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Context

I started this semester with a clear view of how i was going to approach the development of my practice. I didn’t however,  have a plan as to what i was going to work on. In short, my plan was to try to analyze my archival approach using a bespoke taxonomy. My goal was to extract the ‘value’ or the essence of my ideas and communicate them more clearly and strongly as a result.

I had concluded that this would provide the right level of discipline to my hitherto intuitive approach. In the 9 months since I took this path I have kept the concept of applying rigour to my creativity. The diagram below summarises how my practice has moved on.

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Review of practice development

The main benefit from consciously reviewing my practice has been the recognition that, while I tend to work intuitively, with an eclectic mix of techniques, influences and materials, there is a thread running through my work that connects it. It is not a ‘hit or miss’ approach after all.

My work reflects what has gone before even when I am not conscious of it. By this I mean a piece of work will, within its many layers, carry the traces of previous pieces. I may use ink as the main component in one picture and then carry it forward to be a foundation layer in the next work, for example.  I often transpose images across media and repeat them in later pieces as references to earlier work. All of this acts as an archive, carried within my artwork. Each layer documents a stage in development. Together they make the picture.

I started off this Semester wanting to distil and analyse. I find I have done that but not by stripping away information or layers. Rather I have started to understand my process by considering each layer separately and then in relation to its brethren – following the trail of influences I am pulling from.

Overview of activities

I am fairly prolific. Rather than go into minute detail I have put together a video of my key thoughts and images. I also edited a soundtrack based on recordings made in Italy and Japan over the review period. Audio work is a new area for me so I know I have a long way to go before I produce a professional standard piece of work but I would like to explore this medium further.

Moving image analysis here

Inspirations

I have always been clear on the importance of having a fully stocked skills ‘toolbox’.  I like trying materials, adapting approaches, learning skills and processes. I like to create pieces and then reinterpret them using a mix of media. In 2016 I also took a lot of inspiration from travel. In particular I went to Rome to see the Triumphs and Laments installation by William Kentridge on the banks of the Tiber and to Japan. I  documented each trip using a mixture of social media, artwork and creative writing.

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My entire Japanese trip was documented real time via a FaceBook page

The ideas that came out of these experiences have informed the pieces I am now working on as follows:

Conceptual research

Beyond general, often random inspiration, there is the more directed activity of researching an idea or concept. I am currently looking at the concept of failure, both objective and subjective. Something we try to avoid but inherently cannot.  Something we often say we embrace but really shy away from.

I started with defining what I want to explore going forward. In order to impose some kind of framework, however arbitrary, to these musings I developed a plan of action in response to an (unsuccessful) application for funding and another (unsuccessful) curation application.


an unsuccessful application
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burnt sugar, a failure but beautiful

I am still determining where this work will take me. In the short term I  plan to update my CV to include my failures and see if I could curate a show (probably online) on this theme.

The importance of rigour

As a counterpoint to my intuitive approach, over the year I have employed calls for submission, competition, curation and exhibition from a wide variety of sources as hard constraints for my practice. By working to deadlines and specifications set by others I have had to reexamine my processes, try new things and produce tangible results. This has proved very productive and is an approach I intend to continue with. My activities, successful or otherwise, are documented mainly on my website and on Instagram. I have been published four times in Average Art magazine and periodically I also print off my records in book form.

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responding to calls for submission has proved successful this year
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documentation makes tracking influences easier

Specifics

Working to instructions

One form of constraint I have employed is to work to a set of instructions or brief with a practical, commercial focus.

I have started two specific projects. The first is a graphic design internship with a local business. This is in its early days.

The second is a prototype ‘bullet journal’ planner for People with Parkinsons (PWP) to allow them to monitor symptoms, behaviour and link the two. I am involved with the Early Onset Parkinsons Community in designing the planner and hope to work with Parkinsons UK in developing it further. I have just completed a small survey which will inform this.

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an example survey question used to develop the P Planner – work in progress

This has personal resonance for me as I was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinsons in 2008 at the age of 38. With 2 small boys, a degree course, a cat and a house to run I need all the organization I can get but I have to address my PD needs too.


I want the planner to let PWP take a more active positive role in managing their health by

  • Easily recording  mood and/or physical symptoms
  • Identifying a support network
  • Monitoring meds intake
  • Tracking exercise and other healthy habits
  • Linking all this information to give a holistic analysis of how behaviour affects wellbeing
  • Understand which activities have the most positive effect on well being

This can be shared with support networks to make it easier for them to understand how to help most effectively.

The information will be easy to record, review and learn from. The planner will be accessible because it will be  low tech, analogue and cheap to produce.

By keeping it simple it will be easy to use and easy to share.

Working to commission

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Analysing the influences that led to the final commission piece allowed me to track my practice development

Commission work has proved to be a great example of how external constraints have pushed my practice.

I produce portraits (of houses and animals mainly) to commission. The pieces I have produced this Semester have reflected not only my clients’ wishes but also wider influences such as my recent trip to Japan and the use of new materials such as water soluble spray paints and ink.

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Japanese ink drawings influenced this pet portrait
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Stowe – detail from landscape – produced using acrylic inks and spray paints

I  recently completed a commission (‘Back from the Edge’) which needed me to draw upon a wide variety of techniques, tools and inspirations. As a reflective exercise I have analysed this piece, unpicking the creative process, to allow me to understand my practice better. I have found this to be valuable. The actual creation of the piece felt very intuitive at the time and that is a big part of how I work. But on later review, my seemingly unconscious creative decisions can be traced back to earlier work, test pieces, experiences and ideas. To be able to track my decisions back is incredibly helpful as i decide what direction to go in next.

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The different stages of ‘Back from the Edge’

Looking ahead

Having identified that there is this common thread running through my work I want to  follow  it to see where it takes me. Specific stopping points along the way will include completing the planner, further research on the Failure project and organising my first solo show in November 2017. I see the latter as a massive opportunity to really push myself. Continuing with my ‘analytically intuitive’ approach to making will be the key to making the most of this.