise, we should endeavour to resolve the painting as straightforwardly, strategically, and simply as we can.
  • Paintings should be interesting as paintings; in other words, in the manner of their construction, and in their qualities of colour, form, pattern, line, brushwork, and surface. Sometimes what a painting represents is a matter of indifference or, at best, secondary to how it represents.
  • One has to rise above one’s personal expectations. Because, often, we pitch them far too low. If we fulfil our low expectations, we’ll not be disappointed. (But that’ll be the only consolation.)
  • Just because making a painting is enjoyable doesn’t make it good; just because making a painting is painful, doesn’t make it bad.
  • Sometimes I arrive at the School with no heart for teaching. But when I start to teach, the enthusiasm returns. We must act according to duty, rather than from desire.
  • Don’t expect everything you do to be as good as, if not better than, the best thing you’ve ever done. This is unrealistic. Not even Rembrandt’s paintings are all equally great works of art.
  • The question is: What should I be doing, now?
  • Trust that the answer to your problem will find you. But it’ll be looking for you in the studio, while you’re at work. So don’t disappoint it.
  • Don’t be afraid to don the hat of another artist’s style. Try on many different hats; see what becomes you. This is what good painters have always done. We learn by, and from, imitation.

November 24, 2015

  • Woolly writing indicates woolly thinking.
  • If you wrote as often as you drew/photographed/painted, or whatever, you’d improve very quickly. Continuity and regularity in the exercise of a gift is crucial to its development, and to the promotion of self confidence.
  • In the past, even people with only a moderate education wrote passably well. This was because they kept daily diaries and wrote letters habitually. Texting and messaging are no substitute.
  • If you read as much as you watched TV, your writing would improve considerably. Reading is an engagement with how others write. Therefore, learn to write from reading.
  • Writing is the mind’s exhalation.
  • The only thing easy about writing is stopping.

November 30, 2015

  • 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.

December 3, 2015

  • We should try on artistic styles like clothes: see what fits, what’s comfortable, what’s us.
  • Buy decent brushes and paints; painting is hard enough with them and too painful without them.
  • We are tested as much upon an ability to discern our limitations and the problems that underlie the work, as we are upon the work itself.
  • We each have too many abilities for either one life or one practice. That’s part of the problem.
  • In exercising either an ability or an intent we may also exorcise it; some facilities and ideas are for but one work, rather than for a lifetime.
  • Our greatest work will be inward and invisible: the deepening of conviction; the nurturing of the soul life; and the refining of the mind. The quality of the outward and visible work is intimately bound up with this.
  • The problem is not that we make mistakes (this is inevitable) but, rather, that we fail to understand, and too often repeat, them. We can learn much from the original mistake … next to nothing from same mistake again.
  • There’s a moment, a realisation, a possibility, that we need to seize as soon as it occurs, otherwise it’ll pass us by and on to someone else.
  • Two choices often present themselves: to do either the obvious or the most difficult. Always choose the latter.

December 10, 2015

  • The best things happen somewhere between intent and accident.
  • To see the way forward we need to look backward — at the work that we’ve done and the life that we’ve lived.
  • There’s an uncomfortable middle ground that all dedicated art students have to walk over; it lies between where they’ve been and where they’re going.
  • There’s no going back; one cannot return to either a subject or a way of doing things other than by encountering it again in the future and further down the road.
  • Self-critique: weigh up the credit and deficit, determine the strengths and weaknesses, and establish the head and tail of your work before you get the feedback assessment. Demonstrate your awareness. Be in command of your studentship.
  • Modules are merely containers; it’s the content which the student pours into them that’s important.
  • Bless your limitations. Better to be remarkably good at one thing than merely competent in many.
  • Better a modest success than an overambitious failure.

January 8, 2016

  • What makes a painter is often the subject.
  • No amount of talent can make up for a lack of hard work and commitment.
  • Work within your limitations while, at the same time, extending beyond them.
  • Small paintings may make a large impact. Conversely, large paintings may make a small impact. It’s not the size but, rather, the intensity of the work that counts.
  • For the exhibition: do the same, only better; don’t veer either to the left or to the right of the path that you’ve laid for yourself; and refine each of the elements that comprise your work in turn.
  • Let others praise you. That’s to say, allow others to acknowledge the worth of your work, and don’t blow your own trumpet.
  • The best is yet to come … always.

January 11, 2016

  • Face up to what you cannot do and avoid doing. These are your priorities.
  • Your future subject matter is currently waiting at your elbow.
  • Why are the little works, made on the margins of our operations, often among our best?
  • Virtues are harder won than skills.
  • Add to your paint-box: perseverance, fortitude, stamina, and bananas.
  • Reckon on it: one day you may achieve more than some of those artists who presently influence you.
  • Choose heroes worthy of you.

January 12, 2016

  • A student may begin their studies from a position of strength, and end them in weakness. The reverse is also true, and more commonly the case.
  • At any one point in your development, you won’t be equally competent in everything, or in every aspect of any one thing. The principle of inconsistency is a constant built into the fabric of reality.
  • It’s one thing for a tutor to see the qualities and potential of a student’s work, quite another for the student to do so. We are apt to see our shortcomings with searing intensity, while being wholly oblivious to our strengths. Tutoring is, in part, an endeavour ‘to give sight to the blind’.

January 13, 2016

  • Positive and productive change is always possible. But its sometimes surprising when it happens.
  • Printmakers and photographers often begin with the medium and the technique and then work their way towards the subject; whereas painters tend make their journey in the opposite direction.
  • There are two possibilities for students who work across several mediums: either the practices continue to be pursued independently, or else they increasingly converge upon one another. Neither scenario is preferable, although one may be more appropriate.
  • The seeds of your present were planted in your past. The shoots of your future are contained within them both. Realise and rejoice in that continuity.

January 26, 2016

  • Very often, we’re in one of the following positions: We don’t know what to do. We don’t do what we know. We do what we don’t know.  We do know what we don’t know. We don’t know what we don’t know. We do what we do.
  • We need the perspective and insight of others who can see beyond the boundaries of our own perception and comprehension of a matter.
  • If you cannot choose between options, then don’t; consolidate them instead.
  • You cannot not be influenced anymore that you cannot not eat and expect to grow.
  • Sometimes, the only thing we know for sure is that we want things to be different. That’s a good start.
  • It’s no bad thing to be blind to one’s own virtues while acutely aware of one’s conspicuous shortcomings.

January 27, 2016

  • Meaning is not the same as purpose. One can proceed with an artwork without knowing its meaning, but one cannot proceed without some sense of an intent.
  • The intent of a work may be, in part, to arrive at its meaning.
  • Its meaning may be discovered in the process of making.
  • The meaning of the work, thus found, may be of relevance only to the maker.

January 28, 2016

  • If you get on top of your obligations at the start of the semester, you’re likely to stay on top for the remainder.
  • The vision determines the work, determines the effort, determines time spent.
  • If you’re undertaking two fine art modules this semester, beware the danger of sacrificing the one for the other. Apportion your working time equally from the outset.
  • You’ll find your own subject matter only when you find yourself. They share the same ‘geographical’ location.
  • Do anything rather than nothing.
  • Make a mark (any mark), then another, then another. Look! The work has begun.
  • Painting is, essentially, the application of paint. No other delimiting conditions need apply (in my opinion).
  • How good do you want to be? How good will you allow yourself to be? What will it take to be that good?

February 2, 2016

  • If you have access to the space in which you are going to exhibit eventually, get to know it as soon as possible. Place your work in that environment, and observe how it responds. It can be a very encouraging experience.
  • The unity of a body of work is related to its corporate identity, rather more than to the colour, scale, or even subject matter, particularly.
  • The best seat in the art school is always the most uncomfortable: the one that makes you squirm because you’re facing what you’ve never done before with too little confidence that you’ll ever succeed in doing it. Resist the comfy chair!
  • Get to understand the world and your times: their history, geography, politics, cultures, and beliefs. Read or hear the news daily. Otherwise, you’ll shrink to the size of your practice.
  • Develop a healthy suspicion of yourself. But always believe the best about others.
  • Do not make the work to fit the box. Instead, make the box to fit the work.

February 3, 2016

  • You need to have a vision for your life beyond graduation. That vision will help to motivate and sustain you on your journey towards the Exhibition.
  • You need a vision for your life that is bigger than art. That vision will feed and motivate your practice.
  • Sentences, like pencils, should be sharp and pointed.
  • Keep one hand clenched and the other open: determination and responsiveness are not mutually exclusive.
  • Produce/say far more than you need, then cut away the dross and the excess to reveal the essence.
  • You don’t carve and polish a sculpture at the same time. Whether in writing art history or making artwork, concentrate, first, on determining the content and the structure of the piece and, only after, on its refinement.
  • We can no more fully comprehend our work than we can ourselves.
  • The best teachers are the product of their students’ greatest needs.
  • Extrapolate/evaporate: focus the knowledge of your past and present successes onto your future anxieties, and watch them disappear.
  • Be more than prepared for the task ahead.

February 4, 2016

  • Attend the studio. You’ll never again be surrounded by so many likeminded people.
  • Does your studio space project the identity of a busy, committed, organised, professional-in-the-making?
  • If, this semester, you are studying a medium that’s new to you, begin by developing some aspect of the medium that your explored last semester and with which you are familiar: its subject matter or style or process, and so forth. In other words, rather than erect an entirely new house in another place, build an extension onto your existing house.
  • If you can imagine the outcome of what you’re about to do, then don’t do it. It’s over before you’ve even begun.
  • Step out onto the ice without knowing whether It’ll support you.
  • Commit yourself to the implications of your work.
  • Attend to the process and the outcome will probably take care of itself.
  • Occasionally, you’ll be exceptional. However, you should aim to be always at least good.
  • Laziness is far more likely to prevent you from achieving your potential than any lack of ability.

February 9, 2016

  • Not understanding what you’ve done, and not knowing what you’re doing, aren’t necessarily the same dilemmas.
  • If you are planning to change your way of working, do so one element at a time, and slowly. Give yourself time to observe and measure the difference each change makes.
  • Other students’ art-project problems will always seem to you easier to solve than your own.

February 11, 2016

  • Once the mind has understood, the eye will see, and the hand will follow.
  • Remember how much you forget. Perhaps it would be wise to record your tutorials.
  • Absence makes the art grow feebly. Therefore, make every effort to attend your tutorials.
  • That you’ve never done something doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot do it.
  • Learn to abandon works that are heading in the wrong direction.
  • A painting should be intrinsically interesting: in the manner of its construction and inventive engagement with the medium. Interesting subject matter alone will not carry it.
  • Visual memory is like a muscle — it needs to be exercised to develop.
  • It may take one work only to manifest a turning point. And this can come at any time to those who have worked hard and consistently.
  • We may not understand our work because it is in advance of our understanding, waiting for us to catch up.

February 16, 2016

  • The simpler the visual proposition, the greater the responsibility each element has to contribute to the whole.
  • One’s attraction to an object is for particular reasons. Identify and paint them alone.
  • Better to write as you speak, rather than as another person writes.
  • Disassemble the problem; assemble the solution.
  • There’s a way that seems right, but which leads nowhere.
  • Mistakes are inevitable, in all departments of one’s life. Reckon on it!
  • Assume the folly of most things, then endeavour to discover the wisdom of some.
  • This little life will be too soon over. Among our greatest regrets at the end will be idle days.

February 17, 2016

  • You should not aim to be different to others, anymore than you should desire to conform to them. Be yourself.
  • One cannot overestimate the benefit of developing a broad cognizance of artists relevant to your practice.
  • The making of art should be habitual rather than occasional.
  • Small works are not by definition minor ones. Ambition, professionalism, authenticity, uniqueness, and integrity know no scale.
  • Applicants who have acquired discipline and expertise in another department of life (for example, music or sport) are more likely to develop the same in the subject of their university studies.

February 18, 2016

  • What is often conspicuously absent in undergraduate study is a sense of urgency … of imperative. ‘Carpe diem’, as they say.
  • A plan of action may have certain uncomfortable implications for the artist. Maturity is the determination to face them, whatever their demands.
  • Success will follow failure will follow success will follow … like cloudy and sunny days. Reckon on it!
  • If something can be neither added to nor subtracted from a painting’s composition in order to improve the whole, then the work has reached its optimum. Leave it.
  • Your willingness to work hard is in direct proportion to your desire to succeed.
  • A lack of confidence is more often instilled into us by bad teachers, insensitive family members, and false friends in the past, rather than a disposition that we’ve cultivated by ourselves alone.
  • Don’t overload a single image with too many ideas. Learn to parcel them out.
  • Add to knowledge, discernment.
  • Add to discernment, the ability to define and articulate.

February 23, 2016

  • What you’ve done, are doing, and will do are connected by a chain of being.
  • Don’t attempt to do everything every time you sit down to make an image. Be focussed, discriminate, strategic, and realistic.
  • There’s no such thing as the muse. So, stop waiting for it; just get on with it.
  • Do what is necessary, rather than that which is merely interesting.
  • Teaching regenerates: the tutor feeds off the students’ residual energy.
  • Don’t dunk your biscuit in another person’s tea.
  • Art is only a clothes hanger onto which is hung something far more important.

February 24, 2016

  • There’s a ‘devil’ on your shoulder who will tell you that your only as good as your worst mark. Don’t believe it!
  • To succeed, we must first overcome ourselves.
  • Not all courses of action are either possible or necessary or worthwhile or sustainable. Choose to choose. Discriminate. Eliminate. Dictate.
  • The brave do not procrastinate.
  • Always seek advice. Don’t live by your own counsel only.
  • If you’ve any hope of finding your ‘style’ (whatever that may mean), you must first find yourself.
  • Don’t obsess about marks; obsess about doing something remarkable.

February 25, 2016

  • This applies only to the very few: If you turned up to catch a train as late as you do to a tutorial, you’d miss it.
  • Don’t assume the outcome before you’ve begun the process. Be open to the unexpected.
  • Don’t assume the relevance of a process before you’ve first engaged with it.
  • Signing your work: there’s no surer indicator that it’s already too precious for its own good. Resist.
  • At this stage of your development, concentrate on developing a way of working, an exploratory mentality, and a professional working ethic, rather than on the finished product.
  • More often than not, a tutorial discussion has no defined objective, no fixed agenda; rather, it’s an open-ended negotiation, a mutually responsive exchange — a collaboration of sorts. Think of yourself in ‘conversation’ with the work that you’re making. Let the dialogue determine its own path and ends.
  • There’s usually some virtue in everything you make, so don’t either rush to judgement or reject anything wholesale.
  • Joy is one criteria by which we may assess our work.
  • Listen to other people’s opinions about your work with a finger in one ear.
  • The most fruitful subject matter lies closest to your heart.
  • You can’t talk and listen at the same time.
  • When you get stuck, visit the School of Art Gallery, choose one work and look at it intently for ten minutes. The work need not be relevant to your own, and you don’t even have to like it. But I guarantee that the experience will help to unstick you.
  • Left unchecked, our failures can consume us with the same ferocity as our weaknesses. Therefore, look to your best and highest.

April 1, 2016

  • When you have both the ability and the opportunity, then you’ve also the responsibility, to act.
  • Ideas have a way of finding their own form and medium.
  • Sometimes, we realise that we knew where we were going only upon arrival.
  • Without struggle there’s no growth. (Struggles are growing pains.)
  • Begin simply and move towards complexity. Begin complicatedly and move towards simplicity.
  • The blessing of limited options. Some people are paralysed by the shear over abundance of possibilities.
  • One cannot teach commitment any more than one can teach intensity of application, determination, perseverance, or fulfilment. For they are attitudes rather than abilities.
  • The painter maketh the draughtsman. In other words, how we paint may determine how we draw, rather than vice versa.
  • What we want to do isn’t always what we need to do. What we need to do is what we should do. And, often, what we should do becomes what we want to do. Duty inspires desire.
  • Just because you have a need, doesn’t mean that it either should or can be fulfilled.
  • One may desire to be, for a while, someone other than oneself.
  • The majority of socks that go missing in the wash turn up, eventually.

April 12, 2016

  • Both fame and obscurity are ephemeral. But infamy can outlast a lifetime.
  • The brightest light casts the darkest shadow.
  • I would no more wish to know the outcome of the artwork than I would how my life will end.
  • A student with vision is never lazy.
  • Rarely do we give up on others the way that, too often, we give up on ourselves.
  • A student’s self-confidence, ambition, commitment, and ardour for the subject can be enhanced immeasurably by the success of only one work.
  • Abstraction is neither a style, method, nor technique, principally but, rather, a way of thinking and being.
  • Root-out distractions; determine to concentrate; and aim at single-mindedness. The work demands more than you can presently give, even if it has your full attention.

April 14, 2016

  • The wise learn from their folly.
  • Hard work doesn’t guarantee achievement; achievement doesn’t guarantee recognition; and recognition doesn’t guarantee fulfilment.
  • Good teaching derives not from what the teacher knows, but from what they’ve understood through experience.
  • Punctuality is a small sign that’s indicative of large attitudes, such as earnestness, self-discipline, forethought, and courtesy.
  • It should be the tutee and not the tutor who drives the tutorial.
  • It’s possible to have a good idea either for the wrong artwork or at the wrong time.
  • A small change can effect a huge difference.
  • Tutorials should be an occasion for reflection leading to understanding, and not merely for instruction and criticism. It’s not enough to do well; one must also comprehend better what one has done.
  • Art history is also your history in relation to art.
  • The question: Do I really want to be an artist?, may yet be unresolved. This is not a cause for concern. It reflects a crisis of identity rather than of commitment. And, the question may occur again and again, long after you’ve become an artist.
  • Sometimes the finished artwork exceeds our intent, because our intent was insufficiently ambitious.
  • What don’t I know? What needn’t I know? What shouldn’t I know?

April 20, 2016

  • The titles of work should have the same character as the work. Thus, to an allusive or evocative artwork should be appended a title that is similarly evasive.
  • The origin of an artwork may not be reflected in, or readable from, its outcome. Intent and content are not inimitable. An artwork may accrue meanings and direction in the course of its manufacture, in relation to the medium, the context of its production, and the evolution of the artist’s awareness of the work and themselves.
  • Thus, an artwork may embody more than we intend, and exceed our expectations.
  • Do not aim to realise other people’s expectations regarding your work. Once you do, the game is up.
  • Beauty is insufficient. Add to it integrity … at least.

April 21, 2016

  • Never despise your failed works. They’ll teach you as much, if not more than, your successes.
  • Indiscipline, tardiness, laziness, irresolution, and immaturity, and not the absence of significant talent, are more often the cause of our undoing. While we’ve no say regarding the amount of native talent that’s been given to us, we can work on our other deficiencies.
  • Don’t resent chastisement. It’s given to reform, rather than to punish, you.
  • In the artwork, seek to visualise not the subject of your interest but that which lies behind the subject — its ‘soul’.
  • Art is not so important. The older you get, the more you come to realise this. Friends, family, health of body and mind, and a happy longevity rank above it.

April 26, 2016

  • Those who put most into a tutorial get most out of it. (That goes for teachers as well as tutees.)
  • The mind. The mind thinks. The heart. The heart feels. The soul. The soul speaks.
  • Aim to exceed the best that others expect of you.
  • We are none of us what we appear to be. Either for better or for worse.
  • Wean yourself off a dependence on approval and reassurance.
  • There’s a world of difference between self-confidence and self-delusion.

May 2, 2016

  • Failure is part of an art student’s/artist’s normative experience. Failure is part of an art student’s/artist’s normative experience. Failure is part of an art student’s/artist’s normative experience. One cannot say this too often.
  • The essence of ‘sketchbook’ is defined by the essence of the work for which it’s a preparation. One size will certainly not fit all. The essence of its function, for the tutee, is to anticipate, encounter, work-through, and visualise possible responses to problems and challenges that’ll be more fully engaged in the finished work.
  • Read aloud what you wrote in silence. Your ear will tell you whether sentences make sense.
  • What you’ll achieve in one year’s time may bear no comparison to what you can do now. Be prepared to astonish yourself.

May 3, 2016

  • If you stand still in the midst of the forest, then, you won’t find your way out. Likewise, you’ll not solve a problem with your work by ceasing to work. Work through the problem.
  • The pursuit of fun is not a reason for doing anything. But if what you’re doing is never fun, then there’s something seriously amiss.
  • We may fret about the small things and yet be entirely oblivious to weighty matters. It’s so important to develop a sense of perspective and proportion.
  • The best students bring out the best in teachers.
  • A desultory effort in the first and second year of studies may yet lead to a triumphant outcome at the close of the third year.

May 18, 2016

  • Don’t seek to be better than others in your cohort. Rather, seek to be better than you are in the company of others with the same ambition.
  • Now is the best time, usually. Indeed, now is the only time you can guarantee.
  • Who you are is your greatest asset. What you’ll become may be your greatest surprise.
  • Life, for some of us, proceeds along a wiggly line.

May 19, 2016

  • There’s a world of difference between being focussed and remaining at a standstill.
  • The quality of the work betrays the integrity of the work ethic.
  • Clarity and discipline of thought, and the ability to rationalise and delimit a field of action, contribute significantly to the success of an artist’s practice.
  • Find yourself; find the way. The reverse is also true.
  • Make a virtue of your limitations. Often, what we cannot do is irrelevant to us. Which may be one reason why we can’t do it.
  • The practice of art is a capital investment that’s given to us on trust. We must return it with interest.

June 8, 2016

  • What we make and who we are indivisible. This is a commonplace. But, also, so much of the worst that we’ve experienced informs the best that we’ve made.
  • Remember: visual art is notoriously unable to articulate anything specific.  It’s strength lies in its capacity to convey metaphor and allusion.
  • Aim for conceptual singularity: one idea, clearly conceived and succinctly expressed.
  • In a successful tutorial, the tutee and the tutor are both listening: to each other and for the penny to drop.
  • If you’re at war with something in your soul or work for long enough, inevitably you’ll lose some of the battles.
  • One must not only look before you leap but also know when to look and to leap. A sense of inner necessity will inform these decisions.

July 4, 2016

  • We often underestimate our ability to adapt to, and thrive in, an unfamiliar context.
  • To begin a PhD Fine Art, you do not need an OS map. It’s better to orientate with only an intuitive sense of the general direction in which you’re heading. (The compass of instinct will suffice at this stage.)
  • Be reckless with your expectations.
  • Don’t force change. Instead, resist inertia.

July 6, 2016

  • Pattern and texture are not interchangeable terms.
  • Exasperation cannot always be articulated either elegantly or persuasively. Which is why we need a punch bag on occasion.
  • Don’t try to be funny. Either you are or you aren’t.
  • Interrogate your failures.
  • The perspective of another pair of eyes is not merely desirable, it’s crucial. We each have our blind spots. And we cannot identify what they are for ourselves. That’s why they’re called blind spots.

July 12, 2016

  • An artwork is, at one and the same time, a container and a content. The two are inseparable. However, it’s helpful to consider them independently:
  • 1 Think of a Cornish pasty. It’s a container (a pastry filled with meat and vegetables (the content)). However, both the container and the content can be consumed. (The container is the content.)
  • 2 Cornish pasties look remarkably alike, externally. And, yet, they can have a variety of fillings. (Do all blank, white canvases taste the same? No, they don’t!)
  • This is an ideal: a body of works that are all alike and yet all different. (Rather like graduation ceremonies.)
  • One work, one body of work, one lifetime’s work, cannot contain all that it’s possible for us to conceive or do. Our ideas and facilities exceed the time and opportunity there is to develop them all. So, we must make choices.
  • Thus, the criteria we evolve in order to choose from the plethora of options is of tantamount importance.

July 13, 2016

  • As a deplorably flawed individual, I’ve no problem accepting the conspicuous mistakes, bad calls, weaknesses, prejudices, and stupidities of others. They have my fullest sympathy and understanding. In this sense, my inadequacies are one of my greatest assets.
  • When distracted, what, then, am I attending too? Why was the distraction of more pressing interest than that upon which my attention was originally fixed? Does the weakness lie in the power of the object to maintain my attention or my capacity to remain attentive?
  • An abundance of ideas and plans will be our undoing.
  • The requirements of the work are paramount; your needs come a poor second.
  • It’s possible to solve a problem without recognising the solution.

July 19, 2016

  • Life’s journey is not GPS assisted. When you lose the path, don’t expect a disembodied voice to set you right. How you, by yourself, find the way again may be just as important as rediscovering where you’re heading.
  • The greater part of your life (experiences, pains, joys, loves, passions, and curiosities) will not be the subject of your work. However, they may inform the motivations and spirit that lie behind the subject and its rendering.
  • I have an aversion to the phrase ‘my art’ in artists’ writing. It sounds too precious, protective, and proprietorial.
  • In the creative endeavour, we walk into darkness with the light behind us.
  • What we most deplore in others often resembles our own inadequacies.
  • Nothing is insignificant. But the meaning of some things is not always immediately evident.
  • The success of those we’ve taught may be sweeter to the taste than our own.

July 27, 2016

  • Be inside your own head more often.
  • Better to be a little fish in a big pond than a big fish in a small pond. But better, still, to be a big fish in a big pond.
  • At the beginning of your career, you may not be confident that your work is any good. As your career matures, you may become increasingly confident that the work is good, but doubt whether it’s of any value, interest, or relevance to others.
  • It takes great courage to work in the face of indifference and anonymity.
  • Popularity and fame do not make the work any better than it is.
  • No audience. No compromise.
  • Be conscious of the words that you speak.
  • Learn to remain silent under duress.
  • Jettison the excess.
  • You can’t fake integrity.

August 1, 2016

  • Better the follies of youth than the follies of maturity. Make your greatest and most embarrassing mistakes early on, if possible. The consequences of foolishness in later life can be ruinous for both yourself and others. And the scars may never heal.
  • Your best at what you’ve most control over.
  • Anyone who makes something worthwhile has the obligation to conserve and account for it. We must each be our own archivist.
  • While nothing is beneath you, a great deal may still tower above.
  • One of the greatest regrets you’ll have at the end of your life is the time you wasted on yourself, distractions, indulgence, and unnecessities.
  • Reserve your fury for yourself.

August 2, 2016

  • It’s the realisations that we arrive at by ourselves which lever the most important and lasting steps forward in our work.
  • Make time to reflect upon your work. Converse with it in solitude. There are things it wishes you to know.
  • Your tastefulness wears the cloak of an ally, but is, in practice, a subtle foe.
  • Inspiration may not be readily available. But application is always at hand and our command.
  • Be decisive, determined, and dedicated. Much else issues from these attitudes.
  • Letting others down is one thing; letting yourself down is quite another.
  • Let the work determine its own course. It may lead to somewhere better than you were heading.
  • Don’t despise an unproductive period in your work. It may be the matrix in which a major step forward in the future presently gestates.

August 4, 2016

  • Act upon the implications of your work.
  • Envy no one. You may crave their gifts, graces, opportunities, and celebrity. But could you cope with them yourself?
  • What is presently impossible for you may be as clear a vision as any of where you should be heading.
  • Or else, what is presently impossible must remain so. For what you cannot do might be what you should not do.
  • We proceed from the possible to the impossible with hops and steps, rather than in a single bound.

August 22, 2016

  • If a solution to a problem doesn’t present itself immediately, then wait.  Quite often, we cannot see the way forward because we don’t have access to sufficient information. Answers to other questions may need to be determined first. Therefore, to begin, discern the order in which the difficulties are best dealt with.
  • Go to a trusted teacher or confidant first for advice about, but last for an answer to, a problem. Maturity lies is this: determining the (provisional) answers to your questions yourself, before seeking the confirmation of, or a challenge from, others.
  • Don’t trust your own counsel alone.
  • Strip-down, prune, simplify, get rid of the excrescences, redundancies, incompatibilities, anomalies, and duplications, in order to enhance efficiency, controllability, and serviceability, thereby.
  • Keep it lean. Keep it light. Keep it tight. Keep it safe.
  • Spare nothing.
  • Don’t presuppose outcomes. Test them beforehand, where possible.
  • Understand the tools of your trade, thoroughly.
  • All solutions are temporary and situational, because the context of their operation and application is forever changing.
  • If something appears over complicated then, most likely, it has been ill-conceived.

August 23, 2016

  • Teaching is dancing.
  • Our work may speak its mysteries to others, but not to us. Therefore, speak to others about your work.
  • Ideas and preoccupations from our distant past often catch-up with us in the present. But they recur, like revivals in art, not in exactly the same way; they’re coloured by the life we’ve experienced and the history of art that have occurred since their last appearance.
  • Aim to work with as little effort, and as quickly, as possible. This is an exercise in economy and efficiency, rather than a manifestation of laziness.
  • You are assessed not only on the quality of the artwork produced but also on the evidence of sound judgement, wisdom, and discernment exercised in its conception and execution.
  • What we cannot do defines us as assuredly as what we can.
  • If you cannot decide what to do then, first, determine what you don’t want to do.
  • Sometimes, you need to walk in fog for a long time. It will lift, eventually.
  • It’s quite possible not to see the virtue of our work until long after it has been made.
  • What any artwork means is never straightforward. Therefore, don’t be tempted to offer your public a simple explanation when they inquire.
  • Learn to say ‘enough’ to an artwork; learn to let it go … to let it be (with all its defects). Resolution should not be confused with perfection.

September 6, 2016

  • Our ‘duds’ are always instructive, and certainly more profitable to us than our successes when it comes to bettering our practice. But only if we have the eye to see, the willingness to learn, and the humility to apply such lessons as they teach.
  • Your works will be your teachers when you leave art school. Therefore, start developing a pedagogical relationship with them now.
  • Practice encountering your work in contexts other than that in which it was made. Fresh and encouraging insights are guaranteed.
  • If an artwork looks as though anyone could have done it, why, then, is it so darned hard to do?
  • The resolution of an artwork depends upon recognising the internal logical and language of the image, and applying them consistently throughout.
  • When the image is 70%+ complete, then the solution to what is outstanding must already be in the work. Rarely does a new idea need to be incorporated.
  • A straightforward question deserves a straightforward answer.
  • The more we believe in the validity of our cause, the more committedly we’ll work at it.

September 8, 2016

  • The wise are often those who’ve made the most mistakes, and learned from them. The wisest are often those who’ve made the greatest mistakes, and learned from them.
  • Students sometimes need to be taught less in order to have the opportunity to find out more things for themselves, by experience.
  • You can work in a fog without anxiety, so long as you believe that there’s something to be found within it.
  • The skills and practice of communication, negotiation, compromise, planning, consultation, and meeting are as much a part of an artwork’s development as the making of it. These activities need to be engaged creatively, qualitatively, and determinately, as one would the artwork.
  • The more you explain your work to others the better you understand it yourself. Talking to yourself about your own work is also productive.
  • Always work as though your deadline was at the end of the day.
  • Don’t let your equipment and tools frighten you. Understand them. Master them. Bend them to your will. But, above all, respect them.

September 13, 2016

  • Most of us are capable of producing more than one type of work. This is both a blessing and a curse. Because, at the fork in the road, you can’t follow more than one route at a time.
  • Some of our ideas recur, like an obsession, at different points in our career. Their persistence should not be ignored.
  • ‘What’s the point?’ is spoken in the ear by one of the ‘demons’ that sit upon our shoulder as we work.
  • You cannot take the credit for what others do for you.
  • If a job is worth doing well, it’s worth doing twenty-times over.

September 19, 2016

  • One of the greatest gifts you can impart to a student is a thick skin. They’ll need it in the ‘wicked world of work’. The characteristics of that skin are: resilience in the face of hard-to-bear criticism; the ability to undertake a realistic and sober self-appraisal of their own strengths and weaknesses; independence of thought, motive, and action; and a strong instinct for survival.
  • Art will teach you about art.
  • Keep your gut instincts and first impressions to yourself. You may repent of them later.
  • Be just as cautious of your enthusiasms as you are of your misgivings. Either may betray a lack of sober judgement.
  • What you see is conditioned by what you know. What you know has been informed by what you’ve seen.
  • In the making of art, the path of intent, the path of development, and the path towards resolution may not follow on from one another. Indeed, they may not be joined in any sense at all.

September 26, 2016

  • We should greet success and failure with equanimity.
  • Sustainable success is the biggest challenge.
  • Confidence must arise from within, rather than in response to external validation only.
  • Sometimes we have to either break a thing or break with a thing in order to break its hold upon us.

September 28, 2016

  • A well-ordered life. That’s the objective.
  • Some creative problems are mere phantoms. They haunt our thoughts and rattle our confidence, but are without substance.
  • The most rewarding problems to solve as those that come to us tailor-made.
  • Some of us create and then reflect, others of us reflect and then create. Neither approach is better than the other. However, one or other will be more suited to our personality.
  • Painting will teach you to draw.
  • The Latin roots of ‘confidence’ are two words that, together, mean ‘with faith or with loyalty’. ‘Confide’ derives from the same: to show trust in someone sufficiently to tell them a secret. Thus, our understanding of ‘confidence’ should embrace the idea of holding faith with ourselves, remaining loyal to our ambition, and demonstrating our trust in the work at hand by yielding to it our innermost and best.
  • Avoid letting the tiredness of one day seep into another.

October 4, 2016

  • Art, not your tutor, will change you … but only if you yield to it.
  • The creative journey moves outwards and inwards, simultaneously.
  • At the outset of study, where you are going is of less importance than what you’re taking on the journey.
  • Creativity and timidity cannot coexist.
  • The only pressure you need to be concerned about results from the hand of your supervisor on your back, pushing you forward.
  • Success is not unproblematic either.

October 5, 2016

  • Often, those who solve other people’s problems are conspicuously unable to solve their own. ‘Physician, heal thyself’.
  • Idea: ‘Figurative Minimalism’. A thought to conjure with.
  • Who you are — your experiences (good and bad), history, character, values, outlooks, and broader vision of life and the world — contribute to the artwork’s conception and execution as much as do your technical skills, imagination, and aesthetic sensibility. Thus, you must attend to, nurture, mature, and better comprehend your personhood as you would any other dimension of your creativity.
  • Beware of those who think they know something.
  • Your work is not ‘just’ anything. In that ‘just’ — in it’s apparent straightforwardness, ordinariness, or lack of sophistication and ‘deeper meaning’  —  a vast significance and import (that you’ve yet to comprehend) may yet be either buried or compressed.
  • If you’ve no confidence … fake it, until you develop some. If you can convince yourself, you’ll convince others too.
  • Polemic: the greatest painting deals with the least.

October 11, 2016

  • Artworks contain a residue of our personhood.
  • Giving up art is like abandoning a friendship, I’ve been told.
  • Painting is nothing short of a conversation.
  • Complexity in totality: there’s a challenge.
  • Teaching and revelation aren’t the same. Very occasionally (in my experience), the one will lead to the other. More often, students receive the latter in the context of working, rather than during tutelage. Those moments come unbeckoned, when we least expect them and, sometimes, when we least deserve them. Creative grace.
  • One must believe that there is a way to be found; a way that waits to be discovered. In this respect, the best a teacher can do is impart the principles of map reading.

October 13, 2016

  • A measure of the art student’s integrity and commitment:
  • 1 The lengths they’ll go to in order to get something right;
  • 2 The maturity of their response to mishaps and disaster;
  • 3 The degree to which they don’t need to be taught everything.
  • Professional musicians practise for at least five hours a day, not in order to play better but, rather, to prevent themselves from playing any worse.

October 17, 2016

  • The place from where an artwork derives may not necessarily to the same as the destination to which it’s heading.
  • Begin with gratitude.
  • The last thing you want is not have problems with your work. Coming up with solutions is the principal means by which we mature and move forward.
  • If you at first you don’t succeed. Try again. In all likelihood, the second attempt won’t fail so badly.
  • You don’t have to know what you’re doing in order to begin an artwork. You’ll discover that either in the process of making it or sometime after completion.

October 25, 2016

  • Speed, efficiency, and quality in equilibrium. That’s an ideal. However, one can only go so fast before the other two attributes are compromised.
  • The early stages of a particular painting’s development can sometimes indicate the future course of a student’s work in general. Therefore, be attentive to beginnings.
  • Answers often come in whispers. Therefore, still the clamour of the mind, bid the ‘demons’ of doubt desist, and listen attentively.
  • Ideally, conception and formation, form and content, thought and action ought to take place in responsive and reciprocal loops. Therefore, you don’t need an idea before you begin to make an artwork. On the contrary, ideas may derive from the process of making. Such ideas are intimately bound up with the nature of the medium and form themselves. This, too, is an ideal.

October 26, 2016

  • In the moment you realise you cannot do a thing, you’ve turned a corner in the direction of being able to do it.
  • Cubism was a discovery made in the process painting, rather than an invention, a priori.
  • Seedtime and harvest. There’s a time for ploughing, planting, watering, and waiting. And, there’s a time for reaping the fruit of your labour. You cannot enjoy the latter without having endured the former.
  • To begin, the seed grows underground and out of sight. The first shoots may not be evident for a long while. Therefore, exercise patience, and trust in the process.
  • Sometimes we have to broadcast the seed broadly, not knowing where the fertile soil lies.
  • In terms of the format or support on which you work, bigger is not better. Establishing an appropriate relationship between either the scale or size of the artwork and the artist’s intent is better.
  • Art will always remain loyal; it’ll never desert you in your time of need.
  • We see the virtue of our work only in retrospect, on occasion.
  • Teaching = empathy + intelligence + knowledge + restraint
  • People can be magnificent.

October 27, 2016

  • You’ll paint best what you’re most interested in. Then, you’ll be most interested in what you paint.
  • Problems look more intimating at a distance than they do close up.
  • There’s a subject that lies within the subject. Paint that … and nothing else.
  • The answer sometimes lies at your elbow. Therefore, look to your elbows often.
  • T: ‘It doesn’t matter what I like about your work or where I think it should go’.
  • There’s a great danger that art education will become increasingly soft-centred.
  • When I give a student the solution to their problem, do I rob them of the opportunity to discover one for themselves, later on?

November 1, 2016

  • Some of us paint what’s unnameable. And then we go and title the work. Strange. Rothko’s paintings deal with transcendence. But he often gave them only the names of the works’ dominant colours. That’s to say, their titles stress the paintings’ materiality and objectness, rather than their spiritual ambience.
  • No one artwork can tell the whole story about your interests. At best, it can relate only a page from the book.
  • The quality of the answer is proportional to the quality of the question.
  • In art, there’s no shallow-end; the pool is 12-feet deep throughout.
  • When teaching students is equated with pleasing students, the game is up.
  • Those aspects of our character that irritate us most are often invisible to others. Likewise, those aspects of our character that irritate others most are often invisible to us.

November 2, 2016

  • Spend much time looking at the works of great artists. Because that’s what they did.
  • Discipline the problem: attempt to define it in the simplest and most straightforward terms … to yourself. Divide the problem into manageable parts. Discipline the process: explore each of the parts independently. Discipline the product: discern the relevant parts and combine them artfully.
  • Potentially, you may be a more interesting and idiosyncratic artist than the one that you imagine you’ll become.
  • Periodically, you should review work made earlier in your training. We find ourselves in our past.
  • Distrust your taste, your predilections for certain colour combinations, and what you enjoy doing. They may prove to be false friends.
  • The problems of art are, in part, the problems of the heart; attend to one and you’ll attend to both.
  • Just once, try and paint like you’d never picked up a brush before.
  • The important things always return to the centre of our attention.

November 8, 2016

  • The subject will determine the manner of its representation.
  • It’s sometimes useful to first write an essay in a notebook before committing it to a computer. By this means you can also divide the conception of ideas from their precise articulation in the finished submission. Separate out the problem into more manageable phases, in other words.
  • It may not always be appropriate to ask of your work questions such as: ‘What do I want to say?’ and ‘What does this mean?’ Rather, inquire of it: ‘What do I see before me?’ ‘Where has it come from?’ ‘To what does it incline?’ And, ‘What has this to do with me?’
  • Our own prejudices about our work — what it should, needs to, and can’t be — will hamper its ability to confute our expectations. Don’t short circuit the path to surprise.
  • We often return to where we’ve come from in many departments of our life, art included.
  • Our own sense of how we come across in a public presentation often bears no relation to how the audience actually perceives us, mercifully.
  • If you know the direction in which your work is heading, might it suggest that you’ve taken that route before? Do you really want to go there again?
  • The old church saints used to talk of ‘understanding with the heart’. In this way, thinking and feeling, mind and soul, were inextricably bound up with one another.

November 9, 2016

  • ‘I don’t know how to know’, remarked one of our MA students. But they know they don’t know how to know. And that’s more than half the battle.
  • Don’t shrink to the size of your own or other people’s expectations.
  • Sometimes, you can achieve more in one day than in a week. Likewise, you can undo a week’s work (like the good reputation of a lifetime) in a moment. So be careful how you tread.
  • Nothing grows where no seed has been sown.

November 17, 2016

  • The problem seems greatest when seen at a distance.
  • You need to be lost and much as you to need to find direction. You cannot discover the latter without enduring the former.
  • We draw not what we understand but in order to understand what we draw.
  • We use other artists solutions to solve our own problems.
  • A camera has no brain behind its eye to discern, discriminate, and select or choose, and no heart to feel and respond. So don’t behave as though you, too, were merely a machine.

November 21, 2016

  • A module ought to stretch your intellect, challenge your assumptions, broaden your horizons, and present and opportunity for you to apply and improve a range of relevant skills. If that’s not been your experience, then something has gone woefully wrong.
  • S: ‘This is hard!’ T: ‘That’s right!’
  • Address a question to which you really want to discover an answer. Don’t treat the essay project as either module or mark fodder. It can be a window onto an adventure.
  • Content before style. Always.
  • If it sounds daft, then it probably is.

November 22, 2016

  • When we begin life, we don’t where it will lead or why it was given to us. Thus, too, with art, we venture upon it unknowingly.
  • Art seems to assume greater importance, day by day, at this juncture in human history.
  • Written to one of our illustrious alumni: ‘The MA was only a container; you were the contents’. Their success was of their own making, in other words.
  • Don’t do what you cannot — with a good conscience and a sound mind — countenance.

November 24, 2016

  • We always know less than we think we know.
  • Don’t nail down the tent pegs too soon; allow the canvas to first catch the wind and billow.
  • Practice denial in one area of life; it’ll help bring discipline to other areas.
  • Students can shatter your expectations; they’re capable of extraordinary achievements.
  • A good teacher will make you feel as though you’re capable of anything, even if, (presently) you aren’t.

November 29, 2016

  • Sometimes we produce a work that’s in advance of our apprehension of it. It will make sense later. Think of this strange thing that you’ve produced as a rehearsal for a performance that’s to come.
  • Nothing is ever wasted.
  • Your aesthetic is first and foremost a principle, a sensibility, and an attitude, before it’s a style, a way of working, and the particular manifestation in the work at hand.
  • What is normative experience as an art student?: a sense of lostness, disillusionment, and anxiety; a lack of confidence, and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
  • Sometimes we have to walk over the whole field before we can know where to pitch our tent.
  • Dissect the work, discern the parts, develop each independently, and then put them all back together again.

November 30, 2016

  • The essence of teaching is that of setting traps for students to fall into. It’s how they extricate themselves, by themselves, from the hole, that’s the making of them.
  • Discipline your emotion as you would a wild horse, but without breaking it.
  • Art is a waking dream over which we can have complete control.
  • S: ‘Futility is so tiring’. Indeed.
  • Avoid over-rehearsing an artwork (through an abundance of preparatory studies, etc.). Hold back some of your energy and problem solving for the performance itself.

December 1, 2016

  • Technique should not be your foremost concern. Ask yourself: ‘What do I want to do?’ Then determine how you’re going to do it. At that point, only, should you consider technique.
  • The student’s level of conversation during a tutorial is a reasonable indicator of their commitment to, and grasp of, the subject.
  • Sometimes the demands of the subject are so lofty that it has to drag us up to it’s height, screaming.
  • Whatever made you think art was easy?
  • If a topic goes over your head, stand on tiptoe or, better, get yourself a ladder.
  • As a teacher, one is destined to fail some of the students some of the time.
  • When you work harder, your work gets better. It’s no more complicated than that.
  • Criticism can be either appropriate and salutary or misguided and discouraging — either salt or vinegar.
  • Therefore, judge whether the critic is competent to criticise. And ask: What does their criticism tell me about them?
  • Beware of self justification when making an initial response to criticism. It’s merely a knee-jerk reaction before a more measured, considered, and humble reflection evolves.
  • ‘Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!’ (Luke 6.26).

December 5, 2016

  • Often, we don’t proceed with our work on the basis of knowing what we’re doing. On the contrary, we proceed in order to know.
  • When we discover the answer we’ll, simultaneously, determine the question that we were asking all along.
  • Don’t move on with our work too soon. Consider, rather, moving outwards and inwards with it. In short, aim to discover the wider contexts and the deeper implications of what you are doing.
  • Don’t force the work; let it work find its own way out of you.
  • Sometimes you have to proceed on the basis of only the vaguest sense of something. Trust that instinct.

December 6, 2016

  • Who you are and what you do are related, but not the same. On occasions we need to stop doing in order to concentrate on being.
  • A great deal of the art of the past is extant; in this sense at least, it’s still contemporary therefore.
  • Great ideas don’t date.
  • Before all else, be yourself.
  • When making art, forget about art.

January 19, 2017

  • A student’s performance is measured against two axes: the ‘aptitudinal’ and the attitudinal.
  • A disinclination to work is harder to remedy than a lack of ability.
  • Our progress in work and our understanding of such may not occur simultaneously.
  • Sometimes, as an assessor, one must search for diamonds amid the coal dust.
  • Follow the path of your ability rather than that of your inclination. They may not always be the same, alas.
  • Some students see through feeling rather more than they do through looking.
  • Better cack-handed poetry than arid dexterity.
  • Don’t aim to do something that’s different; rather, aim to do something that’s honest.

January 20, 2017

  • Discover the water that you can swim in best.
  • Making art gives us spectacles and, thereby, a vision of the world that would otherwise be impaired.
  • Discipline is your defence against slackness, vacuity, and self-indulgence.
  • When you have to choose … follow either the style, or subject matter, or sensibility that has taught you the most thus far.
  • Focus, prune, narrow, delimit, jettison, abandon.
  • Nothing ‘just happens’.
  • Learning can often be of greater value than succeeding.

January 25, 2017

  • We’re prone to overestimate ourselves.
  • Just as a small noise can effect a large avalanche, so too minor mistakes may lever huge consequences.
  • Don’t be cocky!
  • Life is peppered with landmines: unseen and dangerous.
  • Chaos and pain inevitably ensue wrong doing. They’re the sting in its tail.
  • Do what only you can, the way that only you do.

January 31, 2017

  • Your work is your best tutor. But it speaks to you ever so quietly, and only when you’re prepared to listen.
  • The anchor of art finds its firmest hold in the soul.
  • In art, progress rarely takes place in a straight line.
  • Don’t resist a good idea.
  • Develop a sense of purpose in the broader field of your life and you’ll discover it in your work, as a consequence.
  • The older you get the clearer the task becomes.
  • Determine the core concerns of your work and steer everything else towards them.
  • I rarely reflect on my teaching. I always reflect on my conversations with students. Pedagogy is of less significance than relationships.

February 1, 2017

  • Don’t put a cap on your capability. Presently, you don’t know what heights you may be able to reach.
  • The progress of your work is likely to follow the same pattern as that of your life: from up to down, good to mediocre, and interesting to indifferent. In other words, reckon on inconsistency.
  • You can’t run your life like a business. Therefore, be flexible, adaptable, responsive, patient, and forgiving.

May 5, 2017

  • Any mode of creative practice – however quirky, spontaneous, and instinctual – must submit to a discipline in order to have integrity.
  • Any mode of creative practice is undisciplined when the artist doesn’t know what they’re doing.
  • Any attempt to return to past ways of working, thinking, being, relationships, and ambitions is unwise. Those things were not how you remember them, in any case. Nor would they be, now, how and what they were back then. One cannot rewrite the past by trying to relive it.
  • Nevertheless, there are times when the past comes towards us (of its own volition) from the future. On these occasions, we should run to meet it.
  • Like many visual art forms, the splendour of the stained-glass window is appreciable only from the inside, looking out. (Make of that metaphor what you will.)
  • It won’t always be like this.
  • I’m content with who I am, but not with what I am.

May 9, 2017

  • If there’s going to be a turn or deviation on the route that you’ve chosen, you’ll alight upon it in time (and at the right time). But, first, you must be sure that you’re on the right path.
  • No one has got their act together entirely. We’re all limping and blundering through life, to a greater or lesser extent.
  • The gulf between our ideal and our reality may be immense and, in some respects, unbridgeable.
  • If you can talk about a work for forty minutes solidly, it must have something going for it.
  • The question is not: ‘How can one justify engaging in creative art, but how can you justify not so doing?’ Creativity humanises.

May 10, 2017

  • Pressure may force to the surface issues, problems, and ideas that would otherwise remain out of sight and knowing.
  • Repetition need not be mindless. But stasis can be mindless.
  • Surrender the part in order to save the whole, where necessary.
  • ‘What is the point of making art?’ Art is the point or, properly speaking, the pivot upon which much of your life turns.

May 23, 2017

  • Some students will be get there by stealth and hard work, rather than by virtue of an abundance of natural talent.
  • The influence of other artists’ work will add a dimension of depth and integrity to your own. Therefore, plunder their spoils for materials that you can use to construct your edifice.
  • S: ‘I’d like to be an artist when I graduate, but …’. Ditch the ‘but’; otherwise, the ‘but’ will ditch you.
  • Don’t aim to live and breath art, 24/7. Rather, aim to live life like that. Art will be the natural overflow of that passion, intensity, and commitment.
  • Being an artist is an attitude of mind and a way of apprehending the world before it’s a practice.
  • Stay visual.
  • Approach every work as though it was your last.
  • Not all the works that you make will be your greatest (by definition). But all the works you make could be the result of your best effort.
  • Wisdom is knowing when to abandon a course of action that, while intrinsically worthwhile, personally fulfilling, and appreciated by others, may yet be preventing something better from emerging.

May 25, 2017

  • Refinement can sometimes undo a work.
  • There’s a great difference between self-centredness and self-reflection.
  • When you don’t consult the work of established and qualitative artists, it shows in your own.
  • A lack of confidence rather than a lack of facility may be your most conspicuous weakness.
  • At some juncture, you’ll have to forsake your heroes. Otherwise you’ll lose yourself in, and become a third-rate copy of, them.
  • Enjoy the peace after the battle.
  • Find the palette in the process of painting.
  • There’s the painting and there’s painting. Don’t confuse them.
  • What people say about your work at the Opening is irrelevant on one level. Neither positive nor negative comments necessarily reflect justifiable value judgements or an informed opinion. They are merely the expression of enthusiasm or disgruntlement.
  • Over production can be a compensatory response to an inability to resolve a few things thoroughly.
  • Art is fundamentally a beneficent force — gentle, encouraging, and supportive.
  • The best students are often those who’re most critical of their own work.
  • Art must feed on something outside of itself in order to grow.

July 25, 2017

  • What we cannot do and who we aren’t significantly shape what we can do and who we are.
  • Where possible, view a work in-progress in the context in which it’ll be exhibited.
  • There’s difference in quality, and there’s difference in character. They shouldn’t be confused.
  • Difference and similarity, separation and cohesion, in tension, in unity. This is what we’re aiming at.
  • Make freedom a constraint; in other words, a necessary condition for practice.
  • It’s as abstract as it needs to be; no more, no less.
  • An inquisitiveness and an enthusiasm to discover something new (for you), in the object of your inquiry and in yourself, are at the heart of the creative enterprise.
  • Find an idea in the process of painting, rather than paint an idea.
  • Speak to yourself, often. Listen to yourself, occasionally.
  • Your path through art will appear strange in progress but obvious in retrospect.
  • The prospect of joy to come makes our present difficulties bearable.

August 8, 2017

  • There’s only one thing worse than failure, and that’s the inability to recognise it.
  • This is normative artistic experience: a vacillation between confidence and insecurity, dedication and detachment, fulfilment and dissatisfaction, and passion and coldness.
  • I’ve never known a perpetually upbeat, certain, happy, and satisfied artist who ever made anything worthwhile.
  • Be the artist that you wish to be rather than the artist others want you to be.
  • It’s better to fail on your own terms than to succeed on those of others.
  • An artwork may serve as a substitutionary presence for the artist in absentia.
  • It’s more worthy and harder to do one thing very well than many things merely adequately. (Multiplicity is the refuge of the mediocrity.)
  • Wisdom in choosing and fortitude in following the right path.
  • With art, you’re always learning on the job.
  • It’s possible to be successful doing something that you dislike. But the artwork produced thereby is like unto an unwanted and unloved child.
  • There are certain circumstances, tasks, and relationships that bring out the best in us. If only we could engage such exclusively.
  • Having found the truth, one must proceed to discover it.

August 15, 2017

  • Creative rest: being a temporary cessation from art-working, in good conscience, after conscientious effort has been exerted over time and success secured as a consequence.
  • Mature students never assume that their success is the responsibility of the tutor. Immature students attribute their success to their own efforts and their underachievement to others.
  • Good teaching may have a negligible effect if it’s either poorly understood, or forgotten, or neglected.
  • Even bad teaching can feed the student who is truly hungry to learn.
  • Trust play.
  • Don’t be swift to judge your artwork, no matter how either accomplished or appalling it may appear when its first completed.
  • We need to come apart from others in order to work. We need the community of other artists in order to give meaning to our work. These two principles are reciprocal.

August 22, 2017

  • An artist must have one deaf ear constantly turned towards the public.
  • Our lack of confidence is most prevalent when we’re considering making, rather than actually making, art.
  • Trust the insight of those who have suffered hard and long, and endured.
  • We don’t because we think we can’t. We think we can’t because we haven’t.
  • Age is an asset.
  • Self-discovery – the objective; self-knowledge – the blessing.
  • Our life’s history is a lodestone for ideas.
  • Creatively, we have to learn to fall off the edge of the table if we are to experience the wonders that lie below it.

August 29, 2017

  • The journey to a dead end, creatively speaking, may still prove to be both engaging and worth pursuing.
  • Don’t squash an unexpected idea, deviation, or unintentional development. They may prove to be signposts pointing to where you should really be headed.
  • Our work may reveal to us aspects of our personalities and experience that are entirely concealed from others.
  • We can know too much about our work. This is the burden of the PhD Fine Art student.
  • An unconfident and a pessimistic outlook on our work can sweep-in upon us as quickly as a sea-mist, and linger for as long. But, in time, it’ll disperse.
  • When your love for making art deserts you, do it dutifully. Never stop. Gradually, the passion will reassert itself.

September 6, 2017

  • A title must arise from within the work. It shouldn’t be appended as an afterthought.
  • The size of a work and the scale of a work aren’t synonymous. Scale is a measure of the ratio between the actual size of a thing and its size in the painting. Size may refer only to the dimensions of the picture. Thus, a large-size picture may host a small-scale representation, and a small-size picture, a large-scale representation.
  • Over the course of a degree and many conversations, the tutor and tutee develop a ‘friendship’ that transcends a mere educational compact. There’s been an exchange of trust, mutual support, and (again) intimacy. (I’ve been sustained by it during my times of greatest self-doubt as a teacher and an artist.) Thus, when that conversation has to end, at graduation, there’s a feeling of bereavement on both sides. But the ‘friendship’ abides.

September 12, 2017

  • There are some narratives to our lives that few, if any, hear, and even fewer could bear. But they are just as formative as those which we tell.
  • The soul shrinks for want of intimacy.
  • A little encouragement goes a long, long way.
  • Age is no obstacle to art.
  • No one, least of all you, can know your potential to develop as an artist. Potential is not a fixed capacity. It may be enlarged over time by: the exercise of determination, hard work, endurance, and confidence; the nurture of solid instruction; the encouragement of peers; and the experience of improvement. Likewise, potential may be diminished by the absence of these things.
  • Intuition may be a mode of thought that operates below the level of cognition and verbalisation, able to process complexities of information, possibilities, and motivations extremely quickly, and to offer a conviction in the form of a feeling.
  • Intuitions are susceptible to rationale scrutiny.
  • If you really cannot decide between two complementary ways of working, then don’t. Like parallel lines, they’ll eventually appear to converge at the same vanishing point on your horizon.
  • Someone comes out of the blue and speaks with you like they’ve known you forever. It can happen.

September 18, 2017

  • We must take risks with our work (as we do with our lives). At the very worst, our failures will be instructive. And, after all, we learn next to nothing by playing safe – other than our about our own cowardice.
  • In order to find ourselves in the work we must first lose ourselves to it.
  • It’s in the intelligent repetition of an activity over time than we understand its significance for us, and its possible meanings for others.
  • Our commitment to the work is in direct proportion to our confidence in it.
  • The depth and profundity of the work cannot exceed that of the artist’s personality and understanding.
  • Consider how far you’ve travelled during the past one or two years on the degree. That ought to encourage you to expect much regarding how much further you might go during your lifetime as an artist.
  • Write in order to comprehend, crystallise, and communicate clearly, rather than to impress.

September 26, 2017

  • 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.

October 3, 2017

  • Life drawing is vaguely humiliating. At every class. you’re confronted with what you cannot yet do.
  • Draw in order to better understand, see, and articulate, visually, rather than to make art. Art will be the bi-product of that process.
  • The more you entrust to art, the more art will entrust to you.
  • True teachers are born to the task. But it takes many years before some realise that they’re alive to the role.
  • Parents are teachers of an incomprehensibly larger magnitude.
  • Some things need to be said. Some things must remain unsaid … for now.
  • Our most heart-rending losses and harrowing endurance, as well as our most rapturous joys and soul-satisfying contentment, together, create a chiaroscuro that gives solidity and depth to our personality and, thereby, to our work.
  • Risk-taking is predicated upon the confidence either that things might work out well or that you can redeem the situation if they don’t.
  • The work is the dynamo that generates the energy, not the other way around.

October 5, 2017

  • The acquisition of skills and techniques should never be an end in itself.
  • Practise and execution proceed in parallel; never one before or after the other.
  • A way of working that fulfils the demands of the artwork, and a way of working that fulfils you. Ideally, these two ambitions ought to be congruent.
  • Some artworks proceed from content to form, others from form to content, and yet others present the form as the content and the content as the form.
  • Choices have to be made and sacrifices, endured.
  • The genre is not the subject. Rather, it’s merely the domain in which the subject may be found.
  • It takes more than art to make art. Therefore, look to your life.

October 12, 2017

  • Don’t try to be the artists you admire. That’s a form of identity theft.
  • The more like them you become, the less like yourself you’ll be.
  • Ensure that your inspirations are worthy of you. Pinterest has no quality filter. But you must.
  • By the close of this semester, I want you to consider paint to be as much the subject of the work as what you represent.
  • Van Gogh focussed as much attention on designing the corners of his paintings and he did anything within the central field of attention. In a painting, the artist is responsible for everything.
  • Representational painters should look at cinema. It can be as important a resource as art history in some cases.
  • You can’t make painting without looking at other artists’ painting. Don’t work in a vacuum.
  • Make less do more.
  • Art may interpret art, but in a way that’s distinct from art-historical inquiry.
  • One has to be dispassionate, ruthless, and self-denying when making decisions about which path to follow, in art as in life.

November 2, 2017

  • S: ‘I don’t actually know what I’m doing’. T: ‘But just acknowledging that is sufficient for now. Think off yourself as being within a dark room. All you can do at the moment is bump into furniture as you establish a mental map of the interior. There’ll come a time when your hand will find the light switch’.
  • The future always emerges from the present. What you’re doing presently is unlikely to be what you’ll be doing in a year’s time. However, what you’ll go onto do is dependent on what you’re doing now. So commit yourself to the present and to the work at hand wholeheartedly, enthusiastically, and without reservation, and walk with it towards the future.
  • For every creative project that we engage, there must a game plan – a let of rules by which to play and delimit our possibilities. Without them, anything and everything is possible and, as such, nothing will happen.
  • Her middle name, in Welsh, is Grug [Heather]. That name tied her to the landscape she painted.
  • S: ‘I think of the Llyn Peninsula as being like a long arm stretching towards an apple’.
  • The motif is the fixed element in the series – like a wire hanger; each painting is like a different shirt that’s hung upon it.
  • T: ‘What are you searching for? Would you know what it was if you saw it? What is searching for you?’
  • Frequently, the game plan that we establish for one work can generate a variety of permutations. Realise the full potential of an idea, therefore. Make many works – all the same, yet all different.
  • The integrity of a set of works is predicated upon the integrity of the individual pieces and their shared identity.

November 7, 2017

  • What we’ve done, are doing, and plan to do can turn out to be the same, if we aren’t careful. Habit of mind and action is fundamentally conservative and debilitating.
  • Sometimes (most times) it’s impossible to conceive of an artwork’s outcome in advance of the process of making. Thinking and doing are best engaged in unison.
  • One should not underestimate the fulfilment factor. A work may receive praise, be awarded a good grade, and be technically and conceptually impressive, and yet fail to fascinate you, the maker. It has to touch your heart and imagination too.
  • Don’t presume what the work should be, or how it should develop, or the way it should end up looking. It may have ideas of its own, and draw you towards a way of working and a conclusion that you couldn’t have possibly conceived at the outset.
  • Is the exceptional and unexpected work an anomaly or a breakthrough? Only the work that follows it can decide that.
  • When we begin university education, we’re apt to abandon many of the interests that kept us buoyant while in school. Perhaps it would be useful to reinvigorate some of them. After all, both you and art must be fed on something other than art alone.
  • The weaknesses and idiosyncrasies of our work and personality can sometimes be part of its charm.
  • T: ‘You are first a human being, then an individual, and then an art student. This is how I’ll regard, and respond to, you. This is non-negotiable’.
  • In art we try to resolve what we cannot reconcile in life.
  • We cannot do this on our own. No one ever has.
  • Painting is not about the length of time invested in the work but, rather the intensity of our application over time (however short).

December 4, 2017

  • Keep kindred ideas together in paragraphs. Otherwise the sentences begin to read like bullet points: provisional, naked, and unconnected.
  • Too many too short paragraphs in series feel like choppy waters. Go for the flow instead.
  • Ensure that the question is answered. But don’t be afraid to go beyond the bounds of the question in searching and relevant ways.
  • By far the hardest aspect of essay writing is discerning and defining the structure.
  • Begin by writing what you know. (It may not be the first section of the essay, necessarily.) The rest will be emerge from this.
  • Aim to over-write at the outset. This will be the clay from which you will mould the final piece. Some of it will be pared away, other parts will be reshaped, and the remainder — the core of the pot.
  • Write to articulate ideas; write to generate ideas; write to interweave ideas.
  • Many problems result from starting the essay too late.

December 5, 2017

  • Just working can give rise to new ideas. So when you are lost for an idea, just work.
  • Past precedent shapes future expectation.
  • After ‘experimenting’ one ought always to evaluate the outcome against the intent.
  • Don’t resist abstraction when it bids.
  • The problems of your work are tailor made for you, now.
  • It is chiefly by our response to the problems in our work that it advances.

December 7, 2017

  • Habit keeps the wheel turning when every other motivation deserts us.
  • Something becomes important by the very act of giving it our attention.
  • Take the ordinary and turn it into something special.
  • The students’ Instagram and Snapchat (and their cognates) posts reflect a much more casual, open, and unselfconscious approach to image making than is reflected in their artwork. They ought to pay attention to what they produce for these media. The output may contain the seeds of something relevant to their core business.
  • Don’t aim for grand gestures. Just concentrate on making something honest and meaningful (for you).
  • Talking about our work to another forces us to come clean with ourselves about what we’re doing.
  • The greatest artists were always clear thinkers.
  • A direct correlation can be made between hard work and motivation. They always co-exist, and cannot exist apart from one another.
  • Those who rubbish others reveal more about themselves than they do about the subject of their contempt.
  • We are apt to descend to the level of our own expectations. So, sometimes, you need to let others raise you up to theirs.

December 13, 2017

  • While we may not fully understand our intentions at the outset of a project, it’s incumbent upon us to know them by the end.
  • When you get lost in art (as in life), retrace your steps to the point where you recognised that you still knew the way.
  • Art is made within the nexus of our lives. Thus, when we are made tired, downcast, despondent, and distracted by the broader context of our experience, the art suffers in sympathy. It cannot be insulated. Therefore, be kind to yourself and realistic.
  • It’s when you return to the point in your work from which you first embarked that you begin to realise what it was all about, and where you should go next.
  • Suffering can produce either a positive or a negative response, either good or bad fruit. The choice is yours.
  • In the absence of suffering, we live paper-thin lives.
  • Choose your problems wisely. Consider only those that you feel likely to overcome (albeit with great difficulty) and be of benefit to either you or others.

December 14, 2017

  • When you begin writing a diary, you start to live your life more self-consciously — with a view to it being written-up.
  • You need to keep on doing something for quite a while before headway is made. Don’t give up too soon.
  • Ideas on the periphery of your thought have a habit of drifting into the centre of operations eventually. Therefore, look to the margins.
  • And, always look at what you’ve left behind.
  • To self: ‘Don’t give away too many ideas; don’t answer your own questions’.
  • Look beyond self to politics, world events, culture in its broadest sense, and systems of belief.
  • The clearer you understand what you’ve done, the clearer you’ll see what you have to do.
  • The ‘transitory point’: Where you become conscious of moving from one way of thinking to another.
  • The source material for an abstract work may derive from something observed. However, the work itself need not necessarily be about it. It has an independent life.

January 2, 2018

  • Don’t get side tracked by expanding upon biographical and marginal information that could be expressed as a single sentence only.
  • Always have the question at your elbow, and ask yourself in what way does the essay, at every point, help to answer it.
  • Be careful not to be reductive in your interim and final summaries.
  • Sentences should be sensible.
  • Structure is the chassis of the essay. Everything is built on top of it.
  • Ideas are the fuel that propels vehicle forward.
  • Argument is the steering wheel.
  • Illustrations are the windows.
  • Content is the wheels.
  • You are the driver.

January 5, 2018

  • Avoid introducing too many ideas and, particularly, those that aren’t essential to the argument.
  • Read and revise before submitting.
  • The essay could work, but you weren’t prepared to.
  • Begin answering the question as soon as possible. Avoid discursive preambles.
  • Art-historical writing is neither journalism nor blogging.
  • The nature of academic writing is to support your convictions by the deployment of argument and supportive evidence.
  • Use subheadings to indicate the transitions from one set of ideas to another.
  • Avoid appending a title to the essay. It can subtly skew the question.

January 8, 2018

  • Without references in an essay, it’s impossible for the reader to verify your sources, and sometimes difficult to distinguish your views from those of other authors.
  • State ideas simply. Don’t try and dress them up in academic language unnecessarily.
  • A student’s intelligence is sometimes most conspicuous in their ability to recognise an appropriate structure for the essay.
  • As the irate film directors says: ‘Cut! Cut! Cut! Therefore, Edit, Excise, Economise ruthlessly when writing.
  • Don’t over use of same word in close proximity.
  • The more you’re taught, the more will be expected of you. You may plead inability but you can’t plead ignorance.

January 18, 2018

  • Don’t make assumptions about what you aren’t capable of doing.
  • Ask much of yourself.
  • Natural talent is never enough, and certainly not something that you can be proud of. It’s a given.
  • Art sometimes necessitates a troubled spirit.
  • Acquire only the skills that you’re able to deploy.
  • You must find not only a subject but also yourself in relation to that subject.
  • Don’t aim for either greatness or originality. If these attributes are to be yours, then they’ll come as the consequence of hard, thoughtful, conscientious, and consistent work over much time.
  • Somethings you do are worthy but not necessary.
  • The tradition of the subject should be subsumed within the personality of the artist, and not the other way around.
  • Take one idea and explore its permutations.
  • Don’t chase marks. Instead, pursue quality, integrity, and authenticity.
  • So far, you know what you’re doing. Now, seek to know what you don’t know.
  • Do as much as you can with as little as you can.
  • Don’t be over-concerned about the shape and content of the final exhibition; all you can do is the next painting. And that’s enough.
  • Stay funky!
  • There’s the painting of something, and there’s the painting as something.
  • Buzz words of the day, beginning with ‘D’: direction, discernment, determination, dedication, decisiveness, and dutiful.
  • Never give up on anyone. People can prove to be outstanding in the end.
  • Who a student was, is, and will be, may bear no resemblance to one another.
  • Some students’ work makes me want to paint.
  • Class distinctions in relation to a sense of direction: 2.1 (Feeling towards it); 1st (Found it).

January 22, 2018

  • The struggle with art is a struggle with oneself.
  • It’s not the knowing but, rather, the not knowing and, sometimes, the unknowing, that makes the creative endeavour worthwhile.
  • Determining the most appropriate mode and form of the completed works’ presentation is one of the hardest aspects of the process to resolve.
  • The aesthetic arises out of the process arises out of the rationale arises out of the concept or intent.
  • The module is about developing potentialities rather more than determining solutions.
  • Learn to tell yourself what to do. Learn to make your own choices. A reliance on others to either guide you or make decisions on your behalf will forestall your maturation as both a person and an artist.
  • You don’t have a right to speak your mind if you won’t assume responsibility for the consequences of so doing.
  • Your choices and decisions will not necessarily please everyone. So give up trying. And, in the end, you alone are answerable for them.
  • No one besides you knows the complete picture: the complexity of the context within which your choices and decisions are made.

January 29, 2018

  • At postgraduate level, the cultivation of an independence of thought and action, and of a confident self-determination, should be your objective, even as you are being taught and supported.
  • It’s what we learn for ourselves that bears the most enduring fruit.
  • A good teacher may till the soil, plant the seeds, water and fertilise, and tend the tender shoots. But they cannot give growth.
  • Can you learn to live with a longing that cannot be fulfilled?
  • An unfulfilled longing can be either the making or the breaking of a person’s psyche. Decide judiciously and proceed with caution, therefore.
  • We are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, but as delicate as Meissen porcelain.
  • It’s the darkness of our experience that creates the chiaroscuro of our personality: the solidity of form without which we cannot be well-rounded artists.
  • The worst experiences may elicit the best from us.

January 30, 2018

  • If you can conceive of the painting after the next one, then don’t begin the next one.
  • Get into a habit of finishing things.
  • What’s the nature of ‘finished’ for you?
  • Title a work too early and it becomes too precious.
  • Talk about the work only in terms of its positive attributes.
  • What’s on the periphery of the idea?
  • Enlarge the scale of a colour and you increase the lightness of the perceived tone.
  • Avoid presupposing outcomes to approaches that you’ve never tried.
  • There’s rarely a simple solution to a complex problem. One must first simplify the problem.
  • Don’t give up on anything or anyone with the capacity to make sense of your life.

January 31, 2018

  • Learn to act against the dictates of your heart and self-interest.
  • Follow your passion; its most likely to be the thing in which you achieve success.
  • You may discredit yourself by trying to live up to other people’s expectations.
  • Parents and teachers can be wise and necessary counsellors, but its only you, in the end, that can make the choices and decision that effect your future.
  • Choice words delivered in season with love. This is my aspiration for the ideal pastoral tutorial.

February 1, 2018

  • Aim to make works that fulfil both your own needs and the conditions of credible and engaging images.
  • You aren’t obliged to act upon your tutor’s suggestions. But you are responsible for evaluating their appropriateness or otherwise.
  • Our relationship to the work is like a conversation with a friend. We may come away knowing more about ourselves than about them.
  • Weston-Super-Mare: the tide was ever out, it seemed; the damp sand that remained looked like the underside of my feet after they’d been in the bath for too long.
  • How you paint is far more important than what you paint.
  • The idea that you can make quality paintings of unwavering consistency is wholly unrealistic. Francis Bacon once said that he consigned 90% of his output to the skip.
  • When you paint from life you learn from life.
  • Today, I banned ‘I don’t know’, as a knee-jerk response to my questions. As a result, the students’ replies were much more considered and substantive.
  • You see your work from the inside out; your tutor sees it from the outside in. These two complementary perspectives aren’t necessarily congruent. It’s up to you to either reconcile or choose between them.
  • What’s missing? What’s not yet exhibition-worthy about the work?
  • If your painting was a sound, what would I be hearing?
  • It’s like constructing a Lego model from very few bricks. Each must be chosen and assembled very deliberately. When working with very few elements in a painting, each has to bear a huge responsibility for the success of the work.
  • Idea: Painting as a web of memories.
  • Idea: An exhibition as an exposition of your work.
  • Be confident, and make a virtue of the works’ limitations and restrictions.
  • With respect to your work: If you’ve never had a crisis, then you do have a problem (as my own tutor, Keith Arnatt, once taught me).

February 3, 2018

  • The aim is to live at peace with yourself; to be reconciled to yourself.
  • I find those that desire, and delight in, solitariness to be very attractive.
  • You can be in a satisfying relationship and still a loner. The two conditions aren’t mutually antagonistic.
  • The acceptance of solitude is often the gift of the only child.
  • We are incomprehensible to ourselves. Small wonder that others misunderstand us too.
  • Think of it not as an end.

February 5, 2018

  • Something that began as the consequence of a bad decision may yet lead to a good outcome. Something that began as the consequence of a good decision may yet lead to a bad outcome. Sometimes, it’s hard to distinguish between the two.
  • There are times when it seems that all past griefs, losses, and surrenders fall once more, but together, as a single, amorphous, and suffocating blanket of sorrow.
  • ‘His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead’ (James Joyce, ‘The Dead’ from Dubliners (1914)).
  • Someone once said to me that my reflections were ‘like the confessions of a dying man’.
  • The past has always been more important than the future to me. The future is all conjecture: without either temporal fixity, or resolution, or substance, or deeper feeling.
  • The second silence fell far harder, like another, deeper snow upon the first. The thaw (if it should come at all) would be needs be slow.
  • Sometimes it’s a choice between which of several unhappinesses would you find most bearable.

February 6, 2018

  • ‘I continue to tread the road. Broad steps’, said the student said.
  • What has the beginning to do with the end, and vice versa? So often, our practice runs in circles.
  • There’s a ‘deep structure’ (to borrow Chomsky’s phrase) underlying creative practice that’s common to all medial manifestations. Thus, we’re, at this level, artists before we’re painters, printmakers, photographers, or whatever.
  • We cannot succeed without enduring some cuts and bruises.
  • Extend generosity to the work of other artists. It may not be what you like but, if it has quality, then, acknowledge that the virtue has been hard won.
  • There are sections of the mountain that we must climb alone.
  • I’ve not taken a hand mirror into my tutorials for years. The device enables both the tutor and tutee to see an inverted version of the artwork. It’s like experiencing the image for the first time. The compositional imbalance is made conspicuously evident.

February 7, 2018

  • Principles imply consequences.
  • Observations imply responsibility.
  • I’ve never before realised just how rare is the virtue of constancy.
  • Some things are just too far away in all directions.
  • Something must take place, very soon.
  • Virtues and graces must be gripped tightly; they’re easily dropped when one is under duress.

February 8, 2018

  • What if blue was thought of as a warm colour?
  • One of the hardest things a student has to create is a sense of imperative. (Tempus Fugit.)
  • When you draw, it’s not only the drawing but also the experience of seeing, understanding, and rendering through drawing that’s of value.
  • Sitting in the front seat of a car is a peculiarly cubist experience: through the windscreen there’s the view of what’s in front, and through the side- and rear-view mirrors, simultaneously, of what’s to the left and right and behind.
  • Avoid quoting from your own paintings. Originally, the quotes had a context, raison d’etre, and history that cannot be replicated authentically.
  • Unless you feed your ideas by drawing upon something outside of art, the artworks will become increasingly a paler and paler echo of themselves.
  • There are times when the scale or size of the format feels like an ill-fitting shoe.
  • Make your studio space efficient – fit for purpose; beautiful in its own way.

February 20, 2018

  • The absence of image makes a space for the presence of enigma.
  • The outcome of the artwork often confutes our intentions.
  • Ideas generate process generates ideas generate process … .
  • We may betray an insecurity about our security.
  • Devise an explanation that isn’t exclusive and comprehensive but, rather, definitive and provisional.
  • It’s not always a good thing to let the work pull you by the nose.
  • Some artwork’s titles are as arbitrary as the names given to battleships.
  • Titles direct the viewers to experience your work in a particular way. And, as such, they may prevent them from seeing it in other ways.
  • Establish a fulcrum (or centre point) for your modus operandi, and determine to work both at, and either side of, it. (Explore subtle differences within a narrow frame of reference, in other words.)
  • The teacher often identifies and validates what the student has already realised, but not yet articulated to themselves.
  • Integrity, before all else.
  • S: ‘I am so far out of my comfort zone!’ T: ‘Good! Stay there’.
  • Intensity is sometimes at the expense of longevity. ‘The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long’ (Blade Runner (1982)).
  • Try not looking at the dartboard when you throw the dart.
  • Don’t misread what the work needs.

February 22, 2018

  • When our whole of life loses its direction we, inevitably, lose the plot in its parts too. However, the reverse is also true. When we begin to take responsibility for the parts, the whole comes together again. Therefore, discover what you’re able to control … and act.
  • T: ‘What makes you want to paint?’
  • T: ‘As your tutor, I may see the potential in the work. But if you can’t too, we’re stuffed’.
  • Honour the subject by the way in which you paint it.
  • Concept: a single subject still life.
  • Artists create a world over which they have full control. It may be the only aspect of their life, sometimes, that’s under their thumb.
  • Shout one part of the picture and whisper another.
  • Sometimes you have to fall-off the table top in order to discover where the edges lies.
  • Painting = finding.
  • An emotional, as distinct from a visual, memory.
  • T: ‘This type of art education is too good to last’.
  • So often, the breakthrough (when many pennies drop all at once) comes at the end of the third year of study. Thus, students have to down their tools just when they’ve mastered them. Which is why MA studies are often as much a matter of necessity as of continuity.
  • You make so that those who can’t may experience making, vicariously.
  • S: ‘I know, now, that “the man upstairs” has given me this gift; I know, now, what I was put on earth to do’.
  • What does what we’re interested in tell us about who we are?

February 27, 2018

  • You can copy another person’s work, in order to pass it off as your own. You can copy, in order to understand how that person’s work works.
  • Cursed are they who find art easy to do.
  • There’s a time for spreading your wings and a time for reigning in your energies. Know the seasons.
  • Go for quality and intensity, and forget about quantity.
  • To create, one must first destroy.
  • The work’s title helps to clarify its focal subject and intent.
  • Too often, we try to achieve half-a-dozen things at once in a single work. Therefore, separate and spread ideas over several works.
  • Aim to work in resolved phases. Thus, a painting will appear complete at every stage of its development.

March 1, 2018

  • What justification do you have for abandoning a project?
  • The work that you’ll undertake for the coming exhibition should be: a) a declaration of your full potential; b) doable in the time that remains; c) resolvable at the highest level you can achieve; d) coherent in its intent; and e) clear in its realisation.
  • Consider the matter of quantity in terms of not the number of works that you need to produce but, rather, the number of hours that you need to invest in each of the works.
  • By the time you’re thirty, you’ll have finished building the house that is you. Thereafter, its just a matter of adding extensions, knocking down partition walls, putting in more and larger windows, sealing up some doorways, and replacing lost and broken tiles.
  • A student may have facility but no trajectory.
  • We may begin a work in ignorance but develop cognisance of our intent as it proceeds. (Meaning rises to meet us.)
  • It’s what the painting requires, and not what either the subject suggests or you desire, that’s most important.
  • As in life, sometimes you need to paint over (paint out) a problematic area in order to create a fresh foundation on which a better solution can be rendered.

March 5, 2018

  • Things that we make, for which we may have an initial aversion, can in time become objects of our affection. (The reverse is also true.)
  • T: ‘If I tell you which option to choose, then I’ll defraud you of your right to make a mistake.’
  • The work may shout at us for a very long time before we’re ready to pay attention.
  • T: ‘What is the nature of the struggle?’
  • We may struggle to know what to do, while at the same time knowing how to do it. (Understanding is not always linear.)
  • Turn your instincts into cognisance. This is of the essence of learning.
  • T: ‘Look at Lowry’s seascapes‘.
  • Style = a consistent manner of working over time.
  • In painting, the solution must be found. For it cannot, first, be known.
  • Discern the principles behind the successful work and, then, adapt them to subsequent works.
  • When we stop being precious about a work, things start to happen. So, let go of your high expectations and let it be.
  • It’s no longer an accident when you turn it to good effect.

March 9, 2018

  • Two paintings (a pair); two mountains; the weather features in them; a world made out of paint.
  • Your maturation between 25 and 30 is far less significant than that between 20 and 25.
  • Rejoice to be the outsider (sometimes).
  • What’s the spirit of the whole?
  • Art channels wackiness.
  • Think in terms of twelve finished works.
  • You’re not lost. You just don’t want to be found.

March 13, 2018

  • We filter the world through our artwork.
  • T: ‘In filtering the source, you’ve amplified its emotional resonance’.
  • Creative endeavour isn’t linear; it’s circular: we often go from A to A rather than from A to Z, before beginning a new cycle – at A again.
  • Many artists of note have constructed their career by concentrating on a narrow field of action. Diversification is the refuge of the undecided and uncommitted.
  • Don’t make work for the mainstream. Make it for yourself. If the mainstream gravitates towards it, then, so much the better.
  • You don’t determine to succeed because you suspect that you’ll fail in the endeavour.
  • The passions of your youth stay with you in later life. Who you are is, in part, what you were, and what you’ll ever be.
  • The movement from internal awareness to external articulation (intuition to cognition) requires focussed introspection over time, in discussion with yourself and others.
  • T: ‘You make in order to understand yourself, and you understand yourself in order to make’.
  • In the dance, let the work lead occasionally.

March 15, 2018

  • When we’re older, we make the friends that we want and need, and the friends who want and need us in return.
  • The dialogue between conception and realisation is like the dance of binary stars.
  • What do you expect your audience to apprehend in the work, and how have you ensured that they will?
  • T: ‘What constitutes resolution in terms of the problem that you’ve set for yourself?’
  • Fixations and obsessions can be turned into positive attributes: like the capacity to focus hard and long, and the power of unwavering commitment.
  • Idea: painting as meditation and prayer.
  • There’s a world of difference between scepticism and circumspection.
  • It’s a PhD. But only a PhD. Your life is far more important. Retain your perspective.
  • The final undergraduate exhibition – an ideal: continuity and diversity in equilibrium.
  • An epiphany in respect to one work will have implications for them all.
  • We are prone to give up at the end of the race, in sight of the finishing line, rather than we are at the beginning.
  • Life can appear so utterly indecipherable and obtuse, sometimes.

March 22, 2018

  • You cannot describe in words what has not yet happened on the canvas. However, you can discuss anticipated outcomes of a general nature.
  • To my mind, a painting cannot express feelings. But it can be the product of feelings.
  • Problems come to everyone. It’s your ability to deal with them maturely that’s the measure of you.
  • Keeping a diary is a way of taking account of yourself.
  • Be audacious. Be impressive. Be brilliant. But remain modest.
  • Challenge yourself to undertake what’s presently impossible for you to perform.
  • Do five fully-resolved works rather than ten that aren’t representative of your best efforts.
  • S: ‘Trash can. Trash cannot’.
  • Confidence sinks as anxiety surfaces.
  • Conceding defeat is not an option.

March 27, 2018

  • The self-imposition of restrictions liberates rather than limits.
  • Intent and reception shouldn’t be confused: What you wish for your audience isn’t necessarily what they want for themselves.
  • Reckon upon the ambiguities and multivalence of your visual language and imagery.
  • Often, we don’t experience distinct emotions but, rather, a fusion of fugitive feelings: neither happy nor sad, neither joyous nor melancholy. Instead, our sensation is of both, felt either simultaneously or subtly, and quickly shifting from one to another and back again. The interplay of opposites (as with complementary colours) gives rise to ‘neutral’ emotions. These aren’t bland, as the term might suggest. They’re indefinite, yet, nonetheless, distinct offspring of the parents from which they’re formed.
  • Covertly and effortlessly, our past experiences seep into the work. But it takes an outsider to recognise them, sometimes.
  • Walking away and not looking back is preferable to backing away and watching the object of your affection diminish as the distance between you grows ever wider.
  • Writing is another way of drawing.
  • Begin modestly, continue with moderate ambitions, incrementally increase the level of ambition, and end remarkably. Do this over a broad arc of time, while exercising patience, care, and understanding towards yourself.

April 19, 2018

  • Avoid playing to your weaknesses. What you like doing is not necessarily the same as what you’re best at doing.
  • The artwork will be judged upon its objective visual integrity, and not upon either how confident you feel about it, or how much you enjoyed doing it, or how much it means to you, or, even, how satisfied you are with the outcome.
  • Making art may not always be a pleasurable experience. But it should be a fulfilling one.
  • You must be convinced that it’s a fight worth engaging.
  • Be patient, and wait to enjoy the fruit of the harvest. Now is the time for tilling the soil, breaking up the rocks, and working by the sweat of your brow.
  • Pictures aren’t babies: they don’t need to be named after you’ve brought them into the world.
  • A title ought to arise out of the work. Ideally, it’s should fit the image like a piece of wood inserted into well-crafted joint prepared for the purpose. Often, the title can, instead, feel as though it has been rudely nailed in place.
  • Prioritise quality over quantity. There’s no point making a few more works when the existing set still needs further refinement.
  • Without a single-minded determination to expend your best hours and energy on the task ahead over the next few weeks, you will disappoint only yourself. Your teachers and your peers wont have to live with that outcome, but you will … for the remainder of your life.

April 24, 2018

  • Everything we do — all our intentions, hopes, dreams, and ambitions — are subject to constraints and restrictions. These need not be negative factors, however. What cannot be done forces us to explore more fully what can. The impossible disciplines the possible, in other words. And just because some options aren’t available at present by no means implies that they won’t be in the future.
  • We may receive sudden and devastating news that threatens to jeopardise our future in the most profound and irrevocable way. Two options are before us: we can either succumb to paralysis and wait until the bomb drops, or else move forward valiantly and defiantly making the most of every moment. We none of us know what tomorrow may bring forth, in any case.
  • Hope dies before love does. In the absence of hope, despair obtains a foothold. In the absence of love, the heart ossifies.
  • There’s a hope that persists in the face of circumstance, expectation, reason, and the opinions of others. To the hopeful, this sense of certainty — this conviction against all odds — feels as though it has been given to them, and is sustained by a force that’s beyond them.
  • Never believe those who call you ‘rubbish’. Because, firstly, you shouldn’t trust the integrity of anyone who would say such and a thing; and, secondly, it may take you the rest of your life to convince yourself that their judgement wasn’t true.

April 26, 2018

  • When you approach the end of a long run, tired and aching, even minor inclines appear daunting. Thus, sometimes, the perceived enormity of the challenge is determined by our perceived capacity to meet it.
  • The exhibition should manifest the integrity of not only the individual components but also their relationship one to another, and coherence as a set.
  • Push the concept, as well as the subject matter and technique. Ambition, development, and achievement should be evident in all dimensions of the work.
  • Not all decisions are for all time. The circumstances in which choices and determinations are made may change over time. Therefore, keep one eye on the environment of your resolutions, and test your decisions on those who know you well, and whose opinion you trust, periodically.
  • Avoid binary thinking. Some things are straightforwardly either right or wrong. Many things, however, are too complex and contextual to be conceived of in terms of black or white.
  • Gravitate to those who bring out the best in you.
  • Despair: Things will never be different; I’ll never change; they’ll never improve; everything will get worse. Hope: All things are possible.
  • Don’t confuse unhappiness with depression. The latter is an illness; the former, a facet of normal human experience.

May 1, 2018

  • Sometimes, we learn intuitively; but it takes a while for the bubbles of knowing to come to the surface.
  • It’s possible to sense whether a potential student will succeed just by talking to them … just by being in their presence. Those that will, exude a sense of drive, commitment, self-awareness, and clarity of purpose, without which any achievement worth talking about would not be possible.
  • Some people appear to have lived multiple lives simultaneously. The breadth of their attainment and contribution to the betterment of others is staggering.
  • Only the best students seem to lack confidence, Poorer ones are completely oblivious to their deficits.
  • The ground work for art is life lived.
  • So often, one must tread the thin line between hopefulness and despair.
  • Avoid overburdening an artwork with too much content or significance. It’ll collapse under the strain.
  • In relation to some problems in your life, you may feel as though you’re waiting for a very long time at a red traffic light, desperate for it to move to amber.
  • Even before your finish the first step in the work, the second beckons.
  • Work that we admire by other artists may help us to see aspects of our own that would otherwise remain undisclosed.
  • Perhaps history can teach us more than geography. I’ve often found that travelling back in time (through art and books) is of greater lasting value than visiting distant places for a brief season.
  • Knowledge worth knowing changes our awareness.
  • You may be able to get individual works ‘sing’, yet fail to make them perform as a choir, collectively.
  • Idea: A scale from soft to ultrasoft.

May 2, 2018

  • Art can redeem even the most tawdry source material and subject matter. It may also lift both the artist and the audience above the banality of their humdrum existence. Art is always purposeful.
  • Righteous anger may bring forth right action. All other anger is corrosive to the soul.
  • There’s a difference between being influenced by another artist’s work and recognising a reflection of one’s own vision in the same.
  • S: ‘Being an artist is the best, isn’t it!’ T: We are truly privileged, whatever the cost.
  • The ability to repeat an accident is of the essence of craftsmanship.
  • The older you get, the more appreciate that, in the end, the only things that really matter are love, family, and deep friendship. Fame, influence, and fortune often bring with them unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and selfishness.

May 3, 2018

  • The influence of other artists’ work on our own is often subconscious; it permeates our thoughts and predilections gradually and by stealth.
  • Throw wide-open all your doors and windows to influence; let it break-in, steal your heart and mind, and take you captive. Any artist who is worth their salt has done the same.
  • At some point, you’re going to have to prove that you’re sufficiently motivated, confident, and resourceful to make viable art outside the womb of an educational institution.
  • We should always be making a virtue of our limitations.
  • Think about one thing for a very long time.
  • Disappointment is made all the worse when it has no interpretation, rhyme, or reason.
  • It’s often when we’ve come to the end of our ability to cope with circumstances that a break through presents itself. As in art, so in life.

May 13, 2018

  • It’s not always helpful to have considerable facility over a broad range of mediums and technical processes. Students of limited means have a tendency to do more with them.
  • If you’re not making art first and foremost for yourself, out of a need to discern the shape of your own soul and to feed a hunger that nothing else will satisfy, then you’re likely to give it up in the future.
  • Making art may be the only thing that can keep you sane and grounded.
  • And above all else … integrity.
  • Intuition and natural ability will only get you so far. In order to grow, you must acquire craft, a capacity for consistent hard work, a reasoned grasp of your intent, and a criteria by which to assess the quality of the work.
  • The world is filled with good all-rounders. Therefore, if  you wish to stand out from the crowd, aim to excel in a few things only.
  • You’re never to old to reinvent yourself and try something new. (You might discover that you’re very good at it.)

May 14, 2018

  • Maturity is evident in an awareness of sufficiency and a rejection of excess.
  • ‘A sensibility for subtly’.
  • ‘What’s weak about your work?’ This question tests not their competence but, rather, their critical judgement.
  • The assessment may drift into tutorial mode and out again.
  • How a person responds to difficulties is a mark of their character.
  • The best students never make excuses for themselves, or apportion blame to others, or resent the success of others.
  • On occasion, it’s only after the work is set-up on the exhibition walls that the weaknesses fully disclose themselves.
  • The weakness of a work is not obviated by screwing it to a wall.
  • Art traps ideas.
  • The merits and demerits of a work can be the like the head and tail on a spinning coin: they can merge in such a way that ‘faults’ become idiosyncratic virtues.
  • A coherent exhibition of work should be internally interpretative.
  • The tyranny of the best work you’ve done (yet again).
  • No one can produce work of a consistently high quality. If you think that you can, then, smell at rat. Both the peaks and the troughs of production are necessary conditions for creative progress.
  • You can’t put to sea without first finishing the boat. Therefore, be prepared before launching yourself into the professional art world. Otherwise, you’ll sink.
  • The size of a work has no relation to its importance. The old 7″ (18 cm), 45-rpm vinyl records, on which singles were released, could only contain a maximum of 4 1/2 minutes of music on each side. The medium, thus, constrained the length of the composition recorded on it. However, during the golden age of popular music in the 1960s, truly great songs never felt too short; that’s because they were designed to be that long.
  • When exhibiting, aim for economy, succinctness, coherence, and sufficiency. Do not be afraid of the spaces either side of a work. The space is almost as important as the works (like the silence either side of musical notes).
  • Space is variously a framing device, and visual pause, a comma between clauses, and a moment of respite.
  • The simple act of setting up a work in a vertical plane transforms your relationship to, and apprehension of, it significantly. By I’ve never been able to adequately define in what ways.

May 15, 2018

  • Don’t ask your tutor a question about that for which you should already have an answer.
  • There’s a dimension to art that’s utterly mysterious and inexplicable. Some theologians have spoken of this as, metaphorically, its ‘sacramental’ quality. Just as the bread and wine of the Eucharist are just that on one level, their significance significance and materiality is far far more on another level. So also artworks transcend their self-evident nature to point elsewhere and to something that’s deep within, and far beyond, us.
  • Is there an ideal height at which to hang an artwork? The principle of eye-level is problematic because it assumes a common height on the part of the percipients. Moreover, some artworks, by dint of their conceptual nature and formal attributes, need to be positioned either way below or way above eye-level. The notion of eye-level is bound to that of the horizon line which, in turn, is rooted in the tradition of the figurative landscape genre. Why should the conditions of one mode of art dictate those of another?
  • Every practice worth its salt requires a discipline. Discipline is what makes the artwork difficult to do. Artfulness is what makes the discipline appear effortless in its execution.
  • We are our own worse enemies. Therefore others are theirs, too. Rather than fight one another, we should commiserate and join forces in helping each other to resist our common foe. Love, understanding, patience, and practical care must be at the bedrock of any working relationship.

May 16, 2018

  • Crises bring out the best in the best of people.
  • A teacher’s dedication to their students is seen most conspicuously in their commitment to see them through failure and disappointment, and onwards towards success and fulfilment.
  • In relation to the object before you, ask: ‘What must I draw? And … What should I not draw?’ These are reciprocal choices of equal importance.
  • The art that we make cannot be other than a manifestation of who we are: our standards, predilections, passions, thoughts, understanding, temperament, emotions, world view, determinations, ambitions, and facility. That’s its glory and betrayal.
  • It’s relatively straightforward to produce small, immediate, and appealing works of a sufficient resolution. However, maturity lies in being able to spend a long time on a single work (regardless of scale), labouring with it, restating and refining an idea over and over again until the work achieves maximum resolution, and achieving a degree of psychological and aesthetic depth that’s impossible to reach using more immediate and short-term processes.
  • Your exhibition space is not to be filled but, rather, articulated.
  • You have to do it in order to know it. You have to know it in order to do it.
  • Your professionalism should be evident not only in your work but also in everything you say about it: to friends and family, on your social media and website, in seriousness and good humour, and formally and informally. How you regard your work and identity as an artist will have a considerable influence on your audience’s respect for the same.

June 14, 2018

  • If you’ve risked openness and been exposed, your instinct will be to hide more deeply within yourself than ever before.
  • Those who’re most apt to judge you are often least able to see inconsistencies in themselves.
  • You’re not as good as you think you are. Neither are you as bad as you think you are.
  • Why do we habitually return to the snares from which we’ve been released?
  • Awkwardness is better than estrangement.
  • A hard heart can serve as a shield to the spirit. It’s a defensive weapon of last resort.
  • Either you take control of the situation or the situation takes control of you.
  • Beware of them who think they know.

June 19, 2018

  • To fail is to understand the nature of success.
  • What is it about a black and white photograph that appears to cast the subject into a past that belies its historical moment?
  • We teach out of who we are, so that the student can be who they are.
  • Let the snow fall and lie before treading through it.
  • You’ve been floating upon the pond, now go to the well and draw water from deep within it.
  • Sometimes a tutor; sometimes a ‘priest’.
  • It would be like cooking and never eating your own meals.
  • Confront the unknown.
  • If you have a sense of direction, don’t assume that you know your destination also.

June 28, 2018

  • If you cannot choose between two courses of action, then don’t. Do both, together.
  • Some artists have a knack of turning wine into water. Good ideas are squandered in the wrong hands.
  • If you can maintain a course of action for a week, then, you can do so for a month; if for a month, then, a for a year; if for a year, then, for a lifetime. Therefore, maintain your resolve and don’t look back.
  • Confidence is not a feeling, principally. Rather, it’s a recognition that in having overcome significant challenges in the past you’ve been prepared to take on the problems of the present and future, successfully.
  • If you bury the past before it has died, history may rise to haunt you in the future.
  • Solutions aren’t guaranteed. But difficulties are.

July 3, 2018

  • There’re times when your intentions for the work must be questioned. Are they an enabling or a limiting factor?
  • The form of the work can effect the concept of the work, just as surely as the concept can effect the form. One must recognise the reciprocal relationship between these two dynamics.
  • Always be ruthless: cull the body of the work; be clear in your own mind regarding what constitutes the best.
  • Over production and diversification can be manifestations of prevarication. Therefore, learn to discern the cutting-edge of your practice, and commit yourself to it only.
  • Auto-suspicion is a great asset: be aware of your avoidance strategies, lazy compromises, and slick solutions. Do the difficult thing, at all costs. Any other policy will guarantee you a short professional career.
  • Work at your best when no one is either watching, or applauding, or remotely interested in what you do, or offering you a reward. This is of the essence of personal and professional integrity.
  • Work at your best even when producing your worst. That’s the fastest and best way to recover your form.

July 26, 2018

  • A painting consists of both what it represents and how it represents. The former is a matter of indifference. (A painting can be about anything. Although, as Rothko remarked, it ‘cannot be about nothing’.) The latter is of supreme importance. The quality of a work inhabits the integrity, innovativeness, imagination, and technical craft by which it’s made.
  • Creative practice is a discussion between the artist and the artwork. Only together and in negotiation can they arrive at an agreement.
  • What you hear is not only the sound coming out of the speakers but also the speakers’ position in the room; the transmission of the sound through whatever they’re placed upon into the floor; the resonance and reflections of the room; your position within it; the proximity of the speakers to you; and the character of your acoustic acuity (the quality of your listening, both biologically and intellectually).
  • A monochrome painting can, at worst, feel like a sandwich without a filling.
  • The fallow times are the best of times. It’s during the apparently fruitless periods that the greatest maturation takes place. Trust the process: the harvest will come in due season.
  • Just as absence makes the heart grow fonder, so also time-out from your work will enhance both your passion and commitment on return.

August 31, 2018

  • We can fritter away our lives on distractions, non-essentials, small things, and those things that’ll have little consequence in the long term. Instead, we should do only what’s necessary, what’s required of us, what we alone can perform, and create something of substance and endurance.
  • To build something new, you must first demolish something old.
  • It’s more than metaphor; it’s equivalence.
  • Art is life lived.
  • You can’t learn to cook merely by watching TV programmes. The skill requires a messy, odiferous, wet and dry, fingers and hands engagement with ingredients and technologies of mixing, teasing, tasting, pouring, setting, proving, and heating. It’s a sensual and methodical affair. If you aren’t in love and involved with the means of manufacture, you’ll never be a painter of worth.
  • Don’t allow your inability to be a reason for giving up, especially if art hasn’t first given you up.

November 13, 2018

  • Writing about your work is, first, you talking to yourself.
  • The principles governing a work may only emerge in the process of making it.
  • Reverse the polarity of an idea.
  • Be open to the work’s inner-suggestiveness.
  • The synthesis of subject, imagination, and process.
  • Keep looking at, and learning from, the work of other artists. You should never grow out of this habit.
  • You won’t necessarily know that you’ve turned a corner until you emerge from around the bend.
  • Keep narrowing the frame of reference. Make depth, and not breadth, your aim.

November 15, 2018

  • If you know that you’ve lost the track, then, you know also where the track lay. This should be a source of encouragement.
  • Less and less understood more and more.
  • Think of setting a single actor on the stage, rather than directing the whole troupe.
  • Sometimes you don’t know what’s unnecessary until you remove it.
  • There are times when one ought to cease making art, for a period, in order to honour those things that are far more important.
  • While its not always possible to evidence the day-by-day development of the work, there ought to be signs of forward movement on a week-by-week basis.
  • It’s one thing to fail, quite another to run away from your failure. If you can’t confront yourself, you’ll never be able to confront others.
  • Unless the tributaries of other artists’ influence flow into the river of your own creative practice, it’ll dry up.

November 20, 2018

  • Even when you’re not painting, your facility for such is developing. Thus, on your return to work, you discover that the painting has moved on, emotionally and intellectually, in your absence.
  • Is the painting of, or about, or merely based upon, the source subject? These are three distinct attitudes of mind and modus operandi.
  • What’s the simplest condition of your painting? Is that simplicity also a sufficiency?
  • Work in sets or a series based upon the same motif, idea, proposition, or approach. There’s often more mileage in these things than one image only.
  • A person without a moral compass is lost at sea.
  • If you don’t know your virtues, you’ll hardly be aware of your vices. Therefore, take stock of both yourself and your work.
  • Be loyal to your convictions, as you would to those who’ve been loyal to you.

November 22, 2018

  • Show me your passions for the subject by your attendance, punctuality, hard work, productivity, and perseverance. Stirring declarations alone aren’t enough.
  • You’re learning skills for both now and your career to come. See the present as an investment in the future. Each day is your currency.
  • Miss a tutorial; miss an opportunity; miss a potential turning point in your understanding; lose momentum; lose direction; lose confidence; lose peace of mind; underachieve.
  • Play at the boundary of sufficiency.
  • There’re times when we get in the way of art.
  • Crucially: Is what you have more interesting than what you had? If so, then don’t look back; you’ll turn to salt (like Lot’s wife).
  • It’s visible, but not comprehensible.
  • The work must dictate its own terms.
  • The work is now talking to you. Listen! Listen!
  • A painting can succeed even with inadequacies (just like us).
  • It’s easier to add than it is to subtract. So, begin simply.
  • At this stage of your development, all that I’m interested in are paintings pointing to problems.

November 29, 2018

  • Ours hearts are fickle; our psychology, frail. Therefore, trust neither your feelings nor your frame of mind. Instead, do what’s dutiful – dutifully – even if there’s not pleasure in the doing of it.
  • Abandon the unprofitable, unnecessary, and imprudent.
  • The work makes you what you are, even as you make the work what it is.
  • Some artworks find you only at a specific time in your life.
  • Think while doing; do while thinking. (Reciprocity.)
  • Paint what you see, rather than what you think is there.
  • T: ‘Tell me what excites you about your work.’ [VERY LONG SILENCE.]
  • If you spend time with painting, painting will spend time with you.
  • Why should finding joy through painting be such a surprising experience?
  • Commitment, discipline, and motivation. They can’t be taught. Rather, they must be demonstrated by example.

December 6, 2018

  • Some take the easy path and get to the top of the mountain first. Others choose the hard path, knowing that the summit will be so much the sweeter when they arrive, but not nearly as rewarding as the climb.
  • Don’t let your tutor have more enthusiasm than you for your work. Don’t let them suggest more ideas that you for the direction of your work. Don’t let them be faster than you in pointing out the virtues and weaknesses of your work.
  • The task will always appear more difficult than it needs to be if you don’t attend to it frequently, consistently, persistently, and energetically.
  • If you let go of whatever you’re holding onto, it won’t stay where it is; it’ll fall away from you. Therefore, keep a grip.
  • Move the work further forward faster.
  • Attend to the work at hand, and let the exhibition take care of itself.
  • Size and scale, too, are carriers of significance.
  • You’ve found a way. But are you committed to it?
  • If a painting can be interpreted as meaning anything, then, it means nothing.

December 11, 2018

  • Paint with your mind and not only with your brush.
  • Simple solutions to complex problems are the most elegant.
  • Make yourself work hard; make the work work even harder.
  • Creativity ought to be reckless – with no thought for the work beyond the moment of its making. The future will take care of itself.
  • It takes time for a work to work on you. You may appreciate its virtues only in retrospect.
  • Sometimes, you must fall flat on your face to see the ground.
  • There’re times when all we can do is suffer.
  • There’s no shame in a temporary, strategic retreat from a course of action that proves to be either unsustainable or unwise.
  • Your talent resides in your heart, mind, and soul – which resides in your body. Therefore if you wish to maintain that talent, treat all these vessels with respect.

December 13, 2018

  • If there’s no resistance, then, there can be no fight.
  • Art is more important than: money; property; pleasure; fame; entertainment; personal fulfilment; it was ten years ago.
  • A way with words. Away with words.
  • Never lose hope in the possibility of a rapprochement.
  • Put yourself to the test every time you work.
  • Don’t let what you do know determine what you can know.
  • Even simple ideas can have enormous implications.
  • Nothing worth doing is ever easy to accomplish.
  • Are you in control of the colour, or is the colour in control of you?
  • We do not so much try and fail as fail for want of trying.
  • T: ‘Discipline the practice; don’t be seduced by the work’s aesthetic; and always honour your failures – they’re the bedrock of your successes’.
  • Generosity of spirit, one to another – without which art teaching is a mean business.
  • The hardest painting to make is the one that follows immediately after your greatest accomplishment.
  • Don’t let the deficits of a work becloud your appreciation of its virtues.

January 31, 2019

  • The sufficiency and economy of the object should inspire the same characteristics in the painting thereof.
  • Come to the same object, again and again, as though for the first time.
  • Idea: A colour that’s as pervasive as silence.
  • The more defined the problem, the more defined the solution.
  • T: ‘I want you to do your best, and for you to know that you can do your best.’
  • Let yourself down this semester, and you’ll be kicking yourself for the rest of your life.
  • Work: ‘when a force is acting, and there’s a displacement of the point of application in the direction of the force.’ (Exertion, action, reaction, and direction.)
  • Narrow the frame of reference, develop an economy of form and action, exploit their potential, and do more with less.
  • Settle to what needs to be done.
  • Determine to outdo yourself and up your game. Make the challenges more demanding, and take greater risks with greater confidence.

February 7, 2019

  • If you really want something, you’ll work your hardest to get it. Passion and determination are reciprocal.
  • Neglecting is not the same as rejecting an idea. The latter implies that you’ve made a considered choice after some reflection.
  • Face up to the hardest thing first. If you don’t, then the hard thing will get even harder. Difficulties grow like weeds.
  • To paint an object is to engage with it sensually, intimately, respectfully, and lovingly. It’s a form of erotic play … almost.
  • Painting marks out a territory that no other medium can inhabit. Therefore discover what it is, and stay there.
  • What are you interested in within the painting? Determine that, and remove the rest.
  • Why should an audience find your work engaging, if you don’t?
  • Three things are necessary: quality, vision, and ambition.
  • Commit yourself to the implications of the work.
  • T: ‘You may like the technique, but does the work require it?’

February 14, 2019

  • You must work as though every day counted, and as though every part of each day counted. Ask yourself: ‘What am I doing now?’ ‘Is it what I ought to be doing, now?’
  • Don’t fritter away your time on small and easily achieved activities that’ll have little consequence for either others or yourself later. Rather, conceive of the large, ambitious, and long-haul projects that’ll push you beyond your limits to new heights.
  • When art is not a struggle, only then do you need to be anxious. Problems are among the necessary ingredients for success.
  • One day you’ll achieve a competent sufficiency (as distinct from a sufficient competency), which will permit you to work without being conscious of either your deficits or the process of learning.
  • T: ‘My hope is that, one day, I may be able to produce something that’s tolerably good.’
  • The painting embodies your fascination; it’s a response to your curiosity.
  • The painting embodies the time that was taken to produce it.
  • You don’t necessarily determine what you wish to paint, and then paint it. Sometimes you paint in order to discover the subject. It’s the same with writing: you have to, first, string words together in order to discover what you’re writing about.
  • The work should demonstrate: efficiency, economy, necessity, and (sometimes) simplicity. But it should never appear easy.

February 21, 2019

  • Determine the problem; define the solution.
  • Authenticity – articulated unobtrusively, unself-regardingly, in silence.
  • Creating visual excitement is easy and, therefore, trivial.
  • To paint an object authentically, it must first pass through you (your eyes, mind, heart, history, and experience).
  • Painting is about a relationship: love and hate, estrangement and reconciliation, commitment and loyalty.
  • T: ‘What does the concept of “finished” mean to you, and in terms of this particular work?’
  • Painting is not only what you do at the end of the brush, but also the pacing, thinking, arranging, conversing, and disrupting that takes place before, during, and after the act. Before all else, painting is an attitude to life.
  • You, rather, than the work, may be the problem.
  • These are the priorities, and in this order: Quality; what’s best for work; and what’s most appropriate for you. In other words, never make your own convenience and comfort a deciding factor in the creative process.

February 28, 2019

  • You must develop the capacity to make a sober estimation of your work: one that acknowledges the virtues and the deficits in a balanced and judicious manner.
  • Avoid being ‘blown around by every wind’ of other people’s opinions about your work. Know your own mind, dig your heels in, and follow your path with a finger in each ear.
  • We fail not for want of talent but of courage, sometimes.
  • Don’t try to do what shouldn’t be done.
  • Why do some tutorials speed-by, while others crawl? I suspect the perception is largely conditioned by the degree of mutual participation between tutor and tutee.
  • Learn to interrogate your work, and to discern a greater significance in what you’ve done.
  • Your problems are bespoke. They are no better or worse than anyone else’s problems. Your problems are known. Other people’s, aren’t. ‘Better the devil … ‘, as they say.

March 5, 2019

  • About, not of.
  • That you do it is significant.
  • That you do it is significant.
  • Working in a sketchbook or drawing book is rather like preparing in a rehearsal room. The canvas or board is, thus, like the stage. And there’re times when we can develop stage fright.
  • Things become as we think they are.

March 7, 2019

  • You’re not a victim of your work. Remain in charge; show it who’s boss.
  • Seek counsel from those whose views you respect. We aren’t always the best judge of our efforts all the time.
  • Today’s three ‘D’s: dedication, decisiveness, and determination.
  • For better or for worse: it’ll not always be like this.
  • There’s more to life than art. (Therefore, keep things in perspective.) And there’s more to life than living for yourself.

March 14, 2019

  • It’s just painting. Just painting. Painting.
  • Sometimes painting feels like you’re walking in shoes that are two sizes too small: awkward and discomforting.
  • It’s the quality of your vision, translation, and execution that makes for the quality of the work. The subject matter has precious little to do with it.
  • It’s only when your exercise faith in the process that progress can be secured.
  • You can change. You can improve. You can succeed. At the heart of that transformation is self discipline.
  • Less is deep.

March 19, 2019

  • Some artworks are like fireworks: their appeal is immediate, superficial, and short-lived. Others are like burning tapers: a slow and persistent yield over a very long time.
  • An idea may be positive in one context and negative in another.
  • Don’t seek to develop a style. Those students that do end up emulating someone else. Seek, rather, authenticity (which isn’t the same as originality) and integrity. ‘Style’ is merely the outward form of the inner quest.
  • Likewise, don’t strive to be influenced. Rather, examine how other artists work – their subject matter, routines, studio practice, preparations, and method. Learn from their example. Emulate their principles rather than its application.
  • Don’t be afraid to ruin an artwork. Out of the ashes the Phoenix rose.
  • Search without knowing. Find without seeking.

March 21, 2019

  • You have to learn to quickly switch from one activity to another with the deftness of a railway signalman changing track.
  • Thinking with the eye. (Meditative perception.)
  • Ideally, the work ought to draw you down a path that you never intended to go, towards a place that you’ve never expected to visit.
  • Only you can generate the sense of imperative.
  • No student has ever failed for want of talent. But some have, for want of application.
  • Just a small gesture, idea, or determination can lever a dramatic effect.

March 28, 2019

  • Two delusionalists don’t make a realist.
  • T: ‘While you are doing something to it [the painting]; it is doing something to you.’ We are changed through the process of making.
  • T: ‘You don’t have to paint within contours; allow the brush to define its own shapes.’
  • That you enjoy one way of working rather than another is not incidental.
  • T: ‘The breakthrough came when you were working your hardest, trying, failing, and persevering. Breakthroughs don’t come any other way; they are the fruit of your labour, and never a freebie’.
  • Don’t add to the recipe once the cake is baked.
  • Push it to breaking point. Push yourself even closer to the edge.

April 4, 2019

  • On the one hand, society makes too little of moral integrity. On the other hand, it comes down like a ton of bricks on those who exhibit a lack of it.
  • Avoid those who would deliberately corrupt your morals and unseat your good intent.
  • What can you do through what you do for the betterment of others?
  • The past is irrevocable. It can be remembered and reinterpreted, but it can’t be revised or revisited.
  • A painting can bear only so much.
  • You don’t need to understand the truth of it … yet.
  • Honour your obligations, loyalties, and debt to others above your own interests, pleasures, and determinations. Better to sacrifice your wellbeing than integrity.
  • A little bit of panic can be productive.
  • Self-denial is one of the greatest hallmarks of discipline and maturity.
  • T: ‘Don’t ask me to choose between options for you. Your choices reflect a great deal about your judgement and discernment. I don’t wish to shortcut this revelation.’

April 8, 2019

  • You can’t, as they say, pour a quart into a pint pot. Therefore, be realistic about how many questions and much content your dissertation can bear.
  • Ensure that what you commit yourself to in the Introduction is fulfilled by the Conclusion.
  • Don’t be content with summarising authors’ work. Inject your own observations and interpretations into the mix.
  • Aim to weave together observation, description, interpretation, substantiation, and application throughout.
  • Read more than enough of authors’ work before you begin to write.

May 2, 2019

  • T: ‘They are many, but one’.
  • T: ‘To add will change, rather than improve, it. STOP!’
  • T: ‘Is it your least favourite work, or the one that you hate most? What are you saying?’
  • Continuity and consistency on the one hand; and variety and breadth on the other. These ideals and intents aren’t contradictory; they can be reconciled in the process of constructing the exhibition.
  • I wish your own ambition for the work could equal mine.
  • The more I do for you the less you can take credit for.
  • At some point, you have to stop listening to others and be governed instead by your own convictions.
  • When you lose your way, return to the intent.
  • T: ‘I’d rather read 3,000 words of intelligence than 6,000 words of nonsense.’
  • If the student fails then, in some measure, so did the tutor.

May 13, 2019

  • S: ‘Less is more, correct?’ T: ‘Less is enough, on this occasion.’
  • S: ‘Do you have any final words of advice?’ T: ‘Be brave!’
  • Give yourself time to consider the order of the hang; don’t be in a rush to get the works up on the wall. You’re encountering a new learning experience. Luxuriate in it.
  • You don’t have to hang everything that you’ve made. Aim for sufficiency and coherence. On a very few occasions, the best thing you’ve ever made may have to be omitted in order to honour those conditions.
  • There’s either right or wrong, or more or less appropriate, or a good or best way to hang work.
  • Exhibiting is a thoroughly analogue experience: you get your hands and face covered in paint spatters, your knees ache from kneeling, your wrists and arms are sore from screwing and hammering, and the blood drips forth when the Stanley knife slips. This is reality.

May 23, 2019

  • Beauty in unexpected places. Places of unexpected beauty.
  • Texture ought properly to be the gradual and natural accretion of layers, and not an exercise in Artexing.
  • T: ‘What has the work made of you?’
  • Some art schools ought to be closed for dereliction of duty.
  • The subject matter you should choose is often either close at hand or within you.
  • T: ‘What do you have to offer to your audience?’
  • S: ‘Art is work, I realised … not fun-time’.
  • Art as the ‘anticipation of a better world’.
  • It’s the artwork that makes us sensitive; it teaches us to see both itself and what we’re making.
  • S: ‘I learned to be brave enough to let the artworks be what they wanted to be’.
  • T: ‘Take a leap of faith and abandon your intent. Instead, respond to what’s taking place before you’.
  • T: ‘What you’ve achieved was very difficult, but you made it look effortless. This is the art of art’.
  • T: ‘Make art for yourself, principally. And if it never draws an audience, then, make it for yourself exclusively. But make it, nevertheless!’.

May 28, 2019

  • T: ‘Learn to enjoy the fruit of your labour, especially if tilling the soil and planting and watering the seed has been irksome.’
  • T: ‘As you change, then, so will your painting. It’ll follow you just as surely as your shadow.’
  • T: ‘Set fire to expectations in order to set yourself on fire.’
  • T: ‘You are, for the first time, seeing the subject through paint.’
  • T: ‘Let your audience do some work, too. It’s not your job to make their life easy’. You’re giving them art, not entertainment.
  • T: ‘Whether the work is figurative or abstract, realist or expressionistic, what matters most is the quality, integrity, and ambition of the execution.’
  • T: ‘The work feels like someone turning a heavy mattress singlehandedly.’
  • T: ‘Why would someone with no interest in the represented subject be drawn to your painting?’
  • Just because an artist sells doesn’t mean that they’re any good. The reverse is also true.

June 6, 2019

  • Make yourself in your own image, as opposed to image that others have, in the past, assigned to you.
  • Never place a cap on what you think you can achieve.
  • Be confident in your ability to learn, overcome periods of unconfidence, face new demands, and acquire additional skills.
  • Modesty at all times. Ambition at all times.
  • Beware of flatterers; they want flattery in return.
  • Don’t equate hard work and determination with achievement.
  • Trust the judgement of those who know what they’re talking about.

June 11, 2019

  • Trust that it’s enough.
  • It’s not what you can’t do but, rather, what you don’t recognise that you can do that’s the cause of your lack of confidence.
  • You become a PhD Fine Art student over time, and not at the beginning of the scheme.
  • Remember, the endeavour is practice-led; therefore, let ideas emerge out of the doing. Don’t overthink to begin. The question you’re searching for will emerge from the doing of.
  • Theory is the interpretative explanation of what takes place within the picture. In this respect, fine art isn’t like science. We begin in darkness and work towards the light, sometimes following no more than a vague intuition.

July 2, 2019

  • Letting go of the fear. Fearing to let go.
  • I prefer to hear from the students a confident assertion regarding their work: ‘This is good!’, rather than a hesitant question: ‘Is this good?’
  • The deadlock of intensity. It occurs when we apply ourselves to a single work, and become overwrought with anxiety because we cannot see clear to resolving it. Therefore, work on several pieces at one time.
  • People will ask for an explanation of the work. They’re hungry for definitive meaning. You fulfil their appetite at your peril.
  • T: ‘You look positively luminous with excitement’.
  • If you give more to your teaching than you receive from it, you’ll starve eventually.
  • The architecture of an exhibition space may impose upon the work resonances that are inappropriate.
  • Feeling finds form, just as form may elicit feeling.

October 1, 2019

  • The works may develop other, parallel, manifestations of the same idea: the work extends rather than mutates.
  • Remember, you aren’t so much representing this world as constructing another based upon it.
  • In the source subject, you recognised a formality or sensibility of seeing. It is this, rather than the source subject, that you should continue to paint.
  • You were attracted to a particular type of formality, because you’d been prepared for it by a lifetime of intelligent observation.
  • Why are the paintings so small? Their size is significant.
  • Small = private and intimate; large = public and performative.
  • When something is broken, it undergoes a change of state; the broken thing may assume qualities and characteristic that weren’t evident when it was whole.
  • It seems to me that that many commencing undergraduate students in UK Higher Education lack two things: resourcefulness and self-reliance. These are intrinsic virtues of character and, as such, can’t be taught.

October 8, 2019

  • It’s useful to let the work lie fallow for a while, in order to recalibrate your sense of vision, intent, and commitment.
  • Each of us must subject ourselves to a discipline, as well as to a set of regulatory principles that’ll help to positively restrict our field of action.
  • T: ‘The paramount need is for you to regain your self-confidence’.
  • There’s progress and there’s evolution: they’re not to be confused.
  • Dissect the whole and analyse the parts.
  • The question underlying your research may announce itself as a feeling long before it speaks its name in words.
  • Fun and fulfilment are not synonymous: the latter is richer, more abiding, and not dependent upon circumstances and feelings.
  • Make self-fulfilment a goal. It’s not everything; but without it, you can achieve nothing of worth.
  • You’ll never learn to swim by standing at the edge of the pool.
  • T: ‘Trust me: within you is a well with water at the bottom. The well is deep and the water, sweet. Your task is to construct a bucket and lower it as far as the rope will allow, presently’.
  • All insecurities are common to students.

October 9, 2019

  • Through making art, you bring into existence that which you dearly wish would exist in the world.
  • Writing about the artwork becomes more and more an imperative the longer the PhD goes on. It helps us to retain a focus, establish direction, and assess the merits and appropriateness of our accomplishments.
  • There’s a particular dispiriting inertia that I associate with moving house. Everything you own is packed away in boxes; the boxes are strewn across the floor and piled high in every room; and you haven’t a clue what’s inside them, or where things are to go.
  • The Introduction is the ground plan of the thesis. Upon it, the walls of themes, methods, and divisions are built.
  • Sometimes you work looks like a rat’s nest of many-coloured wires in a complex electrical junction box. But that doesn’t mean that those wires aren’t each connected to the right terminal.

October 10, 2019

  • Start with history, and work your way forward to the present.
  • Just because you’ve taken a picture doesn’t mean that you can make an image.
  • Paint in order to understand, rather than to illustrate your understanding.
  • ‘Physician, heal thyself!’ Other people’s problems are so much more easily unpacked than my own.
  • Find out how musicians, poets, novelists, filmmakers, and scientists have dealt with your subject matter. Broaden and deepen your knowledge of the its cultural context. Situate your own thinking and enthusiasm, in other words.
  • Go with your instinct; rationale thought alone is insufficient.
  • There are two types of failure: 1. The result of incompetence, ignorance, laziness, or indifference; 2. The result of calculated and intelligent risk taking. Failure of this second order is a necessary requirement of creative learning, development, and success.
  • Don’t prejudge outcomes.
  • Allow the process to inform the subject. They’re in dialogue.

October 17, 2019

  • It’s not my responsibility, as tutor, to encourage the student to love their subject. My assumption is they’ll bring to their studies the requisite passion and commitment.
  • A student’s inertia is often the most dispiriting aspect of a dismal tutorial.
  • Set yourself rules and limits by which to paint.
  • When is a tutorial a complete waste of time for both participants?
  • Don’t confuse inability with disability.
  • T: ‘I want you to cease doing not what’s bad but what’s inappropriate.’
  • The reason for doing something may emerge only in the doing of it.
  • T: ‘Make me some really “rubbish” paintings by this time next week!’
  • It’s easier to move from simplicity to complexity in painting, than vice versa.
  • Don’t get hung-up on success!
  • The painting is not an abrogation but, rather, a redirection of the drawing.

October 24, 2019

  • T: ‘You, not I, are doing the module.’
  • It’s a conversation between the idea and the process of making. Neither has dominance; both must be responsive to the other.
  • T: ‘I can see confidence leaking out of your shoes.’
  • T: ‘There is a whisper in the work that must become a shout.’
  • T: ‘My role is not to solve your problems but, rather, to teach you how to solve your problems.’
  • Painting doesn’t have to be fun, but it does need to be fulfilling.
  • T: ‘Your experience of failure, discouragement, and frustration is felt by many of your peers. Consider it normal, therefore.’
  • T: ‘You can paint whatever you want; indeed, you must do – there’s no option if you’re going to work with integrity and commitment. All that I ask is that whatever you do, you do with all your might and with an eye to quality.’
  • The penny will drop when the penny will drop. Be patient!
  • You must address questions to your work. But remember, the work is not obliged to give you an answer immediately. Be patient!

October 29, 2019

  • Read the book, and let those things therein that are true and relevant find you. In the process of learning, knowledge runs to meet us.
  • Stretch towards your boundaries, and consider what lies beyond the periphery of your practice.
  • You must be able to destroy a picture in order to discover something far better.
  • S: ‘The internet needs a past.’
  • T:’ How does your work reflect the times in which you live, and those times through which you’ve not lived?
  • T: ‘Instruct me how to teach you best.’
  • T: ‘My maternal grandmother made something called ‘chuck-in cake’. Unlike regular cake-making, in which ingredients were added and mixed one-by-one, she would throw-in everything all at once, and then mix. Personally, I couldn’t taste the difference between cakes made using her approach and the ‘proper’ way. Gran’s example liberated me from a slavish and thoughtless commitment to rules, methods, and procedures when it came to creating things.’

October 31, 2019

  • You paint yourself into a problem and out again; that’s how it works.
  • S: ‘I really enjoyed making it!’. T: ‘Irrelevant! What did you achieve?’
  • T: Idea: Ephemeral paintings made from toothpaste and face moisturiser.
  • T: ‘Who shops in Tesco Express at 3.00 am?’ S: ‘Drunken students, mostly.’
  • In the end, it all comes down to identity and motivation. The rest, it seems, arises out of these things.
  • T: ‘Now, you do the talking.’
  • T: ‘How would increasing the scale change the nature of the subject of representation? Don’t overlook the virtues of the small painting .’
  • A photograph is the closest technological equivalent to a memory; and, yet it looks nothing like a memory.
  • Today, we take too many photographs; the sheer availability and ease of production seems somehow to invalidate each one, to some measure.
  • Grind your graphic medium into a powder, and apply it as though it was dry paint.
  • It’s when you cease caring about whether a painting is going to work that the breakthrough often takes place.
  • There comes a point where you must stop listening to the opinions of others and trust your own judgement and integrity. This is the essence of artistic maturity.
  • You need paint only one ‘sentence’ in order to discern the language.
  • This is a time for problem setting, not problem solving.
  • Don’t judge the outcome on the basis of an anticipation. Do it, and then make the call.

November 5, 2019

  • T: ‘If I gave you the answer to the problem, then, I’d rob you of the opportunity to fail and, thereby, learn a far more weighty lesson than success could ever teach you’.
  • Every good work is the seed of a great many more.
  • Learn to let go of your initial intent when the work determines its own.
  • There’s no shame in surrendering when the battle cannot possibly be won.
  • If you aren’t fully convinced of a course of action (particularly one that will demand a great deal of you), then, don’t pursue it.
  • We’re apt to give up hope when the circumstances of our lives seem unlikely to ever change for the better. We’re apt to give up hope when it seems unlikely that we’ll ever change for the better.
  • Formulas can be deadly.
  • Not knowing where you are is a good place to be.
  • If you know where you’re going, it might just be that you’ve been there before.

November 7, 2019

  • T: ‘In what direction is the work moving? Once you’ve discerned the answer, you’ll know with some surety where the work isn’t moving and, therefore, what it’s not about.
  • The trick is to steer clear of your zone of incompetence. Don’t try and major in what you may never be able to do well.
  • Turn a disadvantage into an advantage.
  • If you follow the rules for long enough, they’ll become a part of you.
  • T: ‘Before the invention of photography, how did folk remember the faces of loved ones who’d died? Did they have a capacity to capture and hold the mental image more surely and for longer than we – who rely upon photographs to refresh our recollection – can?’
  • T: ‘This is precision: the colour that you mix is the colour that you want.’

November 13, 2019

  • Don’t do something because either you’d like to or it’s fun; only do it if it’s necessary and appropriate.
  • Deciding the why and the what of your intent will determine the how of its execution.
  • The idea and its execution must operate in reciprocal relation. Both mutate by the action of the one upon the other.
  • T: ‘Are you feeling limited by your specialism? Break free, temporarily.’
  • T: ‘What can a text do that a painting can’t?’
  • Things are coming along in a quiet way.
  • Education is a process of growth and transformation – in oneself and in relation to the subject of study. Sadly, students whose goal is, almost exclusively, the pursuit of high marks may miss this experience entirely.
  • Hard work alone will solve 70% of your academic difficulties.
  • T: ‘Forget that it’s a flower; treat it as form alone – and as though you’d never seen the like of it before.’
  • Translating student parlance, when asked a question to which either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is required, and the response is: ‘I’m not sure, really’ = ‘No’; ‘I dunno’ = ‘No’; ‘Mmmm, maybe = ‘No’; ‘One day, possibly’ = ‘No’; ‘It depends’ = ‘No’; ‘Yes, in a manner of speaking’ = ‘No’.
  • S: ‘Are you sharing these pictures to influence me?’ T: ‘No. To show you what’s possible’.

November 19, 2019

  • Art may not be able to change the world, but it may (in some small way) change the outlook of those who may go on to change the world.
  • Be grateful for what benefits and opportunities to do good each day presents. There’s no guarantee of another. All our plans are provisional.
  • T: ‘Think of drawing as an interrogation towards understanding.’
  • T: ‘Allow the ideas to emerge from the object under scrutiny. Don’t place a straight-jacket on it by imposing preconceptions and limitations.’
  • T: ‘Through drawing we enter into a relationship with an object. It’s an intimacy that we never forget. Thus, if, many years later, I encounter an object I’ve drawn, I still know it in a way that I don’t know those objects that I’ve not drawn.’

November 21, 2019

  • Enjoyment can ease the process of making, but it’s hardly decisive as a criterion of assessment.
  • S: ‘What should I do to get a high grade?’ T: ‘First, forget that you asked that question. I certainly will.’
  • Speak well of people when you can and, preferably, while they’re still alive to hear you.
  • T: ‘Today, I witnessed several students discover something about the nature of art in relation to themselves that they didn’t know last week.’
  • T: ‘Your tap is only dripping. That, at least, suggests that there’s water in the cistern. Therefore, be hopeful.’
  • T: ‘Don’t neglect the inward journey as you move out towards the subject.’

November 28, 2019

  • Things will only begin to happen to you, gratis, after a long period of you making things happen for yourself. Create the opportunities, therefore.
  • T: ‘You’ll become aware that, just as you get to know the landscape, it gets to know you.’
  • T: ‘The painting alludes to something in the landscape that is invisible but which can be, nevertheless, expressed and perceived through the painting. It’s a mystery.’
  • In the age of analogue photography, we preserved the narrative of our lives in albums, which we could ‘read’ like a historical picture book. In time, some of its contents (like us; like our memories) either faded or discoloured. Digital photography is relatively immutable and able to be constantly reconstituted; inhuman in that respect.
  • Art education should encompass art … and everything else. I have found it to be an education in life.
  • Take the painting you most hate, and continue to work with it.
  • There’re very few things that you’ll make which have no redeemable value.
  • T: ‘Don’t paint the subject matter; rather, paint only the phenomenon that inheres the subject matter.’
  • T: ‘Don’t over-rehearse your coming exhibition; hold back something in reserve, lest you peak too soon.’
  • T: ‘Your painted-writing is indecipherable as comprehensible words, but remarkable as a text.’
  • S: ‘I worry about my work becoming permanent.’

December 5, 2019

  • S: ‘I’m not entirely sure’ = ‘I haven’t a clue, actually.’
  • There’s a marked difference between the representation of, on the one hand, melancholy and, on the other hand, sadness.
  • It’s easier to turn chaos towards order than order towards chaos.
  • T: ‘Why?’ It’s a question that you must, at some point, ask about your intent.
  • T: ‘There is bad and good, good and better, better and best.’

January 14, 2020

  • Avoid using raw colour, straight from the tube. Be nuanced, subtle, and true to experience.
  • Colour – felt through memory; remembered through feeling.
  • What is a too-small painting? Think of the possibility of an abstract-miniature. The size of a work has no bearing on its impact.
  • It takes just one painting for you to turn a corner.
  • T: ‘You lack only the capacity for work hard, without which nothing of consequence will proceed’.
  • If you’re finding it too easy … smell a rat.
  • T: ‘Your approach is not rational. By that I mean, not that it’s irrational … but something far worse: it’s arbitrary’.
  • T: ‘You MUST be influenced by the work of other artists. You cannot invent a way of working from scratch’.
  • ‘Tradition will enrich your practice even if, in the end, you choose to work against it’.
  • The best students are those who’re desperately serious about the business of painting.

January 30, 2020

  • If you suspect that you’ll be ten minutes late for a tutorial, then, leave your house ten minutes earlier.
  • Absence makes the heart grow anxious. I can’t abide a quiet studio; I’m comfortable only in the presence of eager workers.
  • T: ‘Catch up! Keep up! Buckle up! Knuckle down!’
  • Don’t wait for the dice to be thrown; move at a pace along the board, square by square, under your own steam.
  • T: ‘The capital of confidence.’
  • High marks are no guarantee that you’ll ever be successful as a professional artist.
  • T: ‘What feedback are you giving yourself?’
  • You don’t need any more information. Rather, you need more application.
  • Energy, commitment, vision, determination, tenacity, perseverance, and enthusiasm contribute far more to success than does natural ability.
  • As a student, I cultivated the attitude: ‘I’m to blame’. Neither my tutors nor my peers nor the resources nor the system of education had ever been the cause of my failure. And, by the same token, none of those things had ever been responsible for my success.

February 6, 2020

  • Look a little to the left and to the right of where you’re heading with the work. There may be opportunities and solutions running in parallel.
  • You have every right to speak. But you must earn the right to be heard.
  • Too much of a good thing can be just as ruinous as very little of a bad thing.
  • As a tutor, if you can’t leave the student inspired, then leave them with something practical to do, and if you can’t manage that, leave them at least thoughtful.
  • You can only know where you’re going when you start out on the journey.
  • T: ‘Be both systematic and intuitive. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive’.
  • View the painting under a variety of lighting conditions. It should retain its overall tonal unity in any environment. (Assuming it has one.)
  • ‘Be not wise in your own conceits.’
  • It’s only when you stop trying to make ‘art’ that the work truly takes off.
  • T: ‘I’m not asking you to make art with a meaning. Rather, I’m asking you to consider its relationship to something outside of itself.’

February 15, 2020

  • Don’t shrink to the size of your subject at university; keep up your hobbies and other interests, if possible.
  • Your experience of art education at university level will be substantially different to that at secondary school, in every dimension.
  • Think deeply, read much, listen to demanding music, visit theatres, see art-house films, attend galleries and museums, exercise, and eat wisely. To be an artist of merit takes more than the acquisition of facility.
  • What do your parents, carers, teachers, or significant other think about your decision to apply to the School? The perspective of those who know you best and love you most is worth considering.
  • Who you are and what you wish to become is as important as what you’ve done and wish to do at this juncture in your development.
  • In order to persuade me of your cause, you must first persuade yourself of it.

February 20, 2020

  • An idea in search of an image; and image in search of an idea.
  • The implication of meaning, but without the interpretation of it.
  • Size and scale are not the issue. Rather, a picture’s strength lies in its intensity.
  • Search for answers in the work of other artists. That’s how the very best artists have, in part, risen to be the very best. You can’t hope to succeed in an art-historical vacuum. The task is too difficult to undertake alone.
  • The more confident you are the more careless you can afford to be when painting.
  • Think of what’s taking place on the canvas are your collaborator.
  • Ensure that the artwork demands as much from you as you do from it.
  • T: ‘It’s your work, not our work. I am a teacher and advisor and not a collaborator.’ The responsibility for every aspect of the artwork’s conception and execution lies, in the end, with you alone.

February 27, 2020

  • If I can be on time for the tutorial, why can’t you?
  • When you don’t know whether an image is fully resolved, leave it for a while and move on. Subsequent works may provide you with an answer.
  • I sometimes prattle-on for up to four minutes about an issue with the student’s work, for them to respond at the end only with ‘Yeah!’ (Sigh!)
  • Define the emotion that you wish to articulate as precisely as you’re able, and then amplify it.
  • As a painter, you should look to sculpture, cinema, photography, and theatre, too, for answers.
  • T: ‘Exercise and don’t eat too many pizzas. A way of life that’s good for the body is good for the mind is good for a sense of well-being is good for the work.’
  • T: ‘Do fewer things better. Over production necessarily impairs quality.’
  • T: ‘In art, the only rules are those that you discover for yourself.

March 5, 2020

  • How many questions do I ask in a day?
  • What does a one-to-one tutorial actually achieve?
  • T: ‘Do you sit down in order to write, or sit down only when you’ve something to write?’
  • Painting as: rapping, DJing, sampling, and mash-up.
  • If you can’t make your paintings passionately, then, make them dutifully.
  • What you start out as, in terms of your career, need to be what you continue to be. You are not fated to continuity.
  • An art historian who has competence in image-making has a significant advantage over one who doesn’t.
  • Persevere, even when your every instinct suggests that you should quit. This is character building.
  • It’s sometimes difficult to appreciate how much educational capital you have in a joint-honours degree. But employers will recognise it.
  • A historical painting may also be considered to be contemporary because you’re looking at it now. Thus, the extant art of the past is always a part of the present.

March 12, 2020

  • If you don’t feel like painting, just turn up at the studio, get into your stall, squeeze out the medium, and apply it to the support. After which, you may feel like painting. And, even if you don’t, you will be painting.
  • S: ‘I know exactly what I’m doing, kind of!’
  • Demand much of yourself, but not more than you can possibly give at this point in your life. Be realistic and charitable.
  • Make less with more. Make more with less.

April 23, 2020

  • S: ‘Large-scale works don’t feel appropriate at the moment’. T: ‘They’re too public and communal. Whereas, this is a time for intimacy and isolation.’
  • S: ‘Sometimes the mundane domesticity of home gets in the way of work.’ T: ‘By some means or other we need to establish a creative bubble within which to work.’
  • (On accepting a picture’s simplicity.) T: ‘Don’t feel as though you have to fill the whole room with furniture.’
  • T: ‘This present crisis prevents us from exhibiting our work. It doesn’t necessarily forestall the opportunity to be taught, learn, develop, improve, and even exceed our expectations.’
  • T: ‘This crisis demands a degree of tenacity and concentration, and a discipline of the mind, heart, and soul, that have never before been brought into play.’

April 29, 2020

  • [On writing the PhD Fine Art thesis]: The hardest part is developing a succinct expression of the objective. The objective is the question that you’ve sought to answer. But, of course, that question may reveal itself only towards the end of the process of study.
  • Start by looking at the artwork, and ask yourself: ‘What have I achieved? What did I do?’ In other words, begin at the conclusion of the process. 
  • Ask yourself what questions would someone coming to your work for the first time pose.
  • The artwork is the answer … but to what question? That’s the crux of the matter. 
  • PhD Fine Art study is reverse-research: in a sense, you know the answer even before you search for the question.
  • You’re missing the obvious. You do so because it’s hard to see the wood for the trees at this point in the research. The obvious is mercurial. But its always about the most human aspect of the artwork: the thing that makes your endeavour art, rather than mere research. We can easily miss it. It’s the curse of PhD-dom, and the hardest part to write about. In fact, it’s better written by someone other than yourself.
  • Let your thoughts be as arrows speeding towards a precise target.
  • Spend your time and energies wisely. They’re not unlimited.

April 30, 2020

  • In times of crisis and anxiety, it’s not only doubly hard but also double necessary to think ahead. We can only experience life moment-by-moment; however, it makes sense to plan for it at least a week in advance.
  • A crisis can either make or break you. While we may not have control of the external circumstances in which we now live, we can try and discipline are minds and emotions by looking as much to the needs of others as to our own.
  • Motivation isn’t a consistent force. It waxes and wanes, particularly when we have to face a future over which there is now a question mark.
  • Having a ‘wobbly’ is no shame. These are exceptional times. But make sure someone knows about it.

May 5, 2020

  • S: ‘I can’t just keep on painting all the time!’ T: ‘True. Even while completion deadlines bear down upon us all, it’s imperative that we each maintain a diet of varied activities across the week’.
  • I miss the smell of white emulsion paint and the thud and rumble of 4 x 8 foot boards being wielded in the studio above my office. That should’ve been a reality at this point in the academic year.
  • These days we are more conscious of being in the midst of death, even as we live. In one sense, that’s no bad thing. Thus has it ever has been.
  • Staff to staff: ‘Home-working is pretty much the norm for academics during vacation periods. So we’ve been prepared for this lockdown, in some sense. Although, there’re moments when the oddity/insanity of the present strikes me forcibly. Things are busy in a bitty way. The personal tutoring of both undergraduates and postgraduates is far more intense, as you’d imagine. I’m warming to online teaching. It has some advantages that I’d seek to maintain when lockdown ends’.
  • I love hearing the sound of children and pets in the backgrounds of video and phone calls to students. So human and heart-warming, real and normal, reassuring and optimistic.
  • T: ‘That’s one of our gifts as artists: imaginative adaptability’.

October 8, 2020

  • T: ‘We can either sit on our hands in despair or make something of this period in world history.’
  • T: ‘My aim today is to narrow the scope of your interests to a singularity and, then, help you move outwards in all directions from that point.’
  • T: ‘What is it to be a young woman living now? And what difference does it make to the work you produce?’
  • Making art is not like mountaineering. The climber may point to a summit and say: ‘That’s where I’m headed’. For the artist, the peaks are covered in cloud and mist for the longest time. We tread, one foot in front of the other, stumbling up the incline without a map, not knowing how far there is to go or whether we’ll make it.

October 15, 2020

  • This module is about practising scales, controlling your hands, and developing an intimate knowledge of the score. It’s not about making images to hang on walls.
  • Reality is merely a point of departure. It’s the translation and transformation of such that should be your chief concern. The painting must be allowed to be its own reality: one that’s based upon, but free from the constraints of, the source. The painting is all, in the end.
  • Rehearse your ‘orchestra’ section by section (strings, brass, percussion, etc.), before bringing them together to play the music, ensemble. In other words, first divide and deal with the demands of the painting (design, composition, conception, drawing, colour, etc.) before executing the finished piece.
  • T: ‘Compromise’ is a word that you and I shall ever again mention in this department for the remainder of your studentship.’
  • T: ‘The Portfolio module is about exploration; the Exhibition module is about implementation. Don’t confuse those intents.
  • T:’ What are you not interested is of signal importance.’

October 21, 2020

  • Make it interesting and exceedingly well. That’s all.
  • Concentrate on understanding the car’s engine first, rather than on the map of the journey ahead.
  • I believe wholeheartedly in the culture of the discipline. You cannot impose the culture and values of one discipline upon another.
  • ‘Video killed the radio star!’ What has digital done to the analogue?
  • Make art like you love life.

October 22, 2020

  • You must let go of the painting in order learn. The process of understanding is more important than the work, at this stage in your development
  • Is it what you wanted or what you got? Don’t compromise on your intent, unless the intent proved to be array.
  • Be more interested in the act than in the subject of the painting.
  • What aspects of the painting could you live with out? Decide, and then remove them.
  • Start painting fast, as though you were running for a train. Progressively, sweep-by-sweep, slow down the process until you achieve full control over its execution.
  • First, divide the problem into manageable parts. Then examine each of those parts in turn.
  • At times we don’t comprehend a solution because we haven’t paid sufficient attention to the work of those artists who’ve already found it.
  • Influence isn’t an option; it’s a condition for creativity.

October 29, 2020

  • Painting is often a triangulated relationship between the painter, the medium, and the subject. All three must be considered together at all times.
  • Paint towards the subject matter rather than from it.
  • But above all, aim for integrity.
  • The intrinsic interest of the subject matter is insufficient to carry the painting.
  • Your own wisdom — derived from an experience with painting overtime — is often the final arbiter in disputes with your peers about value, purpose, meaning, and quality of your work.
  • Prioritise your own convictions.
  • Painting is a profoundly intellectual activity. You should be mentally engaged with the work from the moment you apply the gesso to the substrate.
  • Find concepts and ideas through the process of painting.
  • Take time to reflect upon your own work, as though it were made by someone else.
  • Discreetness is a painterly value.
  • It’s possible to do very little with many colours and a great deal with a few.
  • We’re not yet aiming at a succession of successes. That’s an ambition for the Exhibition module.
  • Choose the narrow path that deepens as you journey on.
  • It takes many years before students rid themselves of the A-level Art mentality.
  • Push the artwork to breaking-point.

November 5, 2020

  • T: ‘But what have you learned from doing it?’
  • When I’m tired, I say ‘kind of’, ‘sort of’, and ‘you know’, far too often for comfort.
  • T: ‘How does the work work?’
  • T: ‘Think subtly’.
  • T: ‘Talk to me!’
  • T: ‘The only knowing is doing’.
  • T: ‘Think of a better word than ‘nice’.

November 12, 2020

  • The proof of the pudding is in the painting.
  • You’ll lose the ‘muse’ on occasion.
  • Without a clear sense of intention, your decisions are arbitrary.
  • T: ‘Walk. Don’t run!’ Move from the beginning to the end of a project in phased steps. Break down the problem into manageable parts and, thereafter, put them together to form the finished work.’
  • T: ‘Come in! Sit down, please. Stop. Rest. Engage the moment … only now shall we proceed. ‘
  • Absenteeism makes the heart grow weary.
  • The best students bring out the best in the teacher.
  • If you try to attempt everything you’ll end up doing nothing.
  • The conclusion of the Portfolio module ought to represent a signpost in the direction of the Exhibition module.

November 26, 2020

  • What do you believe about the nature of reality when you paint?
  • Many things are possible. But there’re only a few things that are necessary.
  • Avoid working within a closed-loop between you and the painting alone. Read around your subject, consider the broader implications of work, and enter into a discussion about it with both your peers and works by established artists.
  • If you lean upon the intrinsic interest of the subject matter for your painting’s integrity, then the game is lost.
  • There’s a time for receiving advice from your peers, and a time to be deaf to it.
  • There’ll be times of cautious and tentative progress and times for bold and reckless abandon.
  • T: ‘Are you saying that you can’t do it because you don’t have the skill, or because you have the skill but not the motivation?’
  • T: ‘From now on, play to your strengths and run from your limitations.’
  • T: ‘Look at photographs of “haunted” rooms. The images show no one, but imply their presence by their absence.’
  • T: ‘Making a good painting on a budget canvas is rather like serving a gourmet meal on a paper plate.’

December 3, 2020

  • The more you’re interested in the work of other artists, the richer your own will become.
  • T: ‘You’re treading too tentatively on the pond’s thin ice. Run across its surface, believing that the ice will support you.’
  • T: ‘What’s wrong with small?’ What’s wrong is not either the size or the scale of an object, but the inappropriateness of such to the artwork’s subject matter and intent.
  • T: ‘As you begin to contemplate your final exhibition, you must learn to push harder and deeper within a narrower frame of reference.’
  • T: ‘The problem is not the work (which is exemplary); rather, it’s you (who cannot yet see that it’s exemplary).’
  • T: Is the work that you’re showing me part of your history or your future?’
  • If I ask a question to which the answer is ‘I don’t know’, then, make it your business to find out by the next tutorial. I ask, because I need to know. How much more should you, therefore.

December 8, 2020

  • A marker of maturity: the ability to destroy a sub-standard piece of work dispassionately.
  • S: ‘Just work hard! The quality of the art will come as a result.’ T: ‘Correct’.
  • T: ‘There’s a period in artistic development where you learn to control the work (by the acquisition of knowledge, technique, method, craft, and so forth). Later, you must learn to let the work to take control of you.’
  • T: ‘You’re behoven only to the impulse within the artwork itself, and not to anyone else’s agenda and expectations.’
  • T: ‘What you’re doing, and what you’re thinking about, now may not be the same thing. Our thoughts are often well in advance of our present actions.’
  • A marker of maturity: the willingness and confidence to take a break from working (however pressing the deadline).
  • T: ‘What about the picture interests you most? Could you paint that, and only that, in the future?’

December 10, 2020

  • S: ‘I’ve learned to question myself far more, and with far more detachment and confidence too. I’m also putting far more time and effort into each work I produce.’
  • T: ‘The work will mature only after you do. Who you are and what you do are joined at the hip.’
  • Influence is essential. It makes up for what is missing in your work: stylistic traits, ways of working, and ideas. Gradually, as you fill those gaps with your own identity and operations, those influences will fall away.
  • T: ‘Don’t compare your work with that of an established artist. Ask yourself, rather, “What was the quality and consistency of their work when they were concluding their BA studies.” Compare like with like, in other words.’
  • T: ‘At this stage in your development, discovery is more important than productivity.’
  • T: ‘Complementary and contradictory aren’t synonymous concepts.’
  • If you don’t do the ground work, then, you won’t reap the harvest.
  • A marker of maturity: the ability to, independently, discern the wheat from the chaff in one’s own work.
  • There’s such a things as a limited proportionality within a work. Like a limited palette — which is made up of a few ‘parent’ colours that form the basis of many ‘offspring’ colours — a limited proportionality imposes upon the painting a restricted range of heights, widths, depths, and angular dynamics, from which all its other dimensional permutations are derived.

January 14, 2021

  • This student paints as though it matters to them!
  • There is still a league to journey in terms of developing control of your medium, exploring supports and scale, and rarefying the palette.
  • Look to contemporary artists who’re dealing with the same theme. The example of past artists can take you only so far.
  • Each student needs to get better and better within a narrower and narrower field of action.
  • The paintings proceed with a clear sense of purposefulness. Moreover, you are capable of making astute judgements about their virtues and deficits.
  • Remember, from now on its less about exploration and more about resolution and greater ambition.
  • I was impressed by the seriousness and conscientiousness that you brought to your studies in this module.
  • They key thing, now, is to keep to this path, and look neither left nor right.
  • You’ve used the module in an ideal manner – pushing the boundaries of your competence, setting-up and testing experimental parameters, and exploring what was, for you, unchartered territory.

January 28, 2021

  • We miss visiting galleries, and realise — more than ever — just how important seeing art in the flesh is to our perception and development.
  • Our own artworks may yet be a mystery to us. We cannot know fully why we do what we do. Art is a self-revelation.
  • Having heard the whisper of your painterly ‘voice’, don’t presume that you’ll always be able to perceive it. Our attainments are by nature transient.
  • Pace is crucial. You can’t sprint your way to the finishing post of a marathon.
  • Don’t try to be influenced. Influence settles upon you, like the rain. You just need to place yourself under the clouds without an umbrella.
  • T: ‘What I suggest will only be the solution if you first acknowledge the problem.’
  • T: ‘Whatever you choose to do has to be doable within the strictures of the current situation and your wellbeing’.
  • T: ‘It’s not about painting what you’d like but, rather, what the picture requires’.

February 4, 2021

  • T: ‘You need now in coming to the exhibition work to exercise a severe editorialism. It is not enough that a painting is ‘good’. It needs to excel. Exhibit only the best.
  • T: ‘You may not be your best counsellor, and sometimes we’re so immersed in our work that we cannot make secure judgements. So seek the advice of those who know you and whose work you respect.
  • T: ‘Be generous towards your work.’ Don’t condemn its weaknesses too soon; encourage the paintings towards betterment. Be generous to yourself too.’
  • Paint what needs to be in the work not what’s there in reality, necessarily.
  • T: ‘You’re an artist who’s still growing. Therefore, expect the paintings in the series you’re producing to evolve. What you should be looking for is consistency of quality, rather more than uniformity of type, method, and style.’
  • T: ‘Learn the value of one minute.’

February 18, 2021

  • T: ‘Sometimes you persuade yourself that if things are either going wrong with a painting, or the painting isn’t come easily, or you’re floundering, then there must be something amiss. Rather, you should regard this experience as one of the necessary and normative conditions for making art. If you enjoy a period in your work when things go swimmingly, and a painting falls in place effortlessly, then that experience, and not the above, is the anomaly — a welcome gift and compensation for all those times when you strove hard, desperately, and fruitlessly.’
  • T: ‘How we’re feeling, emotionally and psychologically, necessarily has an impact on our capacity to work. Of late, I’ve been impressed by my students’ tenacity to fight-on in the face of discouragement. They’ve refused to relent, and persisted against the odds. More positively, working at home and in isolation has instilled in them disciplines — in terms of time management, working intensity, and working intelligence — that they may not have acquired in the School’s studios (under normal circumstances). These difficult days will pay dividends if they become professional artists, later on.’
  • Tiredness and jadedness can have a detrimental impact upon our perception of the work. What once we embraced with enthusiasm and pride, when our spirits were on an even-keel, may seem lifeless, dull, and lacking in any virtue, when viewed through the dark and clouded glass of a downcast state of mind.
  • On distinguishing primary and secondary/subject and context distinctions in a painting: ‘Think of a ring. What is the gemstone and what is the gold band that supports it?’
  • T: ‘The process is only as complicated as it needs to be.’
  • T: ‘Your exhibition should not be a demonstration of all the things that you can do. Rather, it should show clearly and persuasively your capacity to do one or two things exceedingly well.
  • T: ‘You can’t determine the direction of your work in advance of making it. The painting is the map, compass, journey, and destination.’
  • T: ‘Some problems are for now, and not forever.’
  • T: ‘The first version of the painting was like poetry, the last, like prose.’
  • T: ‘If you try to please everyone, inevitably you’ll end up not pleasing yourself.’

February 25, 2021

  • T: ‘Feeling and thinking ought to go hand-in-hand as you proceed with the painting’.
  • T: ‘The more literal your rendering, the more inclined towards illustration the work will become’.
  • T: ‘There are, as it were, too many pieces of furniture in the room. Begin by removing a few chairs’.
  • T: ‘Why do you need to invest any more time in the work?’ Overworking is as culpable a practice as underworking an image’.
  • T: ‘There’s no shame in putting down your brush for a week if that gives you time to reflect upon your work, and prevents you from ruining it’.
  • I wish I’d a tablet to prescribe for students in order to rid them of that crippling determination to please anyone other than themselves in making art.
  • T: Don’t make pictures for the exhibition wall; that’s too intimidating an expectation. Rather, aim to make the best painting you’re capable of, every time.
  • T: Sometimes, you can polish and polish the picture, but it simply won’t shine. Radical action is required, instead’.
  • S: ‘What’s Letratone?’
  • S: ‘Dunno’ … ‘Not really’ … ‘Maybe’ … ‘Can’t tell’ … ‘You think?’ … ‘Guess so’ … ‘What do you think?’ … ‘Could, I suppose’ … ‘Can’t decide’ … ‘Tell me’.

March 4, 2021

  • T: ‘It’s not a question of whether its a good or bad idea but, rather, whether its a doable or impractical idea’.
  • T: ‘The acquisition of learning and knowledge — not exhibitions, or grades, or any other measure of approval — should be your greatest ambition’.
  • T: ‘Don’t push the work too hard too soon. Some works require a slow gestation in order to mature; they must be teased into being. Others fall into place quickly and almost effortlessly — like a magic jigsaw puzzle’.
  • Y: ‘It takes courage to deliberately ruin an artwork by the radical undoing of all that you’ve done to it, to date. Remember, all artworks are, to a large extent, an outcome of the sum of myriad sequential destructions’. That’s how creativity operates.
  • If you can’t discover the combination to the safe, then, ‘blow the bloody doors off’, as Charlie Croker in the Italian Job would say.
  • T: ‘You have to work harder and harder to get better and better. Take that as normative experience and expectation’.
  • T: ‘You must learn as much from how others have represented your subject matter as from your own direct observation of it’.
  • You can inculcate a sense of imperative in the student.
  • Consistency, coherence, ambition, and rigour. These are what are required if you hope to achieve significance. They are, in the first instance, attitudes that can be acquired, rather than innate talents.

March 11, 2021

  • T: ‘If you construct an enigma around the subject of the work, then don’t seek to explain it to your audience. Unsolved mysteries have an abiding power’.
  • T: ‘Dali painted a dream world; Magritte painted the waking world, as though it was a dream’.
  • T: ‘Each painting you make will present one or more new challenges that, in turn, will require you to adjust your modus operandi. Old solutions simply won’t do. Painting is progressive’.
  • T: ‘The paintings are really taking-off, because you’re now doing far more with far less, leaving behind the source subject matter, and discovering the logic, language, and independency of the means of representation’.
  • T: ‘The pandemic and lockdown can be a significant cause of demotivation, for some. At least, in our field, we’ve something to commit ourselves to — to believe in, and keep us busy, focussed, and outward-looking’.
  • T: ‘In matters of size and scale one must proceed empirically. Conjecture can get you only so far; test your hypothesis in practice. Is the scale appropriate for the subject matter, mode of presentation, and the technicalities of how you paint?’
  • T: ‘Complexity in a work doesn’t have to be either overbearing or distracting. But it does need to be justified’.
  • T: ‘Don’t judge one type of work by the standards of another’.

April 15, 2021

  • T: ‘You’re not so much bored by lockdown as jaded by the limitations imposed on you by these present circumstances’.
  • T: ‘You need to be as attuned to the blank space around the object as to the object itself, in both the perception and the painting of such’.
  • T: Sometimes, it’s necessary to, first, include too much in the work in order to appreciate what’s just enough’.
  • T: ‘There’s a danger that the work’s title will straightjacket its significance for the audience. The most appropriate title ought to be to the work as a key to a lock — it should turn effortlessly and open possibilities.’
  • T: ‘You’re sailing on a canal barge in England … NOW?! HOW??!!’
  • T: ‘A productive working regime is predicated upon pace’.
  • T: ‘Rest is a necessary component of work, because periods of cessation actively improve our capacity to work intensively. Therefore, timetable rest as you would, work.’
  • T: ‘We’ve learned to accept the absence of colour in black and white photography in a way that we’ve never adapted to the absence of sound in silent film’.
  • T: ‘From henceforth, every hour of every day of every week counts thrice more than it did at the close of Semester 1’.

April 20, 2021

  • If we wish to change our circumstances for the better, then, we must continue to work hard and apply ourselves to change. This is both the least and the most that we can do.
  • It’s important to be thoroughly realistic about what we can reasonably achieve by a given deadline, without sacrificing quality and sanity.
  • T: ‘Alas, the public aren’t content for abstract art to simply be; they want it to represent something too — to provide an insight into the heart and soul of the artist, usually’.
  • T: ‘Above all, aim to honour the truth of your experience in relation to the subject. Art is not a site for an emotional discharge’.
  • T: ‘Abandon the notion of “landscape”, as such. Instead, consider the environment as the context of your lived experience’.

April 22, 2021

  • T: ‘We each have our bug to bear’.
  • T: ‘Aim for quality, consistency, coherence, and continuity as you develop a criteria by which to discern your “best work”‘.
  • T: ‘The most ordinary objects can be invested with an incomparable significance by association with events, people, moments that have meant a great deal to you in the past’. But significance can also be imparted to objects by the very act of seeing and representing them’.
  • A melancholy that’s between joy and sadness, sweetness and bitterness.
  • T: ‘So often we understand what we’ve done only after we’ve done it’.
  • I wondered what type of work the students would be making now had the pandemic not occurred. In other words, how has this period imprinted itself upon their psyches and, thus, their creative imagination and motivations?
  • T: ‘What do you want to do after your degree?’ S: ‘Make stuff and sell it!’
  • There was a moment of realisation (the sound of the penny’s drop), when the student’s interests across their joint-honours subjects, and between the modules they were presently studying, along with aspects of their home-life, coalesced in a remarkable way.
  • T: ‘You need produce only as many works as are required to persuasively prosecute the case that you’re making through those works’.
  • T: ‘You don’t have to give the works titles, but you do have to justify not titling them’.

April 29, 2021

  • T: ‘In objectifying our thoughts in writing we clarify them in our minds, to ourselves’.
  • There must be a better word than ‘inspiration’; one that rids the concept of its association with the divine afflatus.
  • T: ‘During the first lockdown, my daily outdoor exercise would often take-in Plascrug Avenue. Prior to the pandemic, I’d merely walk through the avenue. I’m aware that, now, I walk in it, and attend to it. My perceptual and cognitive focus has changed radically.
  • T: ‘Destress the situation: break-up the problem into a number of more manageable parts, and deal with them one at a time, pausing for a break between each. Serial challenges are more readily dispatched than parallel ones’.
  • T: ‘An artist’s lack of confidence doesn’t mean that their work is unworthy. Likewise, an abundance of confidence does not by itself guarantee that their work has any worth’.

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