Newsletter #6, Aug/Sept 2015: Art Class
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Permission drawing

Art Class
Answer to an email I got a few weeks ago: 

Dear N.,

Thanks for getting in touch. I'm glad to hear you're in love with art. I'm glad you're an engineer. If it's one thing we need more of, it's engineers with imagination. 
The short answer to your question is: I don't give classes. 
However, from your email, I'm not sure it's classes you need. It sounds as if you really want to make things - drawings, paintings, sculptures, crafts, etc, but you don't know how or where to start. 
All art starts with obsession and/or curiousity. My advice is to discover what you can't stop thinking about (cars? old furniture? horror movies? walking in KL? bees? the colour red?) and find out all you can about it. Turn it into a project. 
For example, did you know that the red in lipsticks comes from cochineal, made from crushed beetles? I'm also thinking of writer John Berger and filmmaker John Cristie's project called 'I Send You This Cadmium Red'. They sent letters to each other, which eventually became a book. Then there's Emil Goh, an Australian-Malaysian artist who passed away in 2009. In one of his projects, he tracked people in mall who were wearing or carrying red and filmed them from behind.
Here is a list of things you might want to do: 
  1. Make a list of things you are interested in or curious about. Don't think too much about it. Just sit down and write whatever comes into your head for 2 continuous minutes. 
  2. Find/borrow/buy and read these books: 

    - What It Is and Picture This by Lynda Barry

    - The War of Art or Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield 
    - Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice by Ivan Brunetti
    - Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands For A Digital Age by Douglas Rushkoff
  3.  Read these tips from Gary Panter about how to keep a sketchbook.
  4. Start keeping a sketchbook. Don't worry about trying to make every page perfect. Try to draw or write in it everyday.
  5. Watch this video of Patti Smith talking about the creative impulse.
  6. Watch this video of Lynda Barry talking about imagination, images and the connection between the mind and the hands.
  7. Start a website. It can be a free one, like Tumblr, Wordpress or Medium. But it has to be a website, social media doesn't count. If you read the Douglas Rushkoff book above (it's available somewhere on the internet for free if you search), you'll understand why. Post there regularly about what you're learning as you start to make art.
  8. Search for and look at the work of at least 3 Malaysian artists. It doesn't matter if they are cartoonists, filmmakers, painters, musicians, actors, dancers, poets or writers. Do this so that you can understand what it means to be making art in the place where you are.
  9. Decide how much time you can spend a week reading, writing, or making art. If you do not make time, the time will not magically appear. Understand that you may have to give up something you already enjoy in order to do this. You may have to choose between going out for drinks/surfing the internet/watching TV and making art. The first time you make this choice is the day you will have started.
  10. Do you need permission to start? If you do, please look here. I am attaching a hi-res version in case you want to print it out and write your name on it. 
If you do these 10 things, at the end of the year, you will have a little pile of stuff (digital and real) that is the result of your time, effort, imagination and stubborn determination. And then, if you want, you are free to email me again and ask another question. 
Good luck!

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