But it's not like we ever get a MATE to come round and do homework with us. Homework which is the same but different - like being at the same school at the same time but in different art classes.
Which is actually what happened to me and Richard Hogg. Two years apart at school is a gulf, the sort of gulf that ensures you'll never cross paths (unless you have a sibling who bridges the gap and grants you a portal to 'the other level'), but we did go the same school at the same time, and did art. We remember only one mutual schoolmate's name, but apart from that, a sixth-form girl and a fourth-year boy would rarely speak, unless it was to hurl rudeness over the balcony.
Richard grew up in Hinckley but moved to London to do his degree and has lived there ever since. The chance to come back to stay with family and draw on our walls was eagerly accepted, and we're so glad it was. It was a completely new experience to work alongside another illustrator - whose day-to-day hassles were the same but different - and to watch another full-time creative person's day progress and take shape.
It's reassuring to see there's an equal amount of buggering about. There is the same time spent emailing. The same pacing and tea-brewing. And the pie-chart of the illustrator's time, were it to be scribbled out, would have roughly equal chunks marked 'Googling', 'food' and 'worrying'.
I liked watching Richard work, but tried not to stare. Or copy. Which is easy too do when you're a fan. They say every day's a school day, and during the week we were allowed to look into his sketchbooks and his toolboxes, and bits of his brain. We all had our work to get on with of course, so every pause to look at newly-Googled 'thing' or put on a record was chastened by a feeling that 'we need to get on', but the work flowed, in a surprisingly grown-up kind of way. We even stopped for lunch and boiled sweets every day. And only played Richard's game a bit.
Wacom notes were exchanged, Illustrator tips begged; iPhone games discovered and new colours investigated. Chips were eaten and soup was made. And we were ready an hour early.
From behind her invoices, a watchful Anne In Accounts declared Dick 'a bad influence', but only because our days must have reminded her of me and my best mate 'doing homework' together after school, and doing it in spite of a massive stream of continual distraction (yep, she's my Mum). I weathered Dick's cheerful jibe that it was interesting to see 'how little work other illustrators do' (ahem, well I WAS running about preparing for a show and you DID keep showing me animal videos) but it was interesting, actually, to simply see 'how other illustrators do'.
Cheers Dick! Come again.
You can read about the show itself here: www.factoryroadgallery.net and see the show in this gallery: http://gallery.me.com/inkymole#100021 and pumpkin carving the next day: http://gallery.me.com/inkymole#100028