Arts Facilitator training at London’s October Gallery

So on the 9th May I went along to one of the free CPD sessions run by the October Gallery. The session lasted just over 90mins, but was probably the most informative and productive 90mins I have ever had during a training session!

Expertly delivered by Becky and Georgia, the gallery’s education co-ordinators, the session took us through a practical example of how to run a gallery-based art workshop. We went through about half an hours worth of activities, each of which had a common thread running through them which gradually opened up the participants to get involved and to interact with the exhibition on a meaningful level.

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For the first activity we were each given a couple of photos, which were images of sections of the artworks on display. We then had to find the work and leave the image on the floor infront of it. Such a good idea! It quickly gets you engaged in looking at the work on show in a more active way.

The second activity involved a red and a green card. The idea being that now you had to chose a piece you liked – placing the green card on the floor infront of it; and a piece that you didn’t like – placing the red card on the floor infront of it. There was then a short period of time where cards were pointed out by the facilitator and the corresponding ‘chooser’ was given a chance to give constructive reasons for their like/dislike – thinking about colour, form, materials, composition etc. At this point the facilitator was able to pick up on key points made by the participants and give relevant background info on the artist and their processes.

Then came the circle game. Each participant is given a small card circle and a piece of chalk. There is a large piece of kraft paper taped to the floor, which the participants have to throw the circle at it, and then draw around the circle. Then you have to keep throwing your circle, trying to get it back into the last circle – each time drawing around it where it lands. After a few throws you can then continue to throw and draw, or you can begin colouring in your circles. This activity is a ‘game-i-fied’ piece of collaborative artwork, and in this particular context was used as a way to explore the idea of creating a composition in a similar way to the artist whose work we were looking at – using chance.

We then sat and talked about how to then encourage participants to evaluate a session, before splitting off into small groups to make our own workshop plans which we later talked through infront of everyone. This last part was incredibly useful, and each group came up with some really nice ideas for alternative games and activities that could be used to accompany the exhibition that was on there.


At the time, they had an exhibition on called ‘Benchmarks’ – which included a selection of printed works by El Anatsui – it was a great show! He’s someone I’ve been aware of – but not someone whose work I’ve been massively in to, even though visually it is really interesting (he crosses that odd boundary of Artist / Conceptualist, getting others to make his work for him, which I sometimes struggle with.) I first came across his work through Art 21, in this video showing his studio practice:

Anyway, I’m getting off topic….the training was awesome, and if you’re in London and are looking for some gallery/exhibition space based training then you should definitely check the October Gallery’s CPD page out!

 

Heart in my throat

So today started stressfully, although I decided to poeticise my commute to try and make at least that part of it less frustrating: I missed my bus by the turn of a corner, and my train by a flight of stairs.

Commute aside, my mind was fully occupied this morning. I had a letter to print out, a letter which I had written yesterday – addressed to our headteacher, explaining a big decision that I was making. A decision that is allowing me to fulfill a life-long dream and embark on a huge adventure.

I emailed him, asking for a quick chat after support staff briefing – he replied saying yes, as long as it’s quick. I printed out my letter, signed it, folded it carefully into 3 and placed it inside a light brown envelope. I scrawled his name on the front, went to the loo to stare at myself in the mirror and make big, confident poses (I wish I was lying….) and went down to the office.

At 10:10am, once his office was cleared, I handed in my notice. As of May 26th I will no longer be working as an Art and Music Technician at this inner city comprehensive school. Then on the 25th of June, I will be boarding a plane with a one-way ticket, and going to a country that filled Aidan and I with a ridiculous amount of joy and wonder when we visited last year.

More to follow, there are still some very important people I need to tell about this. The next trip to the print studio is going to be a nervy one….

Loss of wisdom

So yesterday was oddly and unexpectedly eventful….I went to the dentist first thing for a check up and a clean, and he ended up taking out my upper right wisdom tooth! The tooth has been giving me a bit of grief on and off for a while now, but it’s the kind of thing that you just get on with. Anyway, he could see it has been cutting the inside of my cheek and said it was a simple procedure that wouldn’t take more than ten minutes, so after a quick head in hands panic I decided I just had to get on with it….

Injections done, I sat in the waiting room for ten minutes shaking like a leaf and messaging various people, hoping for a response from someone to help me calm my nerves….then I was back sat in the chair, special goggles on, hands gripping the arms of the seat with white knuckles. 2 or 3 seconds of the strangest sensation I have ever felt and it was over. Cotton wool in the gap, calm voice and soothing words from Dr Norton….all over and done with.

The sensation during the removal was really odd. My eyes were closed tight, and visually I had a deep reddy-orange thing going on. I can’t remember hearing anything much, concentrating too hard on trying not to feel the numbed feelings in my mouth, trying to focus on the tips of my fingers tensing into the mint green arm rests. As far as the mouth goes….while he was tugging away, it suddenly felt like the tooth was occupying the space of a grapefruit in my jaw. A feeling like a black hole opening up, no pain, just a numb openness….

Aside from the bleurgh of having to swish salt water round my mouth once and hour, and the self pity inducing dull ache in the side of my face all day yesterday [and to a lesser extent today] – I’m glad I just said yes to having it removed there and then. I feel a teeny tiny bit proud of myself for just taking a deep breath and getting on with it!

Getting back into it

So since the move things have felt a little stagnant. Upheaval can really make it feel like you’ve hit the pause button within your personal life, while everything else races on around you. I don’t know where the last 2 weeks have gone! All I know is that my etsy is feeling a bit stale (although I did sell a bag last week), and that life is too short to get stuck in the oh-my-gods of a sideways shift in your day to day life.

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Screen set up ready to print my new fabric labels

Simply getting back in the studio last Tuesday to print labels for my bags was enough to get the ball rolling again. Sometimes you need something like that to force you back into action. So last week I spent Tuesday eve, Wednesday day and Thursday eve in the studio working on various bits and pieces – some etsy stuff, and some lithography. I managed to finally etch the 2nd colour layer for my white rooster commission, and after a few teething problems managed to get the main image layer printed on some paper samples I picked up from John Purcell Paper a couple of weeks ago.

 

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2nd colour layer for the white rooster litho

I’m still new to lithography, so when the ink wouldn’t wash out of my closed stone I did feel a pang of anxiety! Paul assured me that the ink should still take, it just might take a little longer to get an evenly inked print. I spent 4 hours in the studio last Thursday, partly sorting out my new etsy packaging, but mostly stressing over getting my white rooster litho to print like it had before!

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White Rooster commission on 4 different types of paper

I’m so happy I’ve got the White Rooster proofed on a few different types of paper now, as it means I’m closer to getting the edition done. I tried out Fabriano artistico in traditional white in both 225 and 300gsm, Zerkall 902 smooth in 225gsm and Simili Japon in 225gsm. I think I’m going to go with the Simili Japon, top right in the picture above – it’s nice and smooth and is a lovely warm white, which I think suits the image better. So excited to be editioning my first lithograph!!!!

Creative Resilience

So in those times of self doubt, or when you’re hit by  the need to create but there’s nothing coming to you, it can be really tough as a creative. I often have moments where the desire to make is overwhelming, but all my ideas have decided to desert me – which is ridiculously frustrating! There are also the times when the ideas are there, but because of external sources the mood just isn’t with you.

I’ve faced both within the last week or so, and have had to really push myself through both the internal and external difficulties – but it’s been worth it, and I feel like I’ve got a few good things on the go now that I can really get my teeth into.

There is alot to be said for putting the effort in despite yourself, pushing through when it feels like you can’t, and just blindly making when your mind is grey. Once you get past those moments of difficulty, you feel so much more powerful and accomplished. They will come back, and that is just part of being an artist (or any kind of creative being!!) It’s knowing that you’ve pushed through before that will help you push through again. Each time you do, you will find yourself stronger on the other side and more determined to keep doing what you’re doing.


Last week I’d gone to the studio after work with the express intent to just make something, but arrived and my mind was blank. All those ideas jotted down in notebooks, sketches and doodles of possible prints – it was like they’d never existed! I had a chat with some fellow printers, stared blankly at a table top for a bit – and then told myself ‘you’re here, you’ve made the effort to come, just get something done!’  The fact I was exhausted didn’t help. Up at 6:20, long as hell journey to work, 7 1/2 hour day, then studio….doesn’t make for the most actively creative mind, but then again I have heard it said that sometimes the best thing to do is work whilst you’re tired. So, I went onto my pinterest and had a look at my research boards, and I started drawing. I ended up staying at the studio until around 8pm – and although I didn’t do any printmaking, I did hash out a few pages of drawings and began to develop a new idea that I’m pretty excited about.


Fast forward to Wednesday, my new dedicated studio day (I went down to 4 days a week in January, with the idea that an increase in time to make work is worth the financial sacrifice of losing a day’s pay.) Horrendous journey across London into the studio – the Northern line suspended from south to central, multiple changes and delays and much under-my-breath swearing at the travel gods for smiting me so. I arrived at the studio in no mood to do anything, and found that the technician that had been helping me with my recent Lithography project had gone home as he’d not been feeling well.

Plans for the day scuppered. Nothing you can do. I hope he’s ok. It’s a shame he’ll miss his Spanish lesson this evening, he’s loving learning Spanish….Right….What now….

I took a deep breath, got out a couple of zinc plates that needed a ground put on, and decided to get to work on a raven print I’d been meaning to do for a while. I started by going through the motions of prepping my plates. They had some old ground on them, I got a rag and white spirit and it came off nice and easy. Then to de-grease….amonia, whiting and water, rubbed onto the plates with a bit of old press blanket until the water ran off in even cascades without repelling from the edges. Careful placement of tissue paper to dry. Then to the hot plate. I dig my nails into the 2 non-descript brown blocks to distinguish hard from soft, and place the hard lump on my plate to let it melt a little. Smears of mordant across my plates. I roll the ground out to an even layer with the dedicated roller, and carefully remove them without burning my hands or disturbing the ground. I love the satisfaction of carrying out tasks like this. Things you can do without really having to think, that just come as natural actions that are an extension of you.

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Zinc plates prepped with a hard ground

Plates prepped, I sat and drew until lunch – figuring out the construction of my image. Consumed my consumables. Transferred my final sketch to one of the plates with tissue paper and red chalk, and got to work with my etching needle.

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Figuring out my raven
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The stage my plate was at when I decided the day was done

After only 5 hours in the studio, I had gone from emotionally exhausted and mentally not-in-the-mood to creatively exhilarated. My elbows ached from working in a strange hunch, and my wrist and fingers were stiff and sore – and I absolutely loved it.

 

 

creative guilt

I don’t know if anyone else gets this, but sometimes I am enveloped by guilt because I feel I am not making enough.

In the last few months I feel like my creative output has been really low. Admittedly, I have been working on my new etsy shop products for AyamByMaya, so it’s not like I’ve been doing nothing – I’ve made a load of hand bound books and printed a tonn of wrapping paper, and that does take time.

Busy in the studio making my own books

Plus, I’m still doing my Post It Journeys project, so I’m doing at least 4 observational drawings a day as part of that. But for some reason, this just feels like going through the motions, and not actually having a meaningful creative output.

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A drawing from my Post It Journeys project

Part of the problem is feeling tired, which I can’t really help considering my RIDICULOUS commute from South East to North West London every day. But I could be doing more. Or at least I feel like I could and should be doing more.

So yes, I use my commute to do my Post It Journeys, but I feel like when I get home I am too quick to just slump once the other bits of life admin are done (you know….we gots to eat, and so do the cats!) I’m thinking I need to start scheduling in time every evening, even if it’s only ten minutes. Time reserved for drawing, time reserved for visual research and exploration, time which will allow my ideas to begin flowing more naturally and hopefully lead me to feel less guilt for not having what I deem to be enough creative output.