Mike Dodd, MA Fine Art (2008) 

Mike Dodd on the Mississippi in 2009

After a career as a commercial illustrator in UK and, following a move to live in southern France in 2002, I decided to return to my original intention all those years ago and study Fine Art. My first degree (from Chelsea School of Art in 1972) was in Graphics and that led on to my work as an illustrator but I had always wanted to follow my own creative path and was now able to do so. I applied to UWIC and was accepted on a one-year, full-time MA.

My year at UWIC was an enormous learning curve. My practical work underwent radical upheavals and re-thinking and I found that the theoretical studies stretched me in a way I had never been stretched before. It really was like opening a box of fantastic delights and the pace of development was sometimes frighteningly fast. Dr Chris Short, the art history lecture who supervised my final dissertation, was a sympathetic and inspirational teacher who provided a vital framework for decisions on my artistic direction following graduation.    

During my year at UWIC, I was lucky enough to be invited to accompany my brother-in-law, Charley Quinlivan, on a raft trip down the Mississippi River in 2009. Charley and I had rafted the James River in Virginia in 2006 but this would be a much longer journey – over 1000 miles and six weeks on the river. The story of our journey can be seen at: http://www.mississippi-raft-09.com/  I made a series of (completely unplanned) installations in the form of spirals along the riverbanks as we went, which can be seen on the Mississippi Spirals page of my website at: http://www.mike-dodd.com/

A stroke of great good fortune during the trip was a chance meeting, at a breakfast diner in Albany, Illinois, with the artists Skip Willits and Kristin Garnant. Skip and I found that we had a lot in common in our artistic approach and, pretty soon after Charley and I ended our journey in Memphis, Tennessee, Skip and I began talking up the idea of a collaboration. Our plan reaches fruition this summer (June 2012) at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum in Clinton, Illinois.

I would like to invite anyone who reads this profile to become part of our collaboration by adding their name to the installation we are planning to construct. Visit our blog at: http://www.rockcreekroll.tumblr.com/, make a donation towards helping us out with the cost of the project and we will put your name on the work – all details can be found on the blog. And you can download a high resolution photograph of your name on the work from our flickr photostream to print out as a keepsake.    

I suppose that the greatest lesson I learnt in my year at UWIC is that there’s always another adventure round the next bend in the river – if you’re prepared to make it happen!