October 29, 2020

8.20 pm: Into the heavy rain towards a food outlet that I’d not visited since March. It was good to be back. The front door of the School recognised my pass card but wouldn’t open. Then, I thought I’d left my key wallet at home (but was alerted to the fact that it was hanging from the lock of the seminar room that I was occupying today). Then, the WIFI in the room weakened, failed, and finally found its feet. Then, things got better. In the background, issues about accommodation ground on.

9.00 am: This was, again, my day for third-year painting tutorials. It’s always a long haul — like climbing to the top of Cader Idris. However, I had energy and the students brought due seriousness with them into the room. Together, we’d get to the top.

2.00 am: I slipped into the double gallery to test a powered microphone on the audiovisual equipment. No success. However, I did activate the so-called ‘Magic Microphone’ (that didn’t live up to its title), which ought to catch more of my wandering voice and contributions from the floor at Tuesday’s class. If the equipment was mine, I’d install analogue/digital interface software and be done with the internal audio system.

I do miss being on the studio floor. My establishing tradition is to visit it each Thursday when Dr Forster is safely positioned in another room. It helps to get an idea of what those in the cohort of third-year painters, who I don’t teach, are doing:

3.00 pm: A student and I compared a figure in an interior by Vilhelm Hammershøi and one of the same by William Holman Hunt. ‘It’s the difference between the poetic and the prosaic’, the student responded. Spot on!

5.15 pm: ‘Homeward bound!’

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • 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 your journey on.
  • It takes many years before students rid themselves of the A-level Art mentality.
  • Push the artwork to breaking-point.

7.30 pm: The Thursday evening round-up: register updates, arrangements to next week’s teaching, and postgraduate teaching prep and admin. The list was endless.

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