When I started art college I expected something akin to that which my granddad had described when he had attended before the war; maybe a bit out there but basically a honing and extension of the skills I had learned at A-level. My mum and granddad who were both artistic to differing degrees (my granddad particularly so), and did like some impressionism or more impressionistic paintings and art, but its fair to say the general environment at home and school was pretty average, which is to say ‘better art’ was that which looked most like the thing you were drawing. Impressionism and unusual styles were interesting, but true abstraction was a bit of an enigma. By and large the opinion of those around was that ‘it looks like a kid did it’, like that was a bad thing.
We started in CDT (like arty product design and workshop), moved to print, graphics, and finally fine art. In CDT we had to look at architecture, design, structure, and make worksheets in a fine arty style… I didn’t get it. I quite liked experimenting with the photocopies and the colour and ink over it, but the whole things were just a mess as I had no idea what it was ‘for’, what the purpose was. This wasn’t the first time I got that feeling, or that those themes arose.
Next was print, and I bloody loved print. It was, what it said it was;e making patterns and prints, which whilst fun and artistic, had implications for the real world to which eased that perplexed tone of my dads in my head ‘what sort of job are you going to get with it?’ I really wish I had pursued print a bit further, I have no idea why I didn’t at the time, though I suspect print and textiles was something I thought was a bit too much of a lasses thing at the time. There is a map of Silverstone GP circuit and a manic street preachers song title hidden in that top print if you can find it; ha, I never could escape that representational element, though I think I was trying to use things I loved all mashed up into one ultimate ‘things I like’ work.
The top drawing should be entitled; what I think the teacher wants me to do. Back to not getting it here really. It’s a shame really, the me 15+ years on, can’t help but see all this as a wasted opportunity, and something I now would have enjoyed. Of course, The teache… sorry ‘tutors’ (they didn’t like being called teachers), really had no time for my misunderstanding, you either understood and got on with it, or you just got a few half frustrated suggestions.
Finally, we ended up in my chosen final class, the one I wanted to work full-time on, and then do my final project in. I did all sorts fo nonsense here, didn’t get half of it at all. I ended up painting a medieval background, and taking photos of friends stood in front of it, and then painting them in a manuscript style… I don’t know why. They were awful, really awful. I did however, like the time we spent in the photo studio, so thought I would concentrate on that. They like some of the weirder installation art that was going on at the time, so I thought I would get some nails and stick ’em in stuff, because you know, its kinda arty and cool. Apples got most the grief as you can see. We then got to develop the film and pictures, which was good fun.
I did some more stuff like this, also did a short photography side course which was also fun, but frankly as the course wore on, I was disinterested, my friends were not much better, and my teachers just wanted rid I think. I spent a lot of time bringing guitars in to play, until I came up with my greatest project ever: A series of photographs I sold as playing with colour, texture and ambience, and of course what better representation of colour, texture, and ambience that at Lancaster’s very own Squires snooker hall.
Thats right, my friends and I suffered through game after game, pint after pint, at Squires to get just the right shots, wish I’d though of it sooner!
That was pretty much it for art college, I did my final project on a short video, trying to capture… I don’t know, I think it was some sort of wistful look at childhood with some music I recorded… I really just wanted to record music and video and edit it, as I enjoyed it. I did enough to pass with an average mark, the sort of thing that says did alright, but frankly doesn’t give enough of a shit.
The music and video made me think I wanted to go on and do media at university, because honestly, I had no intention of getting a job as I had no idea what I like or wanted to do. Everyone was going to higher education. To cut a long story short, I spent a week at Sunderland university doing media, the only saving grace of which was, in my grotty bedsit above Rosey Malones pub, where you could watch folks fight in the street until 1am, I discovered ‘Father Ted’ for the first time.
So I left, went to work in my local pub for a year, spending some spare time visiting historical attractions, and went to a reenactment with a friend. This was a bit of a lightbulb moment, not the reenactment per se, but the whole year off. I spotted the recurrence of history in my interests and went from there. At the end of that year I was enrolled in some two-bit college doing a double major in History and Archaeology. I would emerge 3 years later, having thoroughly enjoyed my course, engaged fully with something for the first time ever, and with a first class honours, with distinction for my dissertation, and a job offer at the place I now work. The rest, as they say, is history, or in this instance; History and Archaeology. The final irony of course is, that the job offer was with an archaeological company, but as an illustrator. Maybe I should try to sell abstraction to my boss?