I once read an article about a creative physician. His bedside manner was a bit confusing to new patients, because throughout the examination (at least, I'm assuming, the interview portion), he was deeply absorbed in his sketch pad, drawing. He was looking, but he was drawing. The article was illustrated with a few of the sketches he produced. They were of the patients, and they were rather primitive looking - more like doodles than portraits, really. This physician's point was that the drawing allowed him to focus very specifically on the way the patient looked, even more than on what they said. To really notice the details -- a little bump here, a scab there, some swelling, an emerging bruise.
This physician solved quite a few medical mysteries. Turns out, his was an excellent technique to gain insights into the patient's condition. This doctor claimed that through the drawing process he picked up all kinds of hints into the patient's health that he otherwise might have missed.
Drawing is one way to see.
This isn't news to art teachers, of course. Many, many art classes begin with the exercise of drawing a simple still life without ever looking down, or away from the subject.
That once-huge phenomenon, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, was all about unplugging yourself from expectations and letting your eyes, and your subconscious, do the work.
Of course, the product isn't meant to be fine art, and it most often isn't. But the process of disconnecting from your judgemental side -- of really looking at whatever skull, or flower or exotic vase the teacher has placed among the blankets -- does give you a hint of the real task at hand: seeing
And that is where the beauty is.
At least, that is where I find it. The things I draw, almost always plants or animals or some small domestic item, are always more amazing and exquisite than I ever imagined starting out. Also more complicated: nothing in nature is ever simple.
And because of that, drawing has made me a worshiper of divine design -- you can't look at the symmetry and beauty and pattern in natural objects and not come away with a sense of wonder.
An everyday feather is an amazing thing.
As a teacher of mine once said about having the courage to draw boldly, "What have you got to lose, a piece of paper?" To me, the point is more what you have to gain: A trip to the unconscious, a new way of looking at the world, and, oh yes, that moment of zen.
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LOL moment: While writing this article, I just couldn't help thinking about Mike Myers and his Saturday Night Live skits about Simon. HIs little song, "Hello, my name is Simon, and I like to do drawer-ings," has made me laugh at least a thousand times over the years. For a quick chuckle, go to http://www.hulu.com/watch/19309/saturday-night-live-simon
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