It had a been a long wait to start my PhD since receiving notification about my AHRC funding in June, but the day was finally here. Armed with a new pencil case, I walked to university, excited to begin the next phase of my artistic career. Thankfully the weather was sunny, so it was a pleasant scene that greeted me, with lots of bustling stalls selling plants and posters for the students to decorate their newly acquired rental properties.

Welcome meeting
I’d received an email inviting me to attend a welcome meeting and was eager to meet my research colleagues. I arrived at the room along with another five post graduate students. We were all asked to describe our research projects and it was then that I realised that I was the only practioner in my year on campus. I have to admit, it felt a little strange.

To be honest, as an artist I’m used to not fitting in, but I had hoped that now I would be around people who understood what I did. However, throughout the meeting it was explained that one of the main outcomes of the project was to contribute to original research in my field, so perhaps being different wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

What is practice-led research?
Actually, the term practice-led research is a bit of a misnomer, as much of my work isn’t realised through practical processes, but materialises more as a response to theoretical concepts, like an illustration of ideas from outside the work, which are then created using the medium that seems most appropriate. This process works well for me in producing work but I also think it will be of benefit in the context of my PhD when it comes to writing a dissertation and presenting papers.

Symposia and studios
The next day, the school organised an Post Graduate symposium with presentations as diverse as Deleuzian concepts of noise music through to Contemporary interpretation in Heritage sites. It was a great opportunity to see the second year students present their work so far (and to see what I had to look forward to next year) and was complemented by the lecture later in the week by post doc researchers within the school.

The last stage in preparing to start work was when I was allocated my studio. I was given a room at the back of a large house on campus. Initially, I felt a bit nervous at the emptiness of the space. Thankfully, I’d not been idle in the time I’d spent waiting to start the course and had been collecting and collating images and quotes as part of my research on http://whatisanartistbook.tumblr.com. I set about creating a mind map of images and text on the walls in preparation for the week ahead.