Friday 12 May 2017

The Way Forward

Reading through my last post R.I.S.K. it seemed to me to be a bit of a random wander through my current thinking.  I hope you could make sense of it.  It was certainly helpful to me to write it all down.

I ended by saying that I spent 2 days being mentored by Christine Chester at her studio in Eastbourne and that I was part of a new venture.

Mentoring with Christine Chester

I met Christine when I attended a workshop she led at The Bramble Patch called Poetry of Decay. It was an excellently organised workshop which I discover I didn’t ever blog about. I did share the photos I had taken for inspiration.

Safe to say, I really enjoyed the work, learned lots about different techniques and the properties of various media and was totally impressed by Christine’s style of teaching. Her style really suited me and later when I saw that she offered mentoring I decided that I would sign up.

Having met Christine it was possibly not as much of a risk to ask her for help as it might have been but it’s still making myself and my work vulnerable – not something I’m good at.

Before the two days in Eastbourne Christine sent me a questionnaire with I had to return 2 weeks before our meeting. I am prone to leave things to the last minute and usually I would look at it a couple of days before the deadline but knowing I was going away (see all the Ohio, Road Trip, Florida and Washington posts!) I decided to start shortly after receiving the questionnaire in January. The questionnaire asked about the strengths and weaknesses of my current work, time constraints etc. Instead of working through it in order and in one go, I moved about the questionnaire and came back to it time and time again in order to have thinking time. It was such a great experience. I have never spent so much time thinking about the things Christine was asking.

In addition she asked for two Pinterest boards – one showing my own work and one showing work that I liked or inspired me.

Our first session together was spent looking at some of my work that I had taken with me and talking about my responses to the questionnaire and Christine’s thoughts on what I had written. This was a great session and I was torn between wanting to take notes and wanting to fully concentrating on what Christine was saying.

Christine left me on my own to process what she had said and I wrote up what I could remember. Fortunately when Christine sent me her version of what we had talked about the two documents were pretty much the same.  I also made a mind map of my thoughts from the tutorial.

The key issue was perception. My perception of the value of my work! My perception of what passion looks like – it doesn’t have to be extrovert when I am an introvert!  And process v theme.

One of the things we discussed was my feeling that I did too many workshops and the skills and techniques I learned didn’t translate into finished pieces. Christine wrote this in the tutorial notes: “One of the key shifts in perception is that process should be subordinate to your ideas – that does not mean that process is not important – far from it. But it does mean that you are making the idea the key feature, rather than the process. This should keep the communication of your idea clearer – either visually to an audience, or at least in your mind in light of having to write artists statements.” This is quite a shift in perception for me and I am still processing it.

We talked about developing a visual language of my own and Christine encouraged me to spend the rest of the day using various media and tools to explore this. I used India ink, walnut ink and screenprinting ink with a variety of tools including a twig, a kebab stick and a feather. I worked on large sheets of paper and worked on loosening up. I started with a triangle which is rigid and then tried expanding that and breaking up the lines. In my mind I was thinking about risk and breaking out and giving myself permission. I ended up with some really interesting images.

One of the images isolated from the marks above

I spent the morning of the second day still trying out different marks. Christine brought me a book to look at by Denise Lach: Calligraphy: A book of Contemporary Inspiraton  which I have since purchased.  I tried writing phrases with the different tools and media.

I started making marks whilst thinking about chains and broken chains – still following the thoughts of breaking out and breaking free. I tried drawing with my eyes shut, with my non-dominant hand, and used a candle so I couldn’t see what I’d drawn until I put a wash over the marks.

I also worked on fabrics.

I spent time working on my own in the studio and time working whilst Christine was doing some of her work. Working on my own meant I didn’t become dependent on Christine’s input so that I could continue at home. We didn’t have set times to talk but if I was flagging or stuck Christine was available to give advice or to ask questions.

It was an outstanding two days which I am still processing. I am trying to continue with the mark making. Not working for a finished piece or working on a particular technique is quite different for me so is quite a shift of perspective.

After I came home, Christine sent me a summary of what we had discussed and an action plan for the next 4-6 months including an optional extra of reading some books. Later in the year I can ask for a Skype session where we discuss the action plan and what I have achieved from it.

This post as become much longer than I imagined so I am going to tell you about my new venture next time.

Thanks for stopping by.


  1. I was going to ask if you have been to Eastbourne yet. It sounds a wonderful experience and like you I was very taken by Christine's style and approach. Also like you, I have come to the conclusion that it's the process that matters. Mmmm... now you have given me something to reflect on. I have various ideas for projects so maybe I will attempt to work on one of these over the weekend. I am on a retreat with friends where we work on our own thing. I have not been very creative as my style and ideas are changing and I feel a bit adrift, not sure where to go. Maybe I should think of an idea and work with that. An interesting post and I'm so glad you enjoyed the mentoring. It sounds very valuable and Christine is perfect for this role. I'm interested to see where you go from here and will be watching to see...

  2. I am so glad you enjoyed your session. Sounds to have been very worthwhile and I hope will make me think more along the same lines. Funnily enough I was doing mark making myself this week. :-)
    I shall look forward to seeing what happens next.


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