I’ve been doing a lot of research for my pen and ink booklet/class that I intend to release into the world at some point in 2012. One of the books I’ve been reading as part of the research is “The Naked Art: Why We Draw” by Peter Steinhart. It’s not recommended reading for everyone. His writing while good, might bore anyone not interested deeply in art and why we draw.
I picked it up because it came up in a keyword search of my local library’s books on drawing. I’ve continued to read it because it’s written from the perspective of a person who does not consider himself to be an artist. He writes about how drawing the figure is meditative and trains his brain. There is an entire section devoted to the idea and process of training your brain. If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time you know that this is a concept that I hold dear and affects me deeply.
This book reminds me of when I decided I wanted to draw better. That was 2 years ago and I knew that what I had ahead of me was work and practice. I gathered my tools and I started to work. I had an understanding of art. After all I had taken drawing and painting in college, but only one included real practical advice for drawing. That one class rocked my world. In one month my drawings went from... not very good to better. Had I stuck with it I can only imagine the draughtsman I would be today. Instead, I saw and felt that drawing was a lot of work and took time I did not have.
So my drawing went by the wayside.
For 10 years I ignored drawing as a skill and a tool that I needed to work on. Instead, I drew when I felt like it and not enough to exercise my brain.
When I started to draw again, everything felt stiff, and as if it didn’t work. I produced a lot of terrible drawings, things that I simply flipped the page to the next and moved on from. Each terrible drawing was a learning experience. I had to be sure to NOT let them get me down. Each one was a step forward. Eventually as time went on, my drawings became better and better. At some point, I felt I was getting a realistic enough representation that I could move toward giving my drawings my own style- a tweak, if you will, of me.
One of the many things Steinhart probes in his book is the idea that through drawing, we better ourselves. Although I can’t say I’ve bettered myself, I know that through observing the world more closely that I’ve definitely stretched my mind. While sketching, I’ve been able to make some difficult decisions that I’d otherwise not have been able to come to as easily. A rough day at work melts away when I pick up my pens and brush, even if the sketch doesn’t look quite right. The important bit is that I pick up my pens and brushes that day and draw.
There are many sites that promise success in drawing in 5 to 10 minutes a day, but I don’t think that’s enough time. It’s a great start to get you fully addicted to drawing and it will exercise your mind to increase your ability to look and observe the world around you. 5 or 10 minutes is simply enough to get your drawing to a point where it will rock your world. I draw for the same reasons some of my friends do yoga. I draw because it is as essential to my happiness as eating, drinking and exercise. My friends who do yoga say the same. Yoga is a core part of their day. Without it they would not find themselves centered and rooted in reality. None of my friends do yoga for only 5 to 10 minutes a day, but rather 20 or 30 minutes. Why are people willing to devote 20 or 30 minutes to exercise their body, yet they avoid spending 20 to 30 minutes to exercise their mind?
Like my friends who do yoga, I was so inspired by my brief time practicing drawing for 15 or so minutes that I found a way to give myself 20 or 30 minutes to draw. I gave up TV. I draw on my lunch breaks. I moved a TV tray table into the office to draw on while my partner studied. I found a way to make 20 or 30 minutes of drawing per day. Now I bring a sketchbook with me everywhere I go and draw every free moment. The time I spend drawing is never time wasted.
I’m happier, possibly a better person, and definitely more relaxed and centered- all for the cost of a few sketchbook, pens and time.