exercise four: authenticity

Why do it?

As we begin to draw with freedom we almost inevitably fall back into dualism. The idea that what is being draw is separate from the person doing the drawing. This comes about because our interest shifts back towards the drawing itself as another object. As soon as we focus on what the drawing looks like  our attention has to shift from the experience of oneness with the experience of seeing/drawing.

This is perfectly natural, if rather infuriating.  We have spent our lives up to now thinking about drawings being something we make rather than do so when given the opportunity to consider the drawing again it is only natural we will slip into old habits.

The key to overcoming this dilemma is to consider the idea of authenticity. When we draw without looking at the paper we can create an authentic experience of being in the world. That is to say the experience is genuine, not tainted by the ego. Once we consider the drawing as an outcome we can easily slip into concerns about the drawing as an object separate from the experience. Here we should pause and notice both what we are concerned about and who is doing the concerning. Clearly in order to be concerned about ‘how good’ the drawing it is the ego that has taken back control.

Noticing this shift from the authentic experience of seeing/drawing to the fabricated dualism of the ego, the fraudulent but tempting, me and it, is key to being able to maintain the clear-sightedness of being in the world that drawing meditation can offer

Do what?

The instructions for how to maintain an authentic approach when drawing with greater freedom and the temptation to consider the drawn outcome that come with this, are less straightforward than before. This is not about step by step stages but more to do with noticing what happens in the mind. The question to keep in mind is,

  • is this an authentic drawing?

That is to say

  • am I doing things to the drawing in order to make it somehow more ‘acceptable’?

If the answer is yes then ask,

  • what does more acceptable mean? and who is it being made more acceptable for?

Following the drawing meditation exercises outlined here is not going create outcomes that will ever be photographically accurate. Since the Renaissance and up until the mid-ninetieth century and the invention of photography, a key focus of western art has been the accurate representation in two dimensions of a three dimensional world as seen through a single lens.  Making an accurate representation of what is seen by the eye using just a pencil and a piece of paper is indeed a hard learned skill for most people but it is not what drawing meditation or seeing/drawing is concerned with.

Sometimes the physical outcomes of drawing meditation exercises (what is on the paper) will be delightful, some times they may not seem so. Noticing this is a judgment is important. What is being judged here though is only of passing interest, the important thing to judge is the experience of doing the drawing and to keep in mind is/was it authentic?