Personal Practice

How I became an artistic auto ethnographer

Autoethnography – research through the self.

Visual Autoethnography – Art based research through the lens of the self.

For any of you who don’t know – my personal practice is an exploration of my human condition – always has been – but in 2010 when doing my masters I discovered the correct term for what I’d been doing for many years – that term was autoethnography and oh how I fell in love!

When at college I had a glorious tutor (he has featured in my work many times) and he told me that ‘Art is Philosophy with stuff’ and I never ever forgot that – it resonated deeply.

When I was 17 – 18 years old. I, like many others at that tender age had no idea what I wanted to do with my life – but I knew I had to go to University. My mother joked with me but I knew she was deadly serious. University had given her a notion of much-needed independence – much the same as learning to drive and she had instilled into me a definite desperation for independence as I grew up through my life. So when I’d said I was going to ‘just get a job in Kwik Save’ instead of going to university and she had told me in no unquestionable terms that unless I went to university I’d be kicked out of the house – I figured although I wasn’t ready and didn’t know what to do – clearly a full-time job in a supermarket was NOT going to be accepted. So – upon completion of my A levels I promptly enrolled on a free Art Foundation course at Liverpool Community College – and I got EMA payments for an extra year too! Bonus I thought – I can mess about with art for a bit until I figure out what I REALLY want to do…

Yet, once I got there – my life was changed forever. I met Issues Led Art, I felt the power and magnitude of what an art practice can do for a person and I created my first artwork entitled ‘Effigy’. It was an UGLY little thing, but did I LOVE that piece of work for it held my entire life up to the age of 18. At 18 I was for certain reasons filled with self loathing and I desperately wanted to be reborn – through this piece of work, thankfully I was.

It’s skin was made out of patches of the jeans I had worn stitched together with the fake hair I had worn in my own hair when I had it in braids. Any sellotape used had been first stuck onto my own skin – picking up my cells and putting them within. It had my baby teeth – my piercing jewellery was removed and placed into its face and its innards were made from letters, mementos, ‘precious things’ I had saved over the years and its brain was automatic writing I had created about the project, about myself, what I was dealing with and about my life.

I felt a great release with the making of Effigy and I was reborn – I was reborn into an artist – an artist who could finally admit that they questioned the reasons for our existence, an artist who could admit that they struggled sometimes with life, with being a human, an artist who had started to become self-aware and realised that things, their way of thinking, of interacting with the world was starting to change.

When I find a picture of it – I’ll post it here – my hard drive is in storage at the moment due to my imminent house move! YAY!

Art education

Paul Klee, Ninjas and nuances of life :)

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Moments like this – are what truly make life magical. 

Days like this make me thankful I had the courage to follow my passion to become an artist and to work in education. The journey to this moment was not necessarily an easy one – times have been hard on occasion JUST like everyone else – however – all of the struggle, all of the debt, all of the failures and the hardships and the mistakes are lost in the blink of an eye when a moment like this occurs.

On Wednesday I stood back and smiled. So proud of the event that was happening in front of my eyes. It was a privilege to behold.

I was working with my year 2’s at school on ‘The Portrait’. After watching them practice their noses and eyes and mouths, they all went on to create unique and beautiful, quirky portraits of their own. Most of those portraits didn’t make use of the skills they had just learned (and enjoyed learning, and were proud of themselves for learning) – because when they came to make their own portraits I told them that to be an artist is to use your imagination AND at the end of the day – it is to do whatever it is (within the constraints) that you actually want to do – as an artist you always make your own choice. So they did and they created MASTER PIECES – Each and every one of them!

And – as I usually do at the end of my sessions – I offered the children who finished early the chance to doodle or colour in a colouring sheet. My colouring sheets this week were versions of famous portraits.

One boy grabbed one and shouted ‘YES, I’M COLOURING IN THIS NINJA!’

I stood back and watched him colour his ninja, taking real pride in staying within the lines (he also took it downstairs and continued colouring it during wet break time – and this is a boy that is usually running around with LOTS of energy – wanting – constantly – to play ninjas.) – so I enjoyed knowing ‘Art’ – even if only ‘colouring’ had grabbed his attention for a while.

After about 5 minutes of him colouring I asked –  ‘Would you like to see the original Ninja? The real piece of art that your colouring sheet came from?’ – he wasn’t remotely interested. UNTIL I put Paul Klee’s Senecio in front of his eyes.


THAT MOMENT WAS GOLD! And EVERY TIME that happens it is GOLD! Seeing a child REALLY enthralled by a piece of art, studying it closely, gasping ‘oooooh and aaaah’ – when they make the connection that the thing they are drawing or interested in has something to do with a REAL piece of art work – well – you can’t put a price on that moment and so today – I am giving thanks to the universe for allowing me to be blessed with this FABULOUS thing I call a career!