Working rhythm after college

Isabelle Gressel shares her experiences on how her work patterns have changed since graduation.

It is odd to think that this time last year I was starting to prepare for my degree show. It seems a very long time ago now and what strikes me as the biggest change is the speed and rhythm of my artistic practice.

There is no longer the structure of lectures, crits, essays and shows set up at the end of each term. Though daunting, I find the freedom of organising my time incredibly valuable. One of the annoyances at university was that I often felt the pieces I exhibited were half finished: I never had enough time to create prototypes or make a series. It was always one project after the other, a quick succession of fresh ideas, from whose inevitable flaws I learnt from.

One of the benefits of the frenetic rhythm of university was its steep learning curve. But informative as the three years were, I welcome the change of pace. I have always worked on several pieces simultaneously, but now I am able to let them mature and work through ideas and theories rather than hurriedly finish pieces. I do need to be more careful about structuring my time now that I juggle work alongside my practice, however I have found little ways of making things work. By scheduling blocks in my diary for different tasks (research, brainstorming, prototyping), I am more efficient, even though I end up constantly shuffling my plans around. And the lack of workshops and tutors has been less of a loss than I expected, this is mostly due to having a studio space. The one thing I would have liked to have spent more time on at university is my website: being fairly new to it, it is rather overwhelming and I would have found support from the university helpful.

Without the workshops from university, everything has to be more considered. I have ended up doing more research in materials and drawing up more drafts than ever before. Having the time and space in the studio has made me more self-reflecting with my pieces. Spending time speaking to friends who have also graduated, exploring each others’ works is invaluable. And I notice that since graduating, we are more open to collaborating and trying new projects together, bouncing our different ideas against each other.

The studio has provided me with a little breathing space: I have a space where I can explore my practice outside an art educational institution, to slowly gain craftsmanship in editing video, in creating 3-D works, to make exhibition proposals with fellow artists and to start properly querying more adventurous forms of engaging the public in art (such as putting up works in non-art institutions and not signposting them as art but as information)

So far the most essential thing I’ve learnt is to not let yourself become isolated in your practice. This was not an issue at university whereby its nature you were part of a thriving community. Post university, it is vital to establish your own emotional and professional support through keeping in touch with fellow artists and contacting new ones. By attending exhibitions, workshops, talks, and public crits I feel part of a larger community that pulsates at various speeds and within which I must find my own rhythm.

Article by Isabelle Gressel as part of Artquest’s LIFE BOAT programme, 2012.

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