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NullPointerException on g.drawString

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I have a start method that looks something like this
void start(){

LayeredPane lp = new JLayeredPane();
Graphics g = lp.getGraphics();
g.drawString("check", 20, 20);

This throws a NullPointerException, any action on lp.getGraphics returns a NullPointerException. I don't know why this is happening.
If I put the drawString inside paint(Graphics g)
everything else disappears and only the String shows.
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I suspect that you're trying to get a Graphics object from something that isn't actually being displayed before you get the Graphics object (but it's hard to tell exactly what you're doing as the code that you've posted has errors and is out of context). Consider:which prints null and which doesn't print null. Getting any ideas?
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