Monday, 29 August 2011

Feedback was good

I spent this morning preparing for the mid semester assessment for Visual Inquiry - Reconsidering Traditions.  I was quite anxious about this. I had spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks upgrading my visual diary, closing some great gaping holes in my homework.  I mounted my work on the walls and fiddled around with it a bit, getting quite worried about how to "privilege" my work, by positioning the best bits in the most prominent positions.  In the end I just put it up so that it fitted the space available.  I looked at everyone else's work in the class when it was mounted on the walls, and decided that there was some excellent work displayed, but most students also had some gaps.  This made me feel quite a lot better.

I was last to receive feedback, and I reviewed all 6 weeks work. I think I had more to say about my work, than anyone else did on theirs (how surprising!).  I was delighted when the tutor said my work had come on tremendously.  I think most people in the group liked my work about my Dad, and how the repeated image faded, just like the personality of the person, but also that the background got darker so that the text (which was about what I liked about my Dad) became increasingly illegible as well, because the burden of care responsibilities mean you lose the ability to see what you respected.

I rang Jim to tell him the review had gone well, and positively skipped back to the bus stop, and then back to our flat. 

I am still not sure why I have such a reaction to feedback.  I get all hurt with negative feedback (even when the voice in my head says "it's fair comment, and well you know it!") and feel so much better and motivated when I get the good stuff.  It's probably my inner child wanting to be told I'm a good girl!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Chasing towards assessments on Monday and Tuesday

I've been busy the last couple of days.  On Friday I spent a very happy day at uni.  First I was in tutorial where we were anticipating potential questions in our Historical Issues in Art and Designs.  We have had 6 lectures so far, and after each lecture, the tutor has a list of pages to read in the set text - usually about 20 pages.  And it turns out I'm the only one who has actually read the set reading each week!  None of it is difficult, but we are covering such a wide range of art, that it is difficult to remember all the different artistic styles and the artists who used them, and what they created. 

The rest of the day, I spent in the textile workshop, printing repeat designs on two different fabrics. one black, one white. I managed to get a naff print right in the middle of the black fabric.  So I decided to overprint another layer of grey outlines on the black, then used my old honkey nuts screen to do a half drop repeat print over the whole length of fabric, and foiled this print.  The outcome was quite an interesting combination print.  But unfortunately the heat press was out of order, and I had to use the iron to do the foiling, and it is never as consistent.  But it demonstrated the principle

Then I worked on the white fabric with some grey binder and the repeats worked perfectly until I did the last one, when I made a smudged line right in the middle (when I was tired).  I said some rude words at this point.  But having said that, we were told to start scaling up the size of our samples, which I have done, and a large part of the skill, is to be able to repeat print correctly.  And you don't gain this skill without boo-boos.  We need to produce two 1m x 1m pieces for assessment in 2 weeks.  So far I'm working at 1m x 50cm repeats.  So far, so good.

On Saturday my plan was to get on my Visual Inquiry homework - working with text in pattern on a social or political issue that interests us.  I am unexcited by this.   So when my priority for the day was to spend the morning with my husband, doing something together, we decided to try a new route to Fremantle and have a walk around town.  We took the 30 and changed at Canning Bridge to the 106 and got to Fremantle in about an hour.  We had a lovely browse round town, and I took about 60 shots of different text on buildings and signs.  I excluded all advertising and shop names and had a lovely range of text, that clearly showed we had been tourists in Fremantle.  I printed them 9 to a page, and arranged them from light to dark tonally on a A1 page.  A day out with my husband, became an important social issue. 
Definitely a numberplate for someone unconcerned about their weight

Rather beautiful lettering with shadows (and this is mid-winter here!)

This morning I have been working on my mid semester assessment for Visual Inquiry. Jim went on a 36 mile bike ride, to take in the marathon at Kings Park - City to Surf. At home I've printed lots of artist research.  I've also used text to create a tonal head and shoulders shot of a man, and a darker background also done in text.  My plan is to photocopy the head 5 times, going one shade lighter each time, and copy the background 5 times going lighter each time.  Then put the lighter heads onto the darker backgrounds, to demonstrate how you lose the person with the deterioration of Alzheimers disease.  So that will be a second piece of social artwork for my homework. 

Jim and I took another walk along the riverside at Salter Point and spent some time looking at the waterskiers and boats, before we returned home and I cooked dinner.
Jim - " My friend Maurice would think this a great place for a run"

"A boardwalk, leading to steps, rocks, sand, tree roots and all on the river's edge!"

  1. The motorboat stopped to collect its water skier

Thursday, 25 August 2011

My favourite class

I went to my Pattern and Meaning Class today and had such a lovely time.  We were experimenting with more pattern making.  I used my new A3 size screen, and created some lovely line patterns. I worked on various rich silk offcuts (supplied by the tutor Kelsey) and printed in grape and dark chocolate onto deep jade, raspbery and charcoal grey silk.  I had some cream silk blend satin of my own and  used devore and chocolate binder to print onto the same piece, which looked lovely when devoured.   The fabric has a silk warp and polyester weft.  My theme keeps coming back to Dad.  The devoured silk is translucent where the lines cross the warp, but when the line runs along the warp, the polyester hangs loose, looking like it has been shredded.  And it represents the deterioration of the personality with Alzheimers.  The chocolate print shows the beauty of things we love (eg plants) but the additional line drawing of devore, combines it with deterioration and degradation.  When I come to display my work for mid semester assessment, I think this may be one of my key pieces.  Kelsey also asked me to display my paper pattern, which shows how I photocopied my repeat 9 times and stuck it together, to check whether the repeat worked well.  I had one area where the pattern had a tram line across it, so in my sketchbook I drew a red alteration to show how one leaf needed to bend, so that it was out of alignment with another leaf to prevent the tram line forming.

I was very pleased with how my new silkscreen design repeated.  It dovetailed into itself really well, and I was able to see through the screen well enough to be able to place it correctly most of the time. 

I printed some copies into my sketchbook, as Kelsey said I should work into the design to create variations on a theme.  Add more background, create form with mark making etc.  She also advised me to look really closely at the Esher photocopies (thistlehead and forest puddle) in my visual diary as all the clues were there.  So I have a happy evening ahead of me.  I need to do lots of prep at home, and take prepared drawings to class, as I can use the (free) photocopier there.  The problem with creating design using the Notan principle (dark/light) is that when I want to do a 9 patch (3 x 3) to see whether the design multiplies well, it uses excessive ink (c£22 per cartridge) on my home printer.

 Also where I had left my P&M visual diary lying around, and also my moleskine, another student had a look at it and was really complimentary, which did my ego a power of good.  I am really enjoying taking my moleskine with me everywhere, and I am starting to see patterns wherever I go.  I'm still not drawing enough things, but the fact that I have the moleskine with me, makes me look more.  I just need the time to stop to draw things.  But I'm usually rushing to class.

Mind you, I saw some lovely patterns in the plants outside the studio today. And tomorrow I have a class in the same block, that starts at 1030.  If I get to class at 9am, I could have over an hour, collecting patterns.  What an appealing idea!

During the day I had the chance to get on weighing scales.  And they confirmed what I thought!  I've lost about 6lbs since I came here.  Yippee!  And not before time.  I'm still on the lardy side, but less lardy than I was.  If I can keep this up, I will be really pleased.  I suspect the difference is that I'm walking for at least half an hour a day, to/from the bus stop, and I've virtually stopped eating chocolate because it is twice the price in Aus, compared to the UK. 
Jim looking out over Canning River, two minutes from home

I've inherited my Mother's chin!

And then I got the bus home.  Jim met me at the bus stop and we had an idyllic walk back to the flat.  The sun shone, the promenade at Salter Point was beautiful, there is clean air, bright light and everything is well with our world.  I feel so blessed.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

An early morning walk to the tip of Salter Point

I did not sleep well last night, and was all anxious about the Visual Inquiry assessment next week.  So Jim suggested we went for a walk to the tip of Salter Point, where there is a little nature reserve.  A lady walking her dog said the dolphin was fishing down by the yacht club, and the pelicans were there too.  But we continued on our way to the nature reserve.  As we approached the point, there was a commotion about 20 yards away on the water.  It was about 8 pelicans.  And then we saw the dolphin arching through the water - it was definitely chasing something, and the pelicans were benefitting from the defensive actions of the fish.  It was a lovely sight.  We watched them for about 15 minutes and I tried to capture them on camera.  I also decided to take as many photos as I could of any sort of pattern I could see, particularly in plants, to add to my visual diary.
The pelicans are not taking off or landing, but about to surface dive to catch fish
Jim standing at the very tip of Salter Point nature reserve

My best shot of the dolphin, in very shallow water at Salter Point
When we walked home, I decided to start on my concept board for Pattern & Meaning.  I decided to print some of my own photos of various plants, and surprisingly, the printing of the pictures went well.  On this basis I decided to print the pattern making homework I had done yesterday, as I often have problems with printing and when all is going well, is the best time to get it done.  I spent most of the morning printing pattern, changed all the ink cartridges (expensive!) because I used so much ink, and then stuck the prints into my visual diary.  And oddly, once I'd done this (ie not the concept board) I felt a lot better about the amount of work still outstanding for both Pattern & Meaning, and Visual Inquiry.  I think this is because I have actually wrapped up one piece of work.  So I don't have to worry about it any more. 

I do wish I did not worry as much.  At my age, you'd think I would have grown out of it by now!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A busy student

On Monday morning I rushed off to class, full of energy to get printing with my new screen.  I had my original ready to be transferred onto the screen.  It took for ever!  I was told my original on tracing paper would need to be transferred to paper because the sellotape joining 2 sheets of A4 together would show on the exposure.  So I copied it, and was advised not to transfer to acetate (which I prefer) but to oil the paper to make it translucent and expose that.  I hate oiling the paper.  You end up with a horrible sticky mess, and the oil gets everywhere. 

It took 5 attempts to get a satisfactory finish.  At first there was only eucalyptus oil available.  I managed to transfer dirt from the newsprint onto the first attempt, transferred coloured ink from the newsprint onto the second, transferred printing ink from the bottom of the bottle to my hand ( and then to the 3rd attempt).  The 4th was ok, until I went to have a cup of tea, and came back to find eucalpyptus oil evaporates and the paper was no longer translucent.  The fifth attempt was done with a heavier oil and I managed to expose this one.  But before I could expose the screen, I had to clean the exposure glass because the previous students had left oil stains from their prints. Grumble, grumble.  But once my silkscreen print was exposed and hosed off, it looked wonderful.  All this to-ing and fro-ing took about 4 hours.  So much for planning to get some prints done this morning.

Then it was my Visual Inquiry class.  The tutor looked somewhat askance at my conceptual pattern making based on my knitting and Jim's washing up.  But once it was explained she appeared quite mollified.  And when she saw other sketches I had done in my visual diary (yes, I'm actually using it now) she said she liked the conceptual patterns taken from brushing my teeth, and swimming. 
Swim training, and brushing my teeth

Knitting while Jim washes up

The tutor also said next week we have our mid semester assessment!  I thought it was the week after!  Good job I'd already started the catch up work.  So when I went home, I carried on with pattern making, using black and white,  and created  one sheet of work. 

The following morning I carried on with pattern making using colour versions.  I worked today for about 6 hours, before I went to my 5pm class.  And this pattern making does nothing for me.  It is a pedestrian exercise, using square repeating blocks.  I need plenty of examples in my visual diary, but it's not adding to my pattern making skills, or to my enjoyment.  So by the time I went to class, I was out of sorts.  And I managed to miss the bus, because the sonic key would not open the gates of the drive. 

So then I sat at the bus stop, and drew the pattern on the top row of the bricks on the wall I sat on while I waited.  This made a much more interesting pattern than anything I had worked on all day.  I should keep my visual diary with me and just draw things that interest me. 
The pattern of the to pbricks in the wall by the bus stop

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Pattern making and a trip to Perth Zoo

Jim was up early today, to go to meet the running club at Brentwood.  This meant he was up at 6 am and I was awake and raring to go too.  Jim found the running club this time, and discovered they are fair weather runners - if the weather forecast is rain, they don't go.  This was why they were not at the meeting point last week.  Not quite like England, where if you did not run in the rain, you'd never go out! 

So I was up drawing pattern with honkey nuts and eucalyptus leaves.  I was more successful than ever before.  I managed to create a pattern that intersected nicely and did not have any obvious tram lines or areas of repeat.  This took me about 3 hours, and I have now got an image drawn on tracing paper, ready to expose onto a silkscreen tomorrow. 

On the basis of this success, I rewarded myself with a trip out on the bus ... to the zoo.  I paid a concession ticket for $18, on presentation of my student card.  I wanted to draw plants, but did not want to go all the way to Kings Park on 2 buses.  I started by drawing tesssellated forms in the palm tree trunks, where the old leaves have been removed. 

I looked at the lizards and snakes in the reptile house and was amazed at the patterns in the scales of the monitor lizards.  I'm starting to see pattern in so many places, where I would not have noticed it previously.  I was delighted to see koalas feeding on eucalyptus - the only time I've seen them before, they were asleep, which apparently they are for 85% of the time.  Eucalyptus is low nutrient and needs a lot of digestion, so koalas mostly eat and sleep. 

Koala looking for dinner
Koala stretching for a tasty mouthful. 
I could smell the eucalyptus as he munched it.

The native Australia section of the zoo has a walkway through the kangaroo enclosure, with clear signs not to stray from the footpath in the kangaroos areas.  This is where the behaviour of people really stuns me.  A smallish kangaroo bounced onto the footpath.  Parents pushed their child in a pushchair really close to it, and started taking photos.  Then a group of parents and several children approach the kangaroo and started stroking it.  The kangaroo is now surrounded, and leans back on its tail and gives a sharp kick to a boy.  At this point a young couple, taller than everyone else, come alongside to walk past.  The kangaroo stands up really tall, and tries to give a stronger kick, which fortunately misses.  The couple walk on past quickly.  And the children and parents still try to gather round to stroke the kangaroo!   It's a wild animal, not a pussy cat!  Why don't people admire the animals, but keep their distance?  Fortunately when the kangaroo tries to kick an adult, the group start to disperse, and everything calms down.

I walked up to the cockatoo breeding aviary and sat down to draw some plants.  When all the people have dispersed, and I am just sitting quietly, I can hear a parrot sitting in the corner of the aviary, cracking sunflower seeds.  And once it is really quiet, the black cockatoos behind me start having a screaming match with the red-tailed cockatoos in the aviary in front of me.

And as the afternoon wears on, the clouds start increasing, it threatens rain and I decide to head home. A truly lovely day.

I'm using the best quality sketchbook

My friend Lisa gave me a moleskein sketchbook to start me on my artistic journey in Aus.  Interestingly, yesterday I was looking at Linda Kemshall's website.  I did my distance learning C&G Creative Sketchbooks course with her company a couple of years ago.  They have now revamped the course, and provide a small set of art materials as part of the course now.  A sketchbook is part of the package - and looking closely, I'm sure the brand they use is  Moleskein.  Linda states on her website that they have trialled many different types of sketchbook, and this one has good quality paper that will handle most media really well.  She says the sketchbooks (A5 and A4) are quite heavy (mine certainly is). 

So Lisa, looks like you chose the best sketchbook!

Yesterday I was a good student.  I had lots of homework - catching up on 4 sets artwork from previous classes, reading and art homework for Visual Inquiry on Monday, and pattern making  and concept board for Wednesday.  I really wanted to do the pattern making, so I can expose my new silkscreen on Monday.  But I was disciplined.  I did one set of catch-up (drawing knots, and developing pattern) then did the reading and internet search for Visual Inquiry.  I made scones in time for Jim coming home from his bike ride.  I cooked dinner and while he washed up I did my artwork for Visual Inquiry.  The theme was to create a pattern that represented a ritual in your life.  I was sitting knitting, while Jim washed up.  For us this is a ritual.  Jim never cooks, and I (almost) never wash up.  And I love knitting.  So the pattern I created had turquoise C shapes in rows, representing the finger movement of knitting, then rows of green and yellow motifs, representing the green/yellow scourer/sponge of Jim's washing up.  The first green/yellow row had lots of little circles representing the bubbles of foam, then a row of knitting with the Cs going the other way.  Then a green/yellow row of scratchy lines (scouring scorched pans), then a row of knitting, then a green/yellow row of diagonal lines and spots representing Jim rinsing the plates.  And several more rows of knitting because I knit for some time after he has finished washing up.

I hope the tutor likes it. I'm getting quite used to having my work harshly criticised.  But I feel virtuous this morning because I've done the homework that was essential, and now I can do the homework that is fun!

I'd like to spend more time drawing plants, to really get to know them.  But I'm running as fast as I can just keeping up with the workload.  I'd like to have a bigger library of images in my lovely Moleskein, but will just have to get on with what I've got and use my tuition free week to draw more plants.  Oh well, time for less moaning, more pattern making!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Presentation assessment complete

Well, it was good in parts.  At least my presentation on Lucienne Day is over and done with.  I had positive feedback on clarity, structure, passion(!) and breadth of knowledge of the subject.  But I was legitimately criticised for not giving enough quotes from accredited sources, not actually backing up my opinion with sourced reasoning and being a bit weak on defining my terms of postmodernism and modernism.  Which was all quite true - this is because I'm not that strong on the breadth of what modernism could be.  I know the overview, but did not choose to spend my time available on researching the breadth of the subject, but chose to spend it on the identification of other artistic periods apparent in Lucienne Day's work.  Unfortunately people thought I was saying she was not a modernist, when my thesis was actually saying her work was not SOLELY influenced by modernist theories. 

It is not the first time I have concluded I need to be much more careful about exactly what I say and pick my words more carefully.  Rather than letting my tongue run away with itself and talk myself into a deep hole.  But would that mean people would not understand my passion for my subject?  I was certainly nervous beforehand, although most people don't realise this. 

And when the tutor was assessing the 3 of  us who presented today, he was not using the assessment sheet provided in the syllabus (to which I had pitched my presentation).  So this might indicate why my analysis was not spot on.  Hmmm - it's no good making excuses - I know full well that I find analysis difficult and skim over the surface and hope to get away with high  level overview, rather than detailed, backed up, accredited detail.  Let's see what mark I get. 

So having done this presentation this morning, I came home and got stuck into catching up on Visual Inquiry work.  I redid the homework for the first week's class - drawing observational drawings of knots.  I got very upset when I did it first time round, because the tutor did not give clear instuctions what she expected, and I spent many hours creating 3 A1 drawings, and was absolutely slated in class, on the first occasion when I had met other class members.  So I have carefully drawn the knotted handle of my Goodliff's bag, photocopied it and created some varied pattern repeats.  I am a bit wary about what the tutor will make of it at mid-semester assessment.  I'm using my own printer as a copier and it is not exactly a high tech machine.  I'm half expecting another slating come feedback time. 

And now it's evening, and I'm too tired to continue with creative work. 

Mind you, Jim has just come out of the bedroom, asking whether I still need the printer to be switched on.  I scowled as I got up to switch it off as it is obvious I don't need it on, and he could easily have switched it off himself.   I refrained from telling him not to ask foolish questions.  I jabbed the printer button, and it fizzed and whirred as it did the internal checks prior to switching itself off.  The printer sounded as if it was growling.  So instead of me growling at Jim, the printer did instead!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Today is my birthday.

Last night, inbetween cooking dinner, I made a birthday cake to take to class today.  It was just a victoria sandwich but was at least home-made and quite a decent cake.  (Made in the same loaf tin I used for Ian James birthday). 

I went to class today, laden down like a little donkey.  As it is my favourite class (Pattern & Meaning) I had all my printing kit - screen, spare fabric, 12 samples made up this week, visual diary, apron - and my notebook, sketchbook, pencil box and my repeat pattern trials. Plus my birthday cake.  The cake went down a bomb with the class- fortunately there were only 9 of us including the tutor, so at least the slices were not miniscule!  The class sang happy birthday to me too!  And Jim had the leftovers when I got home.  (He also met me at the bus stop and carried all my gear home - rucksack and two carrier bags - while I walked exhaustedly beside him.  My hero!).

Last week I was working with translucent and opaque binder and black and white pigment.  This week we were using dyes and alginate.  I had never understood why people might use alginate with dye.  And the simple answer is that binder and pigment alters the handle of the cloth, stiffening it more or less depending on whether opaque or translucent binder is used.  Alginate and dye prints the cloth, then is heat fixed, and the alginate then washes out of the fabric, so the handle is not altered.  We only did a little printing with the alginate.

We were advised to do experimental samples, and combine several different techniques together.  So I already had silk velvet that had been devoured (eaten away), and green fabric that had been discharged (bleached) in my eucalyptus pattern, so today I was adding into these fabrics with different binders.

I've been told how to mount my samples.  I just don't work small.  So everyone else seems to produce A4 samples, but mine seem to come up about A3 size.  I've bought a Bindermate display book - A3 plastic sleeves, ready bound into a book.  Presentation is quite important here, so I'm having to improve my naturally scruffy working methods. 

The workload remains high.  Several people from Herts, and other exchange students from other countries have commented the workload is higher than we are used to, but the taught style means you cover more ground, in more detail and you learn a lot more.  All of us are partly horrified at how little we are taught in the UK, and partly very pleased we have travelled and expanded our education, and are benefitting from a different style of education.  Several of us have commented that we were achieving marks in the high 60s at home, but with what we now know, we could have been getting over 70%, had we known then, what we know now! 

I am pleased I have handed in my Private Lives Public Issues article analysis early, and will be giving my presentation for Historical Issues in Art & Design tomorrow (also early).  We have a mid semester assessment in week 8 for Pattern & Meaning and also Visual Inquiry, Reconsidering Traditions.  I had thought this was after tuition free week, but unfortunately this assessment is before!  I'm doing enough on P&M but I am really behind in Visual Inquiry.  I missed the first class (had been put in the wrong module) then misunderstood the first homework, and have struggled to keep up since.  The tutor wants all homework on large sheets for display and feedback in class.  So I have nothing in my visual diary for this class.  Then last week, she said I should have been doing tests and trials for the homework in my visual diary, and working up the main version on large paper.  So now I need to do 5 classes worth of work in my visual diary to catch up!  And get all 8 weeks documented before the Week 8 mid semester assessment! I am so thankful I chose to get ahead in the other 2 classes.  At least I can spend my weekends playing catch-up in only 1 subject.  Being organised and motivated to work early is one of the advantages of being a mature student.  A disadvantage of being mature is that I can't work creatively once I am tired.  So I don't rely on being able to work in the evening.  By then I am tired.  Good work is done during daytime.

In today's class, my ideas for my Pattern and Meaning design of eucalyptus came a stage closer.  We have been working on allover patterns, without getting an obvious repeat showing.  I have decided to work in just black and white with only one plant, eucalyptus.  My previous tryouts have had several different plants and you can always see the repeat.  And we need to get it worked up to the stage where we can block print large repeats.  So I'm moving from the 6" repeat to maybe A4 or even A3 repeats.
Largest print screen viewed from operating position

Largest print screen in position for first print, ready to go right along 8m table

But these are ideas for the next few days.  Right now I'm tired, and need to cook dinner.  I'll just restrain myself to thinking about my ideas tonight, and maybe a little knitting. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A conversation in the Butchers

I had an interesting conversation in the Butchers today.  A couple of days ago I bought some sausages and we cooked them the other night.  Hardly any fat ran out of them at all (and I nearly cremated them because of this!).  So today I asked how much fat was typically in an australian sausage.  The butcher said they had to be 85% lean meat, with 9% cereal and the rest made up with water, and a tiny amount of fat.  No wonder they did not run fat.  His proportions were 10k lean meat, 1kg cereal powder, 2 litres water, and some fat.  And the local authority come round and test the sausages for constituent parts.  I said in the UK sausages were usually nearly white because they are mostly fat, unless you pay a lot for them.  Also he said the low quality mince was 85% lean, and high quality mince would be 97% lean.  Once again lower fat than in the UK.   I'm sure I'm going to quiz him more about the meat and find out more meat details on subsequent trips. 

Jim and I have noticed that there are fewer overweight people in Perth, than in either the UK or USA.  This might be because the food is higher quality/lower fat, or possibly because food outlets control portion size.  In the USA, Jim experienced much bigger portions, and nearly always free refills on drinks (tea, coffee, coke).  Here, portions are adequate, but smaller with no free refills.  And this seems to reduce the incidence of obesity, and the visibility of sheer greed.  Although there are adverts on the television about the increase in diabetes in the Australian community, we do not notice people who look obese and unwell.  In fact, Jim has commented on how many sports pitches there are, and how often they appear to be in continuous use.  There are 2 football pitches plus hockey and rugby pitches near us.  On Sundays, Jim often goes out on the bike and spends some time watching the games.  The football pitch is in use all day long, with youngsters in the morning and older boys playing in more senior leagues as the afternoon wears on.  In England people are interested in football but mostly watch it.  Here a lot more people seem to follow football and actually play it.

This morning when Jim and I were walking to the shops, we walked along the river front, when we heard the blow of a dolphin.  Looking closely we could see two fins arching through the water, with the familiar sound of the dolphin breathing.   The pair went along the riverside, then headed out to sea. 

Black swans on Canning River outside our flat

Sunday, 14 August 2011

An exciting morning of research

Sometimes research just goes well.  I've been running around the internet looking up plants that associate with australia, medicinal research and alzheimers.  Unsurprisingly this has taken me 4 hours, along with printing some relevant data and images. 

I started with the Chelsea Physic Garden.  I went there a few years ago when I was into quilting and there was an exhibition of Ken Clark's wife's quilting. (he was a UK politician).  She was a very down-to-earth woman, and she had a degree in medieaval history and was a keen gardener, so her quilts often featured medieaval plants. The Chelsea Physic Garden has a website that shows their different gardens, including the Garden of World Medicine and Pharmaceutical Garden.  The Garden of World Medicine has a section about Aboriginal medicine, so I've been printing pictures of their plants (banksia, crinum, eucalyptus, dodonaea, prostanthera and solanum).  And the Pharmaceutical Garden has a section on psychiatry and I've only managed to look at Narcissus so far (also has plants valeriana and vicia faba).  I got a bit absorbed with narcissus because this gives the medication galantamine which is used for Alzheimers, and galantamine gets its name from Galanthus - snowdrop.  So I've been looking at snowdrops, which with a bit of imagination could be drawn to resemble amyloid plaques which are the obstructive build-ups in the brain that give Alzheimers symptoms.  How good is this!

I'm getting lots of images together to be able to build my sketchbook (must call it Visual Diary - the term used here in Aus/Curtin).  Also have ideas coming together to create my mood board (terminology here is Concept Board)  which I was a bit worried about, but now have the materials and ideas.  Yippee. 
Sketchbook pages from Kings Park. Not fine art but just what I need to work up images to print.

And I have not even started on the information I gathered on the website for botanical artists in Aus.  This site gave names of Victorian artists and how flowers were used in children's literature and then went on to the European language of flowers. 

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Drawing in Kings Park

Yesterday was an easy day at college with just one tutorial, where the tutor was encouraging students to get to grips with their presentations.  My presentation is just about ready and I have brought forward my delivery date to next week. 

In the evening I got to grips with the last part of my Private Lives Public Issues article analysis.  I referred to the advice the tutor gave, wrote myself subheadings for what I was looking to comment on, and re-read the article, pulling quotes that fitted with the headings.  By the time I had pulled it all together with correct grammar, I had the required wordcount and had summarised and commented on the article as required.  I had been getting all anxious about being able to comment on the article, but once I listened, took notes, and applied what I had been told, it was quite easy.  It does make you wonder whether I listened at all at school!

This morning, Saturday, was glorious, bright, sunny weather with a nice breeze.  Just the sort of day that makes you glad to be alive.  I took myself off on the bus to Kings Park.  Perfect weather for drawing al fresco (unlike last week).  I spent a happy couple of hours, drawing kangaroo paws, sandpaper wattle, malee, grevillea, and eucalyptus.  I was watching a couple of thrush-like birds.  The native plants were in bloom and several were covered in bees.  One particular plant, pouched grevillea, attracted the birds and they were obviously drinking the nectar from the blossoms.  I sat quietly and the birds hopped about in the low growing shrub for about 15 minutes, only 4 feet away from me.  I was surprised that birds with a thrush type beak were able to take nectar as I had expected them to have a longer, finer beak, but they were obviously doing quite well, whatever shape beak they had. 
Not sure what tree has these blossoms but they are beautiful.

Sandpaper Wattle - acacia denticulosa

Eucalyptus macrocarpa with spent blooms - after rain

Buds don't always open by splitting horizontally - this one was damaged in recent storms.

Kings Park is on high ground, looking out over the Swan River to Perth City Centre.  The light is bright and clear, and the air is clean.  It is such an idyllic location, and I'm going to be here for a year, coming to draw the rare plants in the botanical collection, whenever I want.  I feel so blessed.

Windows in Perth Central Business District

More windows

While I was out, Jim took himself on a bike ride.  He went across from SalterPoint across the bridge to the east of us, to the south side of Canning River, and back across another bridge to the west of us and back to Salter Point.  He is now sitting patiently, playing on the computer, but has that hungry sort of look.  I shall get up and make dinner, and make him a happy husband!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A happy design student

I had a good time in Private Lives Public Issues yesterday.  Although I find the reading heavy going, I find the classroom conversation very good, and other people's insights into the readings give depth and balance.  After each class we have to write one page summarising the 3 key learning points for us as individuals and state why they are significant.  I think the tutor is quite generous on the marking, and yesterday he returned our second set of summaries.  I got 75% in the first one, and to my surprise, got 90% in the second.  I have learned, however, when making notes, to pay attention whenever the tutor says "good point, I like that" or "that is really nicely linked together".  If I asterisk each of these comments, and I can use these for the Key Learning Points, and it seems to bring together a good mark.  Oh, why did I not learn to pay attention, listen carefully, and write it down, as a teenager? 

TodayI had Pattern and Meaning. I had worked really hard putting together my irregular jig-saw shaped pattern of eucalyptus macrocarpus.  I have mastered the principle quite well, but had not grasped that the tutor wanted a really closely drawn pattern, where the repeat is not obvious, and there are no gaps.  So I need to do a redrawing job.  My first version was quite large, with about 2 key design parts on an A4 sheet.  The next one needs to have design pieces about 2 inches across, so the design is smaller but more complex.  This will take time, but the practice will be well worth while. I desperately want to go out and spend days just drawing lots of native plants, so I have a library of images to select from.  But I have 3 other modules to keep up with.  This is the disadvantage of having to study full time!  I like part-time study because if I want to get obsessed with something, I've got the time to do it!  So many ideas, so little time.
Working drawing for my design

We got to grips with screen printing using the mechanical printer.  The screen is roughly 1.20 m wide by 2 m long.  The mechanical printer is mounted on wheels, which run along each edge of the 8m long printing table.  You fix the silkscreen into the mounting, align the registration points and mix your screen inks.  You roll the mechanical printer to the first fixing for a print position and secure your screen.  The squeejee is attached to two long arm handles at the top of the screen.  You take the handles and position the squeejee onto the silkscreen, with plenty of ink in front of it.  Engage pressure, and walk backwards, pulling the handles so the squeejee pulls the ink to the bottom of the screen.  Then push all the way backwards. Make sure no-one is behind you when you pull back, otherwise you will walk into them, and lose the continuity on the pull.

Work your way down the table, printing every other print repeat (3, 5, 7, 9), thus allowing each print time to dry.  When your first run is complete, bring the mechanical printer back to the second position, and do another run of prints (2, 4, 6, 8), this time printing in between the prints already completed.

So now we know the theory of how to do a length of all over, repeating print.  Just need to get my design right, so I can try it out. 

Jim has been poking fun at me.  When I am seeking an appropriate phrase, I ask him for advice .... "what comes after The practice will be well ...?  He sits there like the Two Ronnies saying "well heeled", "well met by moonlight", "well advised", "well worth while". 

I was talking to Darshil and Diep, two of the other exchange students from Herts.  They are struggling to find work.  Both would like to work part-time to fund their studies, but are having difficulties.  I think part of the reason is because they are both 23.  In Australia, apparently there are different minimum rates of pay, depending on age.  So if you are looking for unskilled work, like retail or waiting at table, 16-18 year olds have the lowest rate of pay, then 18-21 year olds get another rate, and over 21s are paid c$20 per hour which is the minimum wage for their age.  Which sounds a great rate of pay, until you are competing against under 21s for the same job, except they will be more attractive to the employer as they cost less.  I am very glad I don't need to work.  Natalie, another UH student has found a job in a coffee shop, but as far as I know, is the only one out of 8 of us, to have done so.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

There is a lot of homework

I seem to have returned to the days of school!  I have a homework diary!  If I don't keep on top of hte work as it comes in every week, I'm going to be snowed under.  This weekend I wrote most of my Historical Issues presentation and did lots of research on my Visual Inquiry homework.  Yesterday I printed information on Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel, went to Visual Inquiry, then drew some colour patterns for homework.  Today I spent the morning drawing a black and white tessellated pattern of eucalyptus for Pattern and Meaning class.  In the process I managed to empty a black printer cartridge, as I copied several sheets which had large black areas. 

As I have spent so much time concentrating, Jim decided to go out on his bike.  He has given up trying to have a conversation with me when I am working, because I always end up growling at him!  So Jim went out to find a bike shop, Garlands, which had been recommended to him. He looked up the address on the map, rode there on his bike ... only to find it was a vacant lot with a hole in the ground.  He came back along the cycle path along the river.  After lunch he went out on his bike to find a cafe where a group of runners go running every Saturday morning.  He was told of this by a local runner.  Jim's navigation leaves a bit to be desired.  He found the cafe after about 9 miles of cycling, and discovered the direct route home is 3.5 miles.  This runners group meet at about 7am, and in a week or so, it will be light enough for Jim to cycle out to meet them, to restart his running.  It is about 10 months since he last ran - we came home from Budapest after a disastrous international  triathlon,when he had flu and did not compete, and he has not run since.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Dog walking and potential dog sitting

Jim, Susie and Ian, along with Lucy the dog.

Susie is an experience mosaicist, and this is Lucy's drinking bowl!

Typical view on our walk

My hero

Yesterday, Saturday morning, Jim and I went to see my cousin Ian and wife Susie. We took their dog, Lucy out for a walk. It was an idyllic morning for a walk. Lucy ran around like a mad thing, I took lots of photos to gather images for my australian plants research and conversation flowed freely. It was a lovely morning.

When we got home, it was back to art homework. We had an exercise in class to describe a complicated postcard of a textile. We swapped descriptions, and I had a set of instructions to draw a black/tan textile of an native weaving. The instructions that I had were complicated, but understandable, and I was pleased with my drawing. I suspect my exchange partner will find my instructions much more unintelligible. The textile I described was a multi-coloured mola (hawaiian applique) which was much less ordered than the picture I drew.
Art homework

While taking a break from my homework this morning, I had an interesting chat with our landlords. It turns out they will being going to Italy for a month soon. They were going to arrange for house sitters to come in to look after their two small dogs while they are away. I said we would be happy to look after them, as we were experienced dog owners. I also asked about what the position was regarding rent if we went away travelling for a while, during my university holiday, and was informed they usually came to an agreement with the tenants to either put their belongings into the garage to enable a holiday let, or paid a reduced rent to leave their stuff in the granny flat. We agreed that if we look after the dogs, we can pay a small rent and leave our stuff in the flat. This enables us to have a bit of a holiday, while not paying out for duplicated accommodation costs.

I've spent this morning doing my research homework on Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel, and printing images of their respective modernist style of dress design. Elsa Schiaparelli was much more imaginative and daring and worked closely with modernist artists like Dali. Coco Chanel was a much less pleasant character, designing mannish, loose, comfortable clothing before moving on to the "little black dress" but had some disturbingly close contacts with the Nazi regime which led to her being persona non grata in Paris, post war.

This afternoon I continued working on my Lucienne Day presentation for Historical Issues in Art & Design. I had a lot of visual disturbance and was headachey but (foolishly) carried on working on the computer. I have managed to remember how to use Powerpoint, although it took me ages to work out how to upload images from the internet (scrambled brains at the time). I need one more session to add the last few images, and then go through the tutor's instructions one last time. If I add in all the verbal comments I need make to fit all the criteria, I think I can make a good presentation. Then that is one major assessment I can complete early on, to concentrate on the others. I do not need to stress out over several assessments at the same time.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Getting into the swing of it

I'm feeling as if I have got into my stride with my studies now.  I know which modules are my favourites, and which I am likely to get lower marks - they counter-correlate.  Pattern and Meaning is my favourite class, then History of Issues in Art & Design, then Visual Inquiry, Reconsidering Traditions, and last Private Lives Public Matters.  I feel more confident that I know the expectations, the deadlines, and am getting down to work on each one.  I had my panic about work levels a week ago, and this was about a week before everyone else.  All my classmates have been doing angst about workloads this week.

Yesterday I had another Pattern & Meaning class.  We were shown a photocopy of a complicated repeat pattern and shown how to identify the pattern repeat.  Basically you use 2 different highlighters and colour in matching areas of 2 adjacent patterns.  You continue until you think you have covered the whole pattern motif, one in each colour.  Then you pick out the pattern above, to the other side and beneath the original motif.  This ensures you have isolated the whole motif. 

We were then shown how to manually create a repeating pattern that is not a standard tessellation.  Create a roughly horizontal pattern with several close but not actually touching shapes.  Cut paper vertically into 2 pieces, between two of the shapes, move the right hand piece to the left hand side, and tape in position.  Draw pattern shapes above and below what you have already created.  Cut apart horizontally between some of the pattern shapes.  Move top piece to bottom and tape down.  If there is a gap in the middle that you do not want, add more pattern shapes.  This leaves the paper jigsaw shaped and you can then photocopy to create a repeating design.  I spent last evening doing this as my homework. 

I have been thinking about my final assessment. This needs to be a length of cloth, at least a meter in each direction.  I know I want to work with Australian flora, but to include my Dad and his Alzheimers somehow.  Kelsey, our tutor, thought this was a good concept, and thought there might be comparatively few other artists working with this theme.  She suggested I look at Notan - the dark-light principle.  I took a book from the library - most common familiar form is the Yin-Yang motif - equally light and dark and wholly balanced.  So I'm working through some of exercises in the book.  I associated thought and brainwaves with silver lines (so did Dumbledore in Harry Potter!).  So I wondering about a length of cloth - starting with australian flora, representing the plants that we both loved, then adding a few silver lines and outlines, then silvery (or dark?) amygloidal plaques (which look like flowers) getting denser until the placques totally obliterate the beauty of the fabric.  The obliteration ends with a straight line, (Dad died), and returns to the whole patterned fabric, full colour and beautiful, which represents the positive use of his inheritance support my education to celebrate his love of gardening.  And it would end up as an art installation hung sideways on - wide and shallow - representing the breadth of horizon and ending with the cloth wound around a roll, indicating that the end is still out of sight.  Not that I'm planning anything overly-demanding, you understand!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Reflections over morning tea

I am very glad I have come to Curtin University for my exchange year.  Jim and I were sitting in bed this morning discussing my course.  When I applied last year, I was told to drop one unit I had applied for, and take Historical Issues in Art and Design.  I have never studied history of art, so was quite happy to do this, even though my Contemporary Applied Art degree only focuses on postmodernism and does not look at anything before 1920. 

Studying HIAD has been such an eye opener.  Last year I did an essay on Lucienne Day, a top 1950s textile designer.  Throughout my reading research, I was seeking critical reviews of her work, but could find nothing uncomplimentary or anything that explained why she used floral/plant motifs so much, when her work was attributed to be influenced by the abstract painters.  One of the first things we learned about in HIAD was art in Islam and how they used flowers in repeat patterns and calligraphy.  Now I look at Lucienne Day's work and see how her art was not so modern as she would have people believe, and that her influences were actually much more historical.  Some of her wallpaper used calligraphic motifs which is another feature of Islamic art.

Postmodernism has a principle that states nothing is original in art, but what makes it appealing it that its themes constantly change, the message behind the work, and how different materials/issues are combined.  So if postmodernism is about electicism - the best from a variety of sources - why does my UK course not study History of Art in order to give us a wider vocabulary of artistic styles to choose from?  (Probably because we do self-directed learning and would be told to go to a wide range of exhibitions and read widely, and find out ourselves).   And as my tutor here said "this course is not History of Art, it is Historical Issues in Art - you need to identify the issues/themes the artists of the day were dealing with, and track them to their application in the modern day".  This is what makes it interesting.

And I think I will use Lucienne Day for my class presentation.  The class won't know I did an essay on her last year, but I will be able to rewrite my argument, to explain why she used floral motifs so much, on the basis of my own analysis to my own satisfaction.  This will really please me to wrap up some unfinished business from last year's essay.

As readers can probably tell, the difference between self directed learning and taught courses is something that exercises my mind quite a lot.  I think each style has benefits and disbenefits.  A taught course has a much higher defined workload and the ground you need to cover is much more clearly structured. I very much enjoy what I am doing here and probably would not have identified the ground to be covered unless it had been done for me.  It bothers me that I had not thought about doing history of art from my own initiative, because I am getting so much from it.  This seems to indicate I have restricted thinking and analysis.

I think self directed learning is a much more adult learning style where it is your own motivation and curiosity that drives you to define what you want to know, then investigate and draw conclusions.  I find this much more difficult - although I think I am better at it than many of my peers.  I think that self directed learning needs to be clearly understood, practised and feedback received on what goes well/badly before anyone stands a chance of being good at it.  And a large part of being good at self-directed learning, in order to get a good degree by this route, is being able to define the breadth and depth of what you need to know, in order to have well rounded knowledge at the end. 

I worked very hard last year, developing my printing skills.  I had a wonderful time and developed a lot of practical skills.  But I did not do much (any?) theory.  I did not read widely about print. So I gained more depth in print skills than my peers, but I did not gain breadth.  And this is where a taught course wins.  A good taught course has had this part of the thinking done for you, because you are given a clear structure.  So once again, I draw the conclusion that I am intellectually lazy and like a lot of the thinking done for me. Hmmm. 

Basic learning theory talks about the learning cycle going round activist-pragmatist-theorist-reflector.  I know I have a strong preference for the activist-pragmatist part of the cycle (I like doing things, and having a practical application for what I do).  I find this blog helps a lot for the reflecting on what I have done, so my reflector role is getting there.  But I still don't instinctively do the theory part.  This is where I benefit from the taught style of teaching, because it is given to me and is compulsory.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Other exchange students' money worries

I had an interesting discussion about finances for exchange students.  I am acutely aware that I don't plan in detail, and work very much broad brush, but when planning a budget I ensure I have plenty of funds available because I am risk averse.  I had had several conversations with exchange students from the UK and other countries about the expected costs involved in a year studying abroad and the hidden costs.  But just what is a reasonable budget for a year abroad?  If students knew in advance, would it put off too many people?

I spoke to a student today who had hoped to manage on £9,000 ($13,500) for a year.  He had originally been told that he would be entitled to a £7,500 loan, but on confirmation, this was £5,500.  He had accumulated £2,000 from savings and expected to get a part time job to earn about £2,000. This totals about £9,000.   However, his rent is £100 a week (c50% more than he has paid previously) - about £5,000 for the year, which means his loan is swallowed up immediately.  He has spent  about half his savings on the airfare, and the accommodation bond took most of the rest.  His accommodation is furnished, but not equipped, so he has had to go out to buy duvet covers and sheets, and some cooking utensils (crockery and cutler were supplied, although this is unusual for a let that is "not equipped).  He is jobhunting but despite making 40 applications, has had no joy.  There is usually one recommended book per module and they seem very expensive from a UK perspective - about £90 per book x 4 modules!  He is now getting worried whether he will have to return home after the first seminar, due to lack of funds.

Students from different countries have had varying experiences about how much they were prepared by their own Study Abroad offices.  One student said his culture is very money aware and  his Study Abroad office prepared him well by explaining that expenses in overseas university literature were usually under-estimates. They gave quite accurate expectations on how much it would cost, and also made helpful comments about lots of the expenditure being made early on, which helped cashflow planning.  Other students felt their Study Abroad office had given little support or guidance on how much it would cost.

I had researched, in a fairly broad brush way, the costs I anticipated.  I expected to pay fairly high accommodation costs because I needed a flat for me and Jim, and did not want to share a student house.  So research said £180 per week, so I was expecting to pay £9,000 for the year in rent alone. (in fact I expected it to be more expensive, because for some reason I was reading quotes in Australian $, but interpreted it in £s!).  Even so, my estimate of funds required for the year, were at least double what others expected.  And if I wanted to travel during the 3 month summer break, I would probably triple the £9,000 quoted by my friend. 

The hidden costs that I had not expected were the Incidental Fees x 2, because I'm doing two practical modules.  These were £80 each and cover basic materials for the teaching sessions (but not materials for your final work).  I've not bought the recommended book for History of Art because it is £80, is massively large and heavy, and although recommended as a lifetime resource, is too heavy to take home on the flight allowance.  So I've got mine from the library and just hope I don't have to return it too soon.  But equally, I'm used to be being fairly frugal when needed (lentils are cheap, contain protein and fibre, so how many way can I cook them to be healthy and regular!?). I don't go clubbing or drinking, and Jim and I have discovered the "Good Sammy" charity shop sells very good second hand clothes - eg $5-7 for a sturdy pair of jeans. (£4-5).  If I was hard-up, I'd shop there. 

Other unexpected costs for me have been purchasing the Telstra mobile wifi one year package (c£100) and an up-to-date MS office package (c£120).  I could have used the university computers but there are too few computers, and the atmosphere is so hot and stuffy, I keep having a hot flush every time I go in. We also bought a printer and spare ink (c£70).  We already had the laptop (me) and Ipad (Jim).  In case people wonder why I did not just buy a new laptop, it is because of my environmental concerns in the throw-away age. 
However, I do wish I'd been told to find out comparative costs, and to price the cost of taking an extra suitcase on the flight, against the cost of buying clothes, shoes and maybe some kitchen utensils out here. Particularly for people who enjoy the social scene, the cost of clothes/shoes for partying would be considerable. I was very bothered about having to carry my gear, but if I had bought another suitcase with wheels it would have meant I would have spent less time in the first few days, seeking cheap utensils.  But how much do I expect Study Abroad to spoon-feed me with information that with some sensible analysis I should have been able to ask myself?  I keep telling myself that the UK university style is that of self-directed learning.  So why do I keep expecting the Study Abroad office to tell me what I should go to find out myself?  Possibly because I am intellectually lazy?  Now there's  a reason to keep my moaning to myself!  What an unpalatable conclusion!!

And I think I've worked out why the price of tea bothers me.  Jim said yesterday that he pays c£10 for tea and buns for two in the UK, so why am I moaning about the same price here.  I think it is because I know the climate here is going to get really hot, and I need to practice drinking more fluids than I do in the UK.  But here, the portion size of drinks in cafes, is tiny - a cup of tea is a tiny thimbleful.  So I know I need to drink, but it's not enough volume for the price.  I caught sight of myself in the library and I had bags under my eyes (typical symptom of dehydration) so took myself off for an expensive drink.  And as Jim has come from the USA recently, their culture is to give a large (huge) tumbler of iced water, free, to customers on arrival at a cafe, while they take your order, and they also give free refills.  So, succinctly, I am puzzled why drink portions are so small in a hot country where dehydration needs to managed.

And I know the purpose of me coming abroad was to identify and experiences the differences between countries and cultures!