Diary Schmiary

I have a love hate relationship with visual art diary’s. I understand completely why they are a useful tool for teachers when trying to grade the work of an art student. It’s kind of like showing the working with a math equation, it helps the teacher understand how the student got there, and what their thinking was.

Above is a photo of my visual diary from the second year of my advanced diploma, it’s filled to the brim with work, trimmings, theory, assignments and it looks pretty impressive. Below are the total 7 pages of visual diary I’ve used this semester.

Firstly it’s easy to point to the pandemic and schooling from home as the most obvious answer for why this has happened. Without the constant walking into class with my visual diary, I don’t have that reminder to document my work, its easy to forget you’re working in a school system and being grade when you’re attending class from your bedroom. Often on my studio desk at RMIT there would be a pile of source images printed off, work scrawled on loose paper, and test works laying all around. Towards the end of a project I would collect all these scraps up and arrange and annotate them in my diary. At home this becomes a bit more difficult, I don’t want piles of documents and scribbles laying around my room, or else my partner might think I’ve finally snapped and gone full Ted Kaczynski.

Reason number two is in front of you right now, this website. I started this blog about 6 months ago, thinking it would be a convenient way to present my work from home, and far more legible than my usual scribbling in the margins. While this is a really convenient way to catalogue thought processes and work progress, it suffers from a dilemma of quality. Putting something out on the internet for everyone to see is quite different from scribbling in your mostly private diary, I find myself being very picky about what I put up on this blog. The further this website project goes on, the more protective I become of how I present myself, and the work. I’ve went from writing and presenting in a style suited more for the school, and teachers who would mark my work, to something more representative of myself. This is a constant balancing act between the writing being informative of my work from an academic perspective, but also interesting for any interested third party to read.

It’s easy to think about a visual diary as something you do for your institution instead of for yourself. Looking back at my old diaries I can pick apart what I put in because it meant something to me, and what I did to fill space or meet a rubric. I’m filled with a weird melancholy going back through them, like that feeling you get thinking about your teenage years, imagining this tiny human not really knowing who they are or what direction they’re heading.

I’m more proud of the writing I’ve done on this site than anything I’ve put in my diaries, maybe because it’s more recent and I’m more confident in what I want to saw, but also this blogging gives a feeling of honesty and transparency that is really freeing. This whole process feels more like I’m taking ownership over my identity and art practice, but also less like I’m making something just for people to browse through and say “that was cute”. Ultimately I would love to continue working with visual diaries, but with more and more of my practice moving online through blogging and streaming, I don’t really see how it fits into the equation.

Investment

Since I last talked about making wax sculptures of hands for casting I’ve made a lot of progress. I’ve started streaming my art making process on twitch.tv, and cast a few pieces. If you’ve no read my previous post, I explain my journey into twitch streaming and how it fits into my practice, more specifically wax sculpting.

My teacher asked me to look into the symbology behind hands, what they mean, and why i might be so interested in recreating them. So I did the logical thing, made a playlist of videos all about hands, sign language, muscle structure, symbology, and body language, then streamed myself making wax hands while i watched it. Such is a modern art practice. You can find the original stream at twitch.tv/greatjobjake the playlist on my YouTube channel. I’ll touch briefly on the first video on the playlist, which unfortunately I cant embed in this blog, It’s on the symbolism of hands in the Del Toro movie Pans Labyrinth.

Small tangent, this type of video essay might be a little foreign to some, but it’s becoming a more and more competitive genre. I became really obsessed with this style of video at the beginning of Melbourne’s first lockdown through creators like Contrapoints and PhilosophyTube. I really enjoyed how people would break down a topic, attempt to cite sources, and it really just made YouTube feel like more of a reliable source of information. They even have their own version of peer review in the form of referencing, debunking and responding to each others videos.

Something I enjoyed about this video was the constant reinforcing of the position hands took in the film, they use a technique of presenting a simpler version of the answer that is slightly incorrect, in order to help guide the viewer to their final observation on the concept. A common theme throughout all these video, or at least my take away from watching them, was that hands are symbolic not so much in a visual sense, but through our understanding of their versatility, functionality and historical context. For example, the video above references cultures that keep one hand for ‘holy’ tasks such as eating and praying, and the other hand for unclean tasks, like wiping and other sanitary issues.

Another interesting tangent the videos took was that of how body language can change how people perceive us. One video gave three demonstrations ways to address a crowd, and in each he changed how he gestured towards the crowd, but kept his verbal message the same. In the first he kept his palms open and facing upward, gestured softly towards the crowd, and used sweeping motions, this gave a softer more open feeling. People felt inclined to do what he said, in essence because his body language was kind and inviting. In the second, he turned his palms downwards, gestures became sharper and more pointed, the crowd resisted him more with this motion, he explained this body language comes across as an order as compared to the previous ‘pleasant request’. The final gesture was a pointed finger and closed fist, this was above an order, this makes us feel not only directed but small and stupid. These subtle ways we hold ourselves can have a huge effect on how we are received.

These are the first cast pieces I made, you can see they’re pretty rough, but I ended up really liking this look, it gives the impression that parts have been warn back from excessive rubbing. An old photography teacher of mine David Van Royen once told me that if you’re unsure about a photograph, to keep it on your fridge at home so you see it everyday, and have to consider it constantly. I like to take this approach now with a lot of work I make, I leave it laying around in my space, so I have to interact with it and confront it. I did this with the hands, I kept them on my work table so that while I was using my computer, in a zoom call or streaming, I could play with them and roll them around in my hands.

I’ve been doing this for about a week now, and I know it’s super corny, but all I think about when I hold them is how nice it is to hold a hand. When collecting my thoughts about this project I was actually reminded of a song from a band I loved in my early twenties that I’ve posted below. Your Hand in Mine is an incredibly sentimental song, Explosions in the Sky really know how to convey a sense of sincerity through their instruments. Before lockdown I was never really a touchy person, I probably would of told you that i would prefer people never touched me. As devastating as these lockdowns have been, they have absolutely opened me up to the idea of human touch being integral to maintaining good mental health and social bonds. I’ve come out the other side of this event a much more sentimental and physical person.

Following on from these casted pieces, and with that sense of sentimentality in mind, I made a small sculpture work from another set of hands. I was thinking a lot about a potential future outside of lockdown, the prospect of starting a family and feeling closer and more supported by my friends. I also thought about how when making a work about hands, it’s interesting to consider how they’re going to interact with your hands and each other. I really wanted to introduce a sense of tactility with this work, I like the idea of stacking and arranging them, feeling heavy metal sitting on top of more heavy metal.

Finally I sent off three items to get cast by professionals at Lenrose Jewelers, thought I haven’t got these back, I’m pretty confident that they’ll be of a very high quality. With these newest works I was trying to practice and perfect the hand ring and the hand pendant. With the pendants I like trying to make them as realistic as possible in their articulation, while keeping the surface more of an impression of skin instead of an accurate representation. I didn’t take any images before I sent them off, but the VOD of me making them can be seen in my last post.

Overall I’ve really enjoyed this process of working with wax and silver, but while the casting process was interesting I think what I enjoyed most was working with three dimensional mediums. Going foreword I think I will explore this aspect of carving, molding, and shaping.

Can i give you a hand?

So this post will basically be talking through my early design process in creating a Covid charm, see my previous post for what a charm is. Initially we were told to think about what had defined our time in lockdown, and therapy came to mind. I spent probably about 15 weeks in sessions with a student therapist from Melbourne university, It was easily some of the most intense sessions I’ve ever been a part of, and by the end felt like I was more mentally exhausted by the therapy than the lockdown. We did this one exercise called chair work, where I would address the chair sitting next to my therapist on the screen as if I was also sitting in it? does that make sense? this was all over zoom.

I showed up late for class, and totally unprepared the morning these sketches were due, luckily I was on the far end of the room, and double lucky I find it easier to pay attention if my hands are busy. So I tried to come up with some ideas that would be fun, but maybe easier to execute. I always get kind of annoyed when I see peoples art diaries and they’re these perfectly maintained books, each page a masterpiece. Most of my visual diaries are 90% half finished pencil sketches, 5% slightly more fleshed out ideas, and 5% notes to myself, sometimes about art, but mostly like phone numbers, quick math and maybe an important password or two. So I don’t really enjoy showing them, but here’s my starting point.

Waxing relaxing all cool

Despite this being my first time using wax, I’ve spent countless hours at work playing with blu-tac on the tills, making tiny sculptures in my down time (if I work for you this is a lie and I am a model employee) so this felt kind of like an extension of that, only the wax was a lot firmer. The thing I was most interested to make was hands, I always love drawing hands, getting a hand right feels like an accomplishment. So I started making hands, these ones below were a combination of brown and pink sheet wax, I focused on getting them as small as I could while still feeling substantial and recognizable. I learnt ways I could make them smoother and look cleaner, but I actually really liked the rough handmade appearance. To me they have the appearance of carved stone, which I think gives off a more masculine vibe.

I’m most proud of the clicking hand on the far right, it came in at 0.7 grams of wax, which I think turns out to be 7.3 grams of silver. There’s something so fantastically fiddly about working with objects this small, people forgive inaccuracies on a smaller scale, and adding too much detail might end up making it look messy.

Another style I attempted were these rings down below, it might be difficult to see but they are flat little hands wrapped around to make a ring. These seem to be the most popular thing I’ve made, I think I get that, they’re super simple and especially the smaller ring has just enough variation to look human, but still stylized.

Francis Upirchard

When my teacher mentioned this artists name, I thought it was spelt Francis Oop Richard, I don’t if anyone ever has had the middle name Oop, but you can see it in my diary photo above.

UPRICHARD’s practice involves design, sculpture and traditional craft methods. I can really see why my teacher recommended her work, it’s very bodily, and has a really nice tactile . In the video linked below she also talks about smaller scale being intimate, and an intuitive process of creating, both aspects I very much admire and relate too.

At this moment two of my wax pieces have been cast and are ready for collection, but unfortunately medical issues have kept me homebound for the last few days. I’m excited to see how they turned out and will post when I have them in my grubby little hands!

Resources

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOAL9Hcv6ME
  2. https://www.katemacgarry.com/artists/52-francis-upritchard/