Wingfield Barns map

You should re-write the title of your project every couple of months or so to see how things have changed. So the subtitle has altered to reflect recent thinking. Considering the confirmation feedback over the last few weeks, mulling it over really and letting it sink in. It emerged in the meeting that the artist teacher bit was probably not the most interesting bit and there is an article in iJade this month which is very much about the artist teacher. It is looking a well trammelled bit of turf with Daichendt’s book Artist-Teacher. I think my interest is probably in a subsection of the general area of the artist-teacher, particularly the role of the demonstration in the classroom and the idea of the art work as demonstration.

For a lot of art teachers the only art work they make is the work they make to demonstrate ideas or techniques in the classroom. Could this be seen as an art practicee? Should art teachers value this sort of work as practice? Should art teachers just value this sort of work more?

If you make a lot of work in the classroom how much does that change your practice? The work might be demonstrating something to someone in the classroom which might be one category of work- actual performative demonstration in the classroom. Other sorts of demonstration can be the sort that I make anyway when I am thinking about how to do something in the classroom, when I am looking for a way in. The sets of Davie style drawings that I did on a PD day would be an example. Not necessarily made as classroom material or with the classroom in mind to start with but they became so as I made them and thought about them as a potential project. I did mono-prints as a prep for a project in the trialling phase which became the Sandra Blow project a couple of years ago.

If one makes a lot of work of this sort how far can this be said to ‘infect’ the art practice away from the classroom? There is a way in which I end up demonstrating things to myself in a way. But what am I demonstrating and why? The etchings are almost me demonstrating to myself how to make an etching. There is a sort of running commentary in my head unpacking the process of making them as I make them.

This week I prepared some digital files for the laser cutter at NUCA to see if it can cut type onto wood to make a relief print. Hand-cutting type or writing it backwards on an etching plate is going to be a drag.  The text is a monologue on the process of making the print as if I am telling year eight how to do one. The image is from a photo of one of the big ‘formal experiment’ brush drawings I did at the end of last term. The idea is to overlay one over the other with transparent ink. So the idea is to make this ‘teacher voice’ or ‘demonstrator’s voice’ part of the art work as it is in the big hand paintings. I would like to do it in the prints too.

Text for a laser cut print

One of the effects of the teaching practice has been to make the art practice extremely diverse. I now make work with a far wider range of materials and techniques than I did at college or before teaching. When I was at college I made video and film, made photos and did a lot of drawing, animation and painting and print. So I was always quite diverse in my art work but since entering teaching it has become even more diverse. This is partly because I have been a one man band in the school but I have had to teach the range of media and techniques that the National Curriculum requires. This has particularly taken me into 3D and sculpture which I had rarely done previously. At the moment we have a set of masks based on the work of Calixte Dakpogan on the wall along with a second set of Niki De Saint Phalle sculptures by year 8 being finished (they liked the year 6 ones and wanted to have a go) plus a very fine set of large scale Pop pieces based on Oldenburg and van Bruggen. Then there is all the ceramic work which is something I learnt how to do on the teacher training course at Middlesex and have developed since. Plus the textile work and the moulds and plaster work and so on and so on.

I learn something new to teach the pupils and then I will go off on one and make a series of things using that technique until I get bored or the next thing comes along and then I’ll go back to it later or perhaps not. The set of ceramic biscuits I made (biscuit fired) when I was into moulds for a year would be an example.

The need to teach a wide variety of techniques and artists keeps the work moving around and not really settling into one groove. This has become a feature of the work. No two shows the same.

The use of artists as deliberate influence must be a factor too, the use of styles and artist’s working methods in the classroom. The role of influence as a teaching and learning tool in the classroom is one part of the question but as far as the art practice is concerned it has an impact on how the work is done. It keeps it diverse too. I described it to Dom Theobald as running the working methods of various artists through my own practice. What effect does that have? How does that impact on my work and how I feel about it?

How to approach this then? My initial thinking is that I have to work more from the art practice. If the confirmation documentation was heavily dominated by educational research methods and ideas (which is where I come from) towards art practice but not really finding it (‘where is the art practice in this?’ question in the confirmation meetings) then really I have to explore the practice and connect it back to the classroom. The practice might be the shape it is because of the classroom and the habitual practice of teaching but it is still a distinct thing from the teaching practice, it does stand away from it.

I need to document and catalogue the art practice and describe it in its diversity. What shape does it have? I need to know more about practice as research and I need to spend the summer making work and reading up on that, a lot. The current case studies as they exist in the research seem somewhat limiting and they are too classroom focussed to be useful. They feel like millstones rather than stepping stones. And they have come to misrepresent the work in the classroom and that can’t be the right thing. So perhaps the classroom work with the pupils and there work can be more tangential and seen through their outcomes on display  more than anything else. The case studies exist in the way that they do due to the ethical procedures about using the images of the pupils and their words but there is less of a problem if just the final work is used in the report.

I feel more interested in this as a direction and more energised than I had been as I ploughed through the case study with the attendant over focus on the one artist. The project is supposed to be a practice based project and that is what I was originally interested in learning about when I started, art practice as research. I should be more confident about the practice and be happier to use it, funny, odd and diverse as it is, as the centre of the project.