I was thinking the other day about the fact that so many of the people I went to art school with 25 years ago are still producing work that is, if not the same as, then at least on a par with, what they were doing in their final degree show. I see friends post their work on social media and I recognize everything about it — not in a bad way, per se, but it’s very much of what they were doing way back when.
At first, when thinking about this, I had a moment of… jealousy, perhaps? A sense of, “Oh, they found their voice early on, and that’s never been true for me.” I think back to the work I was doing in art school, and all I can really remember is how derivative so much of it was; I can think of the bits I was lifting from Dave McKean, the bits I was lifting from Kent Williams, the bits I was lifting from whoever. (Really, I was pulling left, right, and center from the various comics I was reading at the time; I was shameless, but because my teachers weren’t familiar with the source material, they never called me on it, as much as they should have.)
I was swiping so much because I didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted to say; I think that’s why I felt this feeling of envy when looking at friends’ work decades later and seeing the through line from then till now. I have this moment of, I wish I’d had that certainty of who I was way back when, as if that would have changed everything for me in some cosmic, inexplicable manner.
Of course, as I said, that was my reaction when all of this first occurred to me, and I thought to myself, oh, I should write about this on the site. Then, today, I opened up this window and thought about it again, only to switch my opinions on it almost entirely. Imagine not really finding a new aesthetic, a new thing in all that time? I might not have known who I was when I was 23, but that’s probably been all for the good in the years since; if I had, would I have ended up where I am, with the career and friends and relationship I have?