exercise two: controlling reactivity

Why do it?

Reactivity is the word we are using to describe how we react to the feelings created by our emotions. There is a sequence of events at work here. For example. We perceive something, we see the effects of our drawing process; this perception triggers a feeling/emotion lets say, we feel embarrassment; we react to this emotion by feeling despondent and discouraged, leading to less enthusiasm and perhaps even disengagement with the whole exercise; we give up. This sequence of events is what we are calling reactivity.

If we can notice how we are reacting early enough then we can stop the process. Instead of being led by our reactivity we can see the emotions arise in us and confront them, observe them as in a scientific experiment, find them fascinating objects, wonder at their manifestation and dissect them to find out how they work. You can see how this ability can be useful in all aspects of life not just in drawing. Drawing offers us a test bed for trying out and practicing techniques for controlling reactivity.

Noticing how our emotions are triggered is a very useful skill and if we know when they are going to appear we can be ready for them and prepared for our examination of them. Drawing offers a perfect practice to examine our reactivity, as we know an emotion is going to pop up every time we look at the paper. So before we look at the paper we consider how we might feel, then we look down and note how we are feeling and then we can examine the feeling. All this is excellent practice for all those times when we react to the unexpected and unplanned experiences that happen in our lives

Do what?

Set up for another drawing as before have a complex plant to draw, a sharp pencil and a sheet of A3 paper taped to the table.

Proceed to draw as before but now as you look at the plant consider the shapes that you see not just the lines. The lines mark the edges of shapes and define them. shapes here are 2 dimensional areas bounded by lines. later we will be talking about form which we will use to define 3 dimensional areas but for the moment we want to concentrate only on shapes.

start the drawing as before and draw a line. now look at the shape you are defining – say a leaf – decide on the next line to draw to create the leaf shape and look at your paper to see where this second line should start and in which direction it should go. Now draw the second line, as before only looking at the plant. If you need further lines to complete the leaf shape repeat the last instruction until you have draw all the lines that define the leaf shape.

Remembering to consider reactivity, look down at the paper. What do you see and how are you reacting? Take time to dwell with the reactivity. It may be hardly noticeable but there will almost certainly be some sort of reaction. Your brain will be relating the shape you have draw to the shape of the leaf, quite probably in a critical way. Remember the object of the exercise is not to draw a perfect leaf shape but to notice how you are reacting and to live with and examine that reactivity. Write down a word or to which describes the feeling of reactivity.

Continue to draw in this way, noticing each time you look at the paper how you are reacting. After 15 minutes or so. stop drawing, look at the paper and again examine your reactivity. Do you notice any changes to the way you felt earlier? If so make a note on the paper.

Over time if you continue to anticipate and monitor your reactivity to looking at the paper you will probably notice that the impact diminishes. Noticing this change is very important. If you can change the impact of how you feel when drawing you might consider that this ability could be transferable to other situations.