Illustration student Greg McIndoe reflects on his first day at art school

In a brand new column, our Assistant Editor Greg McIndoe takes us behind the scenes and reveals what being an art student today is really like.

We are only 2 weeks in and already September has been packed with new beginnings for me. Not only have I rejoined the Inkygoodness team as Assistant Editor but I have also packed up and moved from Glasgow to Dundee to start studying Illustration at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. On top of – and very much inspired by – all this, today I am starting a brand new weekly column all about life as an art student.

I’ve read a multitude of magazines, books and blog posts with varying perspectives on studying at art school, but as yet I haven’t read anything which captures the student experience whilst it’s actually happening! In a bid to avoid anything too rose-tinted I’ve decided to write about my time at art school and give an honest account whilst it is all still raw – capturing significant moments along the way.

Design, Illustration, Creativity, Art Schooled, Art School, Student

Image by Mireia Ruiz of Cocolia Studio

Rather than a daily diary, this column will reflect on the milestones throughout my time at art school, starting quite aptly with my first day at college earlier this week.

I first found out I had a place way back in March – cue six months of waiting and growing excitement to contend with – almost to a frustrating level. So as you can imagine, the suspense has been killing me!

Design, Illustration, Creativity, Art Schooled, Art School, Student

“My Happy Chair” by Mireia Ruiz of Cocolia Studio

I’ve heard a mixture of stories from my friends who had previously studied art courses about their first days. Some had been given the challenge of decorating a chair (results had apparently included someone who – in typical art student cliche style – covered their chair in condoms only to regret this decision when it was revealed this would in fact be the chair they would have to sit on each day for the rest of the semester..) whilst others did little more than draw out a mind map during their first class.

Anxiously I decided it would be best to manage my expectations and prepare for the fact that my first day might not offer the opportunity for a mad creative challenge, but may in fact more closely resemble my first day at secondary school – a day filled with not much more than doodling your name on a coloured folder in an aesthetically pleasing way.

So when the day big day arrived my expectations were high but containable. First up, a welcome meeting to give us a quick overview of what our year would look like which managed to strike a balance between readying us for the challenges to come and assuring us that we were all here for a reason and so were more than capable of completing these challenges without having any major breakdowns.

Design, Illustration, Creativity, Art Schooled, Art School, Student

Photograph by Joe Shillington

After our first meeting we had around three hours to get to know each other before our first project brief at 2pm. Sitting in a room full of people you know nothing about pulls you out of your comfort zone pretty fast, helped by the underlying assumption that a liberal mindset and shared passion for stationery is a solid foundation to strike a new friendship. Before long everyone seemed pretty comfortable and conversations topics ranged from anxiety disorders to the entire class’s mutual obsession with Ru Paul’s Drag Race (naturally).

By the time the briefing arrived I think we had all partially forgotten that this wasn’t actually a creative social club, and we would at some point actually have projects to get on with. As we shuffled into the seminar room we were confronted with an image I don’t think anyone expected – a massive lemon drawn on the blackboard. A mysterious “Can anyone tell me what that is?” from our lecturer was met tentatively with “… a lemon?” from a few less perplexed students before an explanation was offered in the form of a diagram by Clive Phillpott. Within the hour-long briefing the chalky lemon had transformed into a brief for an artist book project (see above).

As we clinked our room temperature Lidl ciders together, we toasted to our new illustration home and – as cheesy, premature as it may sound – I did already feel quite at home.

Greg McIndoe

Illustration by David Shrigley – one of the artist recommended as research for our artist book project

Less than an hour later the same room was transformed into a welcome drinks event, filled with the scent of warm beer and as random an assortment of conversation topics as before. All three year groups of students along with the lecturers mingled together chatting about everything from Freshers Week horror stories, to how much we all (vegans included) hate “preachy vegans”. As we clinked our room temperature Lidl ciders together, we toasted to our new illustration home and – as cheesy, premature as it may sound – I did already feel quite at home.

Just as my month of September is filled with newness, my first day as DJCAD was filled with firsts. It included my first project brief, my first drink with classmates and the first mysterious drawing on a blackboard – all of which I can be pretty certain there will be many more of to come.

Greg McIndoe is a student at Duncan of Jordanstone College in Dundee. Next week he’ll share another big, slightly scarier first.


Posted on Sep 27th, 17 by

Greg McIndoe - also known as Headless Greg - is an illustrator and design writer based in Glasgow, Scotland. He regularly writes for design magazines and online platforms, interviewing fellow illustrators and leading creatives.

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