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My first work was cringe-worthy

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

My introduction to printmaking came one evening in a church hall in North Dunedin and it’s fair to say I have been hooked ever since. The first piece was a still life of a bowl of fruit and it took me ages. I drew and cut and rubbed (a technique to see which parts of the lino have been removed and what haven’t) and drew and cut and rubbed. It was such a neat feeling when I applied ink for the first time - seeing the image come alive under the cheap, tacky ink was so fulfilling. The image was duly printed and then, well, in my total enthusiasm, I had it framed. That framed piece now sits in a cupboard. It’s not that I am ashamed of it, it was the start of a journey, it’s just that I have moved on.

We tend to look at our earlier work far too critically and in doing so we overlook the absolute importance of them. If our early experiences are enjoyable then we will continue to work on developing our skills in the area, we will persist. If our experiences are less than positive we tend to learn that that particular activity is ‘not for me’ and are more likely to give up. I once tried to learn to ski - it was an unmitigated disaster, I just couldn’t do it. Needless-to-say, if I find myself up a mountain I’ll happily be hanging out in a cafe.

The importance of first experiences is critical. Abigail Brenner wrote in Psychology Today that there are seven things to consider on that first experience. First up is community - being able to connect with a supportive peer group is essential; starting something new in isolation is daunting. It also helps with the next factor that will keep the first experience positive: communication - talking about the experience, the frustrations, fears and successes make any experience better.

Having some flexibility in your approach goes a long way towards making an experience successful. If you approach a photography shoot with one exposure in mind and you can’t be moved from that, even when the light changes dramatically, then your chance of success (and enjoyment) is considerably curtailed. Some times we just have to ‘go with the flow’.

Like most things in life a little humour goes a long way. If we can laugh about our trials and tribulations it makes everything a little easier, a little softer (and, it adds the creative process along the way). It also helps with our need to accept our limitations - no one was born being able to do all things exceptionally well and believing that you can go from zero to hero with no experience in between is a little bit misguided. Its all a matter of pacing yourself, accepting your starting point as just that, a starting point.

In an earlier blog I wrote about rejection. It is, unfortunately, a necessary part of our growth and to deal with it we need to build our resilience. Resilience can not happen without adversity; that is, if we do not come up against obstacles for which we develop strategies to deal with them, then we won’t grow stronger. In a lot of ways like training for a marathon, if we don’t keep pushing ourselves to go further we won’t develop the capability to run for four hours.

And, in the face of all of this we need to maintain hope and optimism - we simply need to believe that we will improve. These factors are all inter-related but none more than the notion of keeping hope and optimism alive - surround yourself with the wrong people, with the nay-sayers and it is hard to have a positive experience.

{the image, above, was one of the first photographs I ever took - it remains one of my favourites}


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