Menu

Resources for Artists

Creativity sweet spot

with Stephen Park

The abstract painter Stephen Park joined the Arts Lab team in September 2017. With the aim of helping artists to survive and flourish, twice a season, Stephen runs a weekend practical course – WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU AT ART COLLEGE. So much comes out of these sessions that we felt they warranted a section of their own on this site with the subject heading Creativity sweet spot for artists.

Arts Lab has greatly benefited from what Stephen has brought to the project. Through his experience with artists and working in art colleges around the country, he has shared useful observations and insights. He was closely involved with the Dartmoor Arts Summer School since its inception in 2006, and throughout his career taught and delivered workshops at various places including The Royal College of Art.

What they don’t teach you at Art College aims to equip artists of all levels with a metaphorical road map and compass. It’s about action, creative flow, resilience and other animals; what they don’t tell you at art college and how to know what to do next.

‘The main part of the workshop’, says Stephen, ‘involves each of us making several artworks in a series. However, each series is established by one artist but completed in turn by all the others in the group, with the intention of maintaining the integrity of each ‘family’ of artworks. We discuss the characteristics required to grant an artwork membership of each cluster. Anything suspiciously like a duplicates is forbidden.  We also talk about why this might be useful, what we observe by doing it and the virtue of ‘clarity’.’

Below are images of some of what went on during the first course in September.

‘I attach my ‘advice to artists’ list because a couple of workshop participants have expressed an interest. I intend it to be pithy and memorable. It’s my personal list written for artists in general, which is obviously preposterous, but nevertheless, I hope, useful.  I suggest you feel free to write your own or cannibalise and alter mine with impunity. This exercise helps one to focus on the broader aspects of self-management.  I am very happy to say more about anything on the list.’ 

And here are some outcomes of Stephens’s second course that took place at the beginning of November 2017 …..

At the end of these workshops, Stephen encourages participants to email 2 images of work they have done or are doing that extends this sibling notion. The idea is to share developments as a group, maintaining contact and learning from each other. Below are images emailed to Arts Lab created by the 8 artists in Stephen’s September workshop (a couple of Stephen’s pieces included).

And here is what the November group of artists emailed in …..

Weekend workshops at Arts Lab Dartington

www.arts-lab.co.uk

What they don’t tell you at art college 

About action, creative flow, resilience and other animals, this practical course run by artist and experienced tutor Stephen Park is a compass of transformation helping you to survive and flourish as an artist

£140 to book, go through Dartington box office 

some materials provided but please also bring own favourites to share plus lunch

for more information on dates and times, go to Workshops

with Jonathan McCree

Jonathan McCree is a London based artist with 20 years’ experience exhibiting his work in the UK, Europe and the USA. He joined the Arts Lab team in September  2017, seeing the project as an opportunity to explore and develop his work with collaborative practice and audience engagement. By way of an immersive introduction to Arts Lab, Jonathan spent a weekend at Dartington first to give a talk at the Lab on his work, and then to take part in Stephen Park’s first weekend workshop What they don’t tell you at art college.

Reflecting on this weekend, Jonathan writes:

‘Some thoughts about the other weekend have started to coalesce, so I thought I would share them…

Somehow the most rewarding aspects or moments of the weekend, both during my talk and Stephen’s workshop, were when the most challenging questions were asked, often in resistance to what was being said and done. In other words I liked the juicy, difficult moments!

It seemed to me at the time, that resistance was always encountered when the tasks, ideas or conversation started to question the autonomy or uniqueness of the individual. I had the feeling that people were saying ‘hands off this part of me, which I hold to be sacred’. 

Phrases like ‘this is not me’ or ‘this is not my practice’ seemed to surface. I remembered that when I used to teach, the only job I really felt that I had was to try and locate and pull the rug from under students feet! Of course this is challenging and the willingness to ‘let go’ comes with confidence.

 It often amazes me and always fascinates me how at some point this always happens; as if a student might be saying ‘now I have too much to loose’. 

Years ago in my own practice, I reached a kind of impasse, which I was not happy with. Instinctively I felt that the way out was to challenge everything I felt to be ‘me’; to throw away my ‘strengths’ and investigate certain areas or ways of making, which I felt might be specifically ugly, bad, wrong, or just plain not me. The process was startling. I undertook this by myself over a long and sometimes difficult period of time. And I suspect is now a part of my everyday thinking. I wonder if a space like Arts Lab has as part of it’s possibilities, the chance to provide a safe place of fixed duration to encourage these questions.

It occurs to me that there might be an interesting workshop to be done around the language we use to describe ourselves and what it is we think we make. As it is often the words that circumscribe the physical, which seem to hold us up!

I think that art and art making has the potential to be transformative. However I also think that we only ever make those transformations ourselves. I don’t think that art has any answers as such; doesn’t contain truths. Philosophically, art embraces and can sit with paradox or paradoxical thinking, and that to me is what makes it potentially so powerful.  Art, or organisations like Arts Lab, have the opportunity to pose certain questions, which might open up these spaces, either in us or between us. 

Don’t know if any of this helps… it may just be the start of a conversation…’

Jonathan will be running a weekend workshop at Arts Lab in February 2018 called ‘Do be do be do be do, the touching eye’.