Confessions of an art student: Part 2

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I believe I am socially constructed.

Homo Eclectus.

Not the Social Constructivism of Leo Vygotsky, popular in 90’s teacher training but my own growing sense that I am the product of encounters, both good and bad, that have shaped the person I am today.

Specifically, for the purposes of this OCA E-bulletin Confessions of… I mean the tutors and colleagues whose ideas, advice and opinions have shaped the path of my studies and influence how I have perceived the landscape of my educational journey. Thank you.

May I encourage you, therefore, to pursue tutor recommendations for further reading and viewing and do so with a notepad open on your lap? Be open to influences. My tutor recently asked me to read Summers of Discontent by Raymond Tallis. In it I found this quote that, for me, confirms my belief.

‘We are of our times and have a unique take on them; individuals with a single trajectory through the world we collectively fashion and maintain.’ (Tallis, 2015,p.187)

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Feedback on my first WeAreOCA submission indicated it had been of help and it is a satisfying feeling to believe you contribute positively to others’ development or appreciation of the art we love. In doing so I encountered ideas, phrases that stimulated my thoughts in other creative directions and lead in turn to this piece of writing.

There is reciprocity in the artistic and educational world we shape and maintain. Furthermore, it is so egalitarian that anyone, from any stage of their development, has this power at their disposal.

So I am suggesting that there is an imperative to engage with other students and the OCA provides opportunities through forums to critique. ‘Constructed socially’ reminds us to be positive, and yet a well phrased critique of a work, even one that highlights areas of improvement, addresses perceived deficiencies, can be edifying for the recipient of the critique and the…. Critter for want of a better expression. It allows us to practice using the language and develop the vocabulary we need to express artistic ideas we encounter. That’s why I am pleased to be writing these Confessions.

I am grateful because my rate of progress has been accelerated through engagement. That said, I have been guilty of being so focussed on my single trajectory that I chastise myself for not participating enough. There is still time, at any time, to do more. And I will.

Sometimes however, tutors take a firmer line and it is often necessary and justifiable. If a horn doesn’t honk, you won’t dodge the harm. This is where I feel the journey, the pilgrimage like the Camino to Santiago de la Compostella, has changed me.

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I remember a throwaway remark my very first tutor made on my first course. It cut me to the core at the time and now seems so inconsequential as to barely register. I have been exposed to enough critiques that I feel I am quite resilient – dare I say immune – to criticism. Even the most uncharitable kind.

The purpose of studies is to build you up – strong – like a statue. First with lots of scaffolding but, over the course of time, the scaffolding is successively removed as to reveal a structure capable of standing on its own two feet – even in the strong winds and rain of criticism.

The fact that scaffolding, as a teaching strategy, unfolded from Vygotsky’s Social Constructivism is particularly satisfying point to reach in my argument. Complete – like a fully formed student realising they are actually an artist. Finding the ability to stand up to the slings and arrows that the world might throw at you, is linked to finding you voice and exhibiting discernment.

There will come a point in your evolution where you believe so much and so strongly in what you are doing that you will be prepared to stand your ground and defend your stance and justify your position. This will be evidenced in a changing relationship to your tutor. In level one and to a lesser extent level two, learning was something done to me. A more passive student to tutor relationship. I would never have dreamt of questioning, challenging my tutor’s assessment. In level three I am finding it more of a partnership. More evenly yolked together in ploughing through my assignments. More a meeting of equals. I am prepared to argue back, with reason not belligerence all because my colleagues, people I call friends, engaged with me and made me feel strong.

So this is where I appeal to you for continued support. It is a requirement for level three students to be seen to engage with other students. In future posts I will be sharing my own specific concerns and will invite your participation. I will invite critique and criticism of the art I upload, the ideas I explore and the lessons I feel I have learnt and hopefully the dialogue we engage in will be mutually beneficial.

Indeed, socially constructed.

Images: Adrian Eaton, Elassomorphs – self portraits of collections of interests.


Also published on Medium.

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14 comments for “Confessions of an art student: Part 2

  1. Mark Butler
    14 December 2016 at 8:03 am

    Great post Aidy and a welcome reminder that we all need to try harder to engage with our colleagues and engage more fully with critique – timely as well as ’tis the season for resolutions!

    • 14 December 2016 at 1:48 pm

      Thank you Mark.
      That will be my New Year’s Resolution now you’ve pointed it out.
      Beginning students should know that have something of value to say- right from the start; and that others, nearer the end of studies can benefit. It is reciprocal in my opinion. We can learn something from anyone at anytime. Even maliciousness teaches us patience. Kindness humility. In future confessions I will be exposing my art work, and something of my soul, for critique.

  2. 14 December 2016 at 9:06 pm

    I was someone who found your last post helpful, and this too. It has made me less fearful of criticism. An old boss of mine used to say “criticism is a gift, be thankful for it” and your post has reminded me of that. Also helpful is how you’ve outlined the changing relationship with our tutors. I am right at the start – hanging on every word – but it did occur to me that the balance must shift at some point. Finally you made me laugh with the cheeky ‘l’ that snuck in to ‘yolk’ you to your tutor – it conjours up the most surreal image of two fried eggs in full debate. Thank you!

    • 15 December 2016 at 12:42 pm

      Hi Kim
      I am glad you found something useful, encouraging or even accidentally amusing. Even new to your studies you have the right to contribute, as you have done so eloquently, and offer opinion and even advice. I personally don’t believe in a heirarchy of contribution- everyone at every stage has the power to contribute positively to the development of others. As a student body, we are all in it together and I am rooting ?, routing?, roouting ?for your success.

    • 17 December 2016 at 3:58 pm

      As a creative writing tutor, I endorse everything about sharing work, receiving criticism – we all need these all the time.

  3. 17 December 2016 at 11:38 am

    Since the roll-out of the new style forum discussion, the CRITIQUE has been more prolific and livelier – there are some good discussions going on there at present. But it’s a small number of people who regularly contribute to the discussion. I started to take part to learn more about how crits can work, before starting to show my own work there. The tutors who participate are really helpful and supportive in the discussions, welcoming newcomers and flagging up how to get more out of the process. I hope Aidy’s feature encourages a few more people to even just add a short comment to any of the on-going discussions of work.

    • 17 December 2016 at 3:52 pm

      Really helpful Jennifer. Can I go on record as saying how indebted I am to your advice and opinions. Having just written about social construction, you are a really good example of someone who has edified me and shaped my studentship. We haven’t always agreed, but our difference made me search in directions I wouldn’t have contemplated. Every time- it has been beneficial.

      • 19 December 2016 at 9:07 am

        Adrian – You’ve also helped me a lot. You were always at least one course ahead of me, and following your blogs gave me a bigger picture of more of what was going on in the OCA. I still remember some of your drawings as both lovely pieces of work and an eye-opener – all of that’s definitely influenced me into now deciding to start on Drawing 2. In the Facebook OCA Sketchbooks group you’ve always been a good contributor, showing lots of work and making thoughtful comments and it all adds up to building up virtual relationships which make such a difference in distance learning.I hope you’re documenting all the Facebook work you’ve done as part of your engaging with other students.

  4. Stefan
    18 December 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Another insightful post from a level 3 student. You are phrasing the learnings from a truly learner perspective, Aidy. Thanks for that. It is quite true that not all comments from a tutor are very welcome first and seen as encouragement. It depends quite well on student’s ‘resilience’ as you phrased it. Especially in long distance relationship as with OCA, quite different to a physical regular face-to-face exchange with tutors. Nevertheless, I always found as certain benefit for me as student in the exchange, with my own tutors and also with fellow student. Unfortunately the discussion forum is not so well frequented. As Jennifer stated more or less the same people are coming to meet and discuss. I learned so much from that. From following ongoing discussions, from putting my work up for critiques, and to learn to critique other student’s work as well. I highly recommend this.
    You were talking about the different relationship student-tutor from level1, 2, and 3. As a level 1 student I can not say anything abou the other levels, but I found the engagement and especially the tutorials with my tutors extremely beneficial. Beyond expected roles of tutor nd student there is always freedom and space for further exploration and guidance on my own way forward. So no need to wait till level 3 😉

    • 20 December 2016 at 4:51 pm

      I will have to contribute more to critiques and I thank you for the encouragement to do so.

  5. Catherine
    20 December 2016 at 11:53 am

    Adrian, thank you for your thoughtful post, as it resonates very much with my own experience. When I first started level 1, I was concrete thinking and not confident at all. This has been broken down both painfully and carefully to reveal a new more flexible thinker in their place. Your post has given me impetus to put up some work for critique and trust in my fellow students that it will be an enlightening experience!

    • 20 December 2016 at 4:55 pm

      That’s great Catherine. I am delighted that it was of some use to you. Yes do submit work to critique but remeber also you have the right to critique, offer advice and, like this, encouragement to others even further along the path. We all have life experience that enriches and informs our art and the appreciation of others. Good luck and great happiness with your studies.

  6. Anne MacLeod
    31 December 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Another insightful post Aidy. Sometimes I find I have to take myself away from Social Media, in order to focus more on my course work, but I totally understand where you are coming from and have benefited, myself, from the support and encouragement of fellow students, including yourself, so I suppose it is all about finding a balance. I don’t use the OCA student nearly enough, and will resolve to make more use of it in the coming year.

    • 31 December 2016 at 6:22 pm

      I am going to think more about balance. Even in my life outside of art studies. I appreciate your comment and it makes me think about becoming refreshed. Yes, I agree we need to take ourselves away. Physically, psychologically. To make ourselves refreshed- not stale through familiarity.On a personal note I get refreshed by encountering the ideas from others and in that regard I am indebted to you and others like you. Your contributions inspire. What we must do is find what is right for us and it will be unique and specific- I think.
      We New Year imminent, your comment reminds me to reassess. Thank you, my friend.

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