Case Study: Connectivity

An illustration of people talking in a bar.
Image courtesy of UAL

Alexander James Wood – finding energy in collaborations

London-based artist, Alexander James Wood graduated from Camberwell College of Arts’ BA Illustration in 2015. An award-winner of both the It’s Nice That and Clyde & Co’s graduate awards for his screen prints, Alexander discusses the importance of being able to collaborate with others, and to create and maintain networks.

‘It’s important to reach out to people as much as you want to be reached.’

Alexander James Wood

Make the most of collaborations while you’re at art college

It’s certainly not going to be the case for everyone and it all depends on what you want to get out of it, but for me the most important form of collaboration at art college isn’t two people drawing together, it’s about the community of sharing ideas, bouncing off each other.

You get a lot of development through osmosis working with a group of like-minded and not-so-like-minded people – new ways of working and developing confidence in yourself. For me, collaboration is about making the most of those opportunities. Everyone I met while I was on the course was interesting, though I did have a small group of people who I worked with well and with whom I’ve continued to keep in contact.

When you enter the world of work, it becomes more difficult to create new networks. You can really help yourself by making the most of the networks you have access to at art college. In the wider world, you enter the world of work and not much of your time is available for that kind of thing, so being there, in college – physically being there and working around other people – is so important. You might think you need to be doing your work at home, alone, and that might work for some of the things you’re doing, but if you’re around other people who have the same practice you learn so much. I think one of the tricks is to seek out group briefs and group practices – that way you find out who you can work with and be comfortable with.

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Why collaborate?

Collaborating is like walking and breathing – you’re always doing it in some way or form.

You get energy from working closely with people – I worked with producer, Ruairi Fallon very closely, for example. He always has ideas about my work and I always have ideas about his. It also helps to keep us both motivated. 

Collaboration doesn’t have to be a forced thing, either – it’s about being practical. You go to your friends’ exhibitions, to support them, to be there to show your support, and they are great networking opportunities. Similarly, with dinner parties and corporate events, they are all potential opportunities to find new ideas and collaborations.

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Proactive collaboration.

It’s important to reach out to people as much as you want to be reached. One way of doing that is making sure that you’re putting yourself out there, submitting your work, entering competitions. By getting exposure, you make connections and you’re expanding your network.

A while back, I had a studio in New Cross with a couple of other people. While we were there we had a big list of all the competitions, prizes, draws, deadlines. We pooled our ideas and discussed which would be the best opportunities for each other. It’s a good way of knowing what’s out there. When you’re working in studios, too, you’re always meeting other people. People will often leave their door open and if you put your head round it, it can all start from there.

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‘Collaborating is like walking and breathing – you’re always doing it in some way or form. You get energy from working closely with people.’

Alexander James Wood