Student Memories: Stu Who?

Comedian Stu Who? recalls his first day of art college, filled with apprehension and day-glo orange paint.

Feature by Stu Who? | 26 Sep 2009
  • Stu Who?

Being an uptight, insecure wee hooligan from Easterhouse had left me relatively unprepared for my first days of studenthood. I was eighteen and rebellious, resented all forms of authority, and sincerely believed that anyone over the age of thirty had a shared responsibility for all of the world’s numerous woes, and should be incarcerated in Camps for the Elderly and Inept. With that patently negative attitude, I went to Art College … to be a student … not to study, or prepare for a career … just to be a student … to go to parties, get drunk, and have sex … on a full-grant, no loans to repay, and the heady days of Thatcher’s social-terrorism still an undreamed nightmare.

On my first day in art class, my insecurities about being exposed as a chancer, with no real talent or ability, were making me very nervous as I gazed at the blank canvas in front of me, and at the bowl of fruit I was supposed to artistically render as a still-life … aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! It was the Sixties; the era of hippy-cool, long-hair, flared jeans, and sand-coloured desert boots, and the guy standing at the adjoining easel sported all three in a confident student manner, with a confident student stance – while I looked like an overgrown schoolboy, impersonating a pimply youth impersonating a student. My uber-cool easel-neighbour had even signed his blank canvas before starting his painting. What?  How fukkin confident was that? His signature boldly proclaimed him to be “Rikki”, with two ‘k’s’ and one ‘i’. Cool.

Rikki boldly loaded his paintbrush with day-glo, orange paint, which was strange, as the bowl of fruit contained apples, bananas, and grapes, and nothing of an orange hue. As Rikki’s brush neared the canvas, a large glob of paint dropped from its end, and fell onto the toecap of his brand-spanking-new desert boots, seeped in, and spread to the size of a squashed satsuma.“Hhmmffgggrrrhh … fffnnkk!!” spluttered Rikki, as he surveyed the damage … eyes bulging, lips spluttering, cheeks vibrating. And then, he stopped – smiled – loaded his brush with more paint, and quickly painted the rest of the boot with orange paint … and then his other boot too. Rikki saw me watching, and smiled and we both burst out giggling like a couple of deranged chimpanzees. I picked up my own brush and boldly signed my own blank canvas, “Stu” … Rikki nodded in assent.

From that moment we became mates, partners in art, partners in crime, as I followed Rikki’s example of anarchic improvisation … making the best of any situation, good or bad … and laughing in the face of any adversity, as we worked like possessed maniacs, egging on each other’s projects and dreams. And that turned out to be the greatest lesson I learned in all my student years – positivity, passion and a sense of the ridiculous – and I learned it from another student.

Thanks Rikki.

Find out about Stu's upcoming gigs at