Chapter 8 of The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind, by Cat Bennett, introduces the artist to the next level of drawing, which is “Drawing What We See”.
She states, “Close observation gives us the space and time for our perceptions about our subject to emerge with clarity and be felt. We come to know what we feel and think. We come to know ourselves.” As I’ve stated in previous blogs, artists are observers. That’s how we pick up how other people speak, their mannerisms, and how we can predict why they wear the clothes they do, and then use that fodder in our art. It is the smallest details that will sometimes make the difference for a reader or listener or audience member. So, as creative people, we play with how the tiny details fit together to construct the whole. Whether they are notes, words, brush strokes, seasonings, or graceful gestures with the fingers and hands, they all give information to the viewer about the artist, and when we, the artist, view our work, we come to understand ourselves and our perceptions of the world around us and how those perceptions define us. Take a look at what you’ve created, either recently or review your work for some time in the past. How has it changed? What was being expressed? Were you able to recognize a ‘phase’ you were going through? What conclusions can you draw about yourself as an artist based on your work?
“As artists we’re building our courage, and drawing can be a great teacher. It teaches us to look no matter what’s going on, and it uncovers all the shadowy, hidden places in our heart that want to come up into the light.” There are numerous professions for which creativity is a must: teaching, counseling, furniture making, photography, surgeon, engineer, politician. To generate ideas, to solve problems that are one of a kind or ones that no one has not come up against before, requires creativity, and thus, courage. Pushing this idea a bit further (those of us who follow the path of creativity into what most categorize as ‘artists’) what we bring into this plane is a part of ourselves. It takes great courage to not only follow the call, but to allow the muse to lead us from our safe place into that which we are greatly exposed. Not necessarily physically, although that can be the case, but where it matters most, emotionally, our ego laid out for all to see and criticize. At all costs, the ego protects itself, attempting to convince us it is in our own best interest to hide our talents, those parts of us that want to reach out from the depths of the blackened caves in our souls and seek the purifying light. We can create songs and dances and sculptures and pictures and meals and poems and stories about ‘others’, about a time and place different from now, and we can work really, really hard to keep ourselves hidden, protected, but then the art isn’t ‘good’. It’s fake and offers no one, us as the artist or anyone who might view our work, the beauty and glimpse of creation that it was meant to. Has your courage grown by delving into the creative world, by following your muse? Even if you’ve never shown anyone your work, just by basking in the free feeling of creativity, do you not feel more bold? If the answer is ‘no’, then why not? Perhaps you need to peek into those dark corners, honor those nuances of ourselves that are sometimes not so patiently wanting to come out. What would happen in you allowed one or two of them to crawl to the surface? Would you use different colors, or words, or ingredients?
“Drawing is a dynamic, ongoing enterprise. There’s no stopping place, just new explorations.” I love this quote! Substitute your medium for ‘drawing’. ‘Writing’ is dynamic, ‘cooking’ is dynamic, ‘dancing’ is dynamic, ‘painting’ is dynamic, ‘playing music’ is dynamic, ‘photography’ is dynamic, ‘sculpting’ is dynamic, yes and another yes! I’ve told my yoga students time and again that there is no perfect pose, and just by stepping onto their mat, they are on the road to the pose. Each time they move into and out of down dog or triangle pose, it is different, because it has never happened before in that moment. Maybe their hamstrings are a little looser, or tighter. Maybe the body asks for the arm to be extended overhead, or maybe not. Every moment is just one more opportunity to create, to explore. All of life is an ‘ongoing enterprise’. Raising children, building a career, writing a book, investing in a relationship, are all expressions of courageous ways to dive into who we are and share our expression in this life. The question remains, how are you dynamic? Are there places where you have become a little stale? A little stuck? A little unsure? Entice your muse to travel with you down those paths, either long forgotten or newly investigated. Bring your flashlight so the dark places don’t seem so scary, and tuck your courage under your arm, for to live a ‘dynamic’ life takes great courage. But then, why else are we here?
Cat then offers several exercises with which to play around with drawing. One is, “Drawing with Shapes”. Here she suggests using basic circles and squares and triangles and ovals to help build whatever it is we’re drawing, and also so we get the big picture before going into detail. If you’re a writer, this could mean beginning with a basic setting, nothing too detailed. A painter or sketch artist could actually make the shapes, or use the shapes to ‘outline’ whatever object is being created. A musician can set out the cords, a dancer the basic steps, a poet could plan the syllables or lines and stanzas or even write a ‘shape’ poem (this being either a poem about the shape or things that are a particular shape, or writing so the stanzas and lines come out to look like a certain shape).
“Drawing the Space Between” then is the opposite of “Drawing with Shapes”. Here Cat suggests drawing the spaces in between the shapes rather than the shapes themselves. “Observing how lines relate to each other and how one leads into another” would be a fun practice. It could go back to the observations that artists engage in, or it cold be the chance to look deeper. Notice how the lines in your drawing ‘make’ something, how the colors or shades of paint or chalk define the edges of objects. How does one dance move fit together with the next in the sequence? Do your scenes and events that happen to your characters lead the reader logically from point A to point B? How will you, or did you, fill in the little details to give the reader the experience you want them to have, to get the idea that you wanted them to obtain? Does the song you wrote fill in the spaces between the notes, or does your voice or the note of the instrument linger?
Pausing here until next week, I’ll invite you to investigate how well it is that you know yourself. What is your level of courage? How often do you partake in ‘explorations’? Have you invited any shadows to the surface, or have you ignored or battled them, pushing them back into the closet? Are you interested enough in the barely audible voice inside you that calls for you to be brave and bring forth that which is clawing, or tickling, to be released? Check out the activities and leave a comment if one works for you. Want to know my level of courage? Visit my website www.myjoyenterprises.com