you don’t need a degree in this shit

If you decide to get an MFA, you will most likely take a course in professional methods. You’ll be asked to position your work – the stuff of it, the how of it – in the context of relevant, contemporary arts practice.

In this endeavor you don’t want to stand on the shoulders of giants. You want to avoid – as Ian Wilkins puts it – dead guys (and gals) and nearly-dead guys (and gals). You want to seek out art-folks who are where you’d like to be in four or five years’ time should you survive your MFA studies, and – to mix a metaphor – filter your own practice/materials/methods through that lens. When your research is done, you are ready to establish a position, an argument, and write a really long and really boring paper with loads of fiddly notations.

prof methods

Now the cool thing is, this is not rocket science. You don’t need to shell out a single penny or stress about a professional methods paper to benefit from this worthwhile task. Below are my top five, ‘Cheap As Free‘, ‘you-don’t-really-need-the-degree’ tips for creating an archive of stuff that matters to your practice.

You are welcome.

And you owe me £10,000.

1. Start multiple, online archives…

Use pearltrees, StumbleUpon, flickr ‘favorites’ and facebook ‘likes’ to establish on-line archives of contemporary practice. Don’t fuss about keeping everything in one place, organized or up to date. I love my pearltrees web, even though it has not been updated in years. It functions as a time-capsule providing insight into where I thought things might go before I started MFA studies in the UK and that’s interesting – admittedly, only to me – in terms of understanding the evolution of ideas, materials, and methods within my own practice.

2. Follow blogs that do this for you…

Stephen B. MacInnis regularly posts introductions to some of his favorite artists. These are easily searched on his blog in the category archives  “Have you met…(insert contemporary artist Stephen is watching here)”. Stephen, and countless other artist bloggers have mine-worthy lists and links and do a lot of the work for you.

3. Cast a wide net in terms of what you consider to be ‘arts practice’…

If it is calling, there must be something to it. I don’t begin to understand much of the technical stuff Peter Rukavina writes about here, but I like paying attention. And I don’t know if the person responsible for the facebook group, Abandoned Properties on P.E.I. is an artist, but I certainly am interested in this gentleman’s materials and methods.

4. Stop worrying about what a ‘real artist’s’ sketchbook looks like…

Stop doing that. Just stop. Relax, for goodness sake: list; scribble; cut and paste; and play.

5. Stop worrying about what a ‘real’ sketchbook is…

Tips 1-3 above are virtual by nature, but in terms of positioning your practice, connections made on-line are no less real than those made on paper. Avoid thinking about them as the material sketchbook’s poorer cousins.

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