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Back to school. Not really got my head going so lots of doodly things in the sketchbook. A sort of marking time. Not really got going again and this doodling about seems to be part of getting things to move about in my mind again. Today doodling around Hundertwasser. The Y8 have been doing a little watercolour project on the old hippy as an end of term thing so we are just finishing that off. I am also sorting through a massive archive of art cuttings given to me by Gerald including a cutting of Hundertwasser from a Sunday supplement when he was having a show at the Barbican. Incredible as he couldn’t get arrested now. Apart from Taschen no one has much time for him. I use him as a quiet watercolour layering, imaginative drawing task. Part of my Deeply Unfashionable Artist series.

This evening I painted a plate with underglazes in a vaguely Hundertwassery way to see how watercoloury the underglazes can be. I made an image to commemorate yesterdays 35 mile bike ride to Covehithe. This afternoon I stayed behind and made a quick Sprigtastic plate with two clays. A buff school clay for the plate and a crank for the sprigs. I have so many sprigs I can make a whole set in a few minutes and put them on a plate relatively quickly. There is something of a series of sprig plates going now. I glazed some this afternoon whilst Y8 were painting ready to fire the kiln tomorrow.

One of the things which I think is very difficult to capture in this sort of research writing is the theme or idea that slowly comes into focus from something unconsidered into something important. It requires a degree of prophecy in the record keeping or almost a 1:1 ration of record to action which is more or less impossible to do.

A good example of this in this project is the role of Lowestoft Porcelain in the work. I was aware of the existence of the factory in Lowestoft and its local importance and it was one of the factors in the idea to make commemorative plates. I knew that they had made some of the first seaside souvenirs and that tied in with the idea of seaside ceramics and collectibles as part of the commemorative plate concept. I had seen the displays at the Norwich Castle Museum and I had made that connection but no more. It was a background part of the general idea. There seemed to be something of a seafaring and naval theme to some of the pots I was referencing in general and the cult of the naval captain such as Keppel and Nelson used in the earlier plates.

My technician, Shirley, told me that I should talk to David, one of our caretakers, about Lowestoft Porcelain as he was something of a local expert. David had told me a bit about the factory before and he had told me about the early pots with “A Trifle From Lowestoft” written on them; some of the earliest seaside souvenirs. There are also pots with bathing machines on them.

Some of the early plates got A Trifle From Lowestoft inscribed on them after talking to David. Later on he bought in a book to show me about the collection in the Castle Museum (Smith, Sheenah 1975 Lowestoft Porcelain in Norwich Castle Museum- Volume 1, Blue and White Norwich Castle Museum, Norwich). I did a set of drawings from this and photocopied the borders and put them in the journal. I used these on the edges of some plates and I made one plate with a lot of these border designs going across the surface.

David has taken to coming through the art room first on his rounds to see what I have been doing. He has been fascinated by watching someone grapple with these pre-industrial ceramic techniques that I have been using in the project. And every day there has been something new. David has bought in plate from his collection to show me.

Because of David I now have two further books about Lowestoft Porcelain and he has kept me in touch with developments in the local collecting scene. It seems that Davis has been collecting since 1974 and has owned and traded a lot of Lowestoft Porcelain in his time.

On the last day of term he took me to an auction of Lowestoft Porcelain at the Beaconsfield Club in Lowestoft, run by Russell Sprake. In the centre of a horse show of tables was a long table with all of the lots set out. I sat at the outside tables and helpers would bring out the lots for inspection so one could handle and examine the lots. Some people were asking to look at all of the lots but I was too shy for that and just asked for the coffee cans and the tea bowls and some of the plates. Handling the ware was very interesting. They are heavier and more solid than the idea of porcelain leads you to expect and the qualities of the pots were highly variable. there was a beautiful custard cup (Lot 84 in the catalogue) which was very appealing.

As the auction went on I realised that I was sitting amongst a set of experts on the ware. It is a community of collectors with a huge amount of knowledge about the ware and the history. I realised that one of the reasons we were there was to get more knowledge about the ware. People were sitting there handling and examining all of the lots in sequence with no hope or interest in buying a great number of lots. The handling and the examining is part of building up a knowledge, a touch, a feel for the ware. I was fascinated by the idea of people deliberately building their knowledge by touch in this way. It made me think about how one learns about this sort of thing. I was really looking hard at the things I handled, really trying to impress them onto my mind somehow. Whipping out a sketchbook seemed probably the wrong thing to do but that’s very much what I wanted to do. The process of drawing is part of the imprinting for me. Recording it on paper records it onto my mind as well. People were enjoying the touch and feel of the pottery. There is a definite thrill to holding something made 200 years ago that could live in a museum case.

I realised that part of the appeal is the varied quality and levels of production. The ware goes from very simple and quite primitive blue and white ware to much more sophisticated polychrome ware made later in the life of the factory. This embodies the history of the factory. There isn’t that much to go on which is also part of the attraction. The factory didn’t leave a pattern or very good records so much of what is known has been deduced from what ware exists and what has been excavated during a couple of digs when gas mains went in and new buildings were put up on the site of the cottages and kiln which constituted the factory.

I had picked up from the Sheenah (1975) book that the patterns started off very simply and then worked their way up to more complex variations made up of multiple uses of the simpler themes. I had deduced from this that there was a possibly a training element to this and this would seem to be true. A few key painters and potters came from London, probably Bow, and bought some expertise but many of the painters were drawn from the local fishing and farming communities. Many would have been children so this is building up of expertise is built into the decoration of the ware. There is learning in the history of the ware as the factory and the people in it got better at what they were doing.

In the terms of the times they were fantastically successful. They lasted for forty years and stopped when the original investors got too old to be bothered with it. They never went bankrupt which was a common outcome for many pottery factories of the time. They survived by being flexible, innovative and happy to copy too.

The auctioneer made some reference to a piece of damage on a pot being a minor firing accident ‘all those years ago’ and I realised that is part of the attraction for the collectors, that connection with the past in the processes and hand touches of the makers.

I did bid on a couple of things but not very well. At the end David spoke to Sprake about the pot that I hadn’t bid up to the reserve and he agreed to sell it to me for the reserve price of £60 so I have become a collector. I am the owner of a small Lowestoft Porcelain tea bowl, Lot 6, Small blue & white teabowl, Mansfield pattern, crescent mark. I have been inculcated.

How do you learn about something like this? Every collector there has there own story about what piqued their interest and drew them in. This would appear to be mine.

In March I also made a blue and white plate with a design of a Lowestoft fish smoker smoking some herring on tenter hooks over a fire. I used a Lowestoft Porcelain border and I wrote ‘Made at Lowestoft Mar 24th In the presence of D. Sturman’ for David. This is in reference to the the pots in Norwich Museum, made as samplers, with ‘Made in the presence of R. Browne’. This pot came out of the kiln this week with a nice clear glaze on it. I shall give it to David once it has been exhibited somewhere as part of the project. He hasn’t seen it yet.

It is to thank David for his input into the plates, of course, and his showing me Lowestoft Porcelain. It is also supposed to be about the people involved in the project. I remember making a spider gram about some art work last year as an example for the summer school at SARU and being surprised about how it became about the people I had met in the making of the work. In this reflective writing, continually examining the inside of ones own head, it is possible to forget the interactions and the people that you talk to that fire off so many connections, explain so many things and have such an impact on the work.

It is certainly a major feature of this project, carried out as it is on a table in the back of classroom as pupils and teachers and cleaners and caretakers wander past. These interactions are very much part of the project and are part of what makes making work there very different to making work in the peace of a studio.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the last post and a lot of clay has been rolled. Things have been difficult at school and I have been working hard on making more plates. This is because there is a time limit on this part of the project. In about fourteen weeks time they are taking the kiln off me and closing the school down so I have to be quick to get the work made. This is, of course, part of the project; the ceramics focuses the work in the classroom, the space and the kit there. It also time limits this part of the project so that I have to put everything I have thought about into these plates as some sort of summary of the project ready for the writing up phase in the autumn.

The busyness at school and the quantity of the clay work has meant that this more reflective writing has taken a back seat and most of the writing and thought has been in the learning journals. These have taken on a life of their own and a lot of energy has gone into these. This is partly because I want to develop the idea of the learning journal as much as possible and because they are teaching aids/demonstrations for the uni summer school in August.

I am on Easter break now and the work over the past two weeks has been in the sketchbooks and have been about not doing the project. Exhaustion, a need for a break, not being near the kiln have become subjects for the work. I biscuit fired five blanks during the last week of term to take home and paint with underglaze colours. I was looking for a subject and, after a lot of drifting about and doodling, I came up with the idea of the doodle as a subject. Today I have spent working on two ‘Off Task’ plates. The first one is close to the original sketchbook images. I wanted something that looked like an exercise book covered in drawings. I wanted the image to be what pupils do when they are off task. The off task of the holiday produces a plate made whilst being on task about being off task.

The other plate I painted some underglaze colours on and let them dry in patches. I picked up a Taschen book called ‘Art Now’, looking for an image of that sort of doodle abstraction like Lasker or the Taaffe or Rae. It didn’t have any but I started a drawing based on Ofili and then I was off, looking through the book and doodling around the artists. So it is a mash up of references to really Now art. The idea of it looking like a the doodles of a well informed pupil on their exercise book was sort of the intention. That was the idea anyway.

I know none of these are doodles. I am referencing the idea of doodles or automatic writing, trying to make images of a state of mental drift during the holidays. The driven and obsessive nature of the work at school in grabbed moments is part of the rhythm of school life and of fitting in an art practice around the teaching practice or having the art practice infect the teaching or the teaching infiltrate the art practice. As you like. So I have been trying to make something about the release of that tension and the tiredness of the holidays.

People often say to me that it must be nice to have the long holidays and that it must be nice to get to paint. In fact I tend not to. I tend to spend the holidays lying down in a bit of a slough of despond wondering where all of my energy went. Last week I spent reading ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ by Michel Faber which is a fabulous book and well hit the spot, being immersed in Victorian London for a week. But not art and not the project. You need a break from all of this though.

Continuing to make plates as quickly as I can as the end of term looms. In twelve weeks time the kiln will be taken off me, the school will close and the project, or this phase of it, will be over and I will be in the writing up phase. This is my chance to make as much work as I can and to explore the ideas of the project as thoroughly as I can through the making of work.

I have become obsessed to a degree with the making of plates. I have often thought that this was one of the things that the artist teacher should be modelling in the classroom – obsession. Not an easy thing to prescribe or encourage and it has a potentially negative connotation. But as far as art is concerned how else does a big pile of sunflower paintings get done or a whale skeleton covered in graphite markings if not by obsession? Perhaps there’s a better word I should use.

One of the things I am showing in the classroom here is extreme focus and enthusiasm for a narrow range of ideas. I am clearly working my way through something at the back of the classroom. I have delegated the rolling out of clay to Shirley, my technician. I have got year seven involved in the making of sprigs. This afternoon we made plastecine name plates and I poured my fourth big mould with them. There was also a couple of plastic toys, some lego and a toy car under there. After Easter we will be having a go at making these into plates.

Today I worked on a big plate in one of the three moulds I am now using. I made a new one from an Oxfam plate and I have a broken bowl one we bought. Today I was using a camera mould that I made a couple of weeks ago. I poured one half of it and then David Sturman suggested that I make a slip mould of it so I completely encased the camera. I put off taking it apart but in the event it came apart quite easily so today I used the front half as a press mould for the first time.

I was setting off to make the plate I had decided on some time ago to commemorate the carrying of a sketchbook and a camera since the age of fourteen but I got distracted. Shirley has been clearing out the cupboards with me in readiness for the end of days at Gisleham and she found some perspex relief images of plugs that I made with year eight at Kirkley Middle School many years ago. These things were ground out with a computer controlled milling machine in Great Yarmouth when sending some control files through the email was an innovative activity. I had been the only art teacher on a DT project and had made a ‘stained glass’ window about plugs as part of a Pop Art project.

I tried to get an impression off these perspex plates and ended up using vegetable oil as a release agent to get the clay off. This worked quite well. Then I started on the flexible rubber prints from some long lost science lab that I sometimes print from. These are left over from the days before photocopies and are a rubber relief print on a flexible metal base. Presumably these fitted into some printing machine for duplication back in the Fifties. I got a couple of good impressions off of a heart diagram and a fly, again using the veg oil as a release.

So the circumstances and the finding of things had distracted me from my initial aim and had led me astray. The plate was going to be called A History of Art and it still is that, only in a different way to the original idea i sketched. It has an archaeological feel to it and it still is a history of art. The original intention has not been abandoned and it is still buried in the plate. It is less obvious though. Interesting effect. The central tile is based on a recently rediscovered woodcut from the Artpost years of mail and postal art.

Biting the clay custard cream was a mistake though.

It has been an interesting few days.

Today I was flying something of a fantasy to myself about how you might explain the appeal of sprig moulds in ceramics to children. I was inventing a whole series of connections around the idea of one of my moulds of a custard cream that appear on my plates.

I decided that the main things are the transformational possibilities of casting things into clay, the possibility of making patterns and the return of things in the work, like 3D printing.
And I was thinking of the transformational aspects, the transforming of a biscuit into a memorial of itself, of the clay biscuit lasting into the future far longer than any biscuit could, transmogrified by art. Of people looking at this clay biscuit in many years to come and speculating on the exact nature of the object, long since mouldered into mush.

And so on. When I got to school I was working on a tester plate on a plastic picnic plate that I could use with the kids as a mould and I tried out a biscuit sprig mould. This time I painted some black slip into the mould and then pressed the red clay in. It came out as black biscuit, both comic and sad and an instant little memorial that I stuck on the plate.

Had I preloaded my unconscious to do that by my flight of fancy over a mortal biscuit? I hadn’t really planned it that way directly. It just came out like that. When I looked at the biscuit on the plate looking like a tiny monument to biscuits I remembered what I had been thinking about on the way in. Very odd thing.

In the end the children I didn’t need much of an explanation. I made three moulds in front of year seven this morning and an audience of my technician who had rolled out the clay, David who collects Lowestoft Porcelain and helps me out, Carlos and the deputy head who had dropped in on another matter. I took a cast off an old camera someone had given me, a made sprig and tried to make a plate mould off a plate from Oxfam. I talked to the children about what they might make a sprig of for their commemorative plates.

Carefully made ceramic plate with sprigs and slip.

When the going gets tough the tough make a plate.

After the show at NUCA last week of twelve of my plates I have been working on the next set. This one has come together over the past couple of days and deploys my fruit gum sprig moulds. I have had the idea floating about in my head for a while to use these moulds to make a border but I hadn’t got so far as to imagine the central image. I worked on the robot figures and the fruit gums last night after school and I put down a layer of black slip and left it to gently dry over night. This morning I put on two layers of white slip and started to draw an image based on a sketchbook drawing, engraving into the damp slip.

I elaborated the simple sketch into something much more complex during the course of the day, working on it during lunchtime and whilst the year sevens were quietly getting on.

At the end of the day a lad came over and started to watch me at work on the plate as I was finishing off the border area. ‘Just watching’ he said. Which was fine. After a while a couple of girls came over and I had a little crowd gather.

‘Who is it supposed to be?’ asked the lad.

‘It’s Mr Cope. You can tell.’ said a girl.

‘But he hasn’t got a beard.’

‘It’s him when he was younger.’ she said.

‘What’s that rectangle round him?’

‘He’s looking into a mirror and seeing himself as he was when he was younger, isn’t he? And the sweets and the toys are because it’s about when he was young.’ explains the girl. I am obviously very pleased about this exchange as one pupil explains my work to another.

The drawing is based on a recollection of a drawing I was always sentimentally attached to. It was a self portrait in a vest that I drew when I was about fourteen. It was the first thing I remember doing when the drawing looked back at me with a certain amount of style and the start of the Cope line. It was expressive, as I remember and the first drawing that I did that was.

I lost it of course. God knows where it went. Out with my Action Man and Lego bricks I should think. But my question here is have I lost it? When I can recreate a memory of it on a plate. Can you lose anything that is in your head?

Even if you want to.

An interesting day.

This case study is about the making of a sequence of fifteen ceramic plates in a middle school art room as an example of art practice in an educational context. These plates and the continuing sequence is to be presented as the final part of the PhD report. The making of the plates represents a summary of the findings and themes explored in the research to date.

The plates have been made in the middle school art room as part of the daily life of the classroom and as part of the making of demonstration pieces for use in the classroom as an art practice. The ceramic plates have been made to explore learning and teaching about art in both form and content. The plates have been used to support teaching in the classroom and the process of their making has been demonstrated in the classroom.
The middle school that I work in is scheduled to close in July 2011. This is reflected in some of the plates which represent reflections on an art career in education. I have also been working in the role of head of year eight over the past year which has been onerous and stressful at times. The state of the school, uncertainty over the future, staff morale and the mood of the children have been the background to the making of this series of works. In many ways the focus on making work has been a welcome distraction and a solace from these working conditions.

Why Plates?
The only training I have had in ceramics was during my year of teacher training at Middlesex University. Before that there were a few childhood pots at school but nothing else. During my teaching career I have used ceramics extensively as a way of teaching the 3D element of the National Curriculum. Once I got used to firing the kilns I found in middle school art rooms I became more confident in using clay with children and more sure of successful results. Most of the children like using clay so I found it a good way to engage children. Many teachers don’t use clay because of fears over health and safety and behaviour with what is basically posh mud in a classroom. I found that I could use the clay to ensure good behaviour as if they didn’t use it properly I stopped them using it at all and this has a generally been an effective sanction.
The teacher at college was very enthusiastic about ceramics and the history of pottery and he opened it up for me and made me think about the history of the material. I have often told children about the tiny Roman pot that he showed us. It had the finger-prints of the maker on the base where it had been removed from the wheel.
What is so powerful about using ceramics in the classroom is the way that it connects the lesson to this whole history and technology of 10,000 years of ceramics. We are practising a sub-genre of ceramics called children’s pottery. Whilst down the road friends of mine make studio ceramics and in Stoke-on-Trent someone is making lavatory bowls. And not far from us there is a workshop making a revival of Lowestoft Porcelain.
Though I have developed a certain level of skill in ceramics over the years it is not high. I don’t do it often enough and I have not had the practice to get very good at it. My technical understanding of the process remains relatively basic. I can get children to make objects with buff school clay and terracotta, glaze them and have them come out of the kiln in one piece. In this way my pottery skill is entirely a thing of my teaching and thus seems a good way to explore the ideas about the classroom demonstration. All of my ceramic work takes place in the classroom and is an entirely classroom based sort of work. The things I make in clay always seem to me to have the mark of the classroom about them. They never transcend the classroom setting. I wanted this to be part of the work.
I was also interested in developing these ceramic skills with a sustained focus on the material. One of the themes of the research and of the practice in the research is the wide ranging nature of the practice and the continual distractions of working in a school. I wanted to try to concentrate on a set of work in a relatively narrow range to try to think about this aspect of the work.
I was also interested in the idea of skills and craft in the art curriculum. As my work has taken me into different phases of education I have become very interested in the different attitudes towards skill in these different phases. The National Curriculum in its various incarnations and current confusions, exam boards, foundation and degree courses and the art market in its myriad forms all seem to have different notions of skill. There is no single view of the value of skill in all these different viewpoints but a great number of assumptions. I think that what I am doing is showing students some creative thinking methods through the manipulation of materials and media. In this set of works I am trying to use clay as the medium to explore some creative ideas and ideas about process. I am also trying to show them creative engagement, an artist becoming quite obsessive about pursuing an idea.

The first plate
11th February 2010
From mind’s eye to object. How does this happen exactly? How does something go from being in my mind’s eye to becoming an object that everyone else can see? It’s a complex process, much of it inside my imagination but it is my imagination interacting with the material world and with people. It can be recorded at the time but sometimes it only becomes clear at the end. The plate started in come idea about how Roberts (2007) is wrong and that eh physical world and ideas is what is important and that the hand can’t and shouldn’t be taken out. So I was thinking about craft and plates and how the kiln in a middle school tends to produce work that looks like it was made in a middle school. Then I saw a link to an avatar making program. I made an avatar on this, for fun. I thought the result was funny but not much more. Then I thought about cutting it as a stencil to use in a painting. I reduced it to a black shape in Photoshop ready for that- ready to use a plotter to cut it, to be indirect. The machine was never going to happen so I went back to the souvenir plate idea which had evolved independently through Thomas Toft. So then I painted the image onto a plate. It being funny to paint a dematerialised avatar onto a dodgy middle school plate. Somewhere around here the mental image of what it would look like appears in my mind and then I go through the process of making that physical. I was very pleased with the result this morning. It doesn’t always work out as it didn’t with the CAD embroidery. And the process isn’t always like that either. Some things emerge before my eyes slowly and I find out what I meant later. And then there is doing the same thing through the children as per a lesson I did the other day that was observed by the deputy head. (From notebook)
The lesson I am referring to involved having the children making a ceramic mural that fitted together out of tiles that they made. This was a development of a painting project with connecting paintings. What I am interested in my own creative ideas and how they are communicated. With the plate I have an idea that evolves from an aside into a physical object that can be shared with others. With the class I am having an idea that I am getting the pupils to fill in, as it were. I am constructing a lesson that will fulfil the criteria of a learning experience for them and will generate a work of art. This seems more indirect, a mixture of an artistic imagination and a pedagogical one.

Further Plates
Following these, made in the Spring of 2010, I made no further plates but persisted with the etching project and drawing. As the new school year got under way in the Autumn of 2010 these plates and the positive reception that they had got were still in my mind.
In conversation with a friend about the project he referred to the idea of showing someone how to make a pot as an example of the sort of demonstration we were talking about. It occurred to me that the pot as a thing you show someone how to make is often mentioned in these conversations that I have about the project. It is the obvious metaphor.

If I make a pot to show you how to make a pot does that make the pot different to other sorts of pot? If we take that pot and put it in an art gallery does it look like a different sort of pot? If I make a pot to show myself about making a pot does that look different and if so how? And what have I been demonstrating? Practice having a skill-can I demonstrate my own learning or understanding to myself? (Notebook 30th October 2010)
I had been looking at Richard Prince and Lily Van Der Stokker and I was interested in their use of humour and text in their work. The first two plates I made to demonstrate a paper stencil technique used a rabbit drawing based on the work of Ray Johnson that I had used in a mail art project I had done the year before with the children. The other one was based on a Lily Van Der Stokker piece “I am an artwork and I am 3 years old”. These were made with newspaper leters cut out and placed on the clay and then coated with a layer of slip. The letters are then removed to leave the clay showing through. The Johnson plate was clear glazed and the Stokker piece was glazed with a blue speckle glaze. I had to glaze it twice as the first time it was ruined by a foot falling over a pupil’s clay figure and landing on the plate, sticking in the glaze. I had filled several pages of sketchbook with ideas for further plates.

Commemorative Plates

For the next set of plates a number of ideas coalesced around them and I began to research ceramics more actively. I started thinking about royal plates and the Thomas Toft slipware plates I have always enjoyed. I spent an afternoon drawing in the Castle Museum and I saw a number of plates and vases that had been made to commemorate various naval heroes from the Napoleonic wars. Nelson was just the most famous of the celebrated heroes of the sea, it would appear. I tried to base one of the plates on an image of Nelson. The idea being to commemorate my teaching career at Gisleham as the ship goes down around me. I was considering myself as some sort of Victorian educational hero, famed on plates.
I was also intrigued to find plates commemorating Admiral Keppel in various tinware forms. Keppel was court martialled for a naval mishap but was found innocent. This event kept the plate and bowl manufacturers of Staffordshire going for quite a while it would appear form the number of pieces with his image on in various collections that I have found.
I drew his image and used it as the basis for a self-portrait in the manner of on two plates. The point being that we are awash with naval metaphors at school. I am often told that I will find it difficult to work in a bigger school as I have been the captain of my own ship for so long.

What Made You Want to be an Artist, Mr Cope?
A further set examined the beginnings of my wanting to be an artist. I was trying to think back to when I was the age of the children that I teach. This is often in my thoughts whilst not really thinking much about my own childhood, in many ways. It is a focus on the art auto-biography more than anything else. I see children who seem to have a similar relationship to art that I had and there are the same sorts of enthusiasms amongst the children for different sorts of drawing as there was when I was young. Sci-fi and comic strips and horses and flowers. The Stokker work made me think about male equivalents to her work though this didn’t seem that productive. The male equivalents are what we are more used to as ‘art’ which is what gives her work the point.
One of the plates uses a boy’s drawing of a robot figure which he had actually given to another boy. I have used this boyish interest in robot figures before and another plate features a dalek. This interest stems from the games the boys play on their entertainment machines and the prevalence of sci-fi in popular culture.
When I was twelve the main thing I drew were real space men and Napoleonic soldiers. One of the plates features a drawing of a French hussar based on a fairly inauthentic painting found on the web. I was fascinated by these uniforms and the strangeness of getting dressed up like that to go to war. Some early drawings which garnered praise were of these soldiers, as I remember.

I have been using the various plates I have made and the learning journals as demonstration examples with the year eights over the past three weeks. They have been tasked to make a small plate with the circular tile cutter that we have. The pupils have picked up on the Grayson Perry vase of his childhood heroes which I have used for a ‘Heroes of Anstey Library’ design. They have done a lot of footballers.

What is quite interesting is the way that tracing has become a big part of the project. One of the pupils mistook some Pennsylvanian pin decorated ware of a horseman riding by for Thomas Toft’s work. I pursued the links further and found out more about the images. I have based two plates on the horseman who was apparently a stock figure in Pennsylvanian ceramics in the late eighteenth century. The second one I used a pin decorated method which gave the lines a certain quality but did enable a pretty accurate transposition of the photocopied drawing I used. The pupils have really gone for this and some of the results have been very fine. A girl this afternoon rendered an old fashioned car using this method which worked very well.

If I hadn’t got so involved in making plates myself then I wouldn’t have pursued these lovely Pennsylvanian plates because the link was because of my drawing of a hussar on a plate. It was because I was interested in making plates of a horseman riding by that I picked up on the serendipitous research image and following it through into something that has been so useful for the pupils.

The year eights are working on their big, life size paintings about them selves. They are going well and most of them seem to be enjoying the project. Some have found the scale of the things a bit difficult and this weeks theme was how to get small things onto big things, how to deal with scale and how to get small scale things onto these big images. I showed them the Paladino Dream paintings, not because they are directly relevant but to show them the idea of making something on a separate material or paper with a view to building it on later. We also experimented with stencils and a bit of screen printing on paper and onto the big paintings.

I also did some big drawings based on tiny thumbnails that the pupils had printed off the web and a drawing based on a half remembered idea of Homer Simpson. (Half remembered is important in this research project.) And one of the lads had some drawings of skully roboty figures which I liked because they had interesting gaps between the arms and body, they weren’t all joined up. Where these things come from and what sort of image mash produces them in boys heads I don’t know. It were all Thunderbirds when I were a lad. Obviously this is a sort of continuation of sci-fi imagery with additional computer gaming, Alien and so on and so forth minced up inside thirteen year old boy’s heads and produced as drawings. Great stuff and I was hoping that this sort of thing would come out. I sent the boy off to have the drawings photocopied so that we could collage the copies on rather than use the originals.

I borrowed one of these photocopies and made a drawing with black acrylic based on this little A4 sketch. I made it A2 and then it grew and I stuck another piece of paper on so it ended up as a long piece, quite big. I did this to demonstrate the idea of taking a drawing and re working it in a different way and at a different scale and I was interested in co-opting or assimilating this boy’s drawing.

The next day I was running through these ideas with the next class and I showed them this big picture and explained that it was based on William’s drawing that I had liked. After a bit a lad came up to me and asked me if William had really told me that it was his drawing because it wasn’t, it was his. He had given it to William and he had filled it in and finished it off, put his name on and evidently claimed it as his own. Quite what this lad had thought when I had held up a big version of his drawing and shown the class I don’t entirely know. He said he didn’t mind.

We had an interesting chat about his drawings and how he felt about them. He obviously used it as a powerful means of expression for him. They are all robots with skull heads and flames and mechanical arms and so on. A4 paper, shaded in pencil drawings. I wrote in his diary and told him that he should feel proud that someone liked his drawing enough to make a copy of it, it was quite an accolade that the art teacher liked his drawing enough to do that. I also told him he shouldn’t give his stuff away and certainly not to people who claim it as their own in quite that way.

I was also a bit embarrassed because I had been caught out making a pastiche with the permission of the wrong boy. And we were all in a tricky world of ripping off other off and the internet and every sci-fi film ever and nicking each others drawings and I’d sort of joined in. I guess I owe the boy a robot drawing.

When I realised what had happened I thought, wow, this is a great page of PhD. It will make a great plate.

‘I have a great love of things that human beings have made. Visual things; some of which are utilitarian, some are made for aesthetic pleasure. I have a great love of weaving; Navaho weaving, for example, and Mimbres pottery too; I love painting of all kinds from all countries; but something happened in the earliest part of the twentieth century – the Duchampian thing about what was, and what was not, a work of art. It was an absolute red herring. I don’t give a toss whether it’s considered a work of art or not. A great deal of what has gone on throughout the last century is to do with that debate and has nothing really to do with human beings making things. I’m only interested in what human beings make and why they make them. As a painter I am constantly learning, but what I’m not learning from is that quite recent phenomenon called ‘art’. ‘Art employs people.’ It is partly for this very reason that Cohen eschews subject and genre so vehemently and without compromise. As he explains it, the artist who subscribes to a genre is ‘guaranteed an audience of some kind’. Similarly, ‘there have always been artists who gather together an audience by having a subject,’ but to paint a picture without a subject or a genre? – ‘I’ve always been interested in things that didn’t fit into genres and I didn’t inherit one, but I think this is something that has played very heavily upon me – I’ve eschewed that whole thing because I just don’t believe that I can function within it. I can’t paint within it… I can’t think within it… I can’t be me within it… If I have a subject or subscribe to a genre, it ensures that I’m not lost, and I need to be lost. I can’t go into my studio to work if I am not in a state of complete confusion.’

via MCKAY-9.