Give and Take

So here’s the thing: what to do about requests for advice? It’s something I have been thinking about recently as these requests escalate. I should start by saying that I am pleased to be consulted and even more pleased that people should think that I am worth asking.

I do try to wait to be asked though. When we were sorting out our new home we found we had a neighbour who began every conversation with ‘I don’t want to give you no advice, but…’ and then proceeded to not only give us his advice, but also his opinion that, as feeble creatures etiolated by life in London, we would be doomed to failure in any practical pursuit. In fairness, we were so energized by fury that we proved him entirely wrong. Perhaps a positive result, but it was a salutary lesson in when to keep my mouth shut. I remember all too well how we planned to hit him with a spade and hide him in the concrete foundations for my Albion…

Solicited advice is another matter and I am happy to help provided I can and have the time. Mostly it is a fair exchange: I get the rosy glow of having helped out (this, I confess, is greatly helped by a thank you), the questioner remembers me as a decent and helpful artist and none of this hurts my reputation. In fact, if I check why people are buying prints, visiting me or taking a class, I often discover it is because I’m thought of as that supportive, kind person who makes good prints. Taa daa, a result the meanest bean counter would appreciate.

However there are times when I say no. I don’t like doing it. In fact I can probably guarantee that for every half hour spent fuming at my refusal, I will have had an hour of squirming guilt in the style of Alan Bennett. The refusals happen when I’m asked to advise on how to teach my branch of printmaking rather than how to print (nobody enjoys shooting themselves in the foot), or if I’m asked to advise when the person has been learning with another teacher who should, in my opinion, be their first port of call. Reasonable eh? But it does upset some.

As yet nobody I have refused to help has come back to say ‘Fair enough, thanks for taking the time to explain yourself’, but a few have taken the trouble come back to be cross. I take the opposing view and make a point of responding positively to people who turn me down. A quick message of friendly thanks and wishing them well is actually very cathartic for me and I’m comfortable approaching them again if needed. Oh and it’s probably nicer for them too. A little win-win in the face of disappointment if you choose to see things that way.

So I will carry on helping where I can, though I may ask to publish and answer questions through my Facebook page as a way of broadening my audience while helping out if demand increases. But, unlike our neighbour, I promise not to throw in any nasty comments on your upbringing. I have no wish to end up under anyone else’s Albion…

Author: Laura

Laura Boswell is a printmaker working exclusively with linocut and traditional Japanese woodblock printing. She has a degree in Art History/Visual Art from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and has been elected to the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers.

2 thoughts on “Give and Take”

  1. Brilliant, brilliant…I totally agree. I think for me it was when someone appeared at the door of my studio saying that they wanted to finish a print that they had made at a ‘local’ printmaking facility on a workshop and had been advised by the tutor that I would give them a squirt of ink, extraordinary! I politely wrapped some up in greaseproof and hope that one day they might join one of my classes. We all have these stories I am sure and politeness is all. Great post.

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