By Charles Harris
I was asked recently to share my thoughts about the pleasure and importance of drawing, and why? My thought immediately was that I must begin first by describing the pleasures involved, the challenges, and the satisfaction will be found at every level thereafter.
You would normally start with a sense and reality of the white of the paper before you, a realisation of the elegance of this, with a pencil in your hand. The abundance of white and nothing else to see may be alarming, but then it begins… With the first mark you make comes an increase of emotions, and that rush of excitement will soon be felt. You may hear the first crackle the pencil makes across the texture and surface of the white paper. Then your series of movements follow; like starting on skies down a slope of snow, or maybe going suddenly upwards instead, just travelling onwards. From nearby perhaps, comes the passing scent of a forest; or those sounds of swish, gurgle and the splashing of moving water; or the sounds of animals nearby; or the sight and flight of a bird overhead; the glory of seeing a flower in bloom; or the softness of the flesh in a face, and the wonder of a smile. It all depends on where you are.
As you continue making marks or lines upon your page the first check occurs: you ask, "Is it the right size? Is it that big? Is it in the right place within the page?” Out comes the eraser! And the enthusiasm with which you erase, drives you onwards. After this first seen and understood mistake, a positive change happens. A new freedom will occur for you afterwards, for you are allowed to make mistakes — nobody minds. A mistake may often create some sense of blame, but not in drawing, where each new change is a step forward to realising your aim.
You discover the joy of engagement, with an intensity of concentration now, as you pass the next checks. This time they will likely be about proportions and the relationships between them in space. While you think how nice it is to make a true relationship within your page. Yes, now you can say: "this is right,” and a smile appears upon your face as you realise this.
As your speed in your working world changes, so your sense of time slows down, and the time outside this drawing experience seems to pass more quickly. And now visually your world becomes about light and the effects of light you are seeing. This may change what we preconceived before we began drawing — now appearing more natural, solid, more three dimensional and real as a result of a better understanding of how our eyes and thoughts actually work in practice. Then we find our drawing begins to resemble what we had intended, and the deeper magic of drawing begins, for our working path has slowly uncovered more possible outlets to consider — some are cul-de-sac's, which prevent us from achieving more, and just encourage us to settle for the pleasure which we have so far made. You can, while drawing, dwell in these cul-de-sacs as long as you wish, and the pleasure will remain with you there.
Otherwise, you can stop and look back at what you have done. Stop and analyse all of its benefits, its triumphs, and its weaknesses. You will now have two smiles. The smile of pleasure and satisfaction for what you have achieved, and a further smile for the new opportunities this piece of work now presents for the future. Yes, indeed. And there's a third smile, as you consider the new standards and possibilities you have begun to perceive.
It is likely you may now ask yourself, perhaps with a fluttering heart: "Can I do more and continue to hold to these standards today? Is it time to stop? Will the magic still happen? Can I raise the standard of my work next time?” Happily, the answer is yes, always. You simply have to believe. if it does not, you will just need to re-examine those cul-de-sacs you saw along the way and try again.
In part two, we will examine the importance of drawing and some of its history.