Reflections of an Art Student; 3 Months in

An explanation 

Before I started my course, I searched for blogs of other students also studying or having studied art and design at HNC level. I was interested to know the course content, the kinds of work they were being asked to produce and how they were liking it. I only found a handful however and most of these were websites designed as part of their course, so there was no real content beyond what they had been asked to produce. At the time I never understood this, I thought there would surely be people out there wanting to share and document their experience.
I had intended for this blog to feature weekly updates on what we were doing in class, photos of the kind of work we were doing and the techniques being taught but this didn’t exactly go to plan. I’ve been snowed under with coursework. Even if I catch up with everything, there’s still more I could be doing. Working on my sketchbook, adding to paintings or even doing personal work (unlikely at this stage). The one thing that made me realise I should pay more attention to this blog was the trip we had yesterday to 4 galleries in Edinburgh. As it approached 4pm and I was sitting in the entrance area of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery waiting for the buses home, it struck me that it would have been the perfect day to blog about, but I hadn’t taken a single picture, not one. I hadn’t felt completely engaged that day (one tiny, petty thing that threw me off was that backpacks had to be carried by hand and I kept standing on my straps). I still want to write about it, the good and the bad, and share the greetings/postcards I bought. However this led me to really reflect on the course, what I want to gain from it beyond a qualification and how I can fit this blog around everything.

The course so far

The lecturers and classmates have been amazing, friendly and welcoming. Writing gives me time to think and consider what I want to get across, but in person, talking is really hard for me. I’m a one word kind of person, so it must be quite bemusing for anyone who has read something I’ve written and also spoken to me in person, a Jeckyll and Hyde sort of moment. My voice cracks, I stutter, every word I’ve thought of vanishes from my mind and I’m left blankly trying to articulate myself with long pauses and repeat words. But still they are kind and patient and don’t point this out (except perhaps one). 
As for content, our classes include painting, observational drawing, printmaking, mixed media, jewellery making, contextual studies and photography. For the first 6 weeks we had afternoon life drawing which I really enjoyed. It’s difficult to pick a favourite class, but I feel I’m learning most from the printmaking/mixed media and context classes. The most revolutionary lesson, however, was in photography where we had to take pictures only of pattern and texture and ever since then I’ve been seeing abstract patterns and textures everywhere, in shadows, reflections, benches etc. It has been tough, I’m constantly behind and don’t think one deadline has been met on time, but I’m enjoying it and going from being self taught with all the time in the world, to 2-3 hours to complete the lesson has been the biggest step. Learning to manage time effectively has been an ongoing and difficult task, but hopefully I’m getting better at it.

What we’re working on

This next 6 weeks to the Christmas holidays is being spent working on ‘final’ pieces for most of the practical classes before the next semester begins on the 21st of January. We have at least one large final painting relating to our theme (mine is the undergrowth), a minimum of 3 mixed media pieces, which I am considering making primarily from textiles, a final large print (or multiple smaller prints) and a final piece of jewellery. 
For mixed media I am thinking of making a textile book with each ‘page’ featuring collaged/printed/embroidered depictions of the textures found in the undergrowth, so mosses, lichens, bark, stone etc. I want it to be quite tactile in opposition to the other pieces which won’t be touched. For printmaking I have a few ideas but none of them really solid yet. My painting piece I’ve started over because the first canvas wasn’t big enough for the detail I want and the jewellery piece is slowly emerging from the design process, although it’s been the toughest class so far.

In conclusion

The course has been challenging, I’ve had way too many days off but I’m learning a lot. I can see progress. I feel like I’m working faster and although producing a wider variety of work, I’m starting to find everything looking a little more cohesive. When looking at other artists, it’s easy to assume they arrived at their ‘style’, their way of seeing overnight, or that it had always been that way, but I’m learning it takes much longer. It’s not a matter of finding one set way of doing things, but carving out your own processes, learning which techniques work for you and what you want your work to say. 
I will try to update this blog as regularly as possible and include more images, hopefully it will help anyone who was like me, searching around the internet wondering what being an art student entails.

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Butterflies and Bumblebees

This week was very inspiring. I hadn’t been out much during last week, but took my dog on a longer walk at the riverside. The sun broke through as we got there and sheltered from the breeze by the trees it became warm and pleasant. Two angry-sounding grey heron flew under the old bridge as we crossed it, I haven’t seen them there before and we watched them fly down the river out of sight. There were the usual white butterflies around but I also saw two small copper butterflies, I believe female and male, which were flying among the mass of brambles. This was my first time spotting them. Since then I have been working on an A4 sized watercolour painting based on the female small copper that I saw. The photos I took weren’t sharp enough for fine details, only the general shape, colours, patterns etc, but I have used reference images and my butterfly handbooks to study the more intricate details. I hope to finish it this week and move on to other butterflies I’ve seen.

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watercolour sketch of male small copper

There are quite a few wild growing buddleia, nicknamed the butterfly bush, dotted around the riverside waste ground but so far I’ve only seen bees near them. The familiar tall blooms of rosebay willowherb, or fireweed, are everywhere and I saw most of the more common types of bumblebees buzzing in and out the flowers. I also saw what I think was a carpenter bee on some bramble flowers but I wasn’t able to photograph it.

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red tailed bumblebee on common knapweed

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meadowsweet

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yarrow

There were until recently lots of rosebay willowherb growing wildly by my living room window and I took the opportunity to make a small, loose sketch before they were cut down. Although considered a weed I do quite like them, they remind me of nights spent in late summer at my grandparents, roasting tatties in an open fire, they burn very well when they have died and dried out.

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coloured pencil sketch of rosebay willowherb

 

The weekend looks set to rain (in Scotland at least) but today is a very pleasant 23 degrees and sunny. Thankfully we have not been enduring the same heat as the rest of the UK. I hope to get out on longer walks as I’ve been inactive for a few days after hurting my ankle. I wish it had been because of something interesting but no, I simply fell down a hole after being distracted by a butterfly. 🤷

-Sheree.