Sunday, December 07, 2008

Zotero - Citation Organisation

Being of a lazy disposition I have been looking for ways to organise my growing list of references and bibliographies. I currently run Word XP, inevitably Microsoft do not have a means of organising citations in this ancient version. I believe there is an option in Word 2007, although it can not cope with Harvard (Author:Date) citations. I tried a third party option Documentit. Downloaded the Trial version and typed in some 20 bibliography citations. Only to discover that the trial version of Documentit will only allow you to download the first 3 citations in your list, bummer! Having just spent 30 mins typing all that in and not to be able to extract the info again is not amusing. Nowhere in the information regarding the trial version is this limitation mentioned. A cheap trick to make me cough up £14.99 for the full version, I think not, why can they not be upfront about the limitations?

Not to be thwarted, I discovered that I could auto transfer the first 3 citations in my the list into my Word document. Then deleted them from DocumentS*it and transferred again. Yes, it worked the next three citations were transferred and adinfinitum until I had copied over all my bibliography citations into a Word document for future use. Not a completely wasted effort but not quite what I was expecting.

What next, well another session with Google dug up an interesting extension for Firefox, Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] claims that it can "help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources" Zotero is an easy-to-use yet powerful research tool that helps to gather, organize, and analyze sources (citations, full texts, web pages, images, and other objects), and lets you share the results of your research in a variety of ways. Interestingly Zotero seems to be in dispute with the owners of Endnote a proprietary citation manager.

The easiest way to collect your bibliography is to find the book in question in Amazon click the Zotera icon in the bottom right hand corner of your browser window and Bingo the full citation is added to your library. I have since found a more useful location for Zotero friendly citations at Worldcat an aggregation site for over 10,000 libraries worldwide. The beauty of this site is you can find the details of out of print books.

Zotero integrates with Microsoft Word or Open Office via a plugin. This places icons in the Word toolbar. To add a citation to a document or essay, place the cursor at the point in the document where you want to add the citation, click add citation icon in the toolbar, the first time you will be asked for the format, choose Harvard, select your citation from the list and click add. The citation will be added thus - (Anfam 1998). at the same time Zotero adds the full citation at the end of the document as an alphabetical list. It has worked for me and saved loads of tedious typing.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Digital Student

Yesterdays Guardian (2nd Dec 08) included a supplement "Digital Student". It contained some useful and interesting stuff. One article that caught my eye about e-portfolios. The article described the use of the webfolio software designed by Pebble Pad. This is a bit like Moodle but more interactive. They cited the work of a mature Fine Art student at University of Wolverhampton (sic) showing some interesting examples from Sally's e-Journal.

The Pebble Pad site contains some interesting stuff including a Power Point presentation about the logic behind their creation. There were also links to other useful sites and info. One being a book Art Spoke, and another being a site dedicated to learning on-line with useful info about essay writing etc . There was a very clear example of citing using the Harvard, Author Date, system.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Understanding the Canon in Art

Critical Studies Lecture 6th October 2008 - Revisited

This lecture introduced the notion of the "canon" in art. At the time my only understanding of the word was as an instrument of war or the liturgy of the Catholic Mass. I had not come across the word in the context of art.
Since when of course I have bumped into the word a number of times, not usually in a context which sank in.

Today I was reading an interesting article in Art World [1] which referred to a new exhibition in the New York Guggenheim.[2] Described as ground breaking and titled "theanyspacewhatsoever", the exhibition involves 10 artists, Angela Bulloch, Maurizio Cattelan, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Carsten Höller, Pierre Huyghe, Jorge Pardo, Philippe Parreno and Rirkrit Tiravanija. They describe themselves as individuals but the art world describes them as part of a new "ism", "Relational Aesthetics", an association they have endeavoured to deny.

They are artist who have renounced the production of individual objects replacing these instead with the medium of the gallery or museum space. This they use individually or in loose collaboration to create "artwork" which creates a social environment in which people come together to participate in a shared activity".[3]

Critics, academics, curators and collectors have endeavoured to pigeon hole these artist alongside the YBA (Young British Artists) of the 1990's, considered to be the foundation of the "ism", "Relational Aesthetics",

Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector gleefully suggests the collaboration of these artists in this unique event justifies their addition to this canon!

I feel that reading this article has clarified my understanding of the notion of the term canon in the context of art.


  • Canon: a term used to mean work of value or a restrictive and limited code or disciplinary practice and theory.
  • Canon: a rule or especially body of rules or principles generally established as valid and fundamental in a field or art.
  • Canonical: According to acknowledged rules.

1. (accessed 90.11.08)
2. Spector N, "Grappling with theanyspacewhatsoever".Art World.7(October/November),2008,pp.24
3. (accessed 09.11.08)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Art in the Age of YouTube

One of the growth areas of the Internet is streaming video not least in the art world. There are sites covering exhibitions, gallery shows, artist interviews, art world events, etc. The quality of the output can be a bit variable and maybe dependant on the quality and speed of your broadband connection. Top of the pile is probably BBC iPlayer with Google Video at the other end, there are many in-between.

There are also sites either specialising in art video output or who include a significant content on their sites. One of the more interesting dedicated sites is NewArtTV others include VernisageTV, LXTV. The art magazines ArtReview and ArtInfo both have significant video content on their websites. The current streaming video phenomenon of the Internet, YouTube includes a number of dedicated art channels one of which is operated by the controversial character James Kalm. An exciting find was a YouTube channel under the name of deepsofnight which contains lots of goodies including Robert Hughes's Shock of the New.

The association between art and streaming video is only scratching the surface of the mediums potential, we are watching this space with interest.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Gestalt - A physical, psychological, or symbolic arrangement or pattern of parts so unified as a whole that its properties cannot be derived from a simple summation of its parts. May also refer to a school or theory in psychology known as Gestalt psychology.

Here is an animation of four pictures, each an arrangement of coloured squares of decreasing size, increasing number, and increasing complexity. As the animation progresses there is a moment at which the viewer identifies the image from which the images were derived. This experience might be described as achieving closure or making a new gestalt. This experience is also likely to arrive earlier in the sequence the more times one sees the animation. Even the final image is actually a greatly distorted reproduction of the original picture. See derived image, metamorphosis, and pixel.

Reference:- (Accessed 29.10.08)

Visual Arts Glossary

Visual Art Glossary


Weak image of the complementary colour created by the brain as a reaction to prolonged looking at a colour. (After looking at red, the after-image is green).

Alternating rhythm

Repeating motifs but changing the position, content or spaces between them.

Analogous colour

Colours that are beside each other on the colour wheel.

Art criticism

The process and result of critical thinking about art. It usually involves the description, analysis and interpretation of art, as well as some kind of judgement.


Sculpture consisting of many objects and materials that have been put together.

Asymmetrical balance

Informal balance in which unlike objects have equal visual weight.


Part of the picture plane that seems to be farthest from the viewer.


Principle of design that deals with arranging the visual elements in a work of art for harmony of design and proportion.


Sculpture in which part of the surface projects from a flat plane.


Using contrast of light and dark to create the illusion of three-dimensional form on a two-dimensional surface.


In design, creating a focal point by grouping different objects or shapes together.

Colour wheel

A tool for organizing colour.

Complementary colour

Colours that are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel (for example, blue and orange).


Arrangements of elements in a work of art.

Continuation (continuity)

In design, arranging shapes so that the line or edge of one shape leads into another (technique for creating unity).

Contour lines

Contour lines define edges, ridges or the outline of a shape or form.


A large difference between two things. It is a technique often used to create a focal point.


Arts works that are both decorative and functional. (Weaving, fabric design, jewellery-making and pottery).


Technique for shading using two or more crossed sets of parallel lines.


Behaviours, ideas, skills and customs of a group of people.


Changing an object's usual shape to communicate ideas and feelings.

Dominant element

Element in a work of art that is noticed first (elements noticed later are subordinate).


Principle of design that stresses one element or area to attract the viewer's attention first.


Increasing or enlarging an object or figure to communicate ideas or feelings.

Flowing rhythm

Visual rhythm that is created by repeating wavy lines.

Focal point

Area of an art work that attracts the viewer's attention first. Contrast, location, isolation, convergence and the unusual are used to create focal points.


Part of a picture which appears closest to the viewer and often is at the bottom of the picture.


A form of perspective where the nearest parts of an object or form are enlarged so that the rest of the form appears to go back in space.

Gesture drawing

A drawing done quickly to capture a movement.


Another word for colour (colour has three properties: hue, value and intensity).


Brightness or dullness of a colour. Intensity can be reduced by adding the colour's complement.

Linear perspective

Technique of creating the illusion of depth on a flat surface. The lines of buildings and other objects converge to a vanishing point on a horizon line (viewer's eye level).


A visual symbol that identifies a business, club, individual or group.


Any material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint.


Area in a picture between the foreground and the background.

Mixed media

Any art work which uses more than one medium.

Monochromatic colour

Colour scheme which uses one hue and all its tints and shades for a unifying effect.


Repeated unit to create visual rhythm.

Negative space

Space around an object or form.

Neutral colours

Black, white and grey.


Quality of a material that does not let any light pass through.

Organic form

Shapes or forms that are free-flowing and non-geometric.

Path of movement

The path along which the viewer's eye moves from one part of an art work to another.


Lines, colours or shapes repeated in a planned way.


Method used to create the illusion of space on a two-dimensional surface. Can be created by overlapping, placement, detail, colour, converging lines and size variations.

Picture plane

The surface of a drawing or painting.

Point of view

Angle from which the viewer sees the object.

Positive space

Shapes or forms on a two-dimensional surface.

Principles of design

Guidelines that artists use in composing designs and controlling how viewers are likely to react to the image. Balance, contrast, proportion, movement, emphasis, variety, unity and repetition are examples of the principles of design.


Principle of design concerned with the relationship of one object to another with respect to size, amount, number and degree.

Radial balance

Kind of balance where the elements branch out from a central point.

Random rhythm

Visual rhythm in which a motif is repeated in no apparent order.

Regular rhythm

Visual rhythm created through repeating the same motif with the same distance between placements.


Technique for creating unity and rhythm in which a single element or motif is used over and over again.


Copy of a work of art.


Principle of design that repeats elements to create the illusion of movement. There are five kinds of rhythm: random, regular, alternating, progressive and flowing.


The proportion between two sets of dimensions.


Dark value of a colour made by adding black.


Space can be the area around, within or between images or elements. Space can be created on a two-dimensional surface by using such techniques as overlapping, object size, placement, colour intensity and value, detail and diagonal lines.

Split complementary

A colour scheme based on one hue and the hues on either side of its complement on the colour wheel.


Style is the artist's ways of presenting things. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities, choice of subject matter, etc. reflect the style of the individual, culture or time period.


A topic or idea represented in an art work.

Subordinate element

Element in an art work noticed after the dominant element.

Subtractive method

Sculpture that is made by cutting, carving or otherwise removing material.


Visual image that represents something else.

Symmetrical balance

Formal balance where two sides of a design are identical.


Light value of a colour made by adding white.


Quality of material which allows diffused light to pass through it.


Quality of a material which allows light to pass through it.


Means "fool the eye". Style of painting where the artist creates the illusion of three-dimensional objects.


Principle of design that gives the feeling that all parts are working together.


The lightness or darkness of a colour.

Vanishing point

In perspective drawing, a point or points on the horizon where receding parallel lines seem to meet.


Principle of design concerned with difference or contrasts.

Visual weight

The interest or attraction that certain elements in an art work have upon the viewer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Potted Art Course

I came across this site today whist looking for something quite different, as one does. The link is to the course notes for a course in Art, Design and Visual Thinking at New York State College of Human Ecology. It is surprisingly comprehensive an includes numerous excellent images and references.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Affordable Art Fair

I have had a selection of my Flora Photographica series on sale at the Affordable Art Fair Battersea this weekend (22nd to 26th October) and I am delighted to say they sold out so I am just a bit chuffed. I was represented by Wills Art Warehouse. A great gallery in Putney and a must visit if you find yourself down that way.

I also had some of my art up for sale and that was not doing too bad either.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Modernism - Greenberg - Discuss

The major obstacles to tackling this essay are the impenetrable prose and unnecessarily complex vocabulary. The armoury of the educated to defend their assumed intellectual superiority.

From my lowly standpoint it would appear to me that Greenberg is suggesting or rather stating that to legitimise or justify art we must criticise it but before we can do that we must understand what it is and what it is endeavouring to achieve.

He implies that the only medium capable of representing modernism is painting as painting is the only medium that can divorce itself from representation and what has gone before by virtue of its flatness; the essence of Modernism.

References:- (Accessed 20.10.08) (Accessed 20.10.08)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rothko at Tate Modern

With great anticipation I visited the Rothko exhibition on Saturday (18th October). A painter who has held considerable fascination for me since I read his biography on holiday last year. At the time of my visit I have to confess I had forgotten the precise means of Rothko's demise. So what you may ask, you need to read on to find out!

Given the publicity that this new exhibition at Tate Modern has received there can be few people unaware of the idiosyncrasies of Rothko as an artist or the mysticism associated with his work. Or the fact that many are moved to tears by his work. Would I be?

Rothko painted in isolation and rarely explained or discussed his work, an isolation that added a mystery and an intrigue to his paintings. Something which taunted the art world long before his tragic death in 1970.

Possibly Rothko's most idiosyncratic stunt was to take on a commission to paint a series of gigantic works to decorate the imposing and expensive restaurant of New Yorks grand Seagram's building. But he never delivered, instead he donated the work to the Tate Gallery, the catalyst for this new exhibition. But why did he take on the Seagrams commission and why did he not complete it?

According to a journalist, John Fischer of Harpers Magazine, who bumped into Rothko in the bar of a transatlantic liner; Rothko's reasons for taking on the commission where subversive. He confessed that he wanted to upset, offend and torture the diners at the Four Seasons. "I hope to ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room," he gloated, "with paintings that will make those rich bastards feel that they are trapped in a room where all the doors and windows are bricked up"[1].

After 30 minutes in Gallery 4 of the Tate Modern, I felt trapped and overcome by the most overwhelming feeling of depression, to the point were under my breath I told myself that If I did not get out of the place, there and then, I might end up slashing my wrists.

Rothko killed himself by deeply slashing both arms at the elbow. I now know why!

[1] Feeding Fury, Jonathan Jones, Guardian 7 Dec 2002:
Accessed 19.10.2002

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Developing the Right Language

One of my grandmothers homilies was that she did not know she was poor because no one had told her! Critical Thinking is a bit the same for me. As a practical scientist, I have spent most of my life Critical Thinking but I did not know that because we called it analysis!

As I search and develop the right side of my brain through the pursuit of art the exposure to abstruse aspects of the subject are quite enlightening. One of the pleasures and frustrations of the endeavour is the discovery of a new language and of course the words that go with it. My inadequacies in this area are evident as I struggle with the lexicon of the subject. This inadequacy was brought home to me as I listened to a commentary by Sasha Cradock on one of the works (Flowing 2 by Marta Marcé) at the current John Moores exhibition, but I shall leave Sasha to another occasion.

One of the first reoccurring words to catch my eye was "epistemology". At first glance I read it as "episiotomy", must be something to do with my daughter just having given birth. As you may imagine the sentence did not make much sense until I reread it and realised my mistake.

After a lifetime immersed in the scientific language of microbiology, biochemistry, haematology and a load more ologies getting to grips with the language of art is not far off learning Norwegian and I have been trying to do that for 14 years with little success. So you can see I may be struggling with Critical Studies!

Epistemology (from Greek - episteme, "knowledge") or theory of knowledge is a branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge. The term was introduced into English by the Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier (1808-1864).

Episiotomy is a surgical incision through the perineum made to enlarge the vagina and assist childbirth.

The Persiflage of Language

I have tried to avoid involvement in the Damien Hirst controversy. Mainly because I could disgrace myself with an uncontrollable outflow of profanity and derision. I was however taken with Robert Hughes's outflow of derision in his Guardian article of 13 September 08 concerning Hirst's upcoming Sothebys auction.

As I read the article my eye was caught by the word "persiflage". Initially I was taken aback by the use of a word containing more than two syllables by an Australian. But what did he mean by the use of this interesting word, as there seems to be more than one interpretation?


By now, with the enormous hype that has been spun around it, there probably isn't an earthworm between John O'Groats and Land's End that hasn't heard about the auction of Damien Hirst's work at Sotheby's on Monday and Tuesday - the special character of the event being that the artist is offering the work directly for sale, not through a dealer. This, of course, is persiflage. Christie's and Sotheby's are now scarcely distinguishable from private dealers anyway: they in effect manage and represent living artists, and the Hirst auction is merely another step in cutting gallery dealers out of the loop.

A quick Google produced a selection of definitions from reputable sources:-

1. Unabridged (v 1.1)
  • light, bantering talk or writing.
  • a frivolous or flippant style of treating a subject.

2. American Heritage Dictionary -
  • Light good-natured talk; banter.
  • Light or frivolous manner of discussing a subject.

3. Online Etymology Dictionary -
  • to banter
  • to whistle, hiss

4. WordNet -
  • light teasing

5. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary -
  • to quiz, to whistle, hiss,
  • Frivolous or bantering talk; a frivolous manner of treating any subject, whether serious or otherwise;
  • Light raillery

Ah but which definition did Hughes have in mind when chose such a mellifluous word? Was he referring to his writing as banter (good humoured, playful conversation, To speak to in a playful or teasing way) or did he mean frivolous (unworthy of serious attention; trivia).

It's OK these word mongers using words of more than one syllable but are they using the word to clarify a point or to show off? Like so much writing about art there is a tendency not to use one syllable where you can use two or more. I appreciate a long word used correctly may save the use of many more smaller words but....................what do you think?

Whatever his intention my contention would be that he intended the interpretation "frivolous", for me that would sum up Damian Hirst and his work perfectly - "persiflage"! Or as an Englishman may say; frivolous, unworthy of serious attention!


Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Power of the Mid Life Crisis

How may of us harbour an unfulfilled desire to write a novel or direct a film, quite a few I suspect. How many of us actually do anything about fulfilling that dream, very few I am sure. Well my kid brother, Johnny Parker, driven by his mid life crisis has taken the first steps down the road to fulfilling both of these dreams. The novel is still in the incubator but the film has just hit a computer screen near you. Beauty and the Butcher a humorous tale of unrequited love was written and directed by Johnny.

The tale follows the theme "Beautiful Beautician loves Hunky Butcher but can she overcome her shyness, her loathing of meat, competition from the cocky Estate Agent and a mountain of cruel obstacles to get to the man she adores?" Does she, well you will have to watch this very accomplished first effort at creating a short film.

View the video below or follow the link for a Hi-Res version.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Art Links Galore

I came across this site DARE (Digital Art Resource for Education) whilst researching Space & Place for my first semester assignment. I have not looked at them all yet but there are some very useful links.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Citing and Referencing

An essential aspect of writing essays and dissertations is the referencing (or citing) of ALL source material. This includes the obvious references such as books, journals monographs, less obvious sources like maps, newspapers, theses, brochures, radio, TV etc and increasingly the Internet. There are two parts to a reference, the point in the text where the reference occurs and the actual reference itself, listed at the end of the document.

There are two main systems of citing references, the Harvard system (also known as the Author-date system) and the British Standard (or numeric system). Both are acceptable but in the Humanities which includes the arts the British Standard system is preferred as the in text reference style is less intrusive.

The main difference between the two systems is the way the reference is cited within the body of your text. There is very little difference in the way the reference is written

Harvard System - Jones (2008, p45) where you are using the name of the author in your text or (Jones, 2008, p45) where you are just referencing the author.

British Standard System - you would cite the reference by using a number in the form (5), [5], or superscript 5. The reference is then added to your work as a footnote or endnote

In the endnotes of bibliography the reference would be constructed as follows:-

Harvard System

For a book:-
  • Author(s)
  • Initials
  • Date
  • Title of book (in italic)
  • Publisher
  • Place of publication
  • Total number of pages
Eg. - Jones J.K. 2008. Art in 20th Century, London: Pergamon

For a Journal:-
  • Author(s)
  • Initials
  • Date in ( ) brackets
  • Title of article in "quotation marks"
  • Title of journal in italic
  • Volume (part number, month or season)
  • Page reference eg. pp. 250-300
Eg. - Parker A.J.(2008)"A Way of Seeing" Art Review. 25(June) pp.1-22

British Standard System

For a book:-
  • Author(s)
  • Initials
  • Title of book (in italic)
  • Place of publication:
  • Publisher
  • Date
Eg. - Jones J.K.Art in 20th Century.London:Pergamon, 2008

For a Journal:-
  • Author(s)
  • Initials
  • Title of article in "quotation marks"
  • Title of journal in italic
  • Volume (part number, month or season)
  • Date (Year)
  • Page reference eg. pp. 250-300
Eg - Parker A.J."A Way of Seeing" Art Review.1(June), 2008, pp.1-22

Referencing the Internet is a particularly complex area due to the wide variation of source material. To explain the process is too much for this brief introduction. I would advise that you consult the reference I have cited below.

You should find out which system your college or university would prefer you to use and then ensure you apply it consistently.

For full and frank explanation of how to reference any conceivable source I would recommend an excellent publication "Cite them right" the Essential guide to referencing and plagiarism. Oh yes plagiarism, now there is a "tin of worms". You would do to read learn and inwardly digest before you put pen to paper.

Students are advised to record their sources as they consult them rather than trying to remember the source after you have finished their piece of work. Keep a notebook handy.

The book can be obtained from Amazon for the princely sum of £5.49 although the Library copy I have, is priced at £4.99

"Cite them right The essential guide to referencing and plagiarism"
Richard Pears and Graham Shields
ISBN: 0-9551216-04
Stonebrook Print and Design Services Ltd

Pears R. & Shields G. "Cite them right. The Essential guide to referencing and plagiarism", Newcastle: Stonebrook Print and Design Services Ltd, 2005.

Bournmouth University

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Keeping a Reflective Diary

Daily Reflection: A Ten-Minute Exercise
This is a more demanding discipline than the Learning Diary, as it requires daily reflection on one's learning cf. at the end of each week. Its advantage is that through a regular commitment, one 'learns faster' i.e., you have the opportunity to live not only 'bumped around' on the surface of life, but with a deeper understanding and mastery of the opportunities of life.


  1. Choose a safe place (i.e., comfortable, peaceful environment where you are unlikely to be interrupted for 10 minutes), relax your body and become attentive but open.
  2. Begin positively. Recall something in the day that was good. It may have been something that you really valued: a kind word, a good conversation, a beautiful rainbow or even a simple equation (that succinctly summed up so much!). Then re-live that experience, savor it for a minute and express gratitude for it.
  3. Have a moment of silence, then let one thing surface in your mind. An indication of something to reflect on, may be a niggle, a mental preoccupation, a tension or a strong feeling.
    • Think around the situation: how it began, how it developed, why it bothered me so deeply etc.
    • Reflect on this. Can't I stand being criticised and always want to look as though I'm right? Am I intolerant? Do I not understand the subject area?
    • Recognise it - own it - this is me! It may be painful but I faced it! Talk over these feelings with yourself. You may begin here to realise that it is not so serious and begin to smile to yourself as you put it into perspective.
    • Realise that having come thus far (e.g., facing the pain), you have grown a little in self knowledge and awareness. Express gratitude at this point. Realise also that in growing you have also grown for others and in so doing (if done humbly i.e., not for selfish reasons) then you are also helping the development of humankind.
  4. An example may be: a conversation that made me feel being got at, or a badly answered question in a tutorial that made me look stupid; so I'm hurt, angry, resentful, I want to retaliate; it has spoiled my day and I want to/have taken out my bitterness on others etc.
  5. Now, may be the appropriate time to 'formally' finish the reflection in any manner that seems appropriate to you e.g., a good stretch, saying a meaningful verse of a poem or a simple prayer. Then have a cup of tea!
  6. You may wish to work further with your insight, either now or later (make a note in your diary) i.e., how you can move on from here (to complete the Learning Cycle). Do not rush any insights. Let them have time (at least a few days) to mature, by keeping them gently in mind.

Keeping a Learning/Reflective Diary

  • To allow you to regularly reflect on significant experiences associated particularly with your (University) learning.
  • To help you become aware and acknowledge what you have learnt/how you have progressed.
  • To help identify issues/problem associated with your learning, and by so doing, enable you to consider options for their resolution etc.

  • Use a soft backed small exercise book (not loose paper) to record your thoughts.
  • Spend no more than five minutes every day, (rather than half an hour, once a week) to get started.
  • Review what you have written once a week (e.g. Sunday evening; when you might also be planning your coming week activity). Also, review what you have written more generally every month/two months to gain an overview/discover trends, etc.
  • If nothing "comes" - leave it to the following day (but write down some comment e.g. ‘nothing today’).

  • "Activities"/situations/experiences that went well or were difficult
  • Unexpected problems or issues e.g. solving a particular maths problem (that you had revised carefully) or explaining an idea in a group project meeting.
  • Habits that you have notices in yourself or others (which have some relevance)
  • How you feel about the way you are doing things e.g. items of understanding, clarity of thought, strength of actions, awareness.
  • How effective you are e.g. using feedback from others, achieving goals (assignment deadlines, finding information in library, keeping a learning diary! etc.)
  • Anything else that feels of importance to you - even though you may not understand the significance of it.

  • It helps you to learn from your successes, as well as your mistakes
  • It makes it more likely that you will use what you have learnt next time i.e. rather than ‘making the same mistakes’, "falling back on old habits’ etc.
  • It gives you an opportunity to plan concisely what you want to do, what you want to change, etc.
  • It may help you feel more in "control of your life", more positive, deepen your understanding, etc.

Art is Like Smoking

Art is a bit like smoking. As a non-smoker you wonder what the other guys sees in it. Don't they realise they are shortening their lives! You so wish the penny would drop and they could begin to enjoy life without cigarettes. When the penny does drop and you discover you don't cough in the morning and you don't need a Vindaloo to be able to taste your food. You realise what you have been missing. Discovering Art is a similar mind expanding experience, you feel so sorry for those who have yet to see the light. Just as it is impossible to convince a smoker through rational debate that they should give up. So it is impossible to convince the unenlightened that they should try to understand Art.

I have been a photographer for best part of 50 years. I enjoy all aspects of the medium but my preferences are towards what is grudgingly described in photographic circles as “Fine Art Photographs”. It was only when I started on an Art Foundation course and began to study the “history of art” that I realised what it was that attracted me to this genera of photography. It also made me consider more openly the visual angst of modern or contemporary photography.

I am tempted to argue the case for contemporary photography further but I suspect that Mr Joe Soaps mind is not susceptible to change just yet. I would rather that he saw the light himself, put his prejudices to one side, opened his mind and discovered the enlightenment that awaits him. Just as the hardened smoker must.

I will offer an emolument to Mr Soap by saying that I find art speak, erudite, facile, pretentious and exasperating. But you should not allow the Brian Sewells of this world to close your mind. You need to see past the misconceptions of what Art is all about and be prepared to be uncomfortable whilst your mind opens and expands enough to start enjoying the challenge of appreciating Art. It probably will not help but it may be worth considering that many artists who broke the mould where ridiculed and misunderstood at the time. The Expressionists for example, people queue around the block to view their works today. In their day they were just looked upon as a bunch of sex crazed, boozed up, angst ridden weirdo's. (Why am I thinking Amy Winehouse)? Similarly Dorothea Lange’s work was looked upon with distain by the critics when first presented to the public. Today it is now appreciated for both its documentary and artistic qualities.

It is my impression over my 50 years as a photographer that most photographers have a very superficial view of both the history and the aesthetic of photography. And zero knowledge of the history of art and the influence the invention of photography had on the development of art in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They are more concerned by the hardware and the technology. The image for many is almost a bi-product of the process.

What is Art? Well that's a subject for another day!

Painting: Vincent van Gogh’s Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette