I Remember How It Used To Be

For reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot about my art school days recently. Not so much in the sense of the social aspect of it all — traditionally my go-to when feeling nostalgic about that time of my life — but the work-related parts of it all: what we were expected to do, and how we were expected to do it.

At the time, the studio structure of school was something we didn’t really think about. It felt like a classroom, after all, and that was something that the majority of us were all too familiar with; in fact, for most of us, it was all we’d really known to that point. The idea that we’d all sit at tables crammed next to each other in relatively sizable rooms just made sense, because that’s what we did, as a matter of course. You sit down surrounded by other people and you do the work.

Coming almost a year into lockdown, and multiple years into freelancing from home, I can’t help but wonder how the studio shaped the work I was doing, and the methods of working I had in general. I wasn’t in a bubble, just the opposite; I was literally surrounded by people struggling with the same things I was, and all our ideas were cross-pollinating, intentionally or otherwise. We were teaching each other as much, if not far more than, any of the lecturers were teaching us. How could we not?

I think back, and I can identify ideas I discarded or approaches I abandoned based on the people around me — either because they were doing something that felt better (or easier, or ambitious in a way I wasn’t, or vice versa, or…), or because I felt self-conscious doing so in comparison to what they were doing. I can think of times when I approached problems with solutions that were entirely based on what I’d seen others do in previous projects.

Working in a studio was, in a way, like having another teacher in the room at all times. (Or multiple teachers.) I mean that as a positive and a negative; after working in relative isolation for so long, it’s something I miss to a degree, but also something I wonder if I was accidentally constricted by, without realizing it.

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