Well its never really over is it. I mean, what started out as something of a dread and a seemingly hopeless task has turned into something completed, valued and has been an opportunity to investigate what I’m interested in, illustration and the ocean. The period between first having that introductory lecture about planning the dissertation, and then writing the proposal for it, my mind wasn’t even really set on anything. I actually forgot about the dissertation for a little bit, too distracted with socializing and wanting to get home for the holidays. But when it came time for the proposal, I started to panic. I wasn’t even sure of what I wanted to write about.
I love the ocean, its what i’m passionate about. And when decisions needed to be made as to the subject matter being finalized, I knew that the ocean was the only way to go. At least the only way to go where I felt like I could make an attempt at making something good out of this dissertation.
At first I wanted to write about illustrating maritime conservation exploration and technology, but I had no plan. Not that you need a plan right away, it just came to me as, being interested in those subjects I figured that it would be a decent topic to cover. I had some base knowledge about each one of those fields and I figured I could break each one down into main and sub chapters. I had a slight amount of organization to something I was still trying to create. Then I took a little time off, and evaluated what strong footholds I had and what I still needed to work on. Understanding how we communicate the oceans through illustration is what I decided to investigate.
I initially started looking into mythology, and investigating various cultures and their legends and myths about the ocean, its origins, anything I could find really. And from investigating mythologies about the ocean I wanted to go along the timeline, noting down changes and the ways in which we perceived the ocean, dabbling in scientific investigation along the way and looking at diving technology lastly to round the search off. Diving holds particular importance in what. was investigating because it changed the way in which we interact with the oceans entirely. We were exposed to a completely alien environment in which we were able to dive deeper than anyone before us ever has.
Diving has been a passion of mine for the past 7 years, illustration giving me a means to illuminate the wonders of the deep. I wanted to understand how exactly captivating images are created from observing ocean sciences. I didn’t exactly find this, but what I found in its place was how illustration in a way can generate mythology around something. It can be factual, but one definition of mythology is a story to explain an extraordinary occurrence under extraordinary circumstances. Diving to the bottom of the Mariana trench, more than 10,000 metres below sea level, I think qualifies as an extraordinary occurrence, and being the deepest part of our planet, with two men in a very expensive and technologically developed submersible and crushing pressure surrounding them, I think that the circumstances for their dive were rather extraordinary.
I reflected on what I had been doing along the way, with the usual bouts of self-doubt and panic, balanced out by 2000 word streaks and in unhealthy amount of coffee. Sounds standard I know, but one thing that I feel might be slightly different is my attitude towards the completed product. No doubt am I glad that the work is over, but the journey has just begun in terms of a long term project. I’d like to keep adding to the dissertation after it’s finished, and maybe perhaps investigate in much further detail on the topics mentioned.
What I’ve learned through this dissertation is that I can do something like this again. I never thought I could actually write so much about a subject effectively. I was worried about the source material, but after some introspective thinking and a lot of reading time, I felt far more confident about finishing on time with a completed piece of work. I’m proud of it.
Oddly enough I find it hard to let go of. Some have warned me of a withdrawal period which, in all honesty, I can feel. I’m not letting it get to me, there is plenty to keep busy with and so much of the inspiration I have now has come from the research I had done for the dissertation. The ocean is still my primary focus, and with the insight I’ve gained from the research done for the dissertation, I feel confident in the source material I’ve encountered, from mythology about and around the oceans to feats of human endeavour and exploration into the deep dark below the waves.
However, I’m not so naïve as to think that just because I’ve finished a dissertation, that I wont encounter problems along the way and that it’ll be a breeze to wrap up the year. What writing the dissertation has taught me is that, through investing time and effort into research, development, and execution of an image or idea, I can effectively illustrate what I’m passionate about. Its taught me to deal with stress and time constraints, handle time effectively, the importance of balancing sleep with work, and that 10000 words worth of academic writing isn’t the bane of human existence, but an effective means of generating self-worth and confidence in capability. I’ve seen it done with my peers and I can feel it within myself. Its taught me so much about the ocean as well, from binomial nomenclature to the mighty Panthalassic and Tethys oceans that dominated our pre-historic earth.
I’ve taken a dive into deep water, been submerged in academia on science and philosophy, decompressed from writing pressures and surfaced with a better understanding of not only illustrations and our oceans, nut a better understanding of myself, how I work, what stresses me, what calms me, and the journey to finish the dissertation is something that has been a tool to help shape me into what I am.