DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Sep 13 2013

Drawing from Life

by Rebekah B

Drawing of a woman by Pierre BonnardI like to think about drawing as the art of seeing.  Have you ever noticed that very young children can see so much better than adults do?  And I am not talking about acuity of vision as measured by an optometrist!  Very young children (below age 3) actually see more and better than everyone else, because they look with their eyes and not with their minds.  In other words, young, pre-verbal children are not yet limited by the conditioning of images, symbols, and language.  Many years ago, I caught a glimpse of this ability through my friend Elizabeth’s daughter Melina, then a toddler, perhaps 18 months old.  Melina was in her parent’s bedroom, and I was watching her.  A tall armoire with mirrored doors lined one wall of the room, and onto one of those doors was taped a reproduction of a Pierre Bonnard painting (Drawing of a woman, right) representing a woman standing in front of a mirror.  I observed Melina adopt the exact same pose of the woman in the painting as she looked in the mirror.  Amazing!

When my son was small, I quickly noticed that he was very observant of detail.  He would remember our friends’ apartment numbers and knew which button to press on the elevator when we visited their buildings.  Close to the ground, his line of sight was naturally low, and we would enjoy walking together and pointing out patterns, colors, signs, objects that we would find.

drawing from life Left: Some of my own life drawings and sketches

And so, for a person who has already received a lifetime of conditioning, learning to draw is the equivalent of learning to see once again.  No longer will you look at a tree and see a lollipop on a stick, or some variation on that theme.  No longer will you be able to look at a face and not embrace each feature with your eyes.  There are many books and classes whose purpose is to teach you to draw.  There is technique, and there is expression.  Above all, there is seeing.  Even if you never learn to draw properly—and it is a skill that can be learned by anyone who so desires—learning to see will bring you great satisfaction in your life, from moment to moment. Careful observation will also improve your memory.  When you are waiting in line, you can observe everything around you in great detail.  Drawing is a form of meditation, a love poem to the present moment, and the connection of self to the world.

drawingsRight: More of my own drawings & a DCPL book about drawing hands

If you are interested in connecting to the present moment and your experience of the real, then pick up a nice sketchbook, a few graphite pencils, colored pencils, sharpies, watercolors…whatever suits your fancy, and keep them with you in your car, your purse, at home.  Take the time to observe your surroundings and to caress them with your eyes and your  mind.  Although I have been very near-sighted most of my life, I am so very grateful for my ability to see, and when I sit down to draw, I really feel at home in the world and in myself.

DCPL has some nice titles that replicate artist’s sketchbooks as well as instructional books about drawing.  Other books are more philosophical, relating to the theme of seeing and drawing.  Have fun opening your eyes!

Here are a few titles to peruse at your leisure:

Below:  Sketch of reclining figure and face from a session at the Apache Art Café

reclining figure

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Dea Anne M September 13, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Thank you, Rebekah, for sharing your drawings. I have always loved drawing and keep meaning to take it back up. I hope that the resources you’ve provided will inspire me. Thanks!

Chuck C. September 13, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Rebekah, I echo Dea Anne’s thank you for sharing your drawings. I can’t draw a lick, but I have been an avid photographer for over 40 years. One of my favorite photography quotes is by Dorothea Lange: “A camera is a machine for teaching one to see without a camera.” Photography has changed the way I see things, and the way I view the world around me, as it sounds like drawing has for you. Thank you for your post.

David September 17, 2013 at 3:01 PM

This is on my bucket list — to take a drawing class and see if I have any ability in this area whatsoever. I’m afraid I already know what the answer is, though!

Joseph M September 18, 2013 at 10:58 AM

Great post! I was particularly struck by the line “Drawing is a form of meditation, a love poem to the present moment, and the connection of self to the world.” Nicely put. Thanks for sharing your art and your perspective!

Veronica W September 19, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Living in a world that has become very adept at scanning, be it books, people, places and things, I love the emphasis you placed on looking and really seeing. I enjoy anything I can do with my hands because it slows me down and puts me in a peaceful place. Drawing may be my next adventure. What a lovely post.

Ardene September 19, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Thanks for this post. You’ve inspired me to add some sketching to my morning pages/journaling practice.

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