Drawing is…. Mindless!
I am very interested in the left and right brain theory about the opposing effects of logic and creativity. It helps to explain many of the problems that present themselves when trying to draw realistically. But I have concluded that it’s actually better if you can approach drawing using no brain at all.
Obviously this takes a bit of practice, because the only way to draw without processing is to have complete confidence in your technique and total disregard for the end result. It helps to keep telling yourself that it’s only a piece paper, after all. Why be afraid of a piece of paper?
It’s also a fear of failure, and of making a fool of yourself. Practice is the only way through it though. Drawing as much as possible is the way to improve your skills. Remember too that –as in life – although success feels better, we learn more from our mistakes.
When I was at college I wanted to draw figures in contorted positions as part of a project I was doing. It was to be a child’s mobile hanging and I needed them to have their arms and legs arranged so that I could cut out the figures and then hook them onto each other. My friends weren’t that accommodating. Or flexible enough. I came up with the idea of drawing moving figures very quickly, and using them as the basis for my drawings. I had the brilliant idea of drawing footballers on the TV, and spent hours doing just that.
Along with the anatomy classes at college and my continuing love for working from live models, I now find that I can work really quickly as long as I manage to switch off and just let it happen. The trick is to watch the figure for a while until you have a feeling for the way they are moving. Sometimes I really feel that I am dancing the flamenco, or playing the guitar (I can’t do either) – and so the drawing comes from the inside out. Once I have that connection, I can freeze the image in a mental snapshot. I must then draw it out before it fades, not looking back until I have finished. Musicians are slower to draw than dancers as they tend to have a repeated position that I can go back to and build on. Dancers are a greater challenge as the drawing has to be instant.
I am very lucky to be able to draw and paint at all sorts of wonderful events and venues in Malta. Every year I set up my easel at the Malta Jazz Festival in mid-July and just paint non-stop for three evenings. I can also go along to the Malta Arts Festival dance, music and folk-singing shows. The weather is perfect for outdoor performances and the settings are spectacular.
I am asked sometimes why I don’t make life easier for myself and simply draw from photographs – but where would the challenge or fun be in that? The end results would be more realistic, but they would not have the sense of movement and energy that I revel in. All I have to remember to do is disengage my brain (that’s definitely getting easier with age!) because otherwise I get in my own way and can’t draw a thing. And then afterwards I have to stop myself from trying to ‘correct’ them, as that tends to deflate them, and me, too.
I have to admit that sometimes I have a passing fit of nerves as I stand, brush in hand, thinking “you’ve done it again, set yourself up for a really public embarrassment”.
But I take a deep breath and remind myself of the Buddhist teaching “If you never get to know the nature of fear, you will never know fearlessness”
and Albert Einstein’s “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”