“It gives me such a sense of peace to draw; more than prayer, walks, anything,” Sylvia Plath
Some thoughts on drawing
“It’s only when we look with eyes of love that we see as the painter sees,” Henry Miller wrote in his forgotten 1968 gem 'To Paint is to Love Again'. Drawing, indeed, transforms the secret passageway between the eye and the heart into a two-way street — while we are wired to miss the vast majority of what goes on around us, learning to draw rewires us to see the world differently, to love it more intimately by attending to and coming to cherish its previously invisible details. This, perhaps, is why beloved artist Lynda Barry teaches visual storytelling as the infinitely rewarding art of “being present and seeing what’s there.”
More than a century before Miller and a century and a half before Barry, the great Victorian art critic, philosopher, and philanthropist John Ruskin (February 8, 1819–January 20, 1900) examined the psychology of why drawing helps us see the world more richly in a fantastic piece unambiguously titled Essay on the Relative Dignity of the Studies of Painting and Music, and the Advantages to be Derived from Their Pursuit, penned when he was only nineteen. It is included in the first volume of The Works of John Ruskin (public library | free ebook).
It’s a beautiful meditation triply timely today, in an age when we — having succumbed to the aesthetic consumerism of photography — are likelier to view the world through our camera phones and likelier still to point those at ourselves rather than at nature’s infinite and infinitely overlooked enchantments. To draw today is to reclaim the dignity and private joy of seeing amid a culture obsessed with looking in public. Maria Poplova
: love of or enthusiasm for what is new or novel
Drawing and going on holiday are both excellent solutions to satisfy our neophilic tendencies.
Part of toddlers’ extraordinary capacity for noticing has to do with their hard-wired neophilia, which for them includes just about everything that we, old and jaded, have deemed familiar and thus uninteresting. (Horowitz points to one exception for us adults — vacations — which brim with enough novelty to produce such fascinating, reality-warping psychological phenomena. The reason, Horowitz argues, lies in two factors: “We actually do see new places and second, we bother to look.”
The artist seems to retain something of the child’s visual strategy: how to look at the world before knowing (or without thinking about) the name or function of everything that catches the eye. An infant treats objects with an unprejudiced equivalence: the plastic truck is of no more intrinsic worth to the child than an empty box is, until the former is called a toy and the latter is called garbage. My son was as entranced by the ubiquitous elm seeds near our doorstep as any of the menus, mail, flyers, or trash that concern the adults. Maria Popova