October 22, 2020

7.15 am:

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Onto the streets, moving towards the School of Art to begin a day of third-year painting tutorials. The semester is flying by when looked at from one perspective but proceeding ponderously slow, when seen from another. Every day throws up challenges that neither staff nor students have encountered before. We’re inventing on the trot. The strangeness of our predicament never goes away. Every tutorial or seminar held seems like a heroic gesture against the odds.

The students are making steady progress. They’ve not been brow-beaten by that inevitable sense of isolation and detachment which the current conditions engender. Their work has, in a way, become a place of refuge. Art as a way of life. The heavenly fire fell several times this morning. Sometimes you teach as though there’s no tomorrow. After every tutorial:

2.00 pm: The afternoon shift. The students’ sense of wellbeing (and I’m sure that of staff too) varies from week to week. There’re moments when the magnitude of the present crisis (and its future fallout) comes into sharp focus. Loneliness and isolation can creep up on us by stealth. Friendships and family, either in situ or on screen, are the best medicine. Woe betide us when social isolation is any more than a two-metre rule. Absenteeism concerns me far more than it had done in the ‘old days’. I’ve heard laughter in the building today.

‘Look!’ Dr Heuser’s visual aid:

Some observations and principles derived from today’s engagements:

  • 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.

7.30 pm: The Thursday evening tidy-up.

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