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.

Souvenir

/ˌsuːvəˈnɪə/
noun

  1. a thing that is kept as a reminder of a person, place, or event.
    “the recording provides a souvenir of a great production”

A project this semester revolved around the idea of a souvenir, we were tasked with replicating an object, preferably something we made ourselves. The Project revolved around methods of replication, and reproducing, which as a printmaker is something I consider whenever I’m making work. My main studio class was actually called out of the matrix and saw us consider the way our prints are made, and how we can make that central to our practice.

After considering the topic only briefly, the day to propose our inspiration snuck up on me. I looked around my room and tried to figure out what souvenirs I could find, but I’m not a big collector of ‘things’. One item that was quite abundant though was little sprigs of lavender, during out lockdown walks my partner would snap lavender from a bush to smell on the walk. She would always bring them back to my house, sprinkling them around the room like she was preparing for the most one note potpourri.

My first instinct was to just start creating lavender sprigs from wax, it seemed the simplest place to begin. Because I thought it would be impossible to make an imprint from lavender given how soft it is, I figured trying to carve out a clay mold might be the best option. From a printmaking perspective this process is interesting, as with print there is always the matrix that we create to generate the image. In this process you’re creating a matrix in clay, to create a matrix in wax, to work into the final product through casting.

Each sprig is slightly different, you might notice the runt of the litter from my first attempt at a mold. This random difference in how the objects are treated after the mold gives each a more organic look, from working with print there is a certain forgiveness for irregularity that I’m well accustomed too by now, and even seek out when creating.

To build on this concept I thought about the uses for lavender and expanded to herbs in general, again my partner had just left inspiration lying around. I found a small pipette bottle of hers with rosehip oil inside, after getting permission I transferred the contents to another bottle, cleaned everything out and began trying to replicate it. First I got some two ingredient putty to mold the opening of the bottle, my goal was to make the top and bottom not only separate, but functional. I tried to squeeze in the putty as tight as I could around the opening but it proved quite difficult. Nonetheless as you can see below, the original lid does fit onto the wax bottle.

I finished the rest of the bottle off with pink sheet wax, and it was a fairly straight foreword process. Unfortunately when it came time to mold the lid, I broke the mold before I got a successful wax from it. Thought maybe there’s some kitsch value to a sterling silver bottle with a plastic lid. Either way the tactile fun part of this work would survive, either the satisfying coarseness of metal on metal, or the decadence of draining liquids from a silver bottle.

Some other directions I went can be seen above, one method I tried was to warm up pink sheet wax, and mold it over one of the blue wax lavender sprigs. I did this same motion up and down the wax, finally wrapping it over, trying to imitate the shape of lavender. While this looks less like lavender, there was a really nice frailty to it, and it would be difficult but satisfying to cast, though I suspect a lot of the wax would buckle or burn out. The second idea I followed was similar to the bottle, a tactile object, and related to plants and medicine. I made small mortar and pestle’s, one traditional and attempting to be accurate, and the second playing around with the concept. I enjoyed this, I think it’s really fun to create smaller functional items, and make them really decadent.

Wax, Twitch and Videos of Insects

I wrote most of this post before realizing I hadn’t actually explained what twitch is or how it works, and for a lot of people not into gaming or being online, it may be something new. Twitch is a live streaming platform, predominantly known for people streaming video games. More recently the site has also become a popular place for art, political content and IRL streams (which involve the streamer recording from out in the world). The easiest platform to compare twitch to is YouTube, which boasts around 2 billion users, Twitch though only has a modest 140 million average monthly users. Unlike YouTube, which has started to move into live streaming, twitch’s format is reversed, with live streaming being at the forefront, and recorded content being accessible but not the focus.

For people unfamiliar with Twitch it can be daunting to interact with, and maybe hard to see the appeal, it certainly took me a long to understand how I could enjoy the platform as a viewer, let alone a creator. My partner sometimes watches me streams and talks to me from the chat, she has never used twitch before but is super supportive, she’s likened the experience to having a nice low effort podcast on in the background, but one you can interact with in real time. This is really the selling point of twitch, and how people monetize the platform, with each streamer basically being in control of their own schedule and programing. ‘Chatters’ as the audience is commonly referred to on twitch have a direct line to the streamer, and a whole array of options to donate and support them. For some bigger streamers a donation or subscription becomes necessary to interact with the streamer and have your message stand out, though this meta is always evolving as attitudes change, along with the interface of the site itself.

Each streamers goal really is to create a community under themselves, to support their stream, and create an ecosystem of viewers who will create content and reinforce the stream. This is just a basic rundown of how twitch works though, I think to explain deeper we would have to get into the dynamics of para-social relationships, but that’s not really what this post is about. If you want to learn more about these relationships there is a great video by Shannon Strucci that gives a brief introduction to the concept.


At the start of the first lockdown, I decided to give becoming a twitch streamer a go. It was a chaotic time, and a lot of the conversation surrounding lockdown revolved around how best to use this time, and how you could maximize your output with a totally free schedule. I started streaming painting, I had a plan all laid out, I would paint on stream and turn the streams into time lapse videos, creating a pipeline of content I could use to help grow my online presence. It didn’t last long, I remember doing about 5 streams before my mental health rapidly started to deteriorate from the stress of lockdown.

Time-lapse from my 2020 stream

Something was missing in my first foray into twitch and live streaming. While I had thought a lot about how I would use the content and what I would create on stream, I hadn’t thought about how this process could be enjoyable to me. Something that has become clear to me over this last few months of streaming, is that unless the process is fun for me, there isn’t any point in doing it.

My most recent dip into the twitch ecosystem has been more relaxed, and with less pressure for it to be productive. There are a lot of nice thing’s I would like to get out of streaming, but I’m worried speaking them out loud might scare them away. At the moment with each stream I’m reacting to how the last one felt for me. An example, in my first few streams, if there was no one in the chat, I got really bored, so I put music on! But then parts of my audio kept getting muted due to copyright, so then instead I put on some interesting YouTube videos, not only for me, but for everyone watching. Now I’m getting overwhelmed by media when I stream, so things are changing again. The key point is that the streams serve my enjoyment first, the audience second, and my practice third.

Here is a VOD (video on demand) from one of my latest wax streams, I wouldn’t recommend watching the whole thing, from memory it was pretty dull, but it gives an idea of the kind of content I’ve been streaming. It’s not obvious from a cursory glace, but the whole process of creating publicly changes how I make work. This happens in two ways, the first being from the instant feedback of people in chat, usually I will make something and post it, trying to gauge how people are feeling about what I’m making. The second is that I’m constantly consuming content on stream, this wouldn’t usually affect my work, as like most millennials I surround myself with media and screens at all times, but when streaming I feel the need to interact with the media so much more for the audiences sake, and this bleeds more and more into what I’m currently making.

Currently this practice of streaming what I’m working on heavily revolves around projects done for my degree, though after this semester I’ll have to figure out what’s going and what’s staying. In keeping with the ethos I’ve laid out above, it will really come down to what is enjoyable for me to create on stream, but it would by unfair to myself not to consider how the content translate through an online platform. Something I notice when I see other creatives who present work made through traditional methods on digital platforms, is that they have trouble communicating exactly what is interesting about what they are doing. I know as someone who paints the joy of applying paint to canvas, the subtle sounds, and seeing the work emerge, but translating that experience to an audience is a difficult task. In my streams I’m trying to capture wax work, which is quite hard to do without a lot of great equipment and a versatile setup. The odds of wax work being a staple of my streaming moving foreword is low, but sculpture as a medium for stream holds a lot of potential; the immediacy of clay and other malleable mediums means a lot of room for bombastic motions and spontaneous creation.

Two wax’s made during a recent early morning stream

Looking back on this last month of streaming, I definitely see it as a valuable addition to my practice, not only for the work it’s produced but for the archiving and community aspects. For the moment my main goal with streaming is to be consistent, I think a lot of people drop out of these projects because they don’t see results fast enough. I truly believe the people that are most successful in any industry, besides the lucky few, are just the people who stick around.