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  • Writer's pictureAshton Blyth

Honesty, Vulnerability and Discussion...

After two long, anxiety-ridden months, I finally started my Masters! I was dreading this day: starting over and meeting new people, but it turns out I had nothing to worry about. Coming straight from a BA without much 'real-life' experience as an artist, out on my own in the world - applying for funding, undertaking residencies, completing commissions - I felt a little out of my depth, and still do. Despite having a jam-packed summer of film festivals and pride events with my work, I knew that I would be a newbie compared to the majority of my cohort who will most likely have had some time establishing their practice in the commercial art world and making a name for themselves in their respective medium/concept circles.


However, after meeting approximately a third of the group, I am relived to have the feeling that I will gain a lot from befriending this diverse group of artists. Residing all over the world: UK, Mexico, Lithuania, Moscow, China, Germany, Italy, Greece and Canada, we all come from very different backgrounds and surroundings that will have/will continue to influence our artistic practice throughout the next two years - but by being considered a collective for that time, hopefully we will see how our journey's affect each other's artwork.



While listening to Jonathon introduce the course and engage us in group discussion, everyone appeared friendly, attentive and engaged. One of the thing's we spoke about was what makes 'a healthy artistic environment'? We broke off into group's and discussed our thoughts before reconvening and sharing our opinions. Some of the answers that came up were: respecting other people's opinions, being open to criticism and learning from others, understanding and respecting cultural differences and approaches, and feeling safe to be able to express yourself.


Being a transgender man, hearing that the other students also wanted to feel safe to disclose their vulnerabilities within their art, and have their inner thoughts and feelings respected and valued was probably the most important thing I learned today. Considering we are all from different parts of the world that will have different views on the LGBTQ+ community, I would like my work regarding such issues to be surveyed with consideration that I am part of that community and where I live that is okay - but if their opinion differs from approval of that, I'd love to be the person that changes that acquired opinion. I am sure this fear of disapproval/need for approval will be felt across the group regarding a variety of subject matters, with all hoping that their work will be received with constructive criticism and not prejudice.


Compassion - is defined as noticing (not normalising) distress or disadvantaging of yourself or others and doing something about it.

As a class we discussed compassion, and what we value in each other. Again, I feel this was an important part of the first session - realising that we all want to learn and grow from these discussions, and do so in a safe and nurturing environment.


Thinking about what my fellow students are doing to enhance my social and learning experiences; what do I most value in them?

  • Their honest opinion - constructive criticism that I can learn from going forward, that gives me a new challenge to overcome within my work

  • Understanding of vulnerability - not everyone will be using themselves in their work, for those that do it puts them in a vulnerable state and that should not only be acknowledged, but respected

  • Open discussion - talking about their current interests and research that is informing their practice, opening new ideas and artist's to other people

Thinking about what I am doing to enhance my fellow students social and learning experiences; what do they most value in me?

  • The same - hopefully. If this is what I want from my peers, surely they must want the same or similar from me?

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