I have been thinking about why drawing makes me happy, without getting too philosophical, and I have tried to put it in words. This proved more difficult than I thought, so this is a longer blogpost than I imagined. I originally posted this on my own blogpost. I received the most feedback I have ever had on my blogpost from fellow sketchers that I thought that is might resonate with people who use their sketchbook as an artists journal.
I have been drawing on and off (mainly off) all of my life. About ten years ago I started drawing almost daily, then I began carrying a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, my Watercolour pencils and Lamy Safari Joy ink pen with me everywhere. Now, drawing is a part of me and my life. It is not a hobby or pastime, but part of what makes me – me. This realisation came when I was very ill about four years ago and had (successful) brain surgery. I was asking for my pencils and sketchbook in intensive care a few days after the operation and then sketched constantly in hospital over the following months. See all my drawings from my medical adventure here
When I draw I am happy. I switch off from everything else in life, time stops, peacefulness reigns, there is freedom and fluidity. I try and draw in my lunchtime at work. When I make that time, I sit in the library shelves where I work and draw the books. For that half an hour, although I am at work, I do not think about deadlines, goals or things to do lists.
I read a quote from happiness guru Csíkszentmihályi describing this as FLOW, which is "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one… Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost.”
It has taken years to find my own drawing style and become comfortable with it (although I am still learning constantly). I feel as though I have finally found something that I am good at. I have accumulated skills and learning through years of practice. Sometimes my pencil moves confidently and smoothly over the page, other times tentative and exploratory. But I am always enjoying it as I work and explore within my comfort zone on the paper.
As I draw I am subconsciously thinking about the drawing, its proportions, what colours will work on the page. I am visualising how something may turn out. However, they are not thoughts I have to think too hard about – ah well, except proportions and perspective – that requires a bit more thought. The finished result may meet my original idea, or may not, but still exceed my expectations. In photos of me drawing, you would not think I am happy – hunched over, furrowed brow, intense expression- but honesty I am!!
There have been a few times when I have become very emotional and almost bought to tears at the thought of how much joy I experience and how fortunate I am to be able to draw. They were moments of an unexpected upswelling of joy. Below is one of those times. I was sketching on my own in the streets of Barcelona, after the Urban Sketching Symposium in 2013 on a Sunday morning, surrounded by the everyday happenings of peoples lives.
I shall finish on David Hockney quoting an old Chinese saying “Drawing needs three things, the heart, the hand and the eye, two won’t do.”