It has been a year since I handed in my final piece for my fourth year at the University of Reading. Since graduating there have been many times that I wanted to give up, to move on with something new and exciting, but creating has always been my go to. I’m going to take you through my journey, and my learning curve, of the past year.
I ended my final year at University at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic that swept the world. This installation was based in the family home porch, exploring the relationships of gravity, tension and balance through bamboo, twine and plaster. Each material and position aided the other. I could only pre-plan for this piece so far before the creation had to take over. I did not know the plaster and the bamboo would react with each other. I was physically involved with the creation of the sculptural elements as I had to climb in and between the cubes to mould the plaster and to wrap the twine. The overall sculptural installation was very solid, and even put up with two dogs running past it on their daily walks, twice a day, for over a week.
As much as I wanted Coalesce to stay up and be a permanent exhibition item in the porch, my parents were not happy that I was mixing wet plaster in the house let alone this staying up indefinitely. After I carefully (and also brutally) took the sculpture down, I did not know what to do with myself, or my artwork. The world has been in a strange place since early 2020 and I had just finished university.
That was my biggest mistake.
Everyone says to take a break, but if you’ve just been running at one-hundred and ten percent, don’t just stop dead. I became physically ill, which on top of my mental health, just left me in bed and I did not want to do anything. At University, I had a structure and a purpose to what I needed to do each and every day. I had deadlines that I needed to work to. And then all of this was ripped away. This is the first year of my life that I have not been in education and adapting my life and myself to those circumstances has been the biggest learning experience for me.
I found retail work, so I had something to wake up for, as well as something to help get some money in the bank. Those two elements helped me massively, although I still was not being creative. This creative break lasted around 4 months. Looking back, that is the longest amount of time I have not created for. And as I said, it was my biggest mistake. I had no effort to create anything as I felt like I didn’t have a purpose. That’s when my partner suggested I start simple. I enjoyed creating the alphabet in the first year of university, and so I tried again. This led to the ever-growing Alphabet Series (that is available in my store). This further led me onto making my own store on this website.
In 2021, I started Project 365. If you’ve been to University to do an art degree, especially in the UK (I am generalising here), there is room to work with so many different materials and techniques. Due to space, I could only work in a sketchbook with the materials that I had to hand of paints and pencils. Project 365 is a challenge that I set myself to create something every day. Whether it’s a doodle, sketch, finished piece or making a kit, I needed to change what I was doing. This push to create, and more importantly to experiment and grow, has pushed my art further than I thought that it would. We sit here now, in May, and I’ve created over 150 individual artworks, entered several competitions and am just about to enter exhibition proposals. I’ve learnt that I needed that push.
There was a psychology experiment that involved two groups of art students over a year. One group were told that they needed to produce the best work possible, concentrating on detail. They only produced a handful of works that they thought were the best works. The other group were told to produce as many artworks as possible, to experiment and challenge themselves. This group saw a dramatic change in the way they produced work, their knowledge of material as well as their confidence with their work. And that’s where I’m at. I’m building that confidence up, with the love and support of everyone online and who are close to me. I’m building my knowledge of material and technique by experimenting with all the materials and machinery and techniques. Building these up has changed my style, and I am finding that I am not planning my work, that I am going with the flow of the material that I picked up. I used to intricately plan each of my pieces, but putting that pressure on myself now seems futile as I get stressed when pieces don’t go to plan. After putting so much pressure on myself, I don’t want, or need that any more.
Everyone works differently, and that’s the beauty of both the human race, and the way it presents itself in the arts. I have had an extreme learning curve with my art practice this year, but I feel like it has been worth it. Even the bad moments.
Have you had a learning curve?