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All artists have a unique process that they are comfortable with. When they write their kid a letter or create their life defining masterpiece they begin by realizing that they have something to say. How they get to the finished letter or final version of their masterpiece is what we can call the creative process.


I have observed that poets, writers, musicians, actors, painters and all other artists are seldom conscious of a deliberate creative process. I do think there are stages that most artists follow.

CREATIVE STAGES (my version)

I feel the creative process can be broken down into the following four stages. We are constantly exploring, observing, editing our observations and putting our observations into our own words. All of these actions are equally important and affect each other.


This is where the subject is found. We have to make an effort to get out and experience the things around us.


It is important to clearly see those things that we have found. Soak them in.


This is the process when we eliminate and include pieces of information.


This is where we put our personal stamp on our creation.


This is an optional step in the creative process. Sharing the product of the creative process isn’t necessary but can be rewarding in many ways.

Last week we looked at the first step of observing. we gathered a lot of stuff and now it’s time to figure out what stays and what goes.


Can you imagine taking a perfect piece of marble or wood and whacking at it with a hammer and chisel to make a piece of art. That is the ultimate act of editing.


John Osler

I sometimes model in clay by adding and then taking away, a process that requires less confidence in one’s editing skills.

John Osler                                                                 Michelangelo

Michelangelo: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I’m just taking away what doesn’t belong there.”


One of the hardest tasks a musician, writer or artist has is to edit ideas, feelings and discoveries. Sometimes it means that you throw out some beautiful stuff in order to simplify and make your message more easily understood. We are often arrogant souls who believe all our experiences and ideas are important and would prove to others just how interesting we can be. Unfortunately this approach only proves just how boring we can be. We also can have a thought that  is strong enough to stand on its own but gets in the way of telling the story at hand.

Editing your work will ask your listener or reader to fill in the blanks and will get them more involved. The longer an artist works at his/her craft the better they are at editing. I am aware of the art of editing, especially when I hear a master of the piano like Charles Boles play a ballad. When I paint I sometimes get too close to the  canvas and create a great bit of painting but it is out of scale, and out it goes. The great John Singer Sargent wiped whole canvases away and started over, and he never painted anything bad.  Away would go all the terrific stuff that was inappropriate to his subject. I would like to someday find his discarded pieces.



Ernest Hemingway said “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.”


Greening is what editing when writing for publication is often called. This phrase originated when editors used a green marker to indicate what copy needed to be cut to fit the column length. It took young writers a while to get used to having their beautiful words chopped out of their prose. John McPhee wrote about his experiences with the New Yorker magazine. Here are some of his thoughts.

Choosing what to leave out.

By John McPhee

“Writing is selection. Just to start a piece of writing you have to choose one word and only one from more than a million in the language. Now keep going. What is your next word? Your next sentence, paragraph, section, chapter? Your next ball of fact. You select what goes in and you decide what stays out. At base you have only one criterion: If something interests you, it goes in—if not, it stays out. That’s a crude way to assess things, but it’s all you’ve got. Forget market research. Never market-research your writing. Write on subjects in which you have enough interest on your own to see you through all the stops, starts, hesitations, and other impediments along the way.”



I went to the same villages to paint for over 25 years.

Coming from the a young country like the United States and then spending time in the South of France is an eye opening experience. Looking around the countryside in Provence, France we are barraged by exceptional images. This is a place where hundreds of memorable moments are thrown at you every day. It is a dry climate with a steady stream of cool air that is funneled down through the Rhone valley by the Mistral winds coming from the Alps. When you step out of the sun and into the shade, you feel this cool breeze. There are hills and mountains and flat fields of vines and crops. Villages sit atop high places and cling to sides of cliffs. They perch defiantly against the march of time and tourists.

Nature and man have seemingly combined to edit away the ugly and include only things that are sublimely beautiful.

Many of the people in my life have shown me the benefit of editing both in their art and their lives. I have come to realize that editing is just another word for choosing.

CHOOSING WHAT IS IMPORTANT and what is not all that important.


Being your own editor

Movie makers, magazine writers and  book authors  usually have someone they trust edit their work. Jazz musicians don’t have that luxury. What a gift. What power good editing can have. I have watched jazz artists edit on the fly and as a group. This is a skill that I don’t have. I have the luxury to edit at a later date once I realize how much unnecessary stuff I have included.  Maybe I am going on a little long about this.

John Osler





Editing an all star band

This week at the Dirty Dog you will hear  musicians that genuinely think that nothing great will come from stepping on each other. Each will make room for the other on their way to making something hopeful and beautiful.

All bands need a headliner, someone who has built a name for himself and can draw a crowd. All star groups have a band full of headliners. This coming week all the players will be bandleaders. 

In many organizations if you are talented, you are  encouraged to assert yourself. Jazz soloists get to do that from time to time. Jazz like democracy asks more of us. To succeed you have to be a functioning community of players. Each talented player must make room for the other guy. Jazz is also an art form. Jazz music has form to be followed and has many principles that apply to real life. Jazz teaches equality without undermining authority. It instructs the artists how to be assertive without damaging community, and how to live together better without losing their individual identity. Jazz has things to teach all of us.

Sometimes musicians have to edit out their self importance. All stars do this

Chris Collins has the job of putting together an all star band. In a great jazz town like Detroit,  this is one tough editing job. Most of the artists on any Detroit jazz  list are deserving  and usually answer their phones. Chris’s primary job is to bring together talented individuals who will best create the style of music that he envisions

Next week the All Stars will celebrate Detroit’s influence on jazz to the Dirty Dog. The all stars will bring together some of our town’s greatest jazz musicians to play for what is always a knowledgeable house. They will not disappoint us.

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