Last weekend, I taught “Advanced Blending Techniques,” the last in my workshop series on mobile photography, for the first time. The purpose of the course was to dive deep into blending modes, and how they can be used to create cool art from photographs, like this:
One of my examples was a complete disaster. It stemmed from an idea I’ve used before with great success on a few pieces, combining a blurred background with another image using an Exclusion or Difference mode, but the outcome using recent Images was terrible:
What was I going to do with that? Nothing! So I laughed about it, moved on and told everyone it’s ok to make messes. That’s part of the process of creating. And while you may spend a lot of time getting seemingly no where toward a finished piece with your experimentation, you are learning things you will use later. This disastrous outcome influences what I do, or don’t do, when I sit down to work on the next photo.
The top image, Emerald Forest, is the eventual outcome of the mess I made in class. I didn’t use the mess in the final image, but it frustrated me enough that I experimented with other similar blends and found something I liked. The mess in the middle turned out to be a valuable step in the creative process.
As an instructor, I often have canned examples so I can show how things work. But if someone sees it work perfectly every time when I do it, and the theirs don’t, will they give up in frustration? Maybe. Some will, some won’t.
Maybe my job as an instructor is really to help people see not only what they can achieve with the techniques, but how important it is to make the mess in the middle. To try, and fail, and try again. To truly learn something, you’ve got to do it wrong a few times so you internalize what it takes to make it right.
That’s the creative process. That’s where we become the artist we were meant to be. It’s not all finished pieces and accolades, it’s a journey of hard work and messes that no one ever sees.
Are you making messes right now? If not, you are sitting in your comfort zone. You aren’t learning anything new. It’s time to push yourself and make a few messes. Let me know how it goes.