I don’t follow anyone’s rules except my own rules… RULE TWO

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Portrait of the artist as a student (2007)

See this post for the intro to this series of posts about rules.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student — pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

I studied art in a formal setting only briefly and found it to be a deeply frustrating and demotivating experience, although I am by no means against formal study. One tutor gave us a reading list that was nine A4 pages long. He might as well have said “read everything”. Maybe that is what he meant but it was somewhat less than helpful at the time.

Much earlier than that, I attended a secondary school that was significantly more interested in sport than art and that is one of the reasons that I am almost exclusively self-taught in all my disciplines. The most valuable skills I learned at school were from earlier still, the “Three Rs” – reading, writing and arithmetic.

Basic literacy & numeracy enabled me to explore the world much more widely once I had left school. In the 1980s, I learned more about culture by selecting books at random in Rotherham public library, or listening to John Peel on BBC Radio 1, than I did from the unassailable brick wall of a bloated reading list. That was a highly productive time, although I only came to appreciate it much later, discovering (kinda) for myself the Beat writers including Burroughs & Kerouac, classic literature such as Flaubert & Conrad, and once I read a Mills & Boon romantic novel entitled “Jade”.

I follow this rule but would interpret it more widely than just applying it to a formal learning environment. For teacher, read hero, and for fellow students, read peers. I believe it is important to recognise and acknowledge your influences. After all, no-one thinks less of Isaac Newton because he admits to “standing on the shoulders of giants”. My own work would not be what it is without Philip Glass or Ridley Scott or Eduardo Paolozzi, and my life would be much less rich without the often heated discourse with friends and fellow artists.

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