These are two of the earliest pieces I made after starting on the part-time Fine Art BA at Sheffield Hallam University - at that time Sheffield Polytechnic.
The Fine Art Department was a very lively place and was very liberal in terms of giving part-time students access to workshops and technicians on an equal basis to the full-timers. Attitudes at Falmouth College of Arts were very different, not to say miserly.
The first piece I made was a large unwieldy hut-like structure that took forever to fabricate. It disappeared into a skip but before it did I made a more delicate piece by taking a paper mache impression of it which I then cut into four parts and photographed in moorland near Stanage Edge in the Peak District.
The second piece was made using some of the empty rooms of the college over the summer. It was made from carefully torn and worn scraps of newspaper.
Hut was, I think, the first piece of sculpture I made. And it was on a scale at which I had never imagined working. In fact, it was a real huge jump from doing a few life drawing sessions at the brilliant Sheffield Graves Gallery to going into an art college environment without even an 'O' level in art, or a Foundation year to my name.
Indeed I had thought that my chances with art had come to an end after an ignominious conversation with the Art Faculty at Aberystwyth - I was studying Economics, Politics and Philosophy at the time - where I was told, in many ways quite rightly, to go and get an art 'A' level in art before bothering them again.
It was only years later in the Life Drawing sessions at the Graves that a woman I met there, Joella Bruckshaw, encouraged me to put in an application to the Fine Art Department at the Poly. And although the tutor, Frances Hegarty, who looked at my portfolio was not overwhelmed she was very encouraging and gave me practical suggestions about how to strengthen my portfolio. And a few months later I was a Fine Art 'student'. As was Joella.
It is really hard to start at something as a complete beginner, with even less than the other beginners when you have already achieved a certain level of success in another field. Or at least it was for me. In as much as I had virtually no training as an artist. I had pottered about with my watercolours and drawing for years on and off and taken books out of the library and been to exhibitions and read about artists. I'd sat in the plaster cast room of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and drawn, and studied Cezanne and had a girlfriend who went to Dartington College who told me about the things they got up to there. But it was all taking place in my little hermetically sealed world. As such I was intensely scared and insecure about the art I was making and I was super-sensitive to those slights the professional art world uses to keep the 'amateurs' and 'weekend painters' and 'museum copiers' away from their hallowed field. But I was also ambitious and driven and wanted to join them - or some of them.
The tutors, in particular Julie Westerman, and my fellow part-time students were incredibly supportive and encouraging in Sheffield and it was a very exciting time. So exciting in fact that a bunch of us headed off to Cornwall in the autumn for a week of workshops. Unfortunately, I was so taken with the place that within five months we had moved to Cornwall, and I left the welcoming and resource-rich confines of Sheffield Hallam behind forever.
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