Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why Writers Need to Draw

Note: This is mostly a message and reminder to myself about the importance of drawing. If the tone seems condescending or the content obvious, it is because my intended audience--me--is rather thick and easily distracted.

Today I invite you to draw something, especially if you feel you are not a "drawing person" or you don't ordinarily draw.

You don't need to acquire special equipment. You need a surface and you need something to make marks on that surface.

As a surface, you can use a leaf, a beach, a wall, ball--but paper is easy to find and easy to work with. Scratch paper, even with lines on it, will do. You can do a very good drawing on a sheet of newspaper. In fact, drawing on a newspaper is great because the page is big. It will let you draw with your whole arm, your whole body, and not just twitch your fingertips. Another reason that newspapers make good material is because there is no pristine and perfect page. The pressure is off.

As for making marks, ball-point pens are ubiquitous--as are number 2 pencils. Either will certainly work, but if you can find something else, something your hand is less accustomed to, it is worth a try. A flat carpenter's pencil or child's crayon can be just different enough to help you pay attention.

Finally, you need something to draw. You need something to look at. Something to witness. It isn't necessary a bad thing to draw something you have never seen, something that exists only in your imagination (like a sunken pirate ship), but for the purposes of this experience, you should look and see. There is always something to witness: a zipper pull, a spoon, a discarded bottle, your other non-drawing hand... It is difficult to draw something in motion, like running water or a hummingbird. And you don't need to seek out something obviously beautiful. With any luck, the most ordinary thing will become beautiful during the act of drawing.
Do not become confused. It isn't the drawing that will become beautiful--although it might. It is the spoon or broken bottle. It will reveal itself to be something particular. You will witness that particularity, and that is a good reason to draw.

(The top drawing is an old one of mine, The bottom one is by my son. I love that he included the wire binding of the drawing pad he was using. He is a very good observer, I think.)
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