Wednesday, 20 April 2011

the process of painting and drawing

In my last post, I mentioned someone who had talked to me about using the experience of drawing to create a particular state of mind/being (rather than the other way round, where the drawing can't happen until a particular state is achieved). I asked her to write about this for this blog. She's a retired psychiatrist, who started drawing and painting at some point in mid-life.

I think my first experience of the transformative power of drawing, or painting, came in a workshop I attended led by Frederick Frank, the Dutch-American artist who wrote ‘The Zen of Seeing’. 

Under his guidance we drew in silence for many hours, a small piece of a parsnip was what I was drawing. This exercise, an attempt to open a clear flow between parsnip and pencil via the eyes and hand [and the brain, I guess, though that part of it was far from consciousness!] led me through many phases during the day of frustration, despair, boredom and so on, but ultimately to the kind of expansion of awareness and peace of mind and spaciousness that meditative disciplines of many different kinds can induce.

After that, I turned to drawing and painting as a way of shifting to another state of mind than my usual, less full of preoccupations, less gripped and driven, a way of releasing myself. Sometimes it would happen very quickly, just a few marks of pencil on paper was enough to free me. At other times, I needed deep immersion in painting, or drawing, and at times when it was possible to give myself over to much painting, for days on end, the rewards in terms of opening up the world for me, extending my embrace, were much greater. All this is in the context of normally being an intensely busy, sometimes quite driven, sort of person, so the contrast for me is always striking.

As time has gone on, I have also become more proficient and skilful at making the kind of marks, or creating the effects that please me; but that has never been the prime motivation in this activity. Often I am painting or drawing in response to some request, for decoration, for posters, for painting a picture of something for someone, and so there is inevitably in these activities a wish to produce something that fulfils my own and other’s expectations, but still, with those conditions attached, the process itself is one which brings great reward for me. It is hard to convey in words, as I have attempted above, and these words will probably only resonate with those who have similar experiences themselves.

Maybe this is universal in this craft, this art, but only a few people have spoken to me about this as also true for them.

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