Friday, September 30, 2011

Live and learn / 學習吧!


When I was about to go out at 8:30 am, the sun had risen high in the sky. Yet again, silence reigned Brooke Hall. I felt like being in the early morning of Taipei. Well, all of you should know what a blessing it is to be a student here because courses start pretty late. Jazel and I fought to make it to the animation workshop this morning, so we had to be the early birds. However, the lecturer today was a young man, and it looked as if he hadn't gone to bed last night. He didn't arrive until almost 10 am though the class was supposed to start about then. He is different from the lecturers of the previous two days, who were full of love. Jazel said that foreigners have more passion than the Brits. For example, Barbara is Italian. I think her words make sense since I am also a foreigner here, but full of passion.


It was unusual for us to see more boys today. We figured that courses related to computer technology attract them. The lecturer Florian is an animator, but what he does includes almost all fields of visual art. He said that it's mission impossible to compress courses that span a whole year into three hours, so he could only give us a taste of the 3d software Autodesk. But I could tell the boys that sat next to us were rather excited.


I am not that into computer, but here teachers don't push students. If I do not take the initiatives, I won't be able to make progress in basic techniques. And I don't want to go home with nothing learned. When Florian demonstrated for us, sometimes I couldn't follow. In fact, I guess I would have fallen behind if the teacher had taught in mandarin. However, I was glad that I went no matter what. If I hadn't been there, I wouldn't have forced myself to learn new things. When I had questions, I turned to the young people sitting next to me. The boy on my right side was Raphael majoring in BA illustration. We were in the printing workshop on Monday. He gave me the impression of being very ambitious with a lot to show to the world. Florian had everyone design a gallery with the 3d software, but Raphael was happy designing a room with a bed and a pillow. When we carried on with more new lessons, he drew a human skeleton, and after he was done, he turned to me asking, "So what did the teacher say?"


Meanwhile Jazel said her stomach was singing, so she prayed that Florian would let us go for our very special lunch today.


After the term starts, we have to bring lunch to school, so this week serves as the experimental period. I was responsible for the sandwiches today--salami with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber slices and mayo of bacon and egg flavor. These two days we've experienced Indian summer in London, so at noon we sat under the sun thinking how to improve the sandwiches and designing new menu items. I even considered making rice balls for our coming trip this Saturday. Though I have to get up earlier to prepare lunch, there's nothing to complain about the lifestyle of students. 


Jazel was responsible for the salad. Though I am not particularly into carrots, I knew better than to break a young girl's heart. 


Eating can test a person's adaptability. Much as I enjoy the dining-out culture in Asia, restaurant food here, for one thing, is pricey, and it isn't necessarily scrumptious. If we do not manage to make some change, we won't lead a good life. 


Since the photography lesson in the afternoon was totally packed, we opted for going to a free British afternoon tea party. God must have heard my calling for love yesterday, so he sent our way a team of ambassadors of love. Over the past three weeks, no British people have wanted so much to talk to us. Rosie from Edinburgh gave me the impression of being so sunny that I couldn't see any shadow behind her. She kept saying to us, "We have to get together to have a cup of tea some day!" There was another Chinese girl next to us promoting sermons given in mandarin every weekend. Well, our topics revolved around cooking still. In every way I felt so much like a housewife. 


Here I don't have extra budgets for buying books, so if I feel like reading, I can bring home a handful from school. Before I left, I found a bag of readings. Today I came across a quote by Samuel Johnson: When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

feeling of love / 愛的感覺


Wendy left a message on Facebook wishing me a happy Teacher's Day. She said that she doesn't feel any love in English class in university. I was surprised by her description. Though I enjoyed teaching, I wasn't aware that I left on students such an impression. 


Because of Wendy's reminder, this morning when I saw PK pick the cigarette butts and litter left by kids from last night, I planned to talk to him later. As I went into the office in the afternoon, it placed him in a good mood to have someone to talk to. Today's topic was the comparison between Asian and British education. He also told me about his three children. To be honest, I've been here almost three weeks. I can say I am good at greeting and nodding at new acquaintances, but it's by no means easy to enter the Brits' lives or hear their stories. Despite his long rambling, I didn't mind about time passing by. 


Even though I've become a student again, I want to live with the feeling of love. Seeing the bright sunshine this afternoon, I determined to occupy a corner of the courtyard as well. On my trip to shop groceries, I bought two slices of cheesecake for my picnic with Jazel. Then the afternoon tea was put off and turned into evening tea. I took napkins and forks to the vacant lot in front of my window. While we were savoring the sweets, we discussed how others find boyfriends. Meanwhile, I raised my head screaming: Stars! Other groups of British kids were scared by my excitement. It's funny that Jazel always grumbles about wanting a boyfriend, but whenever I mention where we are going or what we are doing, she will turn to me saying, "I've got you!" 


Lately I've had a new addition to my limited circle of friends. It is the Indian boy who lives in my neighboring building, and he's half my age. Every day on his way in and out of his room, he'll pause to chat with me. He even suggested hanging out together some other day. I secretly think he thinks I am only 19, so I feel kind of bad about not revealing my real age to him. But I can be a very good friend...

上瑜和大方攝 / photo taken by Phoebe and Mars 


No matter what companions we have at this moment, that feeling of love between us can lift us up. When I look back in the future, I will always thank them from the bottom of my heart... 


If there is no one around you, then have some hot English tea! (What a lousy transition. Please bear with me because I am about to introduce the object of the day.) 

每日一品─來杯熱茶─一套兩本手作札記─16頁附中間伸展頁─11.5 cm x 15 cm 

object of the day--a cup of tea--a set of two handmade notebooks--16 pages (unfolded large page in the middle)--11.5 cm x 15 cm 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

spring in autumn / 秋天裡的春天


In autumn in London, I am often confused about seasons. The dazzling sunshine that welcomes me at the beginning of every day makes me so appreciate the beauty of living. Instead, the sentimental feel of fall hasn't settled in. 


My learning battle continues. Jazel found it exaggerating to arrive one hour early to sign up for courses, but by the second day this week, more and more people were aware of the competitiveness of these workshops. So the vacancies of the bookbinding course soon filled up. Oh, it looks like I will have to get up even earlier during the coming days. 


Today's lecturer was Jane, who was actually Barbara's teacher many years ago. Jane appears to be a very nice and considerate person. It can be judged by the material bag she prepared for everyone. 


After each course this week, the lecturers give out feedback forms designed by the student union for students to fill out. I can tell that education here totally belongs to the service industry. Fortunately, I am from Asia, born with the virtues of politeness, respect, kindness and everything you can imagine. 


While others were quietly stitching their books, Jazel and I chatted happily in Chinese like two middle-aged ladies making handicrafts at home. She is certainly a very young and innocent child. She told me: Art is all about doing what pleases you. I reply: If you are going to stay in this field, you have to think differently from now on. Or I am worried that you might not be able to land a job. Strangely, I shared her thought two or three months ago. What had happened? 


I saw some familiar faces which had also appeared in the printing workshop. Some girls appear to me the doubles of Amelie. I feel at first sight their pure joy of life and they certainly have their secret worlds in which imaginary creatures abide. Most art students have a kind of unworldly beauty. They are by no means eye-catching among crowds, but if you look long enough, you'll find them really good-looking. 


After we finished a simply-stitched handmade book, Jane said that what matters is the pictures and stories we put inside the book. 


Bookbinding isn't really a popular form of art, but when it occurs to me that there are people who spend their lives researching and inventing creative forms of books, I can't help feeling moved. 


Art supplies are far from cheap here, so I cherish all the paper and materials I bring home from the school. 


On the other hand, not everyone is as "careful" as I am. On one corner of the school was a stack of exquisite magazines, each of which costs 4.5 pounds if you buy it. And they were strewn like trash... 


After the course, other girls invited one another to join the tour of Southbank, but Jazel and I decided to go home for dinner on a sunny afternoon. A few days ago Ai-wen asked me if I had "settled down." I think I have entered a new phase. Now I have a fixed schedule, and I do not go out so often. Though I am not as excited as when I first came, my body is thus able to relax. 


In the evening, kids sat and talked outside. I was practicing calligraphy at my desk. I hadn't written it for a long time. In the morning I was reading the theory of typography and how to use Illustrator, but the evening time should be reserved for the real handwritten work. Right after I finished, I couldn't tell if these words were well-written. In fact, they seemed kind of slanted for me. But they are actually not so bad... 


When I was about to fall into the trap of loneliness, it dawned on me to draw in the blank handmade book. On a cool autumn evening, I had the company of young people's partying din, radio music from the computer and the whizzing sounds of my pen on the paper. I believe that this year, the act of drawing will pull me out of the pit of being alone and taking me to a serene hill where I am bathed in the joy of my humble yet colorful existence. 


This wordless book titled "ME" was inspired  by Von. It is only a very simple sketch for the time being. 


My biggest motivation was actually to write the sentence on the left page: for my beloved Von and Kai. 


My dear, no matter where you are, I wish you a lovely spring in autumn. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Worth it! / 值得!


From Sep. 26 on, we have a week of Fresher's Festival. Basically, six colleges of University of the Arts London offer various workshops and courses for new students to choose from. However, last night there was a welcome party. Born with a middle-age mindset, I never care for a dark and noisy occasion like that, but young Jazel kept grumbling about having no friends. To expand her social circles, I had no option but to escort her to the party.


Jazel found me really out of the loop when she saw my sportswear. When we arrived at LCC, we did encounter nicely-dressed Asian and European girls. But there were so few boys, half of whom probably love boys. Before buying any drink, we stood in front of the bar counter, kind of at sea. Even though some really cute girls and a boy tried to strike up conversations with us, we ended up in silence after three or four questions. We then decided to resort to alcohol. Right after we each bought a bottle of beer, two Chinese students came our way. One of them appeared rather desperate. Though we both understand and speak mandarin, he was rather committed to speaking English all along. With the background music blasting, we had a hard time communicating, so in the end, we came up with the excuse of going to the toilet room for a break. When we made our comeback, my cheeks were red and I was floating in the air. I didn't even oppose as Jazel suggested dancing. We shook and swung on the empty dance floor, and I DIDN'T MIND! I could hardly believe that was me. With time passing, more and more people crowded into the room, but most of them stuck to their own friends. We two ended up differentiating gays and learned their elegant postures. On our way home, we came to the conclusion--not to waste the year(s), we have to expand our circles beyond art schools. One of our plans is to explore bars and clubs downtown such as on Oxford Street. Before that, we have to work on our carriage and practice our pickup lines and conversation topics.


In fact, I was secretly happy about coming back to Brooke Hall early because I had my heart set on a green printing workshop on Monday, and it was open only to 10 students on a first-come first-serve basis. Kids, play as late possible. I'd be there very early for the openings, which is so much more important than meeting any cutie!


As I applied for MA in illustration, my interviewer said the techniques involved in my works are too simple. She immediately logged onto the university's website and showed to me the students' works. She said, "In this image, you can see screen printing. Isn't it beautiful?" With this in mind, while others consider this week to be another week of holidays, I am more than ready to earn back the value of the exorbitant tuition fee. 


I arrived 50 minutes early, but two students were ahead of me. The lecturer of the workshop is a blonde, casually-dressed teacher. She said to those who had signed, "Go get a cup of coffee, take a look around. Get lost!" On hearing the last sentence, I began to get a general clue of what this lady is like. 


When the class was about to begin, more than 10 students popped out. Barbara was too kind to turn down those who hadn't registered. It took us a few more minutes to start. She first gave a short self-introduction. She is Italian. At first she came to London for a three-month-long English course, but she stayed and studied in London College of Communication. She went further up, and now she has lived in London for 12 years. Next it was everybody's turn to introduce themselves. Most of the students today were young people majoring in advertising, media, textile design and illustration. There was a British Chinese who really impresses me. He said, "I am probably the oldest student here. I am 40." He used to work in the public sector, but he took leave after his mother fell ill. When his mom passed away, he couldn't find a job with recession kicking in. He applied for BA in painting in Camberwell, but he was turned down, so he ends up studying book art in LCC. At this moment Barbara went on to say, "Being turned down is not necessarily a bad thing. It means God has a better choice for you." She took herself for example again. She studied architecture in Italy for six years without finishing it, which she thought of as regret, but later she switched her major to design and graphic art. Within 20 minutes, I had the feeling that this was more than a printing workshop. I had the honor to hear so many life stories. 


After telling us about all sorts of printing methods, Barbara decided for us the technique of dry point. She  gave us a topic--draw a building or a scene in an imaginary city. The ultimate goal was to print everyone's city on a large poster at the end of the day. 


Even these printing machines have a long history. They were made in the 1860s. So in the afternoon when we were printing, Barbara said, "Each print comes out different, but if the souls in this room like you, they'll bless you." 


In my imaginary city, a huge tree takes us to a lovely land, but I didn't cut deep enough. Nor did I control the ink well. It was far from a good work, but Barbara said, "A bad work will lead to a good one at some point in the future." Once when she was about to tear up a piece of work, she realized that the tear created an excellent effect. 


Surrounded by such a positive atmosphere, we complimented on others' good works naturally. I was even ok with my own mediocre creation, but I do feel like working harder. 


Barbara advocates green printing and use of recycled materials, so she uses paints such as coffee or spinach. Since her major was book art, she shared with us her handmade books at the end of the workshop. She emphasized that we have to go to libraries or seek online visual images when doing research. Also, we have to turn to our sketchbooks all the time and experiment with all kinds of ideas. 


Barbara told us that once she picked two tickets to Paris on the road, she couldn't help imagining the two people that went on the trip and what happened on the way. She thus made a home for the tickets. It is sort like a small folded storybook that can be opened into a long strip of paper. 


In fact, Barbara is the technician in the printing room, but what I see is a very passionate life totally devoted to creating. She's full of love for the world, eager to share and treasure all resources. My first teacher in London is an artist that is simple but full of life force. 


After Barbara's class, I visited the fantastic library. Then I found this wall, on which postcards made by applicants for foundation studies are posted to show their desire to get into the programs. The big words on the left fully express my thought: I wish you were here. I am. Today I no longer thought about how much talent I have. Even if I am drowned in this huge force which envelopes me, I feel very very blissful. 


If now I have to envision the point when I have to leave, I think I have already felt heavy nostalgia...