The Magic in Drawing

by Laughing Stock on October 15, 2010

By Cat Bennett

I’ve been a working artist and illustrator all my adult life but it wasn’t until I began to teach drawing that I saw how it opens the veins of creativity. My students, all novices, became alive with happiness after they drew. Some took that energy into art making—they all took it back into their lives. Our weekly sessions became a place to refuel and connect with something vital in ourselves. Drawing is not just a form of expression but a way of being totally focused, alert and in the moment.  It’s in that place we do our best creative work. I see now that drawing can be a tool in the creative process and in ways that might not be obvious.

It’s a myth that only people with “talent” can draw. Everyone can. Our education system does not value drawing so many of us simply lose interest. When we give crayons to children, they don’t question their abilities but just dive in. They know there are many ways to draw—just scribbling, drawing to tell stories and make sense of their worlds and, sometimes, drawing what they see. They don’t compare their drawings to others but know they are just fine. We adults can do this too.

Creativity is making something new or making new connections between what already exists. When we do creative work we bring our unique selves into the world of ideas, experience and the mysteries all around us. We intersect with what is known and unknown to make something new. It’s a process—we first need to define the problem then let it go so our creative mind can go to work. Drawing can help us let go of linear thinking. It takes us to the spatial, imaginative side of the brain by its nature. It also teaches us what yoga calls one-pointed focus where nothing exists except our hand on the page. In this space our unconscious is given plenty of room to explore. A clear mind will recognize ideas when they show up. When we act on inspiration, without hesitation, we enter the creative flow.

Drawing also gives us a chance to play, to leap off into the unknown, go down blind alleys and find our way back. We see how one line leads to another just as ideas do. It’s not about getting it right or being perfect or even good. There’s no right way, only our hand on the page which is unique because we are. Drawing clears our minds so ideas can balloon out, shrink, unravel or morph and we can be there to meet them.

For those of us who work in the world of deadlines or with the constraints of assignments, it can be easy to feel pressured or to try too hard. Scribbling or doodling to simply clear the mind can be really helpful. Drawing with our non-dominant hand can also free the mind. Our drawings will look different, possibly inept, probably fresh and interesting. They’ll give us ideas.

Of course, we can use drawing in the most obvious way to sketch out ideas as well. We can toss our drawings onto the floor or rip up the ones we know won’t serve us. There’s no need to be precious or hold on tight. If we keep our hand moving and our mind focused on the page, we’ll have a sudden knowing when we hit on what we need.

I’ve been so inspired by my students, by all the ways they’ve become happy and expressive through drawing, by the way they’ve come to know themselves, leap over obstacles and make art with real originality. Drawing has that kind of magic in it.

Footnotes: Cat Bennett is a long time Laughing Stock contributor: View her illustration portfolio.

Beyond her illustration, she is a published author and teacher. Her current book, which I highly recommend, is entitled, The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind ,from which this post is based. Here’s a peek inside the book!

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