This blog post is a little delayed. I enjoy writing and so I have been enthusiastic about keeping my commitment to a Charles 6.0 post every week – doing so has engaged my creative energy more than adequately. But (and there is always a ‘but’ isn’t there) I have found that this work has to some extent been absorbing creative energy from other things I have wanted to pursue.
A specific example is my wish to engage further with drawing – as I noted in an earlier blog, ‘Back to basics’, I have been going along to a U3A drawing group every fortnight for the last couple of months, revisiting the fundamental skill of free-hand drawing. I noted that I found it a bit challenging – my engagement with this skill was longer ago than I first thought – but that I would persist , strongly feeling the need to relearn the basic skills of seeing and constructing images by hand. While I have engaged happily with the group now, to improve I really needed to do more.
So a couple of weeks ago I decided to prioritise drawing over blog writing, to try to make time to do at least one drawing each day, with a view to sharing the results in a blog somehow. I have focused on the most basic drawing technique using black charcoal on paper, using objects scattered about the house, some of which I have used for creative inspiration in the past. For a number of them I have gone on to use the drawn image in creating digital collage with photographs from the streets, adding a layer of interest and complexity. Other events have conspired to divert my focus over the last fortnight, but on as many days as possible I have attempted a drawing. These are what I will focus on sharing in this blog, interspersed with digital play with some of them, and also a few random notes or jottings accumulated on my travels during the couple of weeks -apologies for more or less adequate segues 😉
So to my first drawing, of a retro china ballerina figurine which offered the opportunity to explore solid object modelling – a black figure in a pink dress,garnered from a op shop a couple of decades ago.
The next drawing was of a less substantial object, being one of a pair of brass butterflies, with filigreed detail best gestured at rather than precisely rendered. I like the idea of something as delicate and insubstantial as a butterfly being expressed in a material as solid as brass and I had captured a rather interesting light effect on the pair a couple of months previously that echoed that thought on transience…
On the subject of ephemera, I saw Facebook an “occasional address” from comedian Tim Minchin for a graduation ceremony at his old Uni, The University of Western Australia – gosh, I just noticed that his robe echoes a butterfly!
While witty and amusing, his nine life lessons resonate enormously with me – in summary:
- You don’t have to have a dream
- Don’t seek happiness (keep busy and make someone else happy, and you may get some as side effect)
- Remember, it’s all luck
- Be hard on your opinions (Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privileges)
- Be a teacher (Even you are not a teacher, be a teacher)
- Define yourself by what you love (be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire. Be pro-stuff not just anti stuff)
- Respect people with less power than you.
- Don’t rush (there is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence, and that is, fill it).
But back to the drawings – next I attempted a rendition of a china Buddha figurine which once again I picked up in an op shop a long while ago.
While not formally an adherent, from what little I understand I am sympathetic to many Buddhist tenets, framing the possibility of a joyful embrace of the emergent universe – echoed in Tim Minchin’s riff on our ’empty existence’. Such was the intent of my subsequent digital employment of the sketch …
One lunchtime I went along to the presentation by Mark Deuze, Professor of Journalism Studies at the University of Amsterdam. It was an engrossing presentation – an interesting and engaging hour or so well spent. He spoke about journalism start-ups & his forthcoming book, Beyond Journalism, which was the basic theme of his talk.
He described the operating environment for journalists as being ‘liquid’, meaning that conditions are changing faster than ways of acting can consolidate into habits and routines. He was essentially describing the hollowing out of institutional journalism. He described the situation of media workers in terms of precariousness or precarity; that is not knowing and not having control over what will happen next.
There was discussion of the journalist as a DJ, able to mix and match roles and value systems, of portfolio careers and cross subsidised work styles, of journalists as individual brands, of how contemporary media workers are never ‘not at work’. Coincidentally, the next day the Productivity Commission published a report is called “Shifting the Dial” which looked a range of public services in Australia, but had some damning observations around higher education. While acknowledging the important role universities play in society it also pointed out that the way they are funded and operated is leading to less than ideal outcomes for students. The report I read noted that:
Only 70 percent of graduates are employed in full-time work. That’s the lowest level since records began in 1982, and we’ve been on a steady decrease for the past decade. Also, nearly one-third of the graduates who are employed are working in jobs that don’t require their degree.
But wait, there’s even more! Graduate starting salaries have been declining when compared to average earnings, which means degrees are becoming less valuable at the same time the cost of study is increasing.
I found this profoundly interesting in the context of Tim Minchin’s address and given the observations I had made in my recent blog Thinking about education, work & AI, with the long story short view that the world of information (how it is stored, distributed, navigated and utilised) has changed immeasurably over the last couple of decades, and the tertiary sector has struggled / is struggling to keep pace and stay relevant.
I guess we might just have to armour-up … I enjoyed sketching the suit of armour figure that I have treasured as a birthday gift from my eldest son many years ago. If it looks a little robotic, I guess that guys in armour actually did look a bit like robots.
My next subject perhaps also holds a shield – this was a kitsch china figurine I found by the roadside, which I painted into more basic colours and augmented with other found objects to create a sculptural assemblage that engages enigmatically with time and change.
I blended the drawn image with a recent photograph of weathered street posters to good emergent effect, while I have used the assemblage in photographic studies from time to time as well …
Nearing the end of the report into my adventures with charcoal, I drew this small wooden Balinese bust that I picked up somewhere on my travels. Perhaps an earlier photographic study captured something of the calm and reflective air it conveys …
… while the experimental combination of the sketch with a image of a dilapidated street poster produced an image, that for me, somehow provides a powerful abstract summary of what this blog is trying to do and say.