The Ramblings of a Madman
This course, as enlightening as it has been, has been the source of despair, ill-health and dysfunctionality. I have reached depths I never thought I could sink to, nor thought I could embody. Seeing as this show is the culmination of 3 years work, or in my case 4 years, I don’t think I could adequately put into image what has happened to me, so I felt a statement would suffice. I nearly left university entirely twice, after realising I’m not a “conventional artist” who tries to push the boundaries by doing what has already been done in a slightly different way. Kind of like what Union J was to One Direction, or Art Garfunkel to Simon. I decided to embody what it was to be a copycat artist, or a “reproduction artist”, which is just a nice way of saying I had no original ideas because I was born the wrong side of 1980. I feel like if there’s a god, he gave me the gift of drawing 20 years late as some kind of sick joke. Either way, I persevered.
I grew up around kids who thought they were the next biggest rapper, yet couldn’t grasp the basic English language. I wasn’t asking for champagne, but at least to know the difference between “Your, You’re and Yaw”, “There, Their, and They’re” would be a decent start. From the beginning, my competition were a bunch of hypocrites and cretins so I never had to try that hard at school to shine. This led to me falling in with the wrong crowd, which was the intellectual equivalent of a giraffe sinking in quicksand. I knew these people were not my type of people. I didn’t sell drugs, I didn’t, nor would I stab someone out of some stupid affiliation to a postcode, that I could easily get kicked out of if my mother did something as simple as miss 2 month’s rent. I needed to get out, however at school, I had bigger problems. I had a fight with someone who pulled my oversized stud out, which looked fucking stupid anyway. Who was I trying to look like, fucking LUDACRIS?! I digress… This fella just tried to yank a cube of Cubic Zirconia out of my ear, so I did what any self-respecting 15-year-old would do, I headbutted him in the nose. It blew up like a hepatitis firework. His older brother was a very naughty fella who I heard drove around with a machete on the back seat, so I stayed in my house and became a recluse for the next 4 years. However, me falling in with wrong crowd meant I did whatever to please people.
What does all that have to do with my 3 years at Herts, I hear you think? Good fucking question, and you’d be right for thinking that. To the untrained eye, that was all waffle, and to a degree it was. It was certainly self-deprecation. I like to poke fun at myself before other people do. And failing a Fine Art course, to the uninitiated is grounds for a ribbing… All the engineering lot think we sit around doing potato paintings, or think of it as a retirement home arts and crafts circle, where we sit around and knit blankets while discussing who shagged who on Eastenders. But I like to tell them I draw comics, and naturally I get a pat on the back. I could see the slight jealousy in their eyes, not as much I have for their future salaries compared to mine when I realised that a Fine Art degree basically qualifies you to squirt the sauce on Big Macs, but at least I’d be providing my customers with satisfaction as they swallow something that brings them closer to a heart attack with each bite. Again, I digress, I have an inert need to impress, like a cancer it swallows me whole until I find myself on a night out, wearing t-shirt 3 sizes too small and skinny jeans wondering where it all went wrong.
This need to impress became a running theme. My Laptop broke down on me in 2nd year, a normal person would buy a similar or better product at a similar price, but nooooooo… I go and buy a £1000 computer because it had Beats speakers built-in, like a total weapon. The irony is the £350 laptop I’m writing this on now is more powerful than the overpriced piece of shite I had before. The only silver lining was that I could play all my games on low resolution, like something out of Nintendo 64, but the bass was awesome. The Beats sign lit up so even in the darkness of night, I could see how much of a tool I was. Naturally, my work shared a similar theme, I decided to do work on where I come from, latching on to the Kray twins like I was their long-lost nephew who wanted to take back Bethnal Green one hipster at a time. I didn’t do it because I like the Krays, in fact I hate what they did for East London (which I’ll explain in the next paragraph), I did it so people thought “Ooooh, he’s from East London! What a legend, bet he’s seen some shit”. However, the truth was, between racking my brain for ideas in the daytime and porking my ungrateful girlfriend at night, I was lost. My need to impress people was destroying my life, I still do it. Deep down I think I’m doing what I want, but I know if I was doing what I wanted, I’d be fishing off the coast of Cuba on a yacht, firing machine guns into the distance with Dan Bilzarian, but I’m not. I’m doing what I love, and what I love is pleasing people.
I realised early on that university wasn’t for people like me. Being from East London, we have a stereotype of people who live outside the M25 as being carrot crunching cousin fuckers, who milk cows all day so I can buy four pints from Asda for a £1. I know this stereotype isn’t true, so I don’t hold people to it. From the outside in, people from outside London seem to think we’re all violent thieves, who are all related to the Kray twins (see, I told you I was coming to it) and that our education extends to key stage 2 Chip, Filp and Kipper. However, it seems that stereotype stuck. I couldn’t ask for the time without someone jumping 8 foot in the air, and throwing their belongings at me in an attempt to avoid this famous kicking I was supposed to inflict upon them. Everybody thought I had the IQ of a potato, and when I turned up to parties I was greeted by the sound of 6 locks turning in unison; regardless of there being 20 people there before me, suddenly I was in the frame for cheese theft. I found myself becoming the outcast, not because I deserved it, but rather because they had their assumptions, presumed I was a braindead moron and shunned me as a university pariah. Even on my own course, when someone was up to some skulduggery, suddenly I was Captain Flint and had a treasure trove of stolen Oil paints, professional pencils and canvas material.
I found it hard to fit in, although I found one good friend, Buwa Tetsola. We used to drink all the time, try and fail to pull birds. We later fell out, the one person I had an actual friendship with there and I fucked him off, over £89. Typical Stephen C. Mills right there. I seem to find myself in a hole, and instead of climbing out and moving on, I just find a bigger shovel. I found that I wasn’t the only Londoner to find myself in this predicament of being left out. I saw that the same white girls who would run all the way to Starbucks if a black Londoner asked them the time there, were all over them in the club because they heard that black men have longer appendages. Nothing racist on my part because bro, do your thing. Honestly, you get 12” in those guts. I’m just pointing out the part time racism that occurs in university. I’m just saying I’m not a fan of shoddy work, go hard or go home. Don’t be racist in the kitchen and pro black in the bedroom. Pick a side. I’ve heard what they said, white people know who the racists are.
I found that the easiest way for me to not be accused of anything was to stay indoors and work silently, around the quiet surroundings of the gentle buzz of my overpriced computer, and the mould making its way up the wall. My Ex and I spent a lot of time having unprotected sex with seemingly no consequences for around a year. I assumed all my sperm had a stroke in around 2011 and found themselves hobbling towards an egg with no discernible way to impregnate it. One fateful day, one of my sperms decided to don the cape, put its underwear on the outside of its tights and flew to rescue this egg from its lonely fate. Impregnated the shit out of it and turned the Clearblue test positive. We decided it was too early to have kids, I was half way through Far Cry 3 and could barely afford food; I was living on toast sandwiches and was fast running out of bread, she had a penchant for bulk buying low cost fashion. We were absolutely out of our league on this one. We decided to abort it, this was one of the most soul-destroying experiences of my life. I joke about it otherwise I’d cry. I was broke. Nothing makes you feel like less of a man than knowing you can’t look after what you put out. I feel that it was the right decision, I didn’t want my kid on benefits.
The months that followed were a slow incline to happiness. Then a sharp drop. 2016 was the single worst year of my life. I didn’t mention before that my father left…
When I was 4 years old my father must have thought “my work here is done” left us to our own devices, went forth and procreated like the good lord asked. All out of wedlock mind, the only time my old man went near a church was to rob it. Honestly, he was the world’s worst thief. He worked as a council painter and decorator. When he was given the keys to the house, he would go back at night, rob it blind then give the keys back. When the occupants realised they’d been robbed with no signs of forced entry, the only person who had a set of keys was David P. Mills, master thief and full time Womble. My mother knew the officers by first name. By the time I was 5, he was gone.
**BACK TO THE STORY**
… When my Father left, my mum’s father took over. My grandad is my father figure. He did everything a dad would do. In February 2016, he had a seizure and died in my arms for around 6 minutes. He came back just as the paramedic was about to jab him with a defibrillator. My world fell apart. I needed a kind smile, that’s when my girlfriend decided to split with me. When you fall through hell, you never know what level you’re on. When you think you’re at the bottom, there’s always a level lower, ready to take you in with open arms. Grandad’s hell was worse, going from being an active-ish person to having me changing his clothes was a severe comedown. The only silver lining for me was meeting a woman who really appreciated me. She stuck by me through thick and thin. Supporting me through the remainder of 2016 into 2017. Even through me getting beaten up in South London for wearing a West Ham shirt. Might have been asking for it really.
I started university this year and was immediately kicked out of my house for a month. My computer was smashed, containing the only copy of Photoshop I had. My work ground to a halt. I moved on to what I know best, making the best of shitty situations. I worked as a security guard the whole time. I figured that I couldn’t do any work, I also realised I had worked myself into £5000 worth of debt so working would be my best option. I’ve taken to writing a novel because I challenge anyone to have more source material than I’ve had in the last 4 years.
If this course is made to challenge students then it failed. I have been tested by everything except this course. I’ve battled with ex-girlfriends, family, health, finance and employment. This may not be the most interesting thing you see today. But, you will remember it. In that, I have served my purpose as an artist. This may be the most original thing I have produced.
It hasn’t all been sunshine and roses, but I lived my life, not draw it.
I worked my arse off to get somewhere. I might have been running on the spot, but I did it.
How do I visualise all of that into a final piece? You couldn’t.
All you can think of is that giraffe sinking into quicksand, right?
I hope this note finds you well.