Why Draw?

I am not quite sure what hit me the other day, but I wandered off to the local library to look at kids’ books.

Where I live, we are fortunate to have a well-run, financially sound (so it seems) library system.  There are about 130 K people here, and only two libraries to serve the population, but both libraries are well-designed, light, airy, and busy.  Busy meaning there are kids and teenagers and adults, as well as scheduled activities, such as lectures and movies.

The children’s section of the library is separate from the adult.  There are sections for young adult, for research, for youngish readers (8-12?), and for non-readers and beginners.  The shelves are the right height for kids, and topped with books and displays to catch the eye.

Okay, so what does this have to do with drawing?  A lot!  Good illustrations add so much to a story, for both children and adults.  Textbooks without illustrations are unattractive.  Color adds more.  And children’s books need pictures – just like Alice said, “What is the use of a book if there are no pictures?”

Yeah, there is a lot of use for pictureless books – but they are even more useful with illustrations.

So, here I am, wandering through the children’s section, looking at this book and that.  Most books had written words with pictures to illustrate them.  And then I came across Clown by Quentin Blake.  Blake is the illustrator for many of Roald Dahl’s books (you know, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).  Clown is a story without words, only pictures.  I had a few good laughs as I “read” the book, and totally enjoyed the illustrations.

Blake is the master of light mood, caught with pen and watercolor.  A loose style that, nonetheless, is filled with details.  When the clown wriggles out of the garbage can, you have to look to see it happening – but you do!  When I looked again and again, so many things showed up.

Then I looked at more of his books.  Cockatoos had me laughing out loud.  Illustrations and story worked so well together – I loved to see all the cockatoos hiding, and I loved the last line in the story.

I blither about art, and drawing, and writing, a lot.  The mental arguments are strange and annoying.  I put up barriers and fill time with meaningless twaddle when I could be out doing something.  I have fought with myself over and over again about my “style” in the painted, colored, drawn world.  It was never technically accurate or realistic enough.  I am confident about my writing style – academically, I can crank out papers at an appalling rate – but with drawing, I drag my feet, tormenting myself with my perceived failures and inabilities.

The light bulb went on with Clown.  I love that loose, fun style.  Is it “art”?  Probably not – but why should that matter?  If it brings pleasure and communicates, I guess that is definition enough.

Yesterday, I took out my own pen and ink and began to doodle.  I didn’t care what I drew.  My imagine was allowed to play without rules.

Thrills.  Intoxication.

How I love paper and pencil and ink!

Why Write?

 

The benefits of writing . . . .

I think most people who write with any degree of seriousness or purpose are well aware of the benefits of writing.  Even more so, there are benefits of writing with a pen or pencil, rather than sitting at a keyboard.  There are lot of articles and studies which show there are benefits – psychological, physical, emotional, and health – that are produced in writing.

The Huffington Post had this article about writing concerning some ways in which writing can transform your health:

  1. Writing by hand can help you learn better.
  2. Expressing emotions through words may speed healing
  3. It could help the way cancer patients think about their disease
  4. Consider it a fundamental part of your gratitude practice
  5. Writing down what you’re thankful for could help you sleep better
  6. It make your mind and body better

Jordan B. Peterson and Raymond Mar have produced a lovely document in pdf entitled The Benefits of Writing.  What is especially enriching – if you like research – are their cited works at the end of their article.

Another article discusses five benefits of writing everyday.  These include waking up your brain, stream of consciousness purging, recalling dreams, vocabulary maintenance and expansion, and evening contemplation and relaxation.  Writing about traumatic experiences helps, too, especially if you express things you have never expressed before. Stepping back from an experience can be done with writing, and change your perspective; writing also can trigger dopamine!  Much of who we are is chemical, mysterious, and still unknown, but we do know a few things! There are definite health benefits to writing expressively.

A return to writing, with a raison d’etre . . . .

For many years, I kept a journal.  It was really a way to whine, and at one point, after 50 volumes, I was ashamed of my whining.  There was no purpose, and it had become an addiction in a negative sense – I would write about problems, feel better after the writing, but not do anything to change a direction or attitude.  I think it made me more passive and less purposeful.  I’ve shredded and burned those journals.

Today, I find myself not really happy about my life as there is so little mental and emotional room for creativity.  I get up, go to work, come home, clean up, go to bed and return to the pattern the next day.  Half of my life is shot on a weekly basis – 10 and 11 hour days are draining.  Mere existence is a waste of appreciation for the life I have been given, doing a job that has increasingly lost value and meaning.  I plod on as retirement is in the near horizon.

As that horizon approaches, I know I must change my outlook on my remaining time and tune into that core value for my own sense of well-being:  creativity.  Years ago I gave up painting and artwork as I searched and searched for the answer to a seemingly unanswerable question:  what is the purpose and meaning of art?  After years, the answer was clear:  it means what it means to me.

Pretty simple, huh?  But in those intervening years, I stopped.  I lost – and can never regain – 30 years of productivity, of creativity, of growth and exploration.  I did pick up the pen, to whine, but not produce.

So now, I am journalling again, but with a purpose.  I am choosing something to write about, to explore, to consider, to see how something fits into my life or can benefit me – and in turn, benefit those I love.  I am working on short stories, writing about ideas, and being creative in the blotches of time my work schedule permits.  (I am also practicing for my retirement!)

Leaving the meetup group was a good thing – a good trigger for regrouping my perspectives.  What was a traumatic, negative experience helped me realize and focus on what I already knew.  So, thanks to the geezer and needy group leader, I am more focused, and a lot happier as a result!