No pictures for this post - just a reflection. I just had my VIVA this morning. This is where MFA students give a presentation about their final projects. It's where you defend and describe your inspirations, methodology, and conclusions. My VIVA was with my three primary tutors, my allies here at the University of Edinburgh College of Art, Jonathan Gibbs, Mike Windle and Bev Hood. I've done a lot these last two years, so we had a lot to talk about. And I've learned to be proud of and defend what I do and how I do it. I've basically learned to deeply believe in myself and my creations.
I probably won't get written feedback (the VIVA was my feedback), so I want to record some of what was said before I forget it.
I was asked how my method has changed. So MUCH! I used to be an A to Z creator. As in, here's the brief, how do we get to the end product? I have become much more about the journey from A to Z, the exploration and processes, the search for how best to express the ideas I'm trying to get across, how to best say what I'm trying to say.
I told Jonny I'll be quoting him for years. He often says, "How do you teach art?" Certainly, you can teach the technical aspects of drawing. But technical proficiency doesn't always lead to emotional results. The better path may be, how do you teach somebody to mine the deepest depths of the idea they are trying to relay, and then learn to share that in a professional manner? It really changes everything for me - how I work, how I teach, my philosophy behind being a creator.
They commended me on the sheer volume of the work I've created. But I've always done that. It's hard to tell people on the front end, "You'll rarely see somebody produce like I produce." It's something you have to prove by doing. They have to see it. I try to live by the words of Ben Franklin, "Well done is better than well said." It drives me.
But it's also because of what I said in my TEDx Talk. I don't know how much time I have here and I have SO MUCH I want to share. It is a creative compulsion to get it out of me. That doesn't mean it's always good or worth sharing. But it does mean it's worth doing. That is also a new thing for me.
Like my Creative Leftovers book - there is only one in the world. And that's okay. From here on out I will make cards and zines and short stories and board books and picture books and poetry books and odd collections, simply because they bring me joy to make them. Not everything has to be about the marketplace. Not everything has to be sold. Some things can be just for me. That's new too.
They talked about watching me change from the way I used to do things, to be open to experimentation. Which I was! I made a point of trying almost everything that was suggested to me - even the outlandish things. It broadened my mind and abilities and range of what I create.
I think this is what I will miss the most about uni, actually. Feedback/critique is not the same thing as a tutor suggesting, "Have you thought about trying this in stained glass?" Seriously? Sorry, Mike, I will forever laugh about that one. And yet...and yet... why the heck not? Okay, if something is physically impossible to do, that's one thing. But if it is possible, then why not try it?
It's why I did the Crow Not Crow title with woodblock letters. It's okay if it doesn't work. The point is, you can't know until you try it!
I hope that wherever I end up, I can retain and recreate this experimental environment around myself again - people with outlandish ideas and the materials to try them. It's not that I was lazy before, I think I didn't know that experimentation is a path.
That said, a lot of that experimentation has simply been inspired by watching the students around me work. I can't say enough how valuable that has been to me. Because no two creators will ever do something the same way, and that can be wildly inspiring!
All said, what I've learned at uni sounds so simple, this sense of experimentation and how important the path of creation is, but it has made ALL the difference in how I work. I also think I've come to understand what "Heart Art" is. Perhaps that was the driving question behind all my studies. It's not necessarily about creating technically beautiful work, it's about creating work that speaks to people, hits buttons, reaches those deeply embedded secret places within the psyche. I'm not saying I will always create it. In fact, I'm certain that I will fail a lot! But I think I can better discern what is working on that emotional level and what is not. And while not all projects require our deepest wellsprings, I know that I will strive more often to go there, to see opportunities to go there, where perhaps, no one thought it necessary. And I now know what it feels like to go there, to tap that source, to create inspired work. Here's hoping this was just the beginning to a lifetime of more of it!