“But I can’t go out and try to see this way. I’ll fail, I’ll go mad. All I can do is try to gag the commentator, to hush the noise of useless interior babble that keeps me from seeing just as surely as a newspaper dangled before my eyes. The effort is really a discipline requiring a lifetime of dedicated struggle; it marks the literature of saints and monks of every order East and West, under every rule and no rule, discalced and shod. The world’s spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind’s muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unheeded in the dim channels of consciousness; you raise your sights; you look along it, mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects act and rest purely, without utterance. ‘Launch into the deep,’ says Jacques Ellul, ‘and you shall see.’”–- from Annie Dillard's "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"
In the midst of prepping for the holiday season, I challenged myself to hone my drawing skills with a little exercise. I know that daily drawing, just like daily walks, limbers up the mind and body, and I wanted to start getting myself in shape. This New York Times blog post reminded me to share a little of my process with you.
Over 30 days, from September 8 to October 9 (I missed one day in there!), I drew a leaf every day…well, one day I drew a pear and there were some husk cherries, too. Otherwise? All leaves, all the time.
When I started, the lines were predictably difficult to capture, but that muscle got stretched out quickly and then I found myself wanting to flesh out the shapes and images to give them dimension, rather than just capturing outlines and obvious detail on the page.
The beautiful thing about drawing is that it’s not just about getting something literal down on paper; drawing teaches you to see. You find yourself looking more closely than ever, and discovering surprising details that just make you want to see and learn more.
I feel good about my 30 drawings. I feel best because they’ve reawakened my drawing abilities; I’ve gotten comfortable with sitting down and attempting to draw just about anything and that’s exactly what I was after.
P.S. The entire New York Times “Line by Line” series of posts is here, and well worth your time.