Shifting The Student Mindset – The change from School Leaver to University Student to Creative Contemporary… WIP

This could be seen as the follow up post to “Boring!…”, perhaps subtitled “Uuuurgh, Not Fair!”
You’ll have to bear with me until the end for this one I’m afraid… apologies in advance.
Take it as a fiction if it makes it easier…
Don’t worry there are pictures too…

“Okay, so if that’s what you want…” said a student in a feedback session. The sigh of resignation barely masking the mistaken understanding that they were somehow now off-loading all responsibility and personal-investment onto me for any work that they then would go on to produce.

If that’s what I want… Almost as if I personally had some insatiable desire or appetite for the work that the student was producing… “Feed me! Feed me now!”, “Give me more work that you have produced at the last minute, apparently under duress, and with a haste and lack of care that makes me wince!” “Gimme More!!!”

To be fair… I do not really want any of it…

I have no storeroom/treasure room in which I hope accumulate heaps of student work…

I have my degree, and I have a couple of decades of working in industry, some of which was at a senior level, and thus a portfolio to match.

…my thoughts are, well, surely this should be about what the student wants shouldn’t it?

It’s bizarre, and even the same sometimes on the self-initiated (I know, I know…) projects…

Where is the student’s intrinsic desire to produce?

“You chose this course…!” Once out in the world there will be little time to work on the things we’d prefer over that which we are tasked with…

“University/College is the last point at which we have that full level of creative autonomy and freedom from responsibility to real client demands and the accompanying finance oriented pitfalls (particularly as a freelancer)… until, maybe, at some point we give up on working for others in later life, and in a fit of pique decide to fly solo towards retirement doing those things we wish we’d done at college…”

But hey… why not do it now?

Without the intrinsic motivation and desire to produce work for yourselves, the work you produce will always be missing some essential spark…

Or at its most un-emotional, they will lack the professional detachment to achieve effective outcomes regardless of personal engagement with the subject matter.

The work will instead show signs of unwillingness, or bear the faint odour of carelessness or disregard.

And the less you produce at this level, the less practice you will have had.

I can tell you this…

Every time you think about doing some work towards your student output, and you decide to do something else instead… for example, playing a game (a prepackaged experience designed by others), watching a movie (a prepackaged experience designed by others) or doing nothing, or something else… Every time you do something other than your students work, the reality of part of a cool project you could have worked on in the future dies.

“…if that’s what you want.”?

“I’ll tell you what I want…”

“I want to be able to do it all again, just like you are now… and work even harder this time…”

PortraitsThe Art School years… hanging out, discovering stuff, making stuff, being pretentious, making more stuff, music, drinking, and hitch-hiking… then going back to make even more stuff – Btec and Degree.

Tea PackagingResearch, sketches, logo doodles, playing with type, bag net and mock-ups… Part of a Btec project.

I often discuss with my year 2 degree students, usually towards the end of their final semester of that year, that by Year 3 the ideal scenario is that the student has shed all (or as much as possible of) the hang-ups and baggage related to learning, the learning environment and “the lecturer as authority figure” unfortunately (in many cases) learned or embedded during their school years.

That by now they should no longer view us as “workload-police”, or “pseudo-wardens”, unreasonably demanding work from them (I know, I know), tricking them so as to “catch them out”.

Then once the work has been reluctantly handed over, imagining us reveling in “knocking marks off” (from some magically agreed upon and previously much higher mark) due to various obfuscated traps and unexplained misdemeanors.

Of course this is all part of the rich mythology that students develop in their “cognitive dissonance support group” discussions, where they prop up each others beliefs and justifications for, well… not really producing that much work in the first place.

“I’ll tell you what I want…”

I want to be able to get through an assessment build-up/hand-in period without hearing how that semesters worth of development work was somehow “lost” (despite them being encouraged to have blogs and portfolios and other online repositories by this point) or “erased” by malicious in-animates such as hard drives, pen drives or even in one case, “the rain”.

Knowing Other Artists NamesResearch notes and sketches of visual research… Btec Level

I want to see students fighting for space in a well tooled-up studio, within a wider and equally resourced Arts centered building in order to finish not only their college work but, perhaps at this stage, side projects and live client projects that are earning them money…

Klimt StuffRobo-mech Drawings based on Klimt’s work to create the backdrop for a Rostum pan and zoom animation. – Degree level.

…Instead of asking questions like “how much do you want me to do?”, ”Do I have to come in on these days?” or the classic “Could I get away with…(insert sub-satisfactory project outcome)?”.

Figure CD coverMusic Calendar Project… illustration sketch with thumbnails. – Btec Level.

“I didn’t have time to…”, “There wasn’t enough time to…”, “Time pressures caused me to…”, “In the end there just wasn’t enough time…”

For what?!!

Me  – “So… How long did it take to produce this last outcome?”

Them – “Oh, right, well… I don’t know… [then slowly, as if sensing a trap] …a …day”

Me – “A day… (genuine, no sarcasm, just curious… bordering on incredulous) …and there have been how many days in the semester?”

Them – “Well… I… (looking for rescue, escape, an Einstein–Rosen bridge) …I …er?”

A_hazy_memory_of_Paris_001_by_hesirA hazy memory of Paris… old contact sheets from a college visit… Btec Level
A_Haunted_Head_iiCut-out Animation backgrounds and experiments… plus other doodles. – Degree Level

Me – “What are you doing with your time?… I’m not going to ask you to answer the question… I just want you to answer the question to yourself… in your own head… where there is no one to condemn or cajole other than yourself.

I think its fairer this way… You know how much time you’ve spent on your…remember… YOUR work… it’s for you remember? Your degree… not mine, it’s not for me… it’s for you…

Like wise, you know how much time you’ve spent doing other stuff… stuff that is not going to get you any better at the thing you said you wanted to get better at by doing this course… Hey! it’s your money.

But I tell you… I’m not going to listen to how your dog ate your hard-drive or how your shelf-stacking career commitments are being crippled by your being “forced to” attend studio and lecture time on your higher ed’ course…

Besides, I heard it last semester… and the semester before that, and the year before that all the way back to when I started coming in here to share my “secret” knowledge of how to escape the drudgery of life in a small town with no opportunities and get a career doing what you purportedly enjoy doing where hey will put you on planes to see the world after paying for your ticket and give you the free lunches that people without the secret knowledge will tell you are a myth.

I don’t want to hear it… I just don’t…  I’d rather go off and draw a robot… No really, why wouldn’t I?

What? Those guys over there? Oh, they’ve been here all along… asking questions and reading around their subject… yeah… they started the same time as you.

Yeah I know… that is a pretty cool robot isn’t it…”

RobotsRobots, androids, Andrews, Robots, Guns, Robots (inc the earliest versions of the Rabbit Heart Exo-suit), and more Robots – Btec and Degree.
NikkiA drawing of my sleeping god-daughter… Degree level, personal work.
Early Urban SketchingEarly urban sketching, trying hard to capture people in the street… Btec Level.
Billy Planet StuffComic book ideas and sketches… Degree Level, personal work.

By year three of a degree course I would rather be discussing “our” creative practice with other young (if still at times a little inexperienced) contemporary practitioners, rather than arguing the in’s and outs of what it says in paragraph three of the Learning Outcome or whether the Module Hand-In dates had or hadn’t been put somewhere you could trip over them, and “Well you said… and they told us different”, as if you are on year three of a Law degree with a specialism in Petulance… rather than dealing with “the spirit of the process”, which of course is to prepare students to be life-long creatives, with the tools and three years of intensive, directed practice to get them up to near professional speed.

Type ExperimentExperiments with type and letter forms… Btec and Degree level.

What really are the hindrances to this?

Is it us?

old_life_drawing_93_to_94_04_by_hesir-d39mgixLife drawings done straight into my sketchbook… Degree level.

Are we really blocking your opportunities?

InkingBiro doodles, crosshatching, a book cover project, and comics… Btec and Degree level.

Well, clearly some students really do see the University projects they are provided with to work on as enforced, punitive tasks to complete and hand-in to satisfy an authoritarian assessment robot’s need for hastily, and grudgingly thrown together (and at times abysmally presented) responses to our cajoling.

Life Drawing 00Life drawing… mostly around ’93… again straight into the sketchbook… Btec and Degree level.

Until the fear sets in, and a weird dawning sense of a howling abyss that they have somehow found them self near the edge of… and we finally culminate the weeks of encouraging talks and tutorials, that evolved into letter sending, emails and unanswered phone calls, text messages, asking students to please come in and use the support we are offering… by having them arrive (their hair longer or a different colour to what we recall) standing slightly behind their parents (yes, I know, I know, their parents) in their “independence of youth”-fueled choice of rock ‘n’ roll t-shirt, as together we have awkward discussions about “attendance” and “engagement” and “commitment”, and work that is “not satisfactory” (“They did it! They missed the side of the barn!!!“) …when let’s face it.. we really shouldn’t really have to?

Yet_More_Abandoned_Things - REDUXVarious sketchbook, doodle and personal work from between ’92 & ’95… Degree level (inc, personal work).

These young adults are all old enough to have families of their own by now, they can drink and vote and… oh my gods… drive a 1000-1800kg vehicle at between 20-60mph in the public spaces I walk around in?!!?

Raining_Cats_and_FrogsSketchbook doodles revolving around animation & illustration ideas to do with cats & frogs… Degree level, Personal Work.

And here I digress a little once more…

Just for the sake of discussion… what would happen if we stopped all the cajoling?

What would happen if we simply provided a working space with software and access to working creatives, who worked right there in the studio spaces on their own work…? No projects… No learning outcomes to achieve… simply three years access to an environment conducive to creative practice, and professional practitioners?

Then, at the end a handover/discussion of the work they produced in those three years (not enforced of course).

I imagine many lecturers (particularly those involved in ongoing practice or research) would be much happier with that. No lesson planning, no observations, no documentation of attendance and other bureaucratic micro-monitoring of progress.

Those practitioners then discuss the work produced as professional creatives and award a mark at the end… First, 2:1, 2:2, third… or… y’know… a fail.

No project deadlines, unless the student set them for themselves… No set Modules or Units or Criteria… beyond that as decided upon and then assessed by those creative practitioners.

Would we get more or less work…? More or less students just walking out of the building and not turning up for weeks or months on end…?

More or less complaints?

I don’t know… it might be an interesting experiment…

Other_Abandoned_ThingsAnimation prep’ and developmental sketches and a couple of urban sketches… Degree Level.

But I have a feeling the same students that succeed now… the ones that ask questions, the ones engaged with their subjects, the ones willing to investigate and invest time in their own growth and practice, the ones who pick up a book once in a while, the ones who listen to well meant direction given from position of experience… these… these would be the students who would still come in and thrive…

old_life_drawing_93_to_94_01_by_hesir-d39m952Life drawings, again drawn straight into in the sketchbook… Degree Level.

So I ask again…

When does the student take ownership of their own destiny?

When do they let the scales fall away from their eyes and see that they are going to have to put some self-motivated effort in… to do the work… to explore the vast wealth of knowledge on tap in this excellent learning environment.

Life_Drawing_Tai_ChiQuick life poses with a Tai Chi practitioner… Degree level.

To tap the experience of supportive and encouraging practitioners who work here, and then to perhaps try one last idea, working through the problems presented by the project fully rather than giving up after a couple of attempts…


…Whenever they want.

That is… If that’s what they really want…

Observation Architecture & InteriorUrban and interior observational drawings… Manchester, Hull and Manchester… Degree Level.

And when they do…

I’ll be there waiting… to talk to them and enthuse about the cool stuff we are making, and look it can just be a pile of cool stuff… that and what it means to be a practicing creative out there, for the rest of your life.

DCF 1.0Working in the themepark industry just a few years after leaving university… still drawing…

All images are taken from just two sketchbooks, done/filled (with others) whilst on the Btec Art & Design (Schultz, Hull College), and BA Art & Design (NSAD, Norwich). Other sketchbooks from the same period can be found as examples in the New Media Studio.

~ by hesir on January 24, 2014.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: