I am *still* circling like a stirred cup of tea.
I was selected for the a-n Mentoring Bursary 2019 and worked with Rosalind Davis for 12 months to push myself and my practice forwards. My aim was to find the confidence and resilience to develop my own ideas on my own terms.
To focus on the journey, the outcome secondary.
At the end of 2020 I applied for and was awarded an Arts Council Develop Your Creative Practice Grant to create a series of poetry films inspired by the dancer Tilly Losch.
The outcome is clearly no longer secondary because I am accountable. But I must keep repeating to myself – focus on the journey.
The 2021 lockdown restrictions have thrown out my intended plan of work on my project. The photographic studio I found was closed, the sound recording was closed and I felt this project was so much about a human, a dancer, that I was very wary of going too far without working on photographing the body. I stalled …
However, discussing the photographic sessions with the studio made me think about using studio flash. I’ve always restricted myself to daylight photography, thinking that any kind of studio flash was out of my reach and impractical. But I completed an excellent Skillshare online course on using off-camera flash in order to learn the concepts of flash photography (I had previously only used studio lighting on a City & Guilds photography course many years ago, and I think that was with static lights not flash). I bought a relatively inexpensive Speedlight for my Nikon and I’ve been playing.
The manual settings are so straightforward (at least when you are going for a trial and error approach) that I wish I had tried this years ago. The flash power is just another factor to adjust to get the right amount of light on the subject – in conjunction with aperture, ISO and so on. And the consistency over daylight is just so fantastic because I am repeatedly photographing the same thing over and over.
It is an unexpected outcome, but this is certainly developing my creative practice – so thank you to the Arts Council and the DYCP award. It is already making a difference.
The photography studio is now open again and I’m going for an induction later this week. Then I will plan the session with the model – and I’ve got more options than I would have had. I’m feeling nervous, but its another step into something new which is exciting.
Oh … Premiere Pro … how do I get frustrated by you … let me count the ways …
Working on single films I had pushed and pulled and screamed, and got to a happy method of working with Premiere that enabled me to combine and layer my sequences of images. Now I’m building up the ground work for a series of ten films, I (possibly mistakenly) tried to tidy up and organise my folders by deleting temporary and render files.
Aaagh! Premiere started to endlessly give me error messages.
OK .. now what to do. Will I fall at the first hurdle? Clearly too risky to carry on with my current workflow. I use so many thousands of images that the software or my system is not going to work when I multiply this by 10. So I had to find a new way of working.
Thankfully (for now at least) I have solved the issues and Premiere and I are friends again. It has been a reminder that however much it is important to learn to focus on my creativity and the journey not the outcome, there will also always be the technical or practical problems along the way. I’m quite good (I think) at solving those and I’m not failing if I concentrate on them for a bit. They will always be a necessary part of that journey.
In my last post I wrote about my A-N mentoring bursary coming to an end. What I didn’t mention was that the last activity I did with my mentor, Rosalind Davis, was to complete my application for a Develop Your Creative Practice (DYCP) grant from the Arts Council.
The amazing news is that I was successful and have been awarded a DYCP grant. Over the next 10 months I will be collaborating with Rosie Garland to develop a series of 10 poetry films. Its taken a long, slow path to get to this point, but I think my year of my mentoring bursary has without doubt helped improve the position I am in now, with better focus and more clarity on my aims.
I’d been dithering about funding for a long time – weighing up the benefits and the likelihood (or not) of success against the time it would take to prepare an application when I have very limited working time available. In the end it was finding a writing collaborator for the project in Rosie Garland that swung it in favour of making the application. She had previously been successful in an application for a DYCP award and so was on hand to advise me and encourage me. But most significantly I now was not only considering myself. Getting funding would mean that I could share this with Rosie. While she was entirely willing to collaborate with me funding or not – for which endorsement and encouragement I will be eternally grateful – but how could I proceed without trying my very hardest to secure funds for another creative.
This gave me focus and over the summer I drafted and redrafted, and drafted again when first of all only Project Grants were available, but then someone gave me the heads up that the DYCP would be reopened, and so I edited and redrafted yet again to be ready for when it would be open. The final step was to redraft with Rosalind to tighten it up with the benefit of her experience.
Thank you A-N, thank you Rosalind, thank you Rosie, and thank you to all the others who have helped me get to this point.
My year of my mentoring bursary is over. I feel sad to move on from this. It has been a positive experience. Working with Rosalind Davis has been very valuable. Having someone to be accountable to, but who is not there to judge or measure your output in quality or quantity, is definitely beneficial to me. I will need to look towards a way in which I can find something similar.
Working on a one-to-one basis has been very different to a group experience. Groups can be fantastic, and supportive in many ways. But I have not found them as helpful as the closer relationship of a single mentor has been over this last year. For me, it takes away the fear of saying what is on my mind – about myself, about my work, about my ideas, about my ambitions. It has felt safe to say what I think – and this has led to helpful conversation and pointers to push me forwards when I feel myself stumbling.
It is not that I feel a group will laugh at me, or not take me seriously. But a group of people – however lovely – can be intimidating. At the very least it can feel hard to have your share of time and be able to really think hard about your own work, while at the same time trying to be constructive and supportive in return for the rest of the group. I like to be helpful to others but it is hard to switch rapidly from your own work and thoughts to a different mindset to encourage others.
As to progress this year – it has been slow, but I think overall it has been steady. I have begun a new collaboration which I am really excited about. I have thought long and hard about self-worth and building this for myself and not relying on external measures. I have clarified my project and what I am aiming for with this body of work.
I am heading rapidly towards my final mentoring session. I have not achieved anything that I thought I would – yet. My goal was, and still is, to work on a body of work. Connected pieces, a series, a sequence.
I have been buffeted about by the circumstances and I’ve tried to take the side alleys. The side alleys have not worked out. They have not worked out for reasons beyond my control – pandemic, not being selected from not one but two shortlists, and opportunities that shift in the sand. I was hugely frustrated and whingy at the time, but now, I don’t really care about the side alleys and I *think* I might be more focussed on my main aim as a result.
I have always believed that I need to be flexible, adaptable and respond to change and circumstance. Take opportunities as they present themselves. This can be, and has been, very positive in much of my career. However – I can also see that this can lead me away from a central path. On the other side of being flexible is being easily waylaid and distracted.
Mentoring has allowed me to shift my perspective and foundation of what I am aiming for and try to establish the path that is important to me. A big part of this was the hour-long whinge that my third mentoring session became. It was a huge relief to get my frustrations off my chest with someone who understood where the frustration was coming from. It has helped dig me out of my hole, admit to myself that I do need to focus on just one project right now.
I can see at the outset of this blog I said that:
…Now it is time to find the confidence and resilience to develop my own ideas on my own terms…
Another reason for the side alleys is that they avoid my own ideas on my own terms. I have avoided posting to this blog (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve pushed it back down in my to do list) for some long while because I’ve been afraid that I have already fallen and failed. But now, as I write, I think I am recognising my fears of my own ideas on my own terms, and that I can push past the fears and continue on. Ready and much clearer on what I want to do.