Learn

In Inspiration

We believe that making mistakes is essential on the road to making great images: We aim to inspire here with beautiful images but we’re not afraid to share our struggles and missteps and the learnings that came from them.

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Like Holly mentioned yesterday, beginnings can be fresh, crisp and clean,  glistening with opportunity.  And as much as a blank slate can be refreshing,  sometimes beginnings can be difficult, too.   That initial moment of stretching tight creative muscles feels overwhelming and I want to cozy back up into my blanket of familiarity.  The blank canvas, the unopened roll of film, the empty memory card, the brand-spanking-new journal… all waiting to showcase my mistakes.   I get nervous that I’m going to screw it up and I become handcuffed with indecision on where to begin.   I’m guessing that I’m not alone in this feeling when those negative voices take over.  But the ideas?  They are relentless.   They flutter around banging into the side walls of my brain like butterflies caught in a jar.  The noise of the ideas becomes so loud that it drowns out the voices and eventually I concede and take pen to paper or pick up my trusty camera.  “More than in any other vocation, being an artist means always starting from nothing.”  says Teresita Fernandez.  She was giving a commencement speech to Virginia  Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts and someone happened to post it where I would find it.  You should listen to it, too.  It’s filled with wisdom and inspiration and savory food for thought.

When I look at a blank page or open a new roll of film, it’s daunting, but getting the idea out of my head -on paper or in the viewfinder- still feels like progress.   In my classes I find myself telling my students all the time, “Just start. We’ll keep revising until we get it how you want it, but you have to start somewhere.”  I need to keep reminding myself of this lesson, too.

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Ms. Fernandez told a story in her speech that fits perfectly with our “Learn” manifesto.  She says, “In Japan there is a kind of reverence for the art of mending. In the context of the tea ceremony there is no such thing as failure or success in the way we are accustomed to using those words. A broken bowl would be valued precisely because of the exquisite nature of how it was repaired, a distinctly Japanese tradition of kintsugi, meaning to “to patch with gold”. Often, we try to repair broken things in such a way as to conceal the repair and make it “good as new.” But the tea masters understood that by repairing the broken bowl with the distinct beauty of radiant gold, they could create an alternative to “good as new” and instead employ a “better than new” aesthetic. They understood that a conspicuous, artful repair actually adds value. Because after mending, the bowl’s unique fault lines were transformed into little rivers of gold that post repair were even more special because the bowl could then resemble nothing but itself. Here lies that radical physical transformation from useless to priceless, from failure to success. All of the fumbling and awkward moments you will go through, all of the failed attempts, all of the near misses, all of the spontaneous curiosity will eventually start to steer you in exactly the right direction.”

In other words, just begin and we’ll see where it goes. 

Begin

Thanks for joining us as we start on this grand adventure together.   Sharing in the struggle,  Angie

18 Comments

  1. Angie,
    A lovely post! I love the concepts of mending and kintsugi and how they both honor the art of practice and discovery. I’m glad you’re here to share this journey, cracks and all.

  2. Angie, I LOVE this! Such a great reminder that we ALL feel that fear of beginning because, at least for me, each new step is a new opportunity to screw it up! Such a great reminder, as well to just get over ourselves and begin, because the relief of diving in and doing it is pretty great. So wonderful to have you with us on this journey.

  3. Angie,
    What a wonderful post! Your words really resonated with me today and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the mistakes I make. I’m trying to learn to embrace those mistakes and realize that those mistakes help to shape who I am as an artist.

    • Oh Leigh – I love what you said. My mistakes are part of what has made me into the artist that I’ve become and hope to be. Thank you for your sweet comment.

  4. Angie, I wanted to start a non-profit organization to benefit veterans, and I didn’t know where to begin. With the help of Konni, we started AMERICA’S HEROES, INC. We just bulldozed ahead and made a few mistakes, but we learned from our mistakes. That was one year ago and we are well on our way to being a successful non-profit organization. Sometimes you have to act like a child and just try without ever thinking about failure.

    Dale

  5. Angie this post is fabulous. I think so many of us can identify, and your words are perfect. Thank you, thank you. xo

  6. This is beautiful Angie! I love the quotes you shared and truly identify with what she said. Here’s to learning through new beginnings!

  7. Oh, I’m about to make one heck of a messy beginning with my new work, so I just love your words here…thank you for inspiring!

  8. I read your post earlier in the week, Angie, but didn’t have time to listen to the commencement speech till the now. It’s so chock full of wisdom & I know I’ll be turning many of those ideas around in my head for a long time to come. The concept of kintsungi, for one, is profoundly moving to me.
    Beginnings are wonderful and frightening and so freighted with our thoughts of how things will end – the success or failure to come. Focusing on just the next step, next line, next frame, is what keeps it all from being too overwhelming to me.

    • I feel like every time I listen to her words, I hear something else insightful. I, too, find the kintsungi process moving. It makes me want to find something to repair very conspicuously and then photograph it!

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