Congleton High School: An Artist Visit

I was asked recently by Congleton High School, to come in as a visiting artist, to speak to a group of students about my work and my experience as a creative practitioner. 

My experience of talking about my work has previously been limited to contexts where audiences or visitors have either come to view or purchase artwork (mine or others) such as exhibitions, open studios or art fairs, or else to curators, retailers and other artists. Going into a school and talking about my work from an educational standpoint; communicating my ideas and methods, as well as my influences and creative processes, involved a different kind of engagement with my own work.

In preparing to present to the students, it was interesting to look at my work from a standpoint of retrospection and to critically unpick it, in order to communicate how it came to me made and how it has developed and evolved over the years. In doing this, I was able to identify how printing (and my experience of screen printing, within a manufacturing context) had informed my painting methods and how in turn, that had led me full circle back to printing again. Looking back I was able to see how my artistic influences had shaped my progress and how I learned to wear those influences less heavily as I developed my own techniques and discovered more personal sources of inspiration..

The students were briefed with the task of critically evaluating my work and making a piece of their own work in response to it. To be entirely honest, it was fairly nerve-wracking having my work critically dissected in this way but I really enjoyed talking to them and discussing their responses in a short follow up visit. With the exception of one student, who was herself a tattoo artist, the others had little or no experience of painting or print making.

Their responses were entirely individual and they’d all taken different aspects of the work I had shown them as starting points. One student used the digitally manipulated, painted textures that I sometimes use as backdrops to some of my print work, as a jumping off point. She then followed the process, informed by her ‘mistakes’ (what began as a moon became a banana) to create her final piece. I’d discussed the influence of pop-art on my work and her painting reminded me of Warhol’s famous ‘Velvet Underground’ album cover. I was told this wasn’t intentional and that she hadn’t, in fact, seen the cover in question. Another student chose the more cartoon-like aspects of some of my work, while another had begun with the elements of pattern and repetition that appear in my paintings.

It was a pleasure to see the end results and thank you to Congleton High School for asking me and to the students for the consideration they put into their responses. Hopefully they learned a little about what I do and why I do it. I know I did.