Slow=Know

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[Seth Apter of The Altered Page is conducting a Buried Treasure hunt and encouraged bloggers to resurrect one of their favorite long ago posts. I like this one. I may put up a couple more golden oldies to follow. Then back to the normal sturm and drang of the present.]

Dear H______:
Think less. Draw more.
When you draw a thing, see it just as that. Not a head, not perspective, not crosshatching, just pure observation as if you’ve never seen it before. The more preconceptions you bring to the drawing, the shittier it will be.
Clear your mind, and start drawing what you see. Start anywhere. I tend to start in the upper left hand corner because I am right handed. I move across observing, recording, until I get to the lower left hand corner. Then I am done.
If my subject is sufficiently complex, this will take me a half hour or more. I go as slowly as I can stand to go. But I don’t know how long it is usually; my left-brain has no sense of time.
As I draw, I avoid evaluation. I avoid thinking of the purpose of the drawing. I avoid commenting on what I am drawing, even in the quality of the line. I am empty and the drawing fills me up. Drawing is meditation, not production. Drawing is entirely in the present with no attempt to create context.
Do not think about style. Add shadows as you see them. But better to avoid shadows all together and stay engaged with the contours of things. When you have done that for months, even years, then add shadows and crosshatching (My pal, d.price has been drawing for a dozen years. Only on his trip to New York last week did he decide to start concentrating on the effects of light. He still almost never uses color). For now, none of that is important. What matters is to see deeply and let your hand respond.
And if you start at huge length before you draw, you risk becoming bored, or forming mental notes, theories, ideas about what you are seeing. The reason to let your hand and pen take over is to shut the hell up, silence the internal voice, the endless chattering of the mind, the distractions, the pointless pontificating that insists on meaning for the meaningless. The moment does not need meaning or context. It just is.
Drawing is about reaching for pure being. Not making pretty pictures to put in frames and on websites. The world doesn’t need more pictures. It needs peace and connection. It needs people who can accept reality and don’t feel compelled to control their environments. If you can look at a boot, at a rotting apple, at car’s worn tire, at an old man’s foot, and see it for what it is, without value or judgement, can see the beauty and particularity of the thing, you will find peace. You will avoid being covetous. You will be happy with what you have. You will accept others more readily, will see the sunshine on a cloudy day.
Life is a wonderful business, though fools blow up London tube stations and sell each other crap and waste time with gossip about movie stars. If you can draw, you will always have a place to go that is beautiful and honest and true. As you sit in an airport you will find pleasure in the folds of a crumpled lunch bag. As you bide your time in a doctor’s waiting room, you will find peace in the arrangement of the shadows on the wall. Even without putting ink on paper, you will be able to slip in to Drawing Mind.
The point is not what your lines look like or how accurate your crosshatching might be.
The point is not the drawings on the page or the pages in the book.
The point is not the opinions of others who love/hate/ignore those lines you made on the page.
The point is not the money you make selling your work to galleries or publishers.
The point of practicing your craft is not to rise in the rankings of those who draw. It’s not to have your style dominate (sorry, Dan!).
The point is to more easily gain access to the moment, to the deeper more peaceful recesses of your Self.
The point is to live as well and as fully as you can today, right now, whether your pen is in your hand or not.
The point is to See and to Be.
Your pal,
Danny

[Originally published on: Jul 7, 2005 @ 8:58]

4 thoughts on “Slow=Know

  1. I never thought to link meditation with drawing but it makes a lot of sense. I feel happiest when I am drawing but its so easy to let that critical voice take over. Reading this makes me feel that it’s okay to draw again and I love it.

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