The Incredible Lightness of Drawing

Lots of adults say they can’t draw and some are even afraid of drawing—afraid their drawing might appear primitive or inept. But all children draw and never question whether or not they have a special talent for it. Drawing is just making marks on paper. Even our scribbles or doodles are drawing and many of us doodle while chatting on the phone or mulling over a problem. That’s one of the great gifts of drawing–it takes us out of our linear-thinking, verbal left brains and into our spatial, imaginative right brains. Doodling can help us solve problems by taking our minds to a more open, relaxed space where we can see the issue at hand with some detachment and achieve some clarity. And we can go further. So, why did many of us give up drawing? For most of us, art was a secondary focus in school if we received any art education at all. And because we didn’t receive full instruction we didn’t grow our drawing skills. It’s the same with any discipline—without instruction and practice we simply don’t move forward and lose interest. And some of us may have been on the receiving end of an offhand critical remark from a teacher or fellow students. Discouragement sets in and we come to believe we don’t have the necessary talent. But we can lose connection with our expressive, creative selves when we don’t have a medium in which to work, learn and grow. This may explain the longing many people feel, in early or middle adulthood, to draw again. The good news is we can return to drawing whenever we wish and that it offers benefits to our overall well-being we may not have considered. First, drawing is relaxing. When we focus on our hand and eye we soon forget our everyday concerns, even our troubles. It takes our mind off things. In our high stress world, drawing can be a relaxing past-time that allows us to breathe deeply and simply be for a while. There’s no need to be “good” or to achieve anything. We can simply draw as children do—for the fun of it and to see what emerges. Drawing in this way, without concern for the mistakes we make, teaches us also to simply enjoy being where we are at any given time. Secondly, drawing teaches us to observe the world around us with care. It forces us to slow down and appreciate what is in front of us when we sit down to draw it. If we make drawing a regular practice, we’ll begin to notice things. We’ll come to appreciate the incredible bounty of nature or the character of the person who is our subject. It connects us with the world around us and slowing down is good for our health. Lastly, drawing teaches us courage. Every time we sit down to draw, we face the blank page. We can’t know what will emerge with any real sense of accuracy, even when we’re experienced. But we can dive in anyway. Sometimes we’ll make mistakes but that’s okay. We learn by playing and exploring, by going to the edge and seeing where it might be and what we might learn. The courage we learn in drawing we can apply to the whole of our lives. When children draw they do so with a sense of joy and exuberance. They’re thrilled to show us what they’ve done and have no concern at all for whether they’ve drawn with accuracy. They’re expressing themselves as they are and it gives them pleasure. We can do that too. It’s one way to recapture that child feeling of lightness. And when we return to our busy lives, that lightness will be with us. All we need is some paper, a pencil or pack of crayons and a little time. Try it. ©Cat Bennett2010 [For High Spirit Magazine UK]

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