Formative feedback

November 5th, 2020. It isn’t ideal to be doing the ground work post hoc for the practical work it’s likely to inform but, due to ongoing actual ground work, that has been the way it has had to be.

This was my conservatory/studio and it will be again but for now the contents are in two tents in the garden or stuffed into corners of various rooms and have been since October 15th.

This has made painting almost impossible and so I took the decision to get on with that while I could and focus on paperwork when I could do nothing else. I’ve taken photos though, and videos, and I’ve been finding my way around Filmora Pro so expect a ‘constructive’ background to my Assessment video!

One of the areas I was unable to address was formative feedback following tutorials. I missed the first because I had finished Part 2 before feedback from Part 1, and I have completed Part 3 at the point of processing Part 2 feedback. This has been due to the speed at which I have had to work with the deadline for demolition looming, and my tutor has been more than accommodating.

I clearly can’t apply any feedback learning retrospectively and so I will post this as both a post-script to Parts 1, 2, and 3 a framework for Part 4 which I should be able to start in another 3-4 weeks. My aim is to submit to the March Assessment cycle but, once completed for the submission time frame, there is nothing to prevent me revisiting some areas prior to the last date for uploading links and images.

November 8th. Looking through the reports for Parts 1&2 I see at least one recommendation that is repeated, and that is how my choice of ground – the preparation of the support – works for or against me in whatever I’m trying to paint on it. This is a very valid point and comes from my habit of applying primer (acrylic gesso) both to bolster the substance of the support and to generate some underlying texture. Quite often I have done this with no inclination of what will be painted on top of it and so consideration of how the underlying textures I’ve made might help or hinder that. In my defence, I have made very deliberate textures sometimes but more often my enthusiasm for slapping medium onto the empty canvas or cartridge has taken precedence and now I need to be more thoughtful about it. I think this is possible; my understanding of what media do what job is at the kindling stage – small sparks of appreciation for the different talents of each – and so discernment is becoming more possible. I have been painting on tracing paper, for instance, for a personal project and while I’m not yet sure how to proceed from the point I’ve reached, I like how it has turned out so far.

A second point, which has arisen more from discussion and my own recent observations than an explicit feedback point, is to stop earlier than I do; to avoid fussing and over-working things and to find the image in simplicity. My personal project is very much about that because, following the monoprint exercises in this current part of the module, I used photographs and made simple painted images on the tracing paper from those. Now more painting than tracing, they can stand alone on a white (for now) background while I decide what to do next. A book I just finished made the point that, “creativity isn’t just the things we choose to put in, it’s the things we choose to leave out.” (Kleon, 2012). To some extent this may speak to another point about abstraction and what I might personally lose by rejecting it as a way of working. It’s fair to say that I am not keen, I need some sort of relatable content, and at this point it really isn’t clear how far that is due to ignorance or to some intuitive recognition of my own, as yet, unarticulated preferences. I don’t know; or at least I don’t know how to argue my gut feeling, and maybe that will come as I progress. I have a sense though, that it is somewhat related to the next discussion about communication.

Further points, from Part 2 feedback, are rather more conceptual I think, and my tutor and I talked around these quite a lot at our last video session. I found her remarks to be perceptive, expansive, and initiating of further curiosities. For instance, communication has been an absolute core function of most of my working life whether through formal papers or report, teaching and training at different levels, or face to face with someone for whom I need to establish a shared understanding of what’s going wrong for them. This is behind my drive to make work that is an exchange – and which was illustrated by an experience early in the first national lockdown when a woman told me, from a safe distance, how her little girl had begun painting pebbles because she had seen the ones I’d been putting out for people to take. This was effortlessly transactional, an act of mine that, without intent, led to another person, a child, beginning a painting hobby. I think for me I will always need to make work that communicates, and to help people towards understanding what that communication might be about. Appreciators of art may need no prompts or cues to find interest, but what about all those people alienated by art that mystifies them and makes them feel stupid for not understanding it? What about the people with limited cognitive abilities, either from birth or as an acquired disability? How reasonable is it to make art inaccessible to such people by not giving them some purchase on it, some grit on the road to understanding that stops them slipping away forever? My personal view is that it isn’t reasonable, and that comes from working for so long with thoughtful compassionate people whose intellectual functioning excludes them from so much the rest of us take for granted. I want to help those people to enjoy art too.

Finally, edges. Liminalities, as it were. In this instance the fact that I find rawness at the margins of paintings more attractive than smooth clean edges. I like to see brush marks frilling out of the painting like the woof or weft of a blanket; and I like the sense of honesty that creates – it’s a painting not a photograph, it has a life on this paper or canvas and it escapes from the formal constraints of frames. I’m not sure I’ve thought much more about it than that but it was an interesting discussion to have and it’s left its mark.

Finally, finally I have to address the research elements again because it’s clear that they are meant to inform the practice and not to come in as an afterthought. Some of the work I’ve seen in this way certainly would have informed what I did so that’s a loss, but it’s temporary because it can inform the next sections. Hopefully too, I can get some of the Part 4 and 5 research under my belt while my studio remains out there in the tents with the curious foxes.

I couldn’t be more grateful to my tutor who has had to turn around these sections at much greater speed than might be expected, to accommodate my emerging gripes about how art works and who the winners are, and to support me through the more challenging aspects of this module relating to scale – and yes, I agree, large scale does suit me better and using my fingers to make the marks gives me a sense of moulding the shapes into place even thought they’re two dimensional. I am comfortable at A1 in a way A6, valuable as some of those small pieces have been, really cannot replicate.

Kleon, Austin. 2012. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative (p. 140). Workman Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.

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