Drawing on Your Beginner’s Luck

The nice blogger from Zara–A Writing Story stopped by recently and her post said she is working at starting to draw. I’m delighted to have another person join the ranks of happy visual artists via drawing–a collection of skills that come in quite handy (no pun intended, especially since there are artists who use their mouths or their feet to make artworks) for far more than strictly a pleasurable activity or visual entertainment. Drawing, a foundational skill in all sorts of visual art, is also a means of communication that differs from and can work in wonderful tandem with writing, singing, signing, and any number of other ways of personal interaction and transmission of information. In addition to the practical application of the end product of the process, the practice of drawing itself has great power as a mnemonic device, a tool for problem-solving, and the training of the brain in such useful skills as eye-hand coordination and (as I know from experience) the correlated motor control of working through tremors to achieve refined movements.

But beyond that, as I said to my blogger colleague, the act of drawing has elements of physical pleasure in the mere action of arm and hand and body that can be worth the pursuit, not to mention the mental and/or emotional pleasures possible. The act of drawing as a form of meditation, even without regard to any possible ‘product’, is quite desirable on its own.

As I said to my correspondent, she needn’t be intimidated in the least even if she’s a rank beginner: By even making the effort to learn, you’re worlds ahead of lots of others! A book I often referenced when teaching my beginner students in college was Betty Edwards’ classic Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain–it has exercises that aren’t too hard even for someone who’s never attempted to draw before, and because her focus is on how the brain works in visual activity, she offers insights into the process and possibilities that few others do. There are, of course, innumerable excellent how-to books for those who want to draw, many of them favorites of mine as well, but because of Dr. Edwards’ [then] ground-breaking work in recognizing the character of right-vs-left brain function and how it played out in drawing, I always found her work particularly helpful.

Because drawing can engage so many diverse cognitive processes like this, it can be complicated and overwhelming to know just where to start learning how to draw. As I remarked in my note to my fellow blogger, All of that aside, simply making marks on a surface is the beginning of drawing. Sometimes the least intimidating way to begin is to take a piece of paper, make some totally random marks on it, and then see where that takes you. Even if all it does is make you comfortable making the arm movements for a start, that’s helpful. If, as with most people, you look at it and think ‘that looks like . . . ‘ or ‘that doesn’t look quite right . . . ‘–well, then, you’re already making editorial decisions that can help you move toward drawing the way you want to draw.

The bottom line, if you will, for me is that I feel more alert, more attuned to potential solutions when everyday problems arise, and generally just plain happier when I draw. It’s not because every drawing turns into something fabulous–far from it–but because the process of drawing opens up my brain and spirits in useful and unexpected ways. Many times, my drawing produces nothing more than scratches that are shorthand for bigger and more complex and, I hope, better things to come. But the exercise itself is valuable to me, and a glance back through my sketches can often kick-start me into drawing a work that is more successful than the twenty previous ones.

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Exploring pattern in a sketch.

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Playing around with volume.

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Faces and flowers show up often in my sketchbooks.

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Hands can be pesky subjects, so I play with sketches of them frequently too.

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Any little vignette that pops into my mind is worth scribbling at least a few times.

Ultimately, whether I’m in gear for serious drawing or just fiddling with a pen or pencil to pass the time, it’s good practice and feels worthwhile. If nothing else happens, at least I have given my brain some thinking-room between the lines and I might figure out what to make for supper, how to cut through the piece of metal that is in the way of my completing a repair in the garage, or who knows–I might even remember where I set down that book I was reading days ago before it ‘disappeared’. It’s doubtful I’ll come up with any Nobel Prize-worthy inspirations while drawing, but then again, if I don’t draw, I’ll never find out!

A Date with Heraclitus

We all have a certain number of fixed elements in the schedules of our lives. At least, we think we do. And most of the time, we manage to keep them in fair order and stick to them. That, in itself, is really rather near to miraculous.

Every one of you who has crashed breathlessly through the door at four seconds to ten for the 18th weekly meeting of your Steering Committee, after an epic morning battling with a cracked molar, a stuck zipper, a closed freeway exit and a sinkhole that opened directly under your reserved parking space–only to find last night’s emergency notice scrawled on the white board, informing everyone that the meeting had to be moved to the Annex back on the other side of town–you know what I’m talking about.

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Well, I know why *that* Mourning Dove was crying . . .

Best laid plans, Ha! Old Reliable, Ho-ho-ho! Change happens, endlessly. Who am I to argue against the great philosopher who says so?

No matter how wizardly we are in arranging our lives, planning and organizing and arranging to the finest and most delicate degree of control, all of the skill and dedication in the world can’t stop the flow of life’s river from going where, when and how it will.

The good news is that despite the vicissitudes of our ever-changing reality. We manage, and we do so well enough most of the time that we can maintain the illusion, perhaps even the delusion, that we can predict and control our lives’ events for the most part. The very fact that things ‘gang aft agley‘ as they do keeps us on the alert and trains us to be flexible when we must, inventive when we can, and swift to recover when all else fails. Change, as we all must finally allow, is the only true constant.

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Some days even the repair equipment is just not up to the task . . .

Now, should I post this today, I wonder? Or should I write another post and save this one for another day, when something comes up unexpectedly–and it will–and disrupts my plan for that day’s post? Always good to have a get-out-of-jail-free pass tucked in my back pocket, I should think . . .

I Know I’m a Clod, but I Feel Like Dancing

Just because I can’t do it myself doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the wonders of dancing. I adore it, merely safely so from the sidelines where I cannot harm innocent bystanders with what they are not prepared to experience. And I can always create my own dance in a different format for the vicarious treat. Those of you who are dancers, if you’re willing, please continue! I’ll be right over here working on my variations.digital graphic + text