Personal Practice (Coursework, Part 1): (Ex: 1.) Introduction and plan.

(2 hours)


As I felt a little stuck with my Personal Practice I decided to swap the suggested plan around and complete my ‘First Choice first half – 50 hours’ (I chose Option 1) before my Personal Practice. I did this because I felt that the ideas from my First Choice might give me some ideas for my Personal Practice.

To put this in context I need to backtrack to when I started my degree.

Before I started my painting degree I thought it would be an apprenticeship (with some art history) to make beautiful paintings.

So initially Level 1, for me, was all about basic craft skills. There was a small academic content but nothing initially that disturbed my world view on art. I learned about perspective, saturation and the blurring of edges for example.

However, over the course of Level 1 something strange happened and by the end of my second course I was beginning to feel unsettled. It took the form of feeling I didn’t want to use photographs any more and a growing awareness of a world of ideas and artists just outside my reach.

Over my final level 1 course this feeling grew and I banned photographs from my practice altogether and started weekly life drawing classes. By the end of Level 1 I was beginning to look and see the world differently, I kept noticing new colours and the way 3D shapes held space… but my frustration at being in some kind of mental straight jacket was intense.

My first level 2 course, Studio Practice was a huge step up. It took me a year to complete, and about nine months before I felt I was working at Level 2 standard. I spent around 1000 hours working through all the coursework in depth, rather than the allocated 600, but the payoff was immense.

One of my aims for this course is to complete it within my 600 hours.

I cannot describe Studio Practice other than to say it was life changing, both to my art and life.

The frustration I had felt at the end of Level 1 turned to hunger as I hoovered up new ideas and artists. I enjoyed the practical explorations as much as the academic ones, it felt like I was surfing… and whenever a new wave came along I jumped on and rode it for all it was worth.

By the end of Studio Practice my practice/personal voice was embryonic… but emerging. My fellow students said they could recognise one of my paintings instantly.

I liked nature (having been a country boy and been close to nature for much of my life) and colour. So, not surprisingly, my practice had evolved into sketching landscapes… and either working plein air or going back to the studio and painting them up. But the sketches were mere starting points as I wasn’t trying to capture an outer reality, but an inner one. I wanted to paint how I experienced the landscape, not any visual reality you might record on a camera, so I changed the colours and shapes to make paintings like this…

Fen Drayton Tree, Autumn, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm, 2020

and these…

… but they were still tied to an observed reality.

I thought this is how my practice would develop and then in my very last last tutorial for Studio Practice when we were talking about my choices of work to submit my tutor said she was surprised that I hadn’t included this piece…

Beach Party, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm, 2020

… She said it showed an understanding of the language of colour, form and picture plane. I said that I liked the piece and loved making it, I’m an actor and this was a similar process where I did lots of preparation (as you do in building a character in your head and researching his life). I thought about all the beach holidays I had ever been on and chose my colours, memories and emotions, and then I painted it in the moment. I further explained that as it was intuitive I loved making it, but because it was non figurative I didn’t feel confident in judging it so had left it out. My tutor said that I should consider throwing paint around more.

This was a like release as I love ‘throwing paint around’ but had thought that I couldn’t explore it as I had no way of judging what I was making.

So, what I would like to do for my first Exercise is explore how I can begin to paint abstract canvases in a meaningful way, where the picture plane is like a stage and my painting the play. By using the image of a play I am not suggesting any verbal meaning, though people could verbalise it afterwards, as I expect my meanings to be subconscious, intuitive, emotional, ‘spiritual’ or tactile for example.

I used my final painting of ‘First Choice first half of Option 1 – 50 hours’ to make a start. My research was the assemblage and 2d painting of ‘Christmas’. Here’s my abstract painting…

Christmas Kiss, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 50 cm, 2020

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