When we had our first lecture about our dissertation I felt relatively calm and collected about choosing a topic to write about.
Going into my first meeting with Jon, I knew I wanted to write about Matisse in some way. I knew I wanted to explore his earlier works compared to his later works and how he simplified his forms, but after talking extensively with Jon, we decided that it wouldn’t be strong enough or have enough breadth or depth to be able to write my dissertation on it. We talked through what interested me with Matisse’s work, as I was currently looking into similar themes within my own subject practice, playing with paper cut outs and looking at the interaction of colour and form. We decided on a rough topic area/idea that I should look and investigate further into the Fauvists work, and the themes they explored to bring back to our next meeting. I went back to the next meeting with a bit more research on the topic and a lot more enthusiasm, and we discussed what I researched and we came to a meeting point on a working title of ‘how did the fauves understand modernity’ as a starting point for the dissertation proposal.
I found writing the proposal difficult, getting into the topic was a slow process for me. I found it hard to get to grips with the further reading I needed to get done to be able to write a basis for what was to be the dissertation. Going from smaller essays to 3000 words was a challenge for me, my writing skills were definitely rusty. I ended up leaving the proposal until the last minute and really felt the heat. I learnt a lot about myself writing the proposal though, I learnt that I needed to give myself more time to read and reflect, and that I needed to get a jump on writing sooner rather than later. The feedback I got from Jon was really constructive and lifted my spirits about getting to grips with the real thing, he told me I didn’t need as much background knowledge in my impressionism chapter as I went back to far in the time line for it. We also spoke about how I found writing the proposal and we discussed that I should talk to student services about seeking help with my reading and writing. Jon then gave me an article by T.J Clark to look at called ‘madame matisse’s hat’ for a starting point for the real thing as I was worried about finding relevant content for paintings.
Feeling nervous about starting the real thing, I attended a dissertation guide talk. We were giving a long presentation which included a lot of information that either wasn’t that relevant or couldn’t help us. I felt as though there should have been more targeted talks about choosing a topic and how to sufficiently research as the seminars we had for constellation weren’t that helpful and our second year constellation module (before dissertation proposal) felt like a bit of a waste of time. I felt as though we could have been given talks more on how to get to grips with the dissertation as a whole, as I felt the way in which we were shown how to read academic texts and pick apart arguments wasn’t suited well for me.
When it came to researching my topic properly, I found going to the library very laborious and taxing. I found it hard to find relevant books and to muster the will to read large extracts of material. I decided that I would find a few dedicated books and that I would buy them so I could work at home and write notes in the books to refer back to at later points. I found this method a lot easier (a bit more expensive) and I figured if I was interested in this topic now I probably would be in a few years. I still found it difficult to sit down and read for prolonged periods of time and get myself in the habit to read and write. I spoke to Jon about my concerns about this and he said that I should make myself a dissertation timetable to fill in my free days.
This worked wonders for me, setting aside a day or two a week dedicated to reading and writing, I felt myself slowly get more and more into the swing of progressing in my dissertation.
The meetings I had with Jon on the whole were amazing, I was always given strong, constructive criticism and we spoke a lot about what I wanted to achieve and how I should go about achieving it. He would set me goals for each session to come back with more on a certain topic or more ideas on a chapter to go through for the next time, I found this very useful in helping me progress. As time went on, I found reading and writing a lot easier and I felt like I could get into the frame of mind easier. During Christmas break I found it hard to get back into my normal mode of working, but I soon slipped back into my working habits. I felt happy with my progress and I felt like I was making small strides through my essay.
On the whole, I have enjoyed the experience, it has been challenging, but I have proved to myself that I can read and write and I can do it with minimal help. In hindsight I wish I didn’t get as caught up on certain chapters as much as I did and I wish I had pushed past them and started on the next, because of that I couldn’t get feedback in time on my main chapter leaving a little anxious about the content on certain areas in my essay. This essay has inspired me to want to try painting as the fauvists work has had a big impact on me. I’m happy that this is coming to an end now and that I can focus fully on my subject work.