Why do it?
Drawing meditation is a way of helping the mind focus on what is taken in by the eyes. As we have seen this focused attention enables us to see the world in a more intense way that normal. We have been doing this through carefully following the lines that make up the edges or other areas of high contrast in our vision.
Once we become well practiced in this technique our mind becomes more relaxed and can enter the process more easily. Feelings of self consciousness recede as the concern over ‘outcomes’ diminishes. This is similar to traditional meditation where with practice sitting become more natural and we can control the wanderings of the mind more easily. In insight meditation once a basic practice has been established the mind can focus on different experiences other than the breath. Sounds are often used in this way as are ‘body scans’ . We can focus on sounds and try to ‘see’ them as sound rather than the thing that is making the sound. We can focus on bodily sensations and try to perceive then for what they are – electrical signals in the mind rather than physical sensations in the body.
In drawing meditation, once you feel confident in the process you could turn your attention to the ‘nature’ of what you are drawing rather than the lines its areas of high contrast make. Try drawing a plant and focus on its nature. Above all the plant is alive. It grows and is growing. It moves and has movement. it lives and has life. Try to shift your attention from the lines that make up the edges of the leaves to the life of the plant.
For this drawing you may want to try using ink rather than graphite. Drawing pens with cartridges rather than dip pens are easier to start with. Use black water based ink. Set up as normal, by now you may have decided to use a hard backed sketchbook rather than separate sheets of paper, if so it is a good idea to use fairy smooth cartridge paper that is around 150gms, this is reasonably thick paper that can be used with various different drawing media.
- Select a leafy plant, spider-plants are a good choice, light the plant from the side to make it easier to see the form.
- take a few minutes to settle with the plant. Look at the individual leaves and at the whole plant. What is a plant, where does it start and end? Move away from the label ‘plant’ and focus on the life of the thing in front of you.
- without touching the paper let your arm and hand flow with the leaves, follow the direct of its growth from stem to leave tip until you feel ‘with’ the leaf, you will need to move the hand and arm fairly swiftly but lightly, leaves are delicate and lively and so should be your movement.
- hold the pen lightly and follow the life of the leaf again and this time draw, expressing the vitality of the leaf as you do it.
Complete the drawing as before only referring to the paper to decide where to start the next line. Don’t worry about shapes, just focus your whole attention on the life and liveliness of the plant. This of course is not really a very clear instruction but words are not much use here. Leaves will overlap so draw those closest to you first and for those behind draw the whole leaf but raise you hand pen when the line disappears behind the front leaf. This is a good practice as from an end product ‘drawing’ you will not be able to tell exactly when to do this, but this does not matter from a drawing as meditation perspective. If you are worrying about getting it ‘right’ you are doing it wrong!
On completion, reflect on how you felt before looking at the drawing. Did this feel different from previous drawings? It may have felt a big step, in which case go back to the earlier exercises, there is no rush and it is important not to loose confidence in the process.
On looking at the drawing does it represent something of how you felt? do the lines have a sense of life about them?