Drawing has a rich history and has long been practised for its creative, expressive and educational value – it remains fundamental to translating and analysing the world. It is a means of recording what you see, helping to develop ideas and slow down and improve the art of observation. Drawing can also be an art form in its own right. Importantly it is proven to unlock creativity and help resolve your understanding of what you want to express. Here artist Jarvis Brookfield writes about drawing and creativity, providing some useful exercises and techniques along the way.
There’s More to Drawing Than Meets The Eye
by Jarvis Brookfield
Drawing is one of the most primitive and basic forms of expression. It’s quite remarkable that the simplicity of making a mark on a surface can evoke joy and gift us with the opportunity to lose track of time and discover something new about ourselves in the process.
For me, drawing is just as important as reading and writing. It’s a way of seeing, a way of feeling, a way of understanding, and one of many tools for probing the mysteries of life. It’s something which largely has the idea of ‘art’ associated with it and as such those who think they aren’t creative or believe they can’t draw, sadly, often avoid it. The truth, however, is that drawing is awaiting anyone who can make a mark on a surface.
In this blog, I want to share with you some personal ideas and quotes, along with a few drawing exercises, to show you that drawing, beyond its association with the world of art, is fundamentally a tool for understanding and processing yourself and the world.
‘Photography is an immediate reaction, drawing is a meditation.’
Transforming the energy, we feel in our body or the ideas and images circulating in our mind, into lines that culminate into something personally meaningful, is a profoundly beautiful thing. For the most part, as children, we draw. We draw, without ceasing. We draw, our angry or happy parents, accurately depicting their big teeth, small feet or our annoying siblings, favourite animals, superheroes and so much more. And for what? For the simple pleasure of it. We’re not ‘trying’ to make anything.
At the heart of this childlike innocence, we are, through what feels like play in those moments, inadvertently learning more about who we are and how we see the world. The reason we lose contact with this carefree childlike wonder is manifold. Nevertheless, it never left and remains dormant within every one of us. Moments where you feel a little playful, delighted by something you saw, heard, or the bubbling up of a joyful childhood memory are all aspects of this very part of you, continuously seeking expression.
‘Drawing is the artist’s most direct and spontaneous expression, a species of writing: it reveals, better than does painting, his or her true personality.’
Drawing doesn’t have to be about making an image. What matters is how it makes you feel and the process. The only thing which gets in the way of drawing is our attachment to an image in our mind, of how we think things ‘should’ be.
We are constantly inundated with an overabundance of flickering JPEGs found on the internet or social media. Out of these images, naturally, we decided which are good and which are not. On a subconscious level, we might create an internal benchmark that we judge our own work against. Nonetheless, knowing what feels good or bad, or in better terms, what speaks to you and what doesn’t, can be useful markers to help you with developing your technical skills and aesthetic sensibility. This is perfectly fine and healthy. However, I believe its critically important to balance this with the intuitive and openness of that childlike spirit within you, by engaging in drawing exercises without attachment, to experience a fuller sense of your creativity.
Creativity is like a muscle. The more you work at it (in both a playful spirit and diligent manner) the more you cultivate it, increasing the opportunity for growth. The purpose of these exercises isn’t necessarily to get good or better. It is, more importantly, a matter of tapping and dropping into your inner wellspring of creativity.
For example, the more you see a person, the more acquainted you become. You begin to connect with and learn about that person in a much deeper way, that over time, in some cases you can subtly predict their next moves or words. Cultivating a relationship with your creativity operates in a relatively similar way, whereby you can gradually become more sensitive and receptive to ideas.
By making these a habit, whether it be every day, or on a specifically scheduled day, it’s as if you are creating a play date with your inner child. The result of which can bring a little excitement into your experience of life, which can also be seen as a way to wind down or sort through challenging issues.
Below, I have provided a list of several drawing exercises that I believe are effective tools for creating a sense of freedom and enjoyment which can inadvertently, through repetition, help to diminish the fear of failure and encourage more risk-taking in your more refined/ professional projects. I do automatic drawing 5-7 days a week, before starting the day or just before bed. To get the most out of them, I recommend starting simple. Pick one that speaks to you and be sure to schedule it in every week. Once or twice a week is a good start. Furthermore, I have provided some helpful links at the end of this post, which illustrate some of the mentioned ideas and exercises further. I hope you enjoy them.
Things You’ll Need:
- Pencil or crayon. Not paint or ink, in order to keep things simple and effortless
- Any type of plain paper
- Set a timer for 15 – 25 mins
- Scribble, freely in all directions
- Draw without restraint or attachment to how it looks
- If you find yourself obsessing over what’s appearing on the page, close your eyes
- The key here is to let go and draw, freely and loosely
- Think of a feeling, positive or negative. If there is one that’s been lingering, pick that one
- Write the word that best describes that feeling
- Set a timer for 15 mins
- As you imagine the feeling, begin drawing and let your pencil follow your thoughts
- It does not have to be representational
- Close your eyes, if you find yourself obsessing over what’s appearing on the page
- Once the timer is up, stop drawing, set it aside and save it
- Think of a memory. Any at all, or the first one that comes to mind
- Set a timer for 15 minutes
- See and feel it in your mind and draw
- It does not have to be representational
- Focus on seeing and feeling the memory but keep your hand moving on the page
- Do not censor it however silly, embarrassing, painful, or not so savory it might be. After all, it’s up to you who sees it
- Set a timer for 5 minutes
- Close your eyes
- Draw until the timer stops
- Use your hand as a guide for where the edges of the paper are (or tack the paper down)
- Draw whatever comes to mind and draw freely, without being concerned with how things look
- When the time is up, stop and/ or go for another 5 minutes
Furthermore, remember to save these drawings. I’ve been saving mine for the past 12 months and every so often find myself looking through them and unintentionally discovering ideas for my paintings.
In closing, it appears that with regards to the coronavirus restrictions, things are slowly transitioning back to normality as certain restrictions are being gradually relaxed. Nonetheless, the future as always is uncertain and most of us are still relatively isolated, which can be challenging in many ways. However, despite the difficulties this situation has bought, for most of us, it has equally offered an opportunity to slow down and turn inward to reconnect with our essential sense of what it means to be human. Thank you for reading and remember, there is more to life than meets the eye, so I hope these little ideas may help to make these uncertain times, worthwhile. Never quit creating.
- Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards
- The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
- High Focus Drawing, by James McMullan
- Art and Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland