Saturday, 1 July 2017

Getting into the flow of writing and drawing.

The need for uninterrupted concentration when writing and drawing is essential for me, and my recent acquisition of the cottage that I'm now sitting in, while on the one hand provides me with a wonderful base of complete peace and solitude: but on the other, requires a fair bit of work to be done on the house in terms of thoroughly cleaning it, rearranging and buying new furniture, painting and decorating and generally making our mark on the property. I simply can't ignore this, and my rather obsessive need to keep putting things right often gets in the way of my creative flow.

The idea of coming away from the University and my normal bustling and busy home environment was, nevertheless, a very sound one. I have been able to write alternative points of view for the various components of my research themes as intended, I probably have more than enough words. However what I recognise as being important is to make sure that these words are re-crafted, reshaped and "re-wordsmithed".

The process of honing and polishing the work of writing often takes as much time as the initial commitment itself. I just need to keep pushing myself through and keep working, together with generating good quality ink drawings as intended.


There is still much to do, but I'm feeling reasonably comfortable that what I have set myself to do as an overall goal, is indeed achievable. Nevertheless, my focus must remain absolutely fixed!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Thinking about my essay for the 70% creative submission

I've been trying to work out the most efficient way to writing my essay while at the same time incorporating a sufficient level of artistic practice based on drawing.

Having considered creating a research article, my feeling is that it would lack some of the magic that I am trying to capture as an original document. This has been troubling me for some weeks, and how I will incorporate the multitude of research sources that I have been reading throughout the past nine months or so, would have been very difficult. Thankfully, following a conversation with Dr Rowan Bailey last week, and reviewing the structure created through the storyboard, a sensible option to take forward is to create an artefact which includes as many of the original voices picked up from my research as stories in themselves.

I have spent the last couple of days tucked away in our bolthole up in Northumberland, and the local landscape is truly inspirational. I was up at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the dawn chorus has woken me up. Just outside the window to the sitting room, overlooking the rear garden to the property, one can see through the stock fence to the meadows beyond. At this border between manicured garden and the barley field is a thin strip of fallow land which the farmer leaves to allow the smaller creatures to find suitable habitat. At such an early hour, it was thronging with life and vitality. Between the fence and this margin, a whole family of stoats marched and bounced across the meadow grass.
Sketch of Stoat Family at Cuthbert Cottage, GP Hadfield (June 2017)

 Tiny little white throats sat on the ears of barley and at the tops of the fence posts, a small flock moved across the field beyond. Red-footed partridges croaked the morning songs to each other.
Like the dawn of the new day, it dawned on me that each of these creatures had their own stories to tell. How they see the world through their own eyes and with their own sentient mind will always be impossible for humans to truly know. Nevertheless, in a creative piece of writing, I would have full licence to try and project my own (clearly anthropocentric) interpretation of what they may be thinking?

With this in mind, I have decided to attempt to narrate the Peregrine's story in the first person context. Equally, I can compare that narrative with a "first person" narrative from other creatures, as well as adopt the same tactic, even a strategy, for the many learning research fellows that I have taken reference and inspiration from.

My creating a small book which reflects these voices, as well as provides an opening and closing series of sections to match a research essay style, I am banking on this being an interesting, unusual yet highly creative way of explaining my desired projects for my master's degree. I do hope that this gamble is appropriate and pays off. I thought about this for some time and realise that I have nothing to lose in taking a risk to complete the first creative artefact for submission in mid-July.


  • For the next few days, I intend to concentrate entirely on creating these alternative narratives.
  • I need to make sure that my various research sources that are appropriate are included within the story and narrative.
  • Taking on board the suggestions and recommendations from Richard Mulhearn, Dr MacDonald and Dr Bailey should provide me with ample structure for the finished article.
  • I need to totally immerse myself for the next couple of weeks to not only write the original narrative but also to ensure the format of the document with appropriate drawings and marginalia is fit for purpose.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

All set, - reflections on a discussion with Richard Mulhearn

As always, I had another great conversation with Richard on Friday, who really instilled some confidence in me as to what I am doing.

A lot of things have been happening over the previous week, which may not have directly contributed to production for the major project, but nevertheless, now out of the way and I am able to refocus again on my work.

I felt that Richard was pleased that I was working on the storyboard as a structure to my essay and original artefact, and he asked some questions relating to the methods and generally "what was it about?".

I explained that I have re-evaluated, with Rowan's help, the best way forward for me to take. Originally I had started from the position of trying to write a formal academic essay, with the usual rigid foundations and heading format. However, after a few weeks of wrestling with this and putting it into a much more original context about the Peregrine, I have now adopted a format that is far better placed. Both regarding artistic context, but also readability as a story of my journey, rather than what could have been rather dry and stuffy report.

So to create a 70% essay, purely as a report would probably have been rather dull!

I am in the process of making this a story, as a practical piece and Richard agreed that it does not need to be constrained within the confines of the academic strategy. My current document is somewhere in between the moment. While it is following the general idea, instead of the traditional titles to each chapter, I've already paraphrased them into similar titles from Baker's book, plus more Peregrine orientated titles. There is a subtlety of following a kind of educational process, but not making it formal. What I was really pleased about on Wednesday after my meeting with Rowan was the ideas of introducing more art into the work, as a result of the previous conversation that I had had with Dr Juliet MacDonald, when she pointed me towards the work of Ernest Seton Thompson. He used to do lots of books with tiny little line drawings as marginalia. The illustrations are exquisite, and I have already blogged about Seton Thompson and his work in a recent blog.

My intention, therefore, is to do something similar in my own document, creating small line drawings in the margins of the story, as little signposts, almost like visual memoirs. My thoughts are to make it much more of a narrative the journey of my discovery, culminating eventually in this bizarre twist of finding me at the end of the voyage.

Richard suggested and was interested in me looking at a particular film, a slightly different subject, but a beautiful film entitled "Sleep Furiously". This can be rented on Amazon for approximately £2.50, and a small snippet, entitled "Snow", by the filmmaker Gideon Koppel was shown to me. In brief, it tells the story about a small village located in an isolated rural community in Wales. The filmmaker was born in the area and has a high affinity for the place.

Notebook sketch
 by Graham Hadfield, January 2017
Having watched the film over the weekend, it struck me just how similar the landscape of Wales resides in my own imagination, particularly in the drawings that I've created that are purely speculative and have no direct image or reference point that I've copied from. The short piece that Richard showed me on Friday had some remarkable similarities, quite fascinating even when compared to some of the drawings I've been making. For example, just a couple of these what I call speculative drawings are shown below, next to screenshots of Gideon Koppel's film.

Screen shot, Gideon Kappel, (2010), Sleep Furiously - Film
from a short clip called 'Snow', retrieved from

Photoshop, simple digital sketch, GP Hadfield, Feb, 2017.

The film resonates with me entirely, even though there is a different subject matter. The landscape is very similar to what much of that that I'm thinking. Some of the shots are incredibly evocative. The snow in the scene, the temporality of it all, a beautifully slow contemplative film, with very long cuts.
Screen shot, Gideon Kappel, (2010), Sleep Furiously - Film
from a short clip called 'Snow', retrieved from
I recognised the ideas of Gideon Koppel's and his association with this movie with the writing of Dylan Thomas quickly. The visual descriptions of people's faces, the descriptions of the landscape, the individuality of the characters and characteristics, a role written by Dylan Thomas, that have been visualised into this film by Gideon Koppel. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself into the 90 minutes or so of contemplation while I watched this movie.

I picked up on a piece of advice by Richard during our discussion, which was not to sensationalise (I think he may have said, "don't make it too dramatic") the strange twist, of finding myself in the photograph of Helen MacDonald. While he loves the idea of 'the curveball', I should resist making it too dramatic. My thinking is that it should be part of the process of making connections, rather than some amazing declaration or statement, and "a Ta Daar moment" as such. There is a significance in that it is "incongruous", but it is relevant. Richard felt that it locates me within the work. It is about finding me, which Richard believes is a gift. The structure is good, and Richard thinks that it is working. It enables me to use the connections and strange twists of adjustments and drawings. Richard feels that I'm ready to finish and was very encouraging, that we no longer need to explore key themes anymore, but still keep experimenting, still, keep working hard, there is still a long way to go! - I entirely agree!

I also mentioned that I'm looking at Tacita Dean, and I provided Richard at this point with a copy of my summary. Richard was delighted that I keep providing these to my tutors because in effect I am doing my creative reflective summary (CRS) continually. He really appreciated that this makes it so much easier for instructors to keep tabs on my activities and ways of thinking through the learning progressions.

The word equivalent for the CRS is likely to be between 3000 and 4000 words, plus or -10%, which includes all my notes and valuations. I need to make sure that I'm able to condense and distill the summaries. Richard was pleased that these work as a way of tracking my progress, drawing on the experience of working together with me. I also think that this is the easiest way for my tutors to quickly understand where I am visually, almost like a weekly report.

As part of the assessment process, Richard confirmed that it makes it far easier for the tutors to assess the work, reading the CRS, understanding what decisions I have made, where and what are the significant points, have I been able to recognise and contextualise them, what I'm reading, thinking about and making decisions upon fit with the rubrics of the assessment marking.

I was really pleased with the one-to-one I had with Richard and felt very encouraged with this feedback.