“Have a nice life,” said the husband of a woman from my art class as we met momentarily in the car park. It is the kind of expression that may have sounded flippant, but in context it was more matter-of-fact. We had finished our Certificate II in Visual Arts course and, because of changes to the funding arrangements to TAFE in NSW and the sheer busyness of our individual lives, it seemed unlikely we would really be running into each other again.
Group theory suggests there are different stages to a group’s lifecycle – forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. I find it interesting (perhaps as an occasional poet and lyricist) that it is that last part where the rhyming scheme breaks down. It is said that it is important to celebrate the group’s achievements and create a moment of finality so that the group members can say goodbye and move on with their lives. But the fact that the end of the group was also the end of the TAFE teaching year and also the end of a student art exhibition (which took a lot of time and energy and resources to assemble and then later dismantle) meant there was little time for goodbyes. And even when you did find time it became hard to find the right words. The ones that were sincere, the ones that didn’t seem flippant. The problem was further compounded by the reality that since the aforementioned changes to funding arrangements were coming into effect it seemed unlikely that the two art teachers who had all year nurtured our artistic talents would even have jobs to come back to next year.
We were exhausted. We were relieved. We were sad. I am still amazed at what an emotional rollercoaster the whole experience was. At the opening of the student art exhibition I was relieved to discover other students from other classes were as visibly spent as we all were – at least it wasn’t just us!
Perhaps I was more tired than most. My body had decided to wake up at 4 am for no apparent reason that day. Perhaps I was a little more crazy than most. I had wound up doing three qualifications simultaneously. It wasn’t my intention at the end of last year to do this but an opportunity too good to pass up materialised and I decided to run with it. I was in three classes for the first five or so months of the year. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday nights were full of classes. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday during the day consisted of classes. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be at the campus from 9 am until 9 pm. And to say I got away with this completely unscathed would be being polite. Wednesday nights would be my breaking point and my friend Michael would talk me down from some metaphorical ledge. I was so tired and so disillusioned. The workload was intense but even more than that the sheer amount of emotional vulnerability that surfaced from making art in front of others (after a day of study) pushed buttons and scratched on insecurities in a way I couldn’t have been prepared for. Sometimes completely incidental things would seem like personal psychological attacks – like the fickle nature of the weather, the way it only ever seemed to rain when I had several armfuls of art supplies to transport from my car for example.
The second half of the year was better. I had completed the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and had reclaimed two of my nights back for myself. I had made a conscious decision not to judge my own artistic output so harshly and by this stage everyone in the class was quite intimately familiar with each other, the atmosphere was encouraging and supportive. Whatever this art caper was, we were all in it together. In my Certificate IV in Digital Media Technologies course I was introduced to Adobe Illustrator and immediately fell in love with this product. I was able to take so many of the lessons I had learnt from art and apply them to a digital canvas.
I hope in the coming weeks to share some of my work from this year – artistic and otherwise – with you. It seems a fitting way of marking an end to this year. Right now I have gone from an incredibly structured always-scheduled world to a completely blank and open one. Going through one extreme to the other is disorientating, but the possibilities are exciting. I want to relax, I want to celebrate – but I also want to learn and work on personal projects.