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Dan Hurtado

On creativity

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I have been making knives for about a year and feel I am improving in producing clean work. I know what I like (and don't like) in others' work, but when it comes time for me to sit down and draw something "new" the empty page is like a snowstorm in which I get lost. This theme is consistent in other areas: I play piano but I don't write music, I can draw the human figure but I don't create scenes, I write reasonably well but I don't craft tales.

 

I suppose my point is this; how do I draw inspiration from other makers without simply copying them? I appreciate the technical challenge of trying to reproduce what I see, but I would never want to mimic someone else's design and call it "my" work. Skill in execution may come through effort and time. But is creativity something you simply "have" or "don't have", or are there techniques to devlope the "inner eye"?

 

Help! I'm an engineer with an artist's hobby!

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need is the mother of creation. try going about it the other way, instead of looking for something cool that happens to have a purpose, think of what it needs to DO and design arround that. it might help

 

also, don't be afraid to make something imperfect. just because your first carving looks like it just came out of a wood chipper doesn't mean you'll never get any better.

Edited by C Daniel

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I spend a HUGE amount of time studying the work of others.. from contemporary bladesmiths, cultural designs, archaeological specimens, etc. It's all about taking in bits and pieces of all sorts of inspirational ideas. Find things you like and file them away. Search your own creative desire.. What elements of design are the most appealing to you? Something that defines what you want your style to be like, for example. Combine it with something else. Search OUTSIDE the world of bladesmithing: literature, art, movies, music. I once got an idea for a knife by listening to the Nitty Gritty Dirt band. Look at nature... a huge source of inspiration there. I have a folder on my desktop called 'Knife Inspiration'. Whenever I'm searching the internet and find something interesting, I grab the image and put it in that file. When it comes time to sketch out an idea, I do a slideshow of the contents of that folder.

 

Just remember... the more you study great work, the more your eye becomes attuned to what makes something aesthetically pleasing: Flow, balance, symmetry, contrast.

 

I once attended a lecture on design given by Jason Knight. He sits with a sketch book and the first thing he draws is a graceful S-shaped curve. From that line, he builds the idea of the knife. Try it sometime.... it's fun.

 

And: incorporate common sense and utilitarian aspects into your ideas, don't forget that. All the creativity in the world doesn't mean much to me if the thing doesn't feel good in the hand.

Edited by Scott A. Roush

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I find a beer or few helps to switch off the first layer of the brain which can make you over analyse what you are doing.

Im sure a psychologist could have a field day with this though :D

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A useful tool to break away from the trodden path is this:

 

-"Ok this looks cool. What if I do this the other way around?!"

 

Try choose the *other* path.

 

The "otherness" of an idea can be liberating. It is also completely undefined. Choosing the other alternative can mean anything and it will compell you to think anew. It can help you to see what you are blind to in your own work.

 

It is also fun :)

 

Another tool I find helpful is to set up strict rules that cannot be broken. Choose some elements that simply *have* to be included in the design. Change everything else around, but stay within those boundaries you have chosen.

 

I find it to be empowering to build a structure of proportions that I can use as a skeleton for everything else. A bit like that graceful S Scott saw Jason Knight draw. As an engineer you may feel at home with underlying structures.

Work with transparent paper and put your grid, or whatever underneath. Then go ahead and doodle very freely over this structure. Perhaps not even drawing a knife at first. Just go for shapes.

As the "grid" you can choose a bundle of sticks you have photographed, a group of birds flying in the sky, reeds reflecting in the water. Anything that makes you search for structure and rhythm.

 

The combination of the law of structure and the power of improvisation can set you free.

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Dan, the only thing I can add to what's already been said is "just do it". Start drawing, let the pencil do it's own thing. When it's done, if you don't like it, flip to the next page (don't throw it away, keep your sketch book together - it's good to be able to go back). Draw some more. If you have a hard time free-handing curves, buy a few French curves, and maybe a compass.

 

Just do it...

 

You'll do a lot you're not happy with, but then... poof! You'll hit gold... and run to the forge. :)

 

-Todd

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Mr. Miyagi told Daniel-San, on pruning bonsai, "Close eye. Trust. Concentrate. Think only tree. Make a perfect picture down to last pine needle. Wipe mind clean, everything but tree. Nothing else in whole world, only tree. You got it? Ok open eye...remember picture? Make like picture. Just trust picture...if it come from inside of you always right tree"

 

So to you I say, close eye. think only 'Knife.' Make a perfect picture down to last sanding stroke. Open eye. Make like picture. Just trust picture...if it come from inside of you always right knife.

 

That covers creativity. design and function is a little different I suppose but you get the idea.

-Morgan

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Yeah, what they said....plus, sometimes my approach is totake a piece of steel or wood and just start shaping it until (with patience) it takes form. Let it happen, don't try to make it happen. Get some well-illustrated books and keep them in the bathroom...not to read, per se, not to study, but to look through and see what takes form in your mind. One of my favorite books seems to be vastly underrated and can be picked up fairly cheap (ebay). Search for "A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration, and Use of Arms and Armor". Big title, big book.

Brian

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Im sure a psychologist could have a field day with this though :D

 

Bah!

 

I find a beer or few helps to switch off the first layer of the brain which can make you over analyse what you are doing.

 

This.

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This reminds me of a friend who is a chemical engineer. We were making traditional South African Food called "Potjiekos" which translates as "Pot Food". It's basically a type of stew that is made in layers in a traditional African Cast Iron pot, and cooked very slowly over coals. The idea is to put the stuff that takes longest to cook at the bottom and so on and so forth. The most common type is an "Everything In" Pot. This means you open the fridge and just chuck everything you find (within reason) into the pot. My engineer friend pitched up with all his ingredients weighed, and proportioned in plastic containers. He spent quite some time "auditing the S.O.P." which I later found out was a recipe he had found on the internet. I took it all away from him and threw everything in a pot. It tasted great!

 

I am far from an expert on making knives, but I have tought myself to draw them. I started by just making outlines and concentrating on proportion, which is harder than one might think. Then I started filling in bevels and bolsters etc, and then concentrating on their proportions as well. Now I draw about 5 knives a day. Usually it's one that I want to make or a inspiration that I picked up from someone/somewhere else. All of the advice above helps. I find that drawing a knife over and over helps me when I am forging it. I can use the images in my head to guide me.

 

In short, draw, draw, draw. Keep everything and don't over-analize anything. This is art, it doesn't need to make sense.

 

I hope this helps a bit.

 

Regards

Wayne

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Take a piece of your steel, some material for a guard, a piece of wood & a square yard of leather & ask it want it wants to be. Might sound daft, but it works, sometimes;)

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Jeroen reminds me... I think it would be a good idea for some people to start out that way.. or attempt to make copies of master work. I think one would learn a lot about their own style, as well as pick up valuable skills by doing that in the beginning.

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Dan,

it is interesting how everyone has a slightly different method of getting there... I like to have a theme to the blade I'm making... sometimes one element of a design

 

will pop into my head and it becomes what the theme will be. Sometimes it is the theme that starts it and then different elements come along ... Other times the whole blade appears

 

complete in my mind... I don't usually sit down to design something..

 

It is when I'm doing something else that an idea will pop in my mind and the inspiration can come from from worlds totally unrelated to the knife world...

 

when that happens I'll draw a quick sketch and and dwell on it till I run out of ideas... then let it percolate while I go about my day... I try to have a story that the blade is going to

 

tell... now and then a little bit of the story jumps up ...and gets added to the whole... at some point the story becomes complete and I start on the making...

 

the making is not in stone and I try to follow the flow of the work without having a lock on what it has to be....sometimes a new idea comes up midstream...

 

some times I can work it into the design ... other times it gets filed away for a different blade..

 

I think all the people above have great ideas on how to get there... I don't think you can force creativity... Rather it is when I'm open and blank that ideas flow...

 

Dick

 

 

 

 

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Bah!

 

 

 

This.

 

LOL!!!

 

Dude, that's the best critique of aesthetics, etc. I've ever read.

 

Brilliant.

 

-Dave

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I too believe that it is hard to force creativity. I have never been able to sit down with a pencil and say, "I'm going to be creative now." However, I used to do some writing and found that my most creative stuff happened late at night when I was tired and my left brain had pretty well shut down for the day and the creative right brain took over. It may sound like a bunch of huey but I believe that there is something to the left brain/right brain thing. Have you ever noticed how an unusually high number of actors are left handed?

 

I will often alter my work as I go as well. There are times when a knife will simply "talk" to you as to how it should look if you will stop and let it.

 

:D There are always as many techniques as there are people and as Dick said, it's interesting as to what works for each. When you've been trained to use your practical mind then it can be frustrating to get your creative juices flowing.

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OMFG, Dave, I've been writing this RE-DONKULOUS enlightened essay diatribe on aesthetics and adolescent development to keep my teaching j-o-b.

 

Mah head is FULL.

 

(Of what, is another question entirely.) ;)

 

I could have summarized the whole 300 pages with the above quotation!

 

That and B=Fe2

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Wow! Thanks for all the input guys. Peter, I especially like your concept of "creativity upon a rigid frame".

Now to find some good tequila and a sketch book.

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I can't sketch; I'm challenged by stick figures. What I do is form a rough idea of what I want to forge, grab a piece of steel and start forging. Sometimes I run into problems tranfering what's in my head to the steel bar and end up making something else. Sometimes the steel leads me to a modification of the design. I just keep working until I have something that I like or I screw things up beyond recovery.

 

Doug

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I fight between the method of free-forming on the anvil.. with only a general idea in my head.. and I often still do it that way. I was an artist before I even thought of taking on skills that are sometimes easier for a trained machinist. And I'm sure there are people that make incredible work that way. But.. I believe, that for most people, their work would improve greatly by working off a hard design on paper. I just think it is easier to keep the lines flowing that way and it is definitely more efficient. My bet is that the majority, if not all of the best blades, the most inspiring, the ones that draw the most attention, the 'jaw droppers', were carefully conceived on the drawing board.

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I know I'm just a "lil punk kid" (or whatever kids are getting called these days). But I usually do a few basic drawings to get the idea in my head, draw one out full size (sometimes) or just take a scaled drawing, and keep it in my pocket while I'm working. Then I pull it out to check every once in a while. All my ideas typically come from basic user designs, or from something historical I want to mess up. Like now, I just got a possible order to do a spear head. The patron based his design very closely on the zulu Iklwa.

 

 

My $0.02, Stephen.

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There is a must have/must read book for guys like you and me. It's The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. You can find it here, My link.

 

It teaches you how to use the right side of your brain to enhance your creativity and artistic confidence. It's been translated into 13 languages and has sold over 2.5 million copies. It worked for me. I hope it will work for you. -Art

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I usually start out with a detailed drawing of what I want to make, then ignore it...

 

I know, no help at all....

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that sounds like reality talking. You either ignore it on purpose or... you let all your mistakes guide you into a new design. The latter is a design strategy that I use often. :-)

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Thanks again for all of the input guys. I started reading "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" and I'm enjoying it. I guess time will tell.

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