Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Wednesday 19th June 2013 - "Uni teaches you nothing."

"Uni teaches you nothing."

As a closing line to my acceptance speech for my Vaughan award, I could have probably chose better, but I believe none more succinct than that. Uni teaches you nothing: When I rolled into Bournville's Foundation Course for Art and Design, I thought I was the dog's bollocks - nobody could touch me, I was at the peak of the game.

Oh hahahaha. How I was wrong.

I'm not one for inspirational quotes, thankfully, but it was as recently as the 80s that realistic illustrations were regarded as similar to influenza - always with us, but by no means beneficial or influential". (John Russell 1983), and it's awesome that illustration hasn't necessarily moved on so much since then, but more people's views have moved on so much since then. 

First thing University 'taught' me: (And I'll come back to the apostrophes later) Humility: I will never be top dog. Everyone who is anyone looks up to who they believe are the dog's bollocks. This is good, for me, humility gives me a competitive edge, if there's someone who is better, then there is someone to better, I've found I need that. Competition gives me an edge, a sense of urgency, it's probably wrong, but oh well.

Secondly, college. Such a random thing. College is the reason I feel I learned so 'little'. I had a top notch set of tutors in college who instilled within me early the idea of marketability, the adaptability of my illustration and the sheer freedom a career in illustration offers. I think for some they never had this until uni, so I freely take the punch that this may have been a shocker for some. 

And also, the technical prowess I was granted at college, I learned impressionistic, expressionistic, minimalist and realistic ways of expressing my work. While this may not be obvious in my final pieces, it was beyond important, and my bored/stressed out friends and parents can vindicate this:

I arrived at uni expecting to be taught the technical blippers and wotsits to be able to succeed in what I wanted to do.


I arrived at uni wanting to 'do something with computer games, and maybe a bit of this, but not that'. Pfft. I rolled out of uni with a career direction, a knowledge of the career market, the needs and wants of said market, and the approaches I'd need to adopt to with these career path opportunities. And the technical know-hows. I had three years to fuck up, and there were no worries, three years to amend mistakes, cover up really bad mistakes and generally work my arse off doing random things.

Something else - willpower. This is my gold dust, it's my secret formula, my shortcut, etc. Yes, it's none of those things. It's the most important thing I've ever learned. How did I learn it? Firstly, failing miserably in my first year of college (I got a 'D' totally cringeworthy right? A few friends have yet to let me live it up.), secondly, by meeting some tutors at uni who really broke though, and managed to get me to stop just giving 50% and made me care in what I was studying (Chiu Kwong Man - Thankyou so much!!) This is another quality i'm not sure whether can be taught or learned, just something some people have within them. (See below). So no, uni didn't teach me that, it just opened my eyes to it!

Uni 'taught' me nothing. I still stand by that, but for different reasons than a lot of people assume. Uni gave me the time, and the avenues to pursue what were, and are, dead ends, with no recompense, allowed me three years to bitch slap the juvenile me out of myself, gave me three years to sit down, consider what I can do, what I am willing to do, and what I may well do until I die. This, I believe, is echoing what Sarah Coleman said in her FAQ, in that uni gives you a safety net to experiment teach yourself, test, and really just throw yourself into a lifestyle, and, like spaghetti, gives you the time to see if you 'stick' or not.

So, conclusively, no, uni taught me nothing, but the great tutors, and great opportunities, gave me ample time to teach myself and discover the kinds of things I can, and will, do. Uni dumps all the responsibility on the student, if you are unwilling to put the time in, if you are unwilling to research practitioners, if you are unwilling to simply put in the lonely hours at 3am, with your coffee, lack of friends to compliment you, and your drawing board, sorry, but in my opinion you are doomed to fail, you need to love what you're doing to sacrifice the amount you do to get anywhere. And I'm saying this as a babby illustrator with merely his foot in the door to a world of late nights, earlier mornings, conference calls and under appreciation.

as said by one of my best friends; "I could have articulated it a different way, but I was sincere and well meant". But saying this to a bunch of graduates was probably pointless...

And that resulted in an award. Go me!. 

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