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Explain yourself, young lady.
Baldrs Draumar Icon

This was originally posted at my cobwebby deviantart, but I have been advised to add it to eljay, because it is apparently "eljay-ey". So I fear I must oblige.

I mean, it does explain in rantful fashion what I've actually been doing for the best part of a year, so.

I shall cut it because I realise that not everybody wants to know about MAH LIEF and BAWW ART SCHOOL IS NOT WHAT I EXPECTED and HYARHYAR LOOK AT MY SUPERIORITY/INFERIORITY COMPLEXES.

I would not be who I am today if it were not for capslock.

Here I am, head bowed in contrition, trying to explain why exactly I have dropped off the face of the earth for the best part of a year.

Can I just say "art school was really hard bawww"? Because I'm thinking that would be the easiest excuse. But it wouldn't really be that honest.

Hm. Well, I think I'm going to give a rundown of my year now. Brace yourselves.

I spent most of my art foundation trying desperately to please my teachers, and only getting marks when I turned to pretentious bullshit such as talking about "the fundamental nature of the biscuit". Oh, oh how I wish that previous statement were an exaggeration, but it is /not/. I got full marks on that project.

I found myself in Design for Performance - the fancyass name for theatrical design. Sets, costumes, ahoy.

Except, I didn't (still don't) know how to make set models. Or sew. So that kind of threw a spanner in the works. And, you know, I thought we might actually be taught some skills in that direction. And, er, we weren't. I can understand the merits of throwing people in at the deep end, and having ideas-led rather than technique-led learning, but I found it incredibly frustrating that I /had/ ideas, but was unable to execute them because I was not being taught the technical skills. And in such a technically-led area, I suppose I assumed I'd actually be taught something. Almost everything I accomplished was done by my own experimentation (and the loving embrace of the internet), which I suppose is an achievement of sorts, but I still was entirely underwhelmed with a lot of the experience.

I applied for the Ruskin school of art - that's the one in Oxford, donchaknow. One of the main reasons I applied there was the general academic atmosphere, and the fact that one can sit in on any lecture one pleases once in Oxford. Plus there's the fact that my school rather drummed in the Oxbridge=BEST BEST THERE IS NOTHING ELSE EXCEPT IVY LEAGUE DAMNIT, which becomes rather ingrained in one's psyche if exposed to it for too long. ;P Anyway, long story short, I was turned down, for a lack of direction despite technical skill, which is an assessment I am unable to argue with.

After that I went on a UK tour of art schools as of weekends - I went to Glasgow and Edinburgh, both of which were lovely, and it was nice to be in places where everyone would automatically know the spelling of my surname. But, despite my desperate sketchbook filling times, (I cannot even explain the depths of work-induced madness to which I sunk at times, to find my work sniffed at by teachers OH WHO'S BITTER I GUESS IT'S ME whilst other students did far less work and were lauded - better call the WHAAAAAAAAmbulance.) I really felt very little passion for the places. I could see from an objective standpoint that yes, they were very good institutions, but I couldn't find myself having any connections with them.

Throughout all this time, I was so busy burning myself out on projects that were at heart perfunctory, but which I convinced myself were advancing my artistic technique, that I did not one piece of art 'for myself'. Though I've become more comfortable working with three-dimensional media - the mantra of the DfP students is "SELF HARDENING CLAY AND EMBOSSING METAL AND UHU GODDAMNIT", or at least it was the mantra of the ones I associated with - I feel that my art (MY ART. I cannot get over how pretentious that sounds.) has truly stagnated this year. I attribute this in part to the lack of life drawing. Whilst at school, I was attending life drawing class around once a week, and it was extremely helpful in cultivating focus and technique. At college, we had one session at the beginning of the year, then nothing. Nil. Zip. Nada. Other words that are sufficiently dramatic and of few syllables.

In fact, I recently met a graduate of my foundation year, except she had attended the institution ten to fifteen years before me - she extolled the virtues of the compulsory weekly life drawing lessons. I internally wondered what happened and externally offered lemon drizzle cupcakes, because I have been baking a lot this year.

Anyway, around...goodness me, I cannot actually remember the timeframe, but I am fairly sure that it was early January, I spent a weekend over in Paris, looking at the Paris branch of Parson's. One of the reasons I was so interested in this institution was because part of the course is learning a foreign language - either French, for obvious reasons, or, if I am not mistaken, Italian. As with Ruskin, I was really after the mental stimulation it'd afford me, but I only really realised this after being...significantly underwhelmed by the tour, and sitting in a cafe by/in the Louvre, drinking Irish coffee, and then suddenly bursting into noisy tears and sniffing that "I WANT TO DO ENGLISH".

I should probably mention here that this had been an option I was toying with for a long time - I was always on the fence over whether to apply for English or Art anyway, and having been to this insular little hothouse of a school, I wanted to get away from academia - only to find myself fussily filling in the crossword answers of people I didn't know in college. (It's spelled F-O-R-M-A-L-D-E-H-Y-D-E, damnit.) I mean, I was actually naive enough to be a little taken aback when people hadn't heard of Nabokov "you know, the guy who wrote Lolita? You know? Um? Lolita?" at my induction day. Yes, I was sitting at a table reading "Pale Fire" waiting for my name to be called so that I may fill in more forms. Yes, poor little rich girl, I know. Add to this that my best subject at A level was always and forever English Literature, to the extent that I'd wander around quoting Milton at people (and by people, I mean unfortunate family members) and expressing my deep and true desire to go back in time and marry him except that he was kind of an asshole, it seems, and anyway, I had to go be in love with the text of Hamlet now, but not Hamlet himself, because he needs to grow up and strap on a pair. Don't worry, I put these sentiments in more academic terms for my essays, really. ;P

Anyway, it would have been nice to have had my eureka moment more than a week before the UCAS deadline.

On returning to England, I found myself in a mess of paperwork as I had to fill out dozens of forms, choose which universities I wanted to apply to in a number of days (this was done by getting out university guides and basically picking at random. I HAD NO TIME OKAY D: ), and then write my personal statement in two days.

I think the personal statement writing was what really cemented the decision for me. For my art personal statement, I had to work /so hard/ at not making it too academic, and beyond that I found little reason other than "I like to draw and I like to tell stories and I like to tell stories with my drawings sometimes oh and I've won some prizes for totally unrelated stuff, wahey!". Though, with my art personal statements, I realised rather that almost all of the stuff I produce is illustratory in some fashion. Firefox is telling me that illustratory is not a word, but I say it's STUNTING MY CREATIVITY. Gwarrbargh.

Anyway, despite the UCAS fellas telling me that I was unlikely to get into any universities at all, having applied on the day of the deadline, when most people had applied back in September/October (it was by this point around January 15th), I managed to wrangle a place at Exeter University, which I am very excited for - my reading list contains Beowulf, the raunchiest Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Bible, and the Communist Manifesto, not to mention my one true love, Paradise Lost (sigh. It's so beautiful. It will never love me like I love it. And yes, I based my entire personal statement around it. And I can take like five modules on it in my third year. Again, sigh.). And indeed, the entire course seems tailor-made for me. At my post-offer open day, I left desperate for no other universities to accept me, because I knew this was the course I needed to go on. COME ON, THERE'S A MODULE ON VICTORIAN VISUAL ARTS AND I GET TO WATCH MOVIES AS PART OF MY STUDY. Also, only six tutored hours a week, so goddamn.

Anyhow, I seem to have gotten ahead of myself there.

Having applied, and having been accepted, I moved onto my life-destroying magnum opus - a four minute, thirty-three second, 3276 frame MONSTROSITY of a stop-frame animation.

I made the puppets, having taught myself how on a previous project - oh, an art school experience for you - I have never sewn. I do not know how to sew. I cannot sew. The one time I tried to use a sewing machine, I broke it. Anyway, for one project, I had to teach myself how to make dolls/puppets, which I did, with no external help, because we had 2-3 tutors for 70 students, and most of the time they'd be talking to you about 'ideas' anyway, rather than, you know, how to actually /make/ the bloody thing - I digress. Anyway, I made, by hand, this doll/puppet, and then taught myself how to make sewing patterns for a 20, 25 cm doll, and then goddamnit if I didn't source the fabric and make this damned thing a tiny dress, hand sewing it because a) I don't HAVE a sewing machine, and b) even if I DID, it was far too small to be handled by one. So I lost stupid amounts of sleep over this, hand sewed it, stabbed myself in the hand multiple times, made puffed sleeves by figuring out how to sew in the elastic for them, sewed on lace, you name it, and I present it at last, along with a sketchbook full of painting and drawings and references to other artists, other cultures, so forth - what do I get? A sniff from the tutor assessing it, and a snide "seams go on the inside". Well, thanks so fucking much, how am I supposed to know that if you don't teach me?

Apologies for the profanity, but even though I see the funny side now, it still really riles me.

Is 'riles' an Americanism? Anyway.

I have completely lost where I was in my head.

Ooh, right! Animation!

Stop frame animation will kill you dead.

Especially if you decide to handmake all your own puppets.
And then buy actual (okay, primark one quid cheapass) hair to add to their tiny scalps. (one had my hair, but only because I was due for a trim. Now that I'm out of art school, I see that it was weird, but when I was there, that was totally normal to my mind.)
And then handmake (I had discovered fabric tape by then, thank god) all their tiny VICTORIAN costumes.
Tiny white shirts and waistcoats to be completely obscured by tiny caped greatcoats.
And then, and then you decide to build your own sets as well.
Three of them.
Each one large enough to accommodate three puppets of around 20 cm height.
Oh yeah, and I had to make the puppets fully positionable, and balanced enough that they could stand upright without their heads falling off.
(their heads fell off. A lot.)
And then you do all the animation in two weeks and want to die.
And then you do all the storyboarding in two nights (after the event - my storyboards were actually circles and squares and squiggles and stick figures on scrap paper).
And then you decide to do eighty pages of sketchbook work, even though most people are happy to get thirty.
And then you write your entire self-reflective journal (I hated those things. HATED. Those THINGS.) in a day.

Long story short, there was a week when my sleeping schedule was 4 am to 8 am, and I was permanently exhausted for the entirety of the project. Which, for me, ran from the easter holidays (I made most of the puppets before starting at college for the summer term, as well as many of the props and initial scale models for the sets), right up until the end of term, which was in June.

I then took a few weeks off and dedicated myself to Star Trek, because I am so cool it's awesome.

I then went off to Slovenia and remembered what sun and the outdoors and exercise felt like. Weeeird.

I then came back and did a solid month of work experience. During which time I sprained my ankle massively to the extent of ow and found out from my physiotherapist that I have ligamentous laxity, which is why this KEEPS HAPPENING TO ME, and also why I can do really freaky twisty things with my fingers, which is a good party trick.

And now, here I am, about to go off to uni, a year minus two days from where I was when I was starting art foundation. And I'm finally actually doing some art again, without feeling guilty that it's not expressive enough, or not big enough, or not 'art school' enough, or that it's too small and detailed and narrative based - by this I mean 'comes from the stories in my head', and I've been writing a hell of a lot more since art school - or just feeling bad because by working on my own stuff I was neglecting any current or future projects. Which feels scarily liberating, after feeling that everything I drew was being policed and judged. I have never felt less...talented than I did there. Apart from my final project, which I should have mentioned was a giant two fingers up to the entire establishment - I started with this very idea in mind, that I would finally do a project where I listened to absolutely nobody but myself, and that any suggestions the tutors gave would be accepted with a shy consideration, and later dismissed entirely, and nobody was going to tell me otherwise - I mean, I actually went out of my way to even give the project a title so long it wouldn't fit in the title box - "The Curious Life and Times of Messrs Strange and Charm, Gentleman Investigators of Paranormal Phenomena", so from the start I was being as private-school subversive as I could possibly muster. So the only time I really achieved (I received a distinction as my final grade for the project), it was when I decided to actively not care, not seek any advice, and treat the entire school as merely space and equipment. Which sounds heartless and selfish, now that I reassess it, but I was well and truly at the end of my tether, and damn it if I wasn't feeling more and more like an utter failure with every day that went by.

Yes, yes, I realise it's utterly TL;DR up there, but once I started I evidently got verbal (textual?) diarrhoea.

But that is my excuse for not uploading.

I'll start putting up stuff soon, don't you worry. ;P

Oh, and for those who couldn't stomach the entire thing, here's the teal deer version:


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I love you. This is awesome. I'm so proud that you're out of that venus flytrap of pretension and enjoying what you love & have crazy hot talents at.

(Now you can come over to *my* venus flytrap of pretension; we have your lover Milton. And boy do we know Nabokov.)

(Deleted comment)
First off, I must applaud you for actually reading the whole thing, that's quite a feat.

And second off, I thought that was my detached and cynical tone! Damn, the chirpiness keeps working its way in.

And actually, I think the descriptor of "interesting, if a little soul-destroying" describes this year, when I look back on it. With a hefty dose of "cheap student food" and "long journeys" and "boredom".

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