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Drawing it out

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

Last year my four-year-old niece came for a short visit. I took her down to my basement where I had lots of art supplies and offered her markers and giant paper. She gleefully drew with lots of colors – all over the paper. I tried to just sit and watch without comment. Eventually other grown-ups wandered down and began to say things like “Oh Blaise, that is such a pretty picture – what is it? Is it a house? Is it the sun?”. She generally did not stop to answer their queries. But I was so aware that she was having fun and the rest of us were trying to wrest some sort of “meaning” out of her art work. When she was done, she had no interest in taking it home or showing it to Mommy. She just did art. She just drew because it was fun to do.

Author Lynda Barry (Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor and What it is – I recommend these books!) says that we have the wrong idea when we try to think of something and then try to draw it. Usually we’re disappointed that we haven’t reproduced the image we thought of. She says it can work the other way around. Children draw using big gestures with their whole arm. Barry says drawing has to come from your body. Rather than thinking of something and trying to get your body to draw it – try just drawing and let the drawing enter from the page, through you hand into your body – and see what it has to tell you. It seems to me this could be a nice spiritual practice. I sometimes enjoy just making a doodle all over a page in 30 second – then turn the page in all directions and outline things you see there. I knew a man who had a small pad of paper and one bright red marker. He sat in his chair every morning and made one drawing (he called it just making marks) and dated it. It is very fun to look through his small pad with the red marks – it is an abstract map of sorts of his inner life. It might make a nice ”visual journal” to simply make yourself put some marks on a page using markers or colored pens every morning. No thinking – just draw and date and turn the page. If that idea seems undoable – perhaps you could inspect your own need to be productive, rational, goal oriented…. Or perhaps it tweaks your need not to “waste time”? What if wasting time is exactly what your soul wants? Playing with color on a blank page without having to have a reason...

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