Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
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By: Alison Craig
The Art & Anatomy "Student Selected Component" in Medical Humanities at Keele University Medical School was inaugurated in 2010. We offered four academic modules plus life classes for 3rd year students, and ran the course for two years. The modules were cancelled by the University for 2012.
# 33 [14 April 2010]
I've had a kind & sympathetic email from the Wellcome Trust explaining how to distinguish "clinical" from "other" images - very reassuring. So that's alright, then.
However, I'm not doing so well with a separate copyright enquiry to A Publisher, although I have now had an automated reply with links to the website. Following these, I thought I had found an article by Gray (of Gray's Anatomy) until I realised that it was published 14 months after his death....and they didn't have to wait for peer review in those days. Turns out to be by another Henry Gray (Croly). Ah well, never mind; and I could have had a look at it if only I had my Athens password.
# 32 [13 April 2010]
We have four broad headings for our topics: Illustration/explanation; Art & Illness; Imaging the body; Death, art, culture & medicine. Two of the students have chosen to examine the role of illustration in explanation, so I went to my local G.P.'s surgery to see what sort of patient information leaflets were available. To my amazement, the few leaflets available contained no illustrations at all - just a few photographs of cheerful faces, and a lot of very dense text. The asthma leaflet did at least have a picture of a couple of inhalers - which turns out to be about as much illustration as was available on a selection of websites dealing with the condition. (To be fair, there were some video clips including several in British Sign Language, which looked pretty scary). This is all fine, providing you a) have access to the Internet, and/or b) can read closely packed type. There's certainly a lot of scope for an illustrator in this particular field, I think.
I think my GPs must feel the same, as they have tacked up two excellent, beautifully drawn & coloured A1 posters showing the effects of smoking and of high cholesterol. Not very cheerful, perhaps, and one of them contains the facsimile of Henry Gray's signature - he wrote the text for the Anatomy book, but Henry Carter did the illustrations. Carter is very definitely an unsung hero.
# 31 [12 April 2010]
What a difference the weather makes to the human condition... last week I managed to get back into my studio (a.k.a. the garden shed) for the first time in I-don't-know-how-long, dodging the awakening queen wasps and actually making a start on some work. Today I have been out all afternoon drawing at the local holy well (not to be confused with Holywell, which is not quite so local). A really tranquil and restful spot.
Thoughts about the SSC are less tranquil, as there is still no sign of a contract. However, we're all meeting up again next week to introduce ourselves to our prospective life model, and I'm also hoping to meet the students. I hope they realise what they're letting themselves in for - I hope someone's told them that there will be a lot of research, and drawing and thinking involved (worry, worry, worry....).
# 30 [6 April 2010]
I'm sitting here in the bitter cold & pouring rain, hoping that the weather will have improved by the time I have to start travelling to the Medical School at the end of the month. I have not been into the studio for days - too cold - and my research into the local healing wells has staggered to a halt. I am getting a bit fed up with working in the living room and grinding charcoal underfoot into the floor.
I have just signed up to Wellcome Images: http://images.wellcome.ac.uk , which is a treasury of the beautiful and the bizarre. Having retained some of the attributes of my previous existence in the NHS, I am allowed to view the clinical images. The conditions attached to this privilege are strict (I previously typed "fiercesome" by mistake, which is quite accurate as well). I am now fretting that I will not be able to distinguish "clinical" from "ordinary" images, and will inadvertently breach the Terms & Conditions.
# 29 [31 March 2010]
We now have three students signed up for the first two blocks of the SSC - this doesn't sound much, but it's three times the maximum number for some projects, and represents a lot of work. For some reason, due apparently to The System, students can't yet sign up for the third block. This makes the logistics of organising tutorials and life classes somewhat tricky as we don't know who might be available, for what, or when.
However, the idea seems to be catching on: I've had an email enquiry from another project supervisor enquiring about sending his student to "my" life classes. Will we be able to squash them in? Watch this (rather small) space.
Meanwhile, the Drawing Research Network has been running another debate about teaching drawing to adults, and drawing in general. Several memorable ideas have surfaced, including the catchphrases "Keep Art Live", and "practise failure"; and the persistent theme to all these debates, which is that observation and process are far more important than outcome. Yes, but....it's always heartening to produce a drawing that satisfies you as a drawing.
# 28 [30 March 2010]
I am now at the stage of having administration work to deal with, proving that the project really exists. "Without paperwork, there is no reality. Discuss."
At the workshop last week, we were excited and beguiled by the wealth of online resources available to users of the University library. Eighteenth century documents online! Mediaeval documents online!! As much fun as searching through the Stack Room, and considerably less smelly. But of course, you need an Athens password, and mine expired years ago. So today I have filled in the application form and hope to be accepted back into the ranks of official University hangers-on.
I am hoping to be paid, too, but haven't had the paperwork for that yet. I just hope I can remember where I left my P45. Do they still call it that? I have found old payslips from years back, but nothing recent. Must be filed elsewhere. On the floor, perhaps.
# 27 [29 March 2010]
Last week we had a "workshop" at the Clinical Education Centre to discuss the Project. An interesting mixture of people assembled: psychiatrists, a musician, historians from various disciplines, a librarian, haematologist (and one ex-haematologist). As usual, the medics did most of the talking during the discussion periods. I suppose a certain amount of "outgoing-ness" - not quite extroversion, but a carefully assembled appearance of confidence - is acquired during a clinical career, and is not necessary for the more sheltered groves of Academe. (can't do the grave accent, sorry). Or perhaps we/they just talk too much.
Other subjects covered by the SSCs include French Empire history, films and midwifery, music and emotion, Muslim civilisation and medicine, patient narratives and empathy.....
Today I have been photographing my old life drawings in the village hall (no room at home, and besides, it's raining so there is virtually no light). It's also warmer than it is at home. I think I will have enough images for the basis of a short lecture on drawing/process - it just shows how important it is to hoard as much stuff as you can fit into the house. Taking the photographs was greatly assisted by the use of my father's ancient camera tripod, manufactured before Healthandsafety came away from the workplace into consumer life. The tripod is easy to erect but tends to take off fingernails when you collapse the telescopic legs.
And now - a long afternoon processing the lens distortion out of all the images...
# 26 [23 March 2010]
Success at last - a genuine contact with a potential life model for the medical school. Thanks to MB & IM. And is often the case, when something is successful it's also relatively straightforward, leaving you wondering why you didn't sort it out ages ago.
Tomorrow I'm off to the Clinical Education Centre for a "Humanities Workshop" afternoon. It promises to be interesting as I've no idea what it will involve. I can't help remembering my little nephew's very first school report, which read (under the heading "Humanities") "James has a lot to learn". At the age of 5. There's a surprise then. I confess it has left me a little sceptical about the use of the term - humanities for 5 year olds? This was in the mid-eighties, so perhaps there was a fashion for pretentiousness in primary education at the time. Aforesaid nephew seems to have survived the experience.
# 25 [22 March 2010]
The summer expedition to Truro for the Association of Medical Humanities conference is taking shape: our paper has been accepted, and the booking form (& cheque) have been sent. I've booked the accommodation and inspected the available rail fares...could be expensive. Anyway, it looks as though it will all actually be happening, and my computer keyboard is running red-hot at the moment. But no life model yet.
# 24 [19 March 2010]
Still no success in finding a model for life classes in the Medical School..... in fact, I've had no success in contacting people who might be able to tell me where to find said life model.
If any of those I've contacted are reading this blog to check up on me: I really am genuinely & honestly an artist, and I really am looking for a life model for legitimate purposes.
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