Cambridge Shae Van Wagoner
Blog Post 2
Thoughts About Drawing
Drawing is a deeply meditative practice. Meditation is all about remaining present, appreciating the “little things,” and paying attention to the world around you. It’s about being aware. And it’s about remaining focused. Truly, drawing encompasses all these activites. To help the audience understand the comparison I am drawing, a little more elaboration on the process of meditation is required.
There are many ways to meditate (introverted/extraverted, walking/lying down, focusing on an image/focusing on a sound), but the most basic (and most foundational) meditational form requires that the meditator focus on two things in particular: the feeling of one’s own breathing as air flows in and out of the body, and the feeling of one’s sitting posture. Ideally, the breath is calm, easy and slow (but it doesn’t have to be), the back is straight, the head held high, and legs crossed in a particular way so that they don’t go numb from sitting in the same position for so long. Key to meditational practice is attitude: one does not “try,” one listens. One does not expect, one waits. Non-judgmentality, acceptance, trust, focus and especially receptivity are all key.
How does drawing relate to meditation? Like meditation, drawing requires that you focus on something in your immediate presence for an extended period of time. In meditation, one contemplates the flow of air throughout the body—in drawing, one contemplates the appearance of a tree. Meditation really isn’t about focusing on one’s breathing. Instead, meditation is about focusing on and appreciating the present moment. Therefore, any time you are focusing on something in you immediate vicinity (meaning you’re not planning what you’re going to do tomorrow, and are instead thinking about the feeling of the heat emanating from the warm cup of coffee in your hands), you are, in some sense, meditating. Like meditation, drawing is transportive and distorts one’s perception of time. In both meditation and drawing, one is very aware of one’s own perceptions and sensations. Spending an hour staring at a tree and contemplating how one can represent those twisting knarls that form its branches is precisely a meditative experience. Another example of drawing’s relationship to meditation can be found in shading. Shading may be called a “mindless” task, one that requires repetitive work and little thinking. However, from meditation’s point of view, what many people consider to be mindless is in fact mindful. A powerful component of meditation is the process of emptying one’s mind (the idea is that an empty mind can perceive reality more clearly than a mind filled with preconceived notions). One doesn’t need to impose one’s judgements onto the tree for one to learn how to imitate it—if an observer stares at the tree long enough, the tree’s visual nature will reveal itself to that observer. Receive, don’t take—applying meditational practice to drawing has been an overwhelming success for me.