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On Doing Something for the First Time

You know that question, ‘When was the last time you did something for the first time?’


A couple of weeks ago, I attended a day-long workshop on cyanotype print-making at a studio called Kāṇike, along with my friend Vidya. This is something I’ve been curious about and I’m glad I did it. The images below are some of the prints I made in the session.


In short, this is a type of printmaking where you coat your surface (paper, cloth etc) with a chemical solution that makes it sensitive to light, let it dry, and then place either a photographic film or some objects that will selectively let light through them to create images, expose it to UV light (or the sun) and then wash off the chemical solution to create these beautiful images.


Fun fact: In the 19th and early 20th centuries, this process was a low-cost method used to produce copies of drawings, including architectural drawings. Hence the name ‘blueprint’ has stuck to the day. (I find facts like these really delightful for some reason!)



Coming back to the workshop, it was wonderful to walk in without too much of a clue about the process. I was able to be curious and totally free and experiment without being too worried about the outcome. I find that this sort of openness is hard for me to achieve when I’m trying to hone my skills, like say, when I’m learning from some new watercolour, or illustration tutorials. I already have an expectation of where I want to be, as opposed to just being able to let go and try things fearlessly. But I’m thinking, it will be a good idea to remember this experience, and carry that into all my learning.


Incidentally, the writer, Rob Walker, in one of his recent newsletters, wrote about the ‘Beginner’s mind’. He mentions this quote by Shunryu Suzuki, a Zen monk, ‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.


He writes,

….how can we cultivate beginner’s mind in the day-to-day? Here are some tentative thoughts:

  • Start taking note of things you don’t actually understand. [...] Some problem that could be fixed. A problem that can’t be fixed. Something that’s missing. Take a walk and come back with a list of 10 things you just realized that you don’t know.

  • Get an opinion about your work from someone who doesn’t know anything about it. (For example, if you’re an artist, get an opinion from someone who doesn’t know anything about art.)

  • Reconsider something that you take for granted.

  • Take someone seriously who you would normally ignore.

  • Think about a route you normally walk, or even drive. Think about describing it to someone in detail. Now take that route, and be alert to everything you left out of your description, or even got wrong....

Do read his full newsletter here. If you decided to try any of these, I’d love to know how it went.


Also, I must admit, I was in two minds about attending the workshop in the first place, because it would mean I would have to give up a full working day when I have other stuff I *need* to finish. And then, I thought, what even is the point of working for myself/being a freelancer if I don’t jump at opportunities like this? I’m glad I did. And while at some point in the future I want to switch to working four days a week, and then spending one full day on play.


Prompt to ponder over...

Here’s a prompt I want to leave you with. Feel free to journal about it, draw about it, or just spend a few precious minutes pondering this. Is there something you’ve been wanting to do, or learn that you’ve been putting off? What is the worst that can happen if you just start? Feel free to come up with a list of colourful scenarios. And then, maybe give it a shot, allow yourself to approach it with a curious mind, and see how truly liberating it can be.

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