Drawing as a Sacred Activity
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In the tradition of such successful books on creativity as Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and The Artist's Way, artist and teacher Heather Williams presents a step-by-step approach to personal development — and artistic satisfaction. Many people — including Heather Williams — were never encouraged to embrace their creative side, and this shutting down of part of their inner life can create conflict. This book is an invitation into each person's creative instincts and is designed to lead gently toward developing both artistic and spiritual qualities.The book is divided into three sections: Pencils & Perception (observing and drawing what you see in the physical world); Crayons & Consciousness (drawing the interior landscape of memories, emotions, dreams, and patterns); and Ink & Intuition (drawing on the intuitive wisdom within yourself). This book is not intended to make everyone a commercial artist, but it will help readers to see and be in their world more fully.

Topics: Art & Artists, Creativity, Dreams, Design, Inspirational, and How-To Guides

Published: New World Library on
ISBN: 9781577317272
List price: $17.95
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Drawing as a Sacred Activity - Heather Williams

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the benefits of drawing

The activity of drawing is natural to every human being — just watch any child left alone with paper and crayon. We all have an inborn need to connect our inner and outer world in a meaningful way — and drawing is a satisfactory and powerful way to do just that. It is also a safe way to see old, familiar things in a new light. How often do you sit quietly for a few moments, calm down, relax, and reconnect with a deeper aspect of yourself? It is well known that drawing develops greater hand-eye coordination, enhances your ability to see what is in front of you, and improves your capacity to think visually (very helpful in developing creative ideas).

In the twenty-first century,

we may fulfill what the first half of the

twentieth century foreshadowed — that

seeing must not be limited to evidence

alone, because the evidence is shaped

by the seeing that beholds it.

• • • Philip Golabuk,

Science of Mind interview, March 2000

In my desire to help others experience the many benefits of drawing, I wrote the book you now hold in your hands. I have divided this book into three distinct parts, each of which begins with an introductory discussion and leads toward a group of drawing exercises. In part 1, Pencils and Perception, you will focus outward on the physical world of people, places, and objects. Normally by the time you are a grown adult you are conditioned to believe that people, places, and things are separate from you. You can name everything you see: That’s a tree, a table, a lamp, a man. Naming what you see is different from drawing what you see. Drawing exercises a different part of your brain. Whereas naming something sets you apart from what you see, drawing connects you to it. When you feel connected to something, you are more likely to take care of it — even to have compassion for it. Each exercise in part 1 provides a specific focus for you to work with. I have also included warm-up exercises to help you draw what you see in the world around you. Even if you like imaginative drawings, fantasy creations, or abstract works, I’m sure you will find these warm-up exercises beneficial.

Head of young man, ink, 1995

I make a head to see how I see,

to know how I see — not to make a work

of art.

• • • Alberto Giacometti

Part 2, Crayons and Consciousness, will help you focus inward on the interior landscape of memories, emotions, dreams, unconscious patterns, and your heart’s wisdom. The unconscious mind is a vast, new territory awaiting your exploration. Psychology is a relatively new science, only about one hundred years old. And while therapists and counselors can help you sort things out, they cannot go with you into your memories. They cannot feel your feelings. They cannot give up an old attitude and replace it with a new understanding. You are the only one who can do these things. Drawing is a safe, effective, relevant, and playful way to explore your inner world. The exercises in part 2 provide clear directions for you to follow as you explore your emotional feelings and draw them out of you. If at any time you feel that you could use professional help in processing some of the emotions that come up during these exercises, call your counselor, minister, or therapist. And take the drawing with you!

You will focus inward again in part 3, only this time you will be focusing on a more subtle aspect of the unconscious mind — your intuitive feelings. Another name for intuition is the still, small voice inside you. Everyone has this voice; however, not everyone listens to it. The two exercises in this section are designed to help you cross the threshold in consciousness so that you can listen to and feel the intuitive wisdom within you.

Drawing Helps You To

1.  Connect with the world before you in a meaningful and heartfelt way.

2.  Open up to a whole new world that is right before your eyes but that you don’t see because you are thinking of other things.

3.  Feel safe and secure in the world.

4.  Calm down, relax, and find peace.

5.  Develop the skill of seeing.

6.  Develop greater hand-eye coordination.

7.  Explore the right side of your brain.

The more you look at something, the

more you find.

• • • Kay Andrews, proofreader

Copy of Edward Burne-Jones, ink, 1995

perception: three aspects

Everything starts with perception — how we see things. Although it’s central to our daily experience, we seldom think about our perception and its influence on our lives. Perception consists of three aspects: sensory, psychological/ neurological, and intuitive. The five senses form the sensory aspect of perception — seeing, smelling, touching, hearing, and tasting. You perceive this book (and everything else) by seeing it with your eyes. Look up from this book and notice what your senses are reporting to you.

You also have responses, reactions, feelings, and judgments about what you see with your eyes (or what you taste, touch, hear, and smell). You interpret things differently from how your neighbor, sister, partner, and children do, because your interpretations are based on your mental and emotional constructs. You compare this with that, form a conclusion about it, and name the thing you see — based on your interpretation or present understanding. The psychological and neurological aspect of perception allows you to label events, situations, people. You form beliefs. Sometimes the labels and beliefs are accurate, and sometimes they are not. It can be shocking when our perception does not conform to reality and we are forced to change. But this change moves us forward, and that is good.

The intuitive aspect of perception allows us to perceive something immediately — without actually seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or touching it and without intellectually figuring anything out. We know something in our hearts — this is intuitive perception. Everyone has this capacity. Drawing is a safe, playful way to explore all three aspects of your perception.

Humphreys Hotel, ink, 1997

I want to add a brief word about the difference between perception and conception. Perception involves feelings. It is recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli (based chiefly on memory). It is also insight, intuition, or knowledge gained by perceiving. Conception is the ability to form or understand mental beliefs and abstractions. Concepts are conceived in the mind; they are plans, ideas, and thoughts. Concepts and percepts work together. You think about something, and suddenly you have a feeling about it. Or you experience a feeling about something and mentally form a belief about it. Many people think, think, think consciously and feel, feel, feel unconsciously. This book offers you a playful way to become more conscious of feeling.

three different ways to draw out your feelings

Feelings are the core of every relationship and the foundation of the arts. Yet as primary as they are, feelings are shunned, denied, avoided, and greatly misunderstood in our civilization. We are frightened of our feelings. And there are still few classes teaching you how to express them. Although we are all too aware of epidemic problems like drive-by shootings, domestic violence, child abuse, and so on, society as a whole does not make the connection between repressed feelings and violence, and these feelings are denied every day.

No one but you can look through your eyes, think your thoughts, or feel your feelings. No one but you can draw out your feelings — be they painful and conflicted or positive and sublime. Drawing is one way to feel your feelings. I think of drawing as a dialogue between you and your feelings. Drawing is a safe and healthy way to become aware of your feelings, to listen to your heart, to explore your thinking, to make changes, and to breathe fresh air, emotionally speaking. The feelings in your heart are prompting you to change; drawing is a safe, effective, and playful way to listen.

Boy at middle school, ink, 2000

love is essential

We all have talents, abilities, and proclivities toward certain ways of expressing and revealing ourselves to our families, communities, and the world at large. One person likes to dance, another prefers reading, another acting and singing. Many people (who stopped drawing around the age of nine) feel convinced that they have no talent or ability for drawing. I hear this all the time. I have no talent — I draw stick figures! This kind of statement is usually shouted at me with a kind of bravado, but I sense pain underneath it. Remember, there is nothing wrong with stick figures.

Unrealistic expectations paralyze people creatively. Use the drawing exercises in this book as a journey into your own perceptions, of your experience of seeing through your eyes. In no way am I promoting my own style of drawing. I am not suggesting that your drawing goal ought to be to produce drawings that resemble the work of Rembrandt or of any other recognized artist. My challenge to you, dear readers — to take up your pen or pencil and love your world by seeing it firsthand — is rooted in the assumption that you can do significant things with your eyes, hands, and heart. Furthermore, your family, friends, and community are dependent on some of its members doing just that. You already have within you what it takes to do this. Drawing is one way to bring it out.

If you have ever watched children, you must agree that all of us are born with an ability to express feelings. It is natural for children to put their feelings on paper. It is natural for children to draw their mommy and daddy, to draw their perception of these people and things in the world. Society’s fads and fashions come and go. Styles in art become popular, then fade away. What remains are the marks drawn by people who love deeply and follow their hearts.

Drawing, dancing, singing, acting, playing the piano, painting, sculpting — all forms of art draw on the one sacred Source for their power. Neither the oil industry nor the big-money movie industry contains the power that artists channel into their work. The power of art is interior, and it becomes available to you when you begin turning within and drawing it out of you. It is an unfolding process. It does not happen overnight.

Milwaukee life-drawing workshop,

Prismacolor pencil, 1996

Pencils and Perception: Drawing

Objective Feelings

When you think of drawing you probably think of an artist using a pencil to draw a still life, portrait, or landscape.

To draw what you see, you need to feel connected to it and to trust your eyes. Feeling connected is natural. The drawing exercises in this part of the book focus on the outer world. They give you a basic key so that you can draw what you see — regardless of your talent or proclivity for drawing.

Milwaukee life-drawing workshop,

Prismacolor pencil, 1996

Crayons and Consciousness: Drawing

Emotional Feelings

Everyone must learn to express emotional feelings safely. Society tells us to stuff our feelings and say we are fine. As a result many people are walking around overwhelmed and ready to explode. Drawing is a perfect way to let out these unexpressed feelings. When you draw out your emotional feelings, you don’t worry about proportions. You simply focus your attention, feel your feelings, and express on paper what is in your heart. Although it may seem simple, drawing is a very powerful way to let your feelings flow.

Crayons are colorful and childlike, perfect for expressing the sometimes dark shadow part of you as well as the vibrant and magnificent part of you. Drawing is a great way to take in a deep refreshing breath of air, emotionally speaking, and to let it go.

Emotional overwhelm, ink, 1997

Ink and Intuition: Drawing Intuitive Feelings

Intuitive feelings are understood through a balanced and centered mind, so some kind of meditative preparation is necessary before drawing these kinds of feelings out. Intellectual striving to control the pencil is put on the back burner of your mind when doing this kind of drawing. On the front burner is a deep openness and a willingness to let go of knowing what is going to happen on your paper. This is also not the place for emotional venting.

Boy contemplating an intuitive thought,

ink, 2000

Intuitive insights come out of the blue. You have to be willing to be surprised. Not filtered through the intellect or persuaded by the emotions, these subtle feelings are like wise advisors. When you quiet down and learn to listen, they unconditionally love you and guide you through life’s many changes. Being both alert and relaxed is important.

In the years ahead, I believe that

perceptual skills combined with verbal

skills will be viewed as the basic

necessities for creative human thought.

Learning to see and draw is a very

efficient way to train the visual system,

just as learning to read can efficiently

train the verbal system.

• • • Betty Edwards,

Drawing on the Artist Within

learning differences and visual thinking

Teenager sitting down, ink, 2001

Every problem I’ve ever solved started with my ability to visualize and see the world in pictures.

• • • Temple Grandin,

Thinking in Pictures and Other Reports

from My Life with Autism

I can’t read. I can’t focus. I can’t write.

There have always been kids who had trouble adjusting to the written page, to homework and the routine of school. However, today there are millions of these kids. Dyslexia, ADD (attention deficit disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder): All these syndromes were unheard of when I was growing up. As a child, I had long stretches of quiet and plenty of space. I could ponder life, organize my thoughts and feelings, and integrate what I saw and heard, allowing me to make sense out of things.

Today things are different. There is little time to ponder life. We turn the computer, television, or radio on first thing in the morning. We drive to work listening to news or music. We have email waiting to be read. Our cell phones are ringing. A blizzard of information swirls around us. Problems from around the world cry out to be understood and solved.

I think best in pictures.

• • • Don Winkler, severely dyslexic CEO

We live in an age of parenthesis, said John Naisbett, author of Megatrends. The values that gave meaning to our parents and hundreds of thousands of ancestors before them no longer hold meaning. We feel anchorless and adrift. Long ago, everyone in indigenous cultures drew, painted, sculpted, sang, chanted, and danced to connect with the ancestors, the environment, one another, and to Spirit. They were not so obsessed with working, making money, buying things, and looking good. Long ago everyone was an artist. There was no art market to put a price on creativity. There were no critics to compare you with others. There was only the celebration. You showed up and you did your best.

The first advantage of thinking in pictures was that it was apparently much quicker. The second advantage was that the statements in pictures were much more comprehensive.

• • • Joanna Field,

On Not Being Able to Paint

This book began three years ago with a little ten-page booklet that I prepared for a drawing workshop in England and Italy. At that time my drawings stimulated my thoughts. How easily that little booklet