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Drawing is Exploring

Hello this is my blog made from meandering sketchbook notes - below is a nice ramble about why I think drawing is a type of adventure!

Is drawing a way of exploring?

A type of adventure?

Like cycling or trail running or kayaking?

All these activities allow you to move through space differently, experiencing with every sense and seeing places with a new mindset, with focus, energy and excitement of the unknown.

Drawing also allows you to see, move and experience differently.

We think drawings tend to be about what we see, the view and objects before our eyes or images in our mind. But of course they are also about how we feel in that moment (they can’t help but be, we are a necessary part of their creation). For example, if I am tense then my drawings might be small and tight. If I am happy and relaxed maybe they’ll be looser. If it’s pouring with rain, cold and windy they will probably be a bit quicker than if I am sitting in the dappled shade of a tree on a beautiful summer’s day!

This is why I love drawing on location – your drawings end up being about the combination of you and your environment and every place creates a different way of drawing. Even the difference between a drawing done on the floor or sat on a bench can have a huge effect on the types of marks you’ll make.

A kayaker in the river chooses their path down and whichever path they take will affect which view, perception and experience. The same is true in drawing as you choose your focus, your interest, where your eye will explore first and how you move across the page. Sometimes the elements might take away some of your control, dictating what materials you can use and how much precision you can achieve.

When we look to draw we begin by engaging the connection between our eye and our hand (or whichever part of the body we are drawing with). A physical adventure requires a fast translation of perception into action. Like a runner bounding down a rugged cliff path; they will be looking at the rocks ahead and their foot will land where it needs to in order to prevent them from falling. I think this same instinct can exist in drawing too.

As you look and trust your hand to translate what you see, it might not be a perfect photographic likeness but that is so rarely the aim of drawing anyway. I find it hard to always reach this point of looking and drawing instinctively (removing much of my controlled decision making) but when I am it feels like a deep focus and flow - I am full of adrenaline, a bit of fear and excitement and I feel totally present and feel my heart beat faster.

Drawing is a way of being in a place and engaging with it actively. Ultimately it is movement, a series of movements which leave marks. A series of decisions to translate an experience into marks, shapes and lines. So rather than just looking out on a view drawing requires to look for longer and look differently.

When I look to draw my eye first settles on what is most interesting, beautiful or strange to me, then as I start drawing I begin to look around to see what is beside that or why that shadow has changed – then I look up and might see a great dark purple cloud. Our mind distorts and corrects so much of what we see in order to process it fast but looking again slowly in this way can reveal unexpected discoveries.

So drawing can bring unknown discoveries (another key requirement of an adventure!), we don’t tend to know where an adventure will take us, what the experience will be like or how we’ll feel afterwards. Those are the best kinds of adventures I think- where there is space to discover more about yourself, life and the world.

I like to think the same about drawing – I enjoy not knowing how it will look at the end, not having a vision – this way I feel open and ready to be surprised and discover something. Adventures rarely disappoint if our hearts and eyes are open to wonder and surprise.

What do you think? Is drawing an adventure or way of exploring?

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2 commentaires

16 mars 2021

Reading this makes me want to get outside and draw! I can definitely relate. I love the sense of deep understanding you get when you have spent time looking at something.

I like the feeling of being somewhere new and yet recognising something, like a type of tree that you've drawn before and feeling like you know it.


14 mars 2021

Brilliant! For me, I think drawing starts of as being very scary, just like an adventure does. I'm scared of the unknown; worried I'll make the wrong marks and it will end up looking awful. But, as with paddling down a huge rapid, the thrill of looking at something you have completed, however wobbly or strange looking gives you the most wonderful feeling of elation. Not because you captured a cloud on your page perfectly, or because you got down the rapid with professional style. It's the realisation that you were brave enough to try.

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