Sunday, 30 July 2017

recovering from a year as an art student - the big clear up

unbearable lightness © caroline fraser


Some of my readers were a little confused and concerned about me after my last post. I was quietly letting you know that MA book art has not been a bed of roses.

In fact it has been a very strange year, in which I was almost squeezed into a little grey box, but broke out fighting in the nick of time.

It does not come naturally to me to quit.

In fact I can't remember when I last did.

I am a 'completer-finisher' in the Belbin personality test. Someone who does what they say they will do. Not a maker or shaker. Just a plain ordinary, get on with the job sort of person.

So it turns out that book art is not for me.

I am less interested in 'the fold'and 'the gutter', and more interested in going outside with my camera.

I can play the conceptual art game if I have to, but not if it is at the expense of the enjoyment of my photography. I lost the plot near the end of term, and produced a work called 'Blood, Sweat and Tears'.

blood, sweat and tears by Caroline Fraser 2017

OH ( my other half) said it was 'weird'.

My classmates liked it. My tutors liked it.

I didn't want any of my friends to see it so I didn't invite them to the end of year show.

It has real blood, and dust. It is a book about a failed project.

I was sent home for the holidays to 'reflect on why it is so successful'.

At which point, I knew I could go no further.

So I went home, put all my books away, tidied my desk and made a book for my daughter about my grandson.

After which, I felt so much better that I took my camera down to the woods and took some photos of sunlight on the stream.

unbearable lightness © caroline fraser

unbearable lightness © caroline fraser

After which I felt better still.

So I printed some postcards for a postcard exhibition.

poems from the north © caroline fraser

And then I felt so good that I did some gardening, and listened to the mad chaffinch that tweets from dawn to dusk outside my kitchen window.

I even did some hoovering and collected a variety of dubious objects from the floor and made pictures with them.

I started with the plague of house flies that is currently in my kitchen for reasons yet to be discovered, and moved on upstairs, where I found no shortage of dust and dead animals.

house fly
I would like to say that all of this dirt was in OH's hovel ( study), but no one is allowed to touch anything in there, and nor would they want to. I might let you see some photos if it doesn't change in the next 5 years......

delights from the study after the clean-up

delights from the kitchen floor ( not sugar.... ant powder)

I thought that these photos were getting back to the realms of 'blood, sweat and tears', so I stopped that nonsense and moved on to flowers. Which didn't last long, as it was getting too formal.

geranium © caroline fraser

hydrangea © caroline fraser

pansy © caroline fraser

So then I just stopped, and read a book, and slept in the garden in the sun, and bought some luxury bath oil, and went for some walks in the rain.

And didn't think about writing 4000 words, except to think how amazingly wonderful it was that I no longer have to write them.

I think I will be OK now.

I was nearly squeezed from my colourful world into a little grey box. My lego model from a 'stuckedness' workshop in my first term says it all.

I am on the left. Book art is on the right.

lego serious play

I am out and free.

The house is a bit clean, and I might even make some books!


  1. I think we forget sometimes that it is OK to decide when enough is enough. After all, it's our money and time so we should spend it how we want, and if you were doing something that felt so wrong for you I applaud the decision to knock it on the head and move on. Good for you. It already looks like life is returning to the tihngs that really give you a buzz and I love to hear you want to still make books! I make them all the time and neither of us needs a course to validate our pleasure in that! Beautiful pictures of light on water too. I'm still researching the best camera to buy and once I have it, I can only aspire to get something approximating this level of skill. Inspiring.

    1. Thanks Lesley. I feel really glad to have made a decision at last!

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  3. I applaud you Caroline and just wanted to add that your light on water images are sublime and remind me of Gene Meatyard's series of the same title. I have been making gestural photos of light on streams and rivers for a couple of years and still don't really understand how he made his so extraordinary but they are worth looking at time and time again. Keep going with them and enjoy your wonderful world of light and colour.

    1. Thanks so much Kathryn. I am deeply touched by your comments. It has been a strange process, but the relief that I feel now makes it all worthwhile.