Drawing Because It Feels Good
October 25, 2021
(Right click on the images to see them in full.)
Oh boy! It has been a bit!
I spent most of what remained of summer and the start of the autumn getting out and touching grass, going for bike rides, spending time with friends and around my community, and focusing on my day job. It's been nice! I've also been taking this time to think about my relationship with art and drawing and how it has changed over the past decade.
When I would draw as a kid/teen/young adult it was this very spontaneous thing. Who cared what the final result looked like? The act of drawing felt so good. Building anything out of my hands became a triumph. But as I improved at drawing and to an extent writing and could make money off of it, something started to shift and I felt myself losing that simple joy I got out of just drawing.
While getting out and about this summer one of my frequent trips would be bike rides to the many parks around the city to sit down to draw, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends. I had allowed myself the simple pleasure of drawing what I saw and playing around with the shape and colour of the thing by laying down texture using lines or just slapping wet blobs of watercolour everywhere.
I felt like I returned to the primordial source of art, how it just feels good to make a mark on a physical surface. It feels nice to look at nature, at the physical world, and interact with it in a un-intrusive way by drawing it. Letting myself scribble sketches of bushes, tree branches, and a couple messy sketches of an inchworm that had crawled onto my pencil case made me feel like the metaphorical chains clamped around my wrists had loosened.
It's a weird thing making art for money. Artists deserve to be paid for their work, and please don't take this as me saying that they shouldn't, because I do like being able to afford groceries, but it does feel weird when art becomes a source of income. Creating art is such a natural human thing. Art is communication. It is one of the ways we say to the world "you are here!" and one of the ways we say about ourselves "I am here!" I also think it can also be translated further to "I love the world and I love that I am in it!" It just sucks that capitalism says back to us "sell this love so you can keep living."
And with that proclamation art becomes something that is ranked, that has a hierarchy. What kind of art makes more money over the other determines what kind of art has value. It then becomes harder to enjoy something as simple as drawing because there are now all these new variables to consider like speed, and polish, and detail.
But I guess that conundrum could apply to most forms of labour under capitalism, because even though art can be a pleasure to do it is still a skill and a form of labour. We want to get better at knowing the world and ourselves through art so we practice at it, at least that's what I think. Learning and practice can be a pleasure. Drawing has gotten me to learn things I don't think I would have normally. I've learned about the way some trees grow, the way the human body moves, what makes light reflect off of fish scales the way it does, and I feel full with this new knowledge.
There is also so much to learn about the drawing process itself like the way water flows off of a brush, or how much pressure to put on a ballpoint pen to keep the line light enough to replicate the kind of gradient you can get with a pencil. I've learned about what my own body can do to get across the message I want to send, be it to myself or to the world.
When it comes down to it, no matter how our relationship to art is influenced by social structures, and how well someone draws within those structures, drawing just feels good. The past couple of months helped me remember that.