Art Schooled: Revelations and Resolutions
I’ve only been back at art school for a week and already my new term has featured personal revelations and important resolutions.
As you would imagine, my new semester started with a new briefing. Personally, I look forward to the day a new project brief is handed out. I’m always curious to find out what the next challenge will be and get the ideas bouncing around. Others simply see this days as kicking off the countdown to yet another deadline and feel the pressure beginning to mount from the moment the piece of paper lands in their hands.
Over the Christmas break, the rumour mill had been going into overdrive with what the new project would be. The most popular theory was that we would be working on a set design project in groups. This wasn’t far from the truth – our new brief is set design based – but the groups part was simply a piece of gossip we will never know the origins of.
We were each individually given one of five of Shakespeare’s most famous plays and asked to design a theatre set for it. I have to admit, from the off, I wasn’t all that comfortable with this brief. I barely read books, let alone plays, let alone Shakespeare! However, this part I was fairly confident I could get to grips with. It was the 3D aspect I found much more daunting.
Somewhere along the line of my creative life, I had branded myself a “2D person”. Not in a Flat Stanley sense (does anyone get that reference?) but in the way of not having a mind for 3D construction. This theory had actually been reinforced by one of my tutors when I was studying Portfolio Preparation years ago at college. “You’re a very flat person, aren’t you?” aren’t the most encouraging words I have ever heard from a tutor, by some way. I can’t – or at least shouldn’t – blame her personally for my negative outlook on my 3D abilities. However, this example definitely falls in the category of bad tutoring in my book.
We were sent out the brief a week before our official briefing. This gave the class plenty time to read their designated plays, and me plenty of time to stew in my lack of 3D talent.
By the end of the hour-long briefing however, I felt far more at ease with the task at hand. It was a few simple words from my current tutor which flipped my mindset. When discussing how to approach the brief he advised us to simply see it as “3D drawing”. In other words, there was no actual need to be able to dream up complex 3D models straight out of your mind. You could simply translate your way of 2D drawing into 3D forms. As I was comfortable with 3D creation, I could start there and simply translate it when it got to the time I had to venture into less comfortable territory.
This also got me thinking about whether a “3D mind” was even a thing. Many of my favourite artists who create 3D works meet in the middle somewhat. Morag Myerscough is one of my all time favourite designers. All of her installations are created on 2D planes which are then assembled into 3D forms. Cocolia are one of my favourite studios who work in 3D. Within their works you can easily see a correlation between 2D and 3D forms. It isn’t hard to imagine how many sculptural end pieces could start as 2D sketches or collages.
My thoughts then turned to the many other things I believe I can’t do as a creative. And the list was surprisingly long. For example, I quite often find myself saying that I am no good at drawing the same character more than once, or drawing a full scene. But when was the last time I actually tried to? Pushing myself was the entire reason I came to art school. I have been determined from day one to try as many new techniques as possible. It hadn’t occurred to me that I should retry those things I had written off without much thought too.
All these linking thoughts led me to do something I never do – make a new year’s resolution. A little late I know, but better late than never.
This year I’m promising not to place any more creative restrictions on myself. I want to treat art school as a blank slate and disregard my previous thoughts on things I can’t do. I will never be a completely multi-disciplinary artist in every area, but I can give them all a try while I have the freedom to do so. The results might not be as slick as if I stayed in my comfort zone, but the process itself will be far more enlightening.
My resolution was reaffirmed by a guest speaker that had visited the university during our first week back. Textile designer Karen Mabon came to speak to us about her career so far. Despite now running a successful printed textiles business, Karen’s original degree was in jewellery. The path to her finding the right specialism was filled with experimentation. Key to the success of this journey was never putting creative restrictions on herself.
Talks from successful graduate designers are useful in so many ways. Karen’s talk served as a reminder of how important it is not to restrict yourself creatively.
Scarf design by Karen Mabon
Unlike those I have made and forgotten about in the past, I truly intend to stick with this resolution. A positive attitude can go a long way to prompting creative growth. Future anecdotal editions of this column will hopefully be filled with new techniques I try. I know that they will also be filled with stories of mini-breakdowns I have when I inevitably fail at many of my experiments – but that’s okay too! As ever, I promise to try and put a positive spin on things. Following my revelation, and with my new resolution at the front of my mind, I am feeling extremely positive about my second semester at art school. I have become far too used to taking tentative steps with my creativity, it is time to jump and see where I land!