Increasing creativity through mindless drawing

When I was sketching in Venice in 2017, a small crowd gathered around me, watching.  As the crowd grew in size, there was even a person directing people.  At first, I felt very conscious of the people staring at me and then as I suffer from fear of crowds, I started feeling fearful. In an age when people use their smartphones to take selfies and photos, it must seem very archaic and time wasting to sketch.  But recently I discovered that it also helps others to watch people sketching.  There is a South Korean artist, Kim Jung Gi, who draws fantasy art and many people pay to spend hours watching him. It is said to be therapeutic, and induces a feeling of stillness and calm in the viewers.

There is another way that ‘mindless’ drawing can help- this is with increasing creativity.   Just like sleeping on problems and dreams can help with solving problems, using drawing (especially organic shapes) can help with problem solving and increasing creativity.  The Nobel Laureate, polymath, poet, musician, painter and author corrected his texts by doodling over mistakes.  His wooden seal with his initials is also of an organic shape.

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Even when feeling tired, I have found that doodling and drawing can be done when reading is too difficult.  These drawings are no practical use but to me, they are part of my creative self.  I’ve given myself two different rewards each day- when the weather is bad, I draw, and when the weather is good, I go out and take photos.  Sometimes I draw without my glasses and sometimes I use both hands (I’m right handed). It’s always good for me to see what I create and how well I feel after that.

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Organic shapes just joined together
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Who is she? Why is she smiling?Why are her eyes closed shut? I don’t know- she came out of my head after a busy and tiring day. Maybe I’d like to be her!ption
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One of the good weather days when I photographed this spectacular sunset

making portraits

Last week I finished my first portrait commission.  A good camera and a skilled photographer can take good photos of a person but when a portrait is commissioned, it needs to be much more than just a likeness.  Something extra is needed.  While trying to do this portrait, I found out that you need the eyes and mind of a child to look for details- the up or down turn of the mouth, the way the ears stick out, the hair line, the shape of the eye brows, shape of eyes, etc.  This can be much more important than getting hair and eye colours exactly right.  This was my first attempt and clearly did not look like the person I was drawing.

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After many attempts, this is what I got-

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Immediately you can tell the first one was not right at all!  The finished portrait was made with natural colours such as turmeric, coffee, onion skins and indigo along with pencils to reflect the personality of the man who likes spicy food and travel.  Hope the person likes it!

The importance of drawing

Yesterday, I visited the annual summer show at the Royal Academy.  This is an open show, open to any one- thousands of people submit and this year, 1130 works were selected out of those.  The works of fine artists, sculptors, pop artists, photographers, and installation artists with people were drawn from all sorts of creative background such as tailors, ‘seamstresses’, architects and painters.  Some works mixed many genres such as collage, painting and photography.  There were deeply social and political works while others were simply to be enjoyed as ‘guilty pleasures’.

My friends, one of whom is a fine artist and the other an architect, who kindly treated me to this show, had been painting all day at nearby St James Park and Trafalgar Square.  They brought along their works and these also gave me great pleasure such as the one of different birds- ducks, swans, coots and pigeons.  They had been instructed to paint and draw quickly without much thinking and these kind of instruction appeared to have produced lovely fluid representations of the birds. The friend who is an architect, had been painting for a long time and so this marvellous work was not just a product of the day but of many years of effort.  This led me to think about the process of drawing and why it is important part of the visualisation, regardless of the final product or composition.  Apart from photography, all other creative arts require some basic sketches which form the basis of the final design.

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In an interview about how they think about their buildings, the Irish architects, Sheila O ‘Donnell and John Tuomey, who won this years RIBA Gold medal, say that both are influenced by drawing and painting.  Sheila says that she uses water colour to explore form and light and which could be a ‘way of summarising something about the feeling of what the building might be without having to go into detail’. She says that working with water colour is that you can ‘speculate about material and weight  and even almost texture, but in a kind of unspecific way, in a sketchy way’. John on the other hand, works with pencil drawing and says it is ‘a form of hand writing’.  Another set of Irish architects, Clancy Moore, also talk about drawing and say that they sketch and draw a lot for many reasons, but one of them is to ‘simply look with care at the world around us and the places [they] visit and build in which then describes the primary context of their work.  Such use of quick sketches have been used by not only architects but also sculptors and tailors/ couturiers.

My fine artist friend is now encouraging her younger students to paint, many of whom question the need to draw something on paper in the days of the computer screen. But she says that drawing helps us in many other ways, including becoming more articulate and expressive in our writing and speaking.  She also thinks that drawing gives us organisational skills because one is composing in one’s mind before putting the pencil and brush to paper.  Creative skills can be used in other areas of our lives too.  Also, as I have mentioned previously drawing can be therapeutic. Drawing or painting is a more deliberate and permanent act than doing something on a computer screen that can be wiped out and started again.  Will Kemp, a fine artist, says that people sabotage their own efforts by being to critical of their own work, labelling or categorising their word and finally by talking too much.  So I guess the main things I took away yesterday would be-

1. Don’t think or talk too much- just do it!

2. Do it little and often- build up a habit of drawing ideas out instead of writing or talking about it.