Prisoner profile: "So much scope for me to develop further"

23 May 2011

Prisoners are able to participate in Learning Connexion visual arts courses through distance learning processes. At the beginning of 2011, there were approximately 80 students studying from Corrections' facilities around the country. Sharon Hall, Restricted Programmes Co-ordinator and Distance Delivery Mentor at The Learning Connexion, sent a written questionnaire to Zoe (not her real name), asking her about the art-making process.

Artwork by ZoeCommenting on Zoe’s attitude and progress, Sharon writes:

“Zoe has made the most of her study with outstanding attendance and participation in every exhibition opportunity, including our end-of-term exhibitions. Right from the start, she was open to trying new techniques and materials, even when she was unsure of the outcome.

“One of Zoe’s strengths is her ability to tell a story through her art, using her sense of pattern and colour. In 2010, she was awarded a merit scholarship by The Learning Connexion’s Academic Board for her second year of study towards a Diploma of Art and Creativity."

Before enrolling at The Learning Connexion, Zoe had no art-making experience. Zoe responded in writing to Sharon’s written questionnaire and her answers are unedited.

1. What do you most enjoy about the course you’re doing with The Learning Connexion?

I enjoyed the skills I was able to develop from doing the course and the opportunity to apply these skills. I particularly enjoyed painting as a medium for artistic expression as it had been a long-time ambition for me. So to actually pursue this has been extremely fulfilling.

2. Do you think it’s important to have good arts instruction and a mentoring process that supports the development of your art?

Absolutely. The guidance offered from the instruction and mentoring process provided by the tutor enables one to stay motivated and focused. As a distance-learning course, it is easy to become unmotivated to complete the course requirements. Regular study sessions helped me persevere.

It is also useful to gain the perspective of the tutor in producing artwork. It can be encouraging in terms of thinking beyond your own creative thoughts, opening up your mind to alternative variations of what you’ve created.

3. What are the things that art teaches you most about? Are they useful skills?

Participating in an art course has reinforced for me that good things take time and if you allocate an appropriate timeframe you are more likely to produce a better quality artwork.

I have also found that once I complete a piece of art, I am not necessarily content with the final outcome. So having time to make changes is important rather than handing in a mediocre piece of work.

4. Do you think the skills that you learn when you’re making art transfer to other things you do in your daily life? Like what?

Artwork by ZoeYes. Time management is crucial to producing good art – likewise in many aspects of life in general. If your time is not managed properly you can end up sacrificing quality for quantity.

So I would like to become more consistent with my creations in so far as producing an acceptable quantity without jeopardising the quality of the work. Allocating sufficient time will enable me to achieve this.

5. What does being able to participate in exhibitions mean for you?

Artwork by ZoeExhibitions are an opportunity for me to gain confidence in my art. I appreciate the subjective nature of art and so if I can create work that appeals to a wider audience I feel reassured about pursuing my artistic ambitions. This is reinforced by people registering their interest in my art and/or potential buyers wanting to purchase it.

6. Looking to the future, do you see yourself utilising the skills you have learned so far?

Definitely. I am at an elementary level of art and there is so much scope for me to develop further. I enjoy the whole creative process and looking back on where I started, to appreciate just how far I’ve come with art.

Also I have yet to develop my own personal and unique “signature” for the work that I create. I am looking forward to the emergence of this as I continue to pursue art at a higher level.


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