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How to get started

Joe's Creative Journal

1998, Year 1
No. 1, Jul 23

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This series is not intended to be a university course. I am not an art scholar, I am just a painter. I will tell you some secrets I stumbled about - as I later found out, I was not the first, of course, you can even find them in books. Nevertheless, it is hard to decipher them, so I will take the pain to spread the word. My motto will be, as always: Als ich kan (from a painting of Jan van Eyck, found as a citation in a modern mathamatical book, meaning: as good as I might).

Your appreciation will give me the power and strength to endure. It is for you and all the great masters that I do this work, and I hope you will enjoy it. So don't hesitate to send me your feedback in order to help me with that goal! This kind of journal is new to the net, so please tell me if the size is ok (images are great, but big!).

As I am writing in a foreign language, I am not sure to express myself correctly, but I hope you will be able to guess what I mean any time.

Also, I invite you to join in my effort. Send me your articles and comments to be published in this journal.

Yours truly,

How to get started

If you ever feel bad because you would like to do some creative work but don't know how to start, don't worry, that's a very common feeling. And it's quite easy to overcome this feeling and really do the work you want to do.

Well - thats not quite true, more often it turns out to emerge into something very different, but let me assure you: You will like it more than what you initially aimed at.

If you delve into that, you'll find out that this is something very enigmatic, the very nature of creativity, and we will not investigate it now, all at the beginning. Instead I will try to get you up and running in a few minutes.


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In case you would like working with the machine - wait a second. Chances are you have a small monitor and a mouse - you can't do any good with that.

Take any piece of paper instead (and I mean it literally, I will explain it soon) and some old stick to draw with - might even be a ball-point pen. Actually this would be a very good choice - you were not be able to correct a single stroke!

Why is this important?

First stroke
First stroke
Look at this first stroke! It obviously does mean nothing, it is very loose, this stroke is so unimportant that while you do it your mind does not care to control.

And this is what I want you to get at! The piece of paper is worthless, and if you take yesterday's papers out of your paper basket to draw upon, that will be the proof.

Remember, you are not going to make a multi million dollar painting, nobody expects you to portrait your loved one to be recognized by every neighbour - not yet - you just put some strokes on paper to get your mind loose, to let your hand work free, to have some fun watching your hand do things you did not know of before!

Second stroke
Second stroke
If you took a ball point pen, you knew it's impossible to correct that stroke. And if you can't correct it, you know that it counts when you do it. You have no second chance! You do it and that's it. (This is a secret!)

You do it so fast, it's just that old meaningless stroke, you can't think about it. You don't have time to have that stroke take any particular shape, it will be there faster than you can breathe.

If you don't like it, throw it away, do another. Remember: you draw on waste paper - it is your creativity you're after, nothing else!

Experiment a little, don't think or judge, just do! How many stroke-drawings can you make in a minute? And how do you feel doing it?

So you experiment, take other pens, other papers, take brushes, paint, ink, even materials that are not meant to draw with - be sure to stay with your action, do not think about what you are doing, just feel how it is doing a stroke in a way so that it feels right. (I am sure you will feel when it's right. You will feel good. Try to feel good when doing it!)

Well, look at the second stroke! How different from the first! And equally meaningless. You would not be able to actually invent such a stroke! But this stroke has power indeed. Do you see the energy, the lust, the liveliness, the equilibrium, the tension? Where does such a stroke come from? Who actually does it? Hey, wasn't it you who did it? But you would not be able to think of such a stroke - how come you made it?

The chinese secret

Did you ever hear the story of the Chinese master being asked by the emperor to draw him a rooster? The master went away. One year later, the emperor sent a messenger - no rooster yet. Next year the same procedure.

The third year the emperor had the painter come to court. The master bowed down, took a piece of paper, a brush, prepared some ink, and in a second produced a rooster, presenting the result to the emperor, who in turn ordered the master to be beheaded.

When they went to his place, they found rooms full of sketches, three year's work. Which proved that the emperor did not understand at all.

Next week:
Strokes and faces

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