Drawing can also be a wonderful technique for expanding and fine-tuning our perception and awareness. Kimon Nicolaides in his book The Natural Way to Draw says, “Learning to draw is really a matter of learning to see, correctly, and that means a good deal more than merely looking with the eye.”
So, drawing and painting give us training and practice in seeing differently. That may sound odd. What do I mean “see differently”? What I am talking about is an actual shift in brain functioning that allows us to see spatially. You may have heard the terms “right brain and left-brain” when describing brain function. There is a popular book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards that goes into the differences between the hemispheres in great detail, so I won’t spend a lot of time talking about it here.
Seeing deeply into the forms
There are many benefits that come from developing the sadly neglected “right” hemisphere of our brain.We get to see the universe in a profoundly deep and different way. We begin to see innocently what is really there in front of us, instead of what we think is there. We see without judgement. We stay grounded in the present, in the moment, with what is there in front of us. Through this process, we are training ourselves to see deeply into the forms, without limitations, illusions or preconceptions. Cups, apples and bowls are pretty safe and easy to look at in this way, so they are a good place to start. Then, we progress gradually into more difficult subject matter.
Awe and wonder
What happens is we begin to see into the forms more deeply and they seem to respond by opening up to us. At that point, all that is left to experience is the awe and wonder of it all! It is astonishing how much of the beauty of the world gets missed through judgment and condemnation. In a quote from Frederick Francks’ book The Zen of Seeing, he says, “It is to really see, ever deeper, ever more intensely, hence to be fully aware and alive, that I draw...it is the discipline by which I constantly rediscover the world. I have learned that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle.”
Create a stir!
Perhaps you would like to be more inventive or daring. You can use art to shake and wake people up. This is a quote from Robert Henri, author of The Art Spirit. “When the artist is alive in any person, whatever her kind of work may be, she becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressive creature. She becomes interesting to other people. She disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and opens ways for a better understanding. Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book, she opens it and shows there are still more pages possible.”
Perhaps you want to get in touch with the “inner child” part of yourself that wants to simply love life more, and have more “play time.” I’m not sure who said this, but I think it was Einstein: “The aim of an artist is not to solve a problem irrefutably, but to make people love life in all its countless inexhaustible manifestations.”
Just want to have fun
Relaxation, fun and pure pleasure are some other good reasons for you to add art to your life. And you’d be in good company if these were the main reasons for taking art classes. This quote is from Winston Churchill. “I think this heightened sense of observation of Nature is one of the chief delights that have come to me through trying to paint...the whole world is open with all its treasures. The simplest objects have their beauty...Obviously then, one cannot be bored...Good Gracious! What there is to admire and how little time there is to see it in.”
Perhaps you have a lot of stress in your life and are looking for a way to relieve some of it. Here is another quote from Winston Churchill, a man I’m sure you’ll agree had a considerable amount of stress in his life. “Painting is complete as a distraction. I know of nothing else which, without exhausting the body, more entirely absorbs the mind. Whatever the worries of the hour or the threats of the future, once the picture has begun to flow along, there is no room for them in the mental screen. They pass out into shadow and darkness. All one’s mental light, such as it is, becomes concentrated on the task. Time stands respectfully aside.”