The 30-Day Drawing Habit: WEEK 2
Learning to Look, with a hint of color and imagination
Helllloooo Grown-Ups Table!
Happy Sunday, happy Pride, happy day-before-Juneteenth, and happy Father’s Day to all the fathers and father-figures at the table! Extra love to you if you are missing your dad today or holding a complicated relationship. I’m really happy you’re here. ❤️ New here? Be sure to say hi and meet your fellow GUT members in the intros. And if you are participating in the The 30-Day Drawing Habit experiment and haven’t filled out your pre-survey yet, it’s not too late.
Reflection: Week 1 of the 30-Day Drawing Habit
For folks participating in the 30-day Drawing Habit experiment: CONGRATS!! From the hundreds of drawings y’all shared in the chat, it seems like daily Hiroyuki Doi-circles and Agnes Martin-grids helped a lot of us push through anxiety, perfectionism and expectations. The exercise also helped us get in touch with our drawing bodies (breath!), become more present and step into the drawing groove. So great. I hope y’all feel proud.
I hope Week One’s drawing exercise of circles and lines also helped you start to overcome any judgy “I can’t draw” voice that’s living in your head. Drawing isn’t about making something look “right”. It’s about DRAWING. Making marks on a surface. And you just drew for seven consecutive days. HUZZAH!
This practice is a strong, solid foundation for the rest of our 30 days. And if you like the way these exercises made you feel, they’re a great drawing warm-up or relaxing doodle practice you can return to anytime.
This week’s exercise is different. It’s a little less abstract, a little more based in reality. But no need to be scared! It’ll be super silly and fun and experimental and also meditative and relaxing, I promise. This week I’m giving us my all-time favorite drawing exercise… BUT FIRST! Before the assignment, I gotta give you my “big meaningful connection between drawing and life” talk. Because it’s…
Week 2: Learning to See
We can’t draw what we don’t see.
The first part of learning to see is discovering how infrequently we actually look closely at the world around us, and how little we notice of what's happening all around us, all the time.
Seeing Our Own Expectations
Let’s try a little experiment. Watch this video and count how many times the people wearing white pass the ball.
How’d you do?
(If you’ve seen this video before, then try taking a look at this one.)
What happens to over 50% of us during this experiment is an example of something called Selective Attention - also known as Inattentional Blindness or Cognitive Bias. And we all do it all the time. We are so focused on what we are looking for, or we have such strong expectations of what we are/are not going to see, that we literally DO NOT SEE what or who is right in front of us. Even when we expect to see the unexpected.
Cognitive Bias - or seeing our own expectations - is normal. Our brains do it so we can handle the huge amount of information we’re receiving all the time. But if we’re not aware of our visual biases, we can get unwittingly trapped in our assumptions. And that can be dangerous. Think about racial profiling by the police. What we can’t see can hurt us - and others.
Luckily, we can work to drop our expectations and expand our perspective. Drawing is a powerful tool that can help us learn to slow down and start to look closely at what is in front of us - not just what we think is in front of us. We can notice more, and start to see past our expectations. Drawing is a tool for seeing, learning and connecting. I talk about this a lot in a TED talk I gave a couple years ago. If you haven’t seen it, here’s one more video to watch:
One more thing about cognitive bias, expectations and drawing: Perhaps you’re familiar with the term “perfectionism"? Oy. I know. So many of us are. And the judgy perfectionist in us can really show up when we draw.
You might never guess it from my loose drawing and painting style, but I can be a perfectionist. But I’ve developed strategies to distract my perfectionism, loosen up and let go of expectations. Here’s an example:
Decades ago, I used to paint in oil. But oil paint is very malleable, and you can keep changing things and revising your work as you go. It’s kind of like having a paintbrush with an eraser. That meant that I would work and rework and rework a painting, trying to get it to some form of “right” or “better” (whatever that was) instead of trusting myself to just go for it and embrace what came. It wasn’t great a great medium for a perfectionist like me.
These days I work almost exclusively in pen and watercolor. These tools do not have erasers. There is no do over with a pen. Watercolor dries fast, so I have to move quickly and trust my hands. It keeps me in the present. If I make a “mistake” then I have to roll with whatever happens. I’ll turn an errant line or brushstroke into something new and unexpected. Awesome things always end up coming from that. Once I dropped my perfectionism and expectations, my lines came alive. Every drawing became a welcome surprise.
Do you struggle with perfectionism or expectations? Are there any helpful strategies you’ve developed to combat those tendencies? I’d love to hear them. Share them with the group in the comments.
There’s one other drawing strategy I use outmaneuver my visual expectations, and perfectionism and cognitive bias. To teach me to look closely. It’s a drawing technique I use all the time - not just for warm ups, but to make my drawing. And that - plus some fun, meditative coloring - is what we are doing this week.