How might drawing have a particular contribution to make to wellbeing? What could be distinct about drawing? When I first got into art, I started with drawing, and it was a few years before I began to paint as well. Even now, I still feel far more at ease with a pencil or pen than with a paintbrush. That could be familiarity, or the greater control you get with pen or pencil. But it isn’t just that. If one way art particularly helps wellbeing is by absorbing the mind, then drawing has to be one of the best ways to do this. It is very focused, and it all comes down to line and form. I find drawing mindful, as committing line and shade to paper grounds me, opening up a space away.
Drawing covers many different syles and materials. A “simple” pencil sketch is only the beginning. Many people use an array of different pencils, pens and chalks. Where drawing is monochrome, I think the focus on line alone can be more mindful and restful. It’s also striking, because we are so surrounded by colours in life that black and white drawings, like black and white photography or film, stand out all the more. However, I do enjoy drawing in colour too: there’s no doubt that colour makes a drawing sing, and has its own impact on mood.
Drawing’s diversity is important. Some of us like drawing portraits – maybe from books or photos – trying to capture likenesses, or sportspeople, showing action and movement. I like to shade drawings so figures and scenes look more solid and realistic. Some people enjoy more abstract drawings, maybe drawing patterns or outlines. All these different possibilities matter because there’s more likely to be a style to fit everyone. If someone has to draw with their non-dominant hand following a stroke, for example, they may have less control for very exact drawings, so they could try a more fluid style.
Drawing is so portable, quick and easy to start and to clear away. People with little space to store or to set out art materials can just sit down with a sketchpad on their laps and a pencil or pen. When you finish, there’s no cleaning of brushes or palette. All this makes drawing more convenient for people with limited time for art, maybe fitting in a quick drawing amidst other commitments. People with limited concentration or attention span could also find drawing more practicable – and all of us will be more likely to be creative if it doesn’t demand too much time. So I feel drawing really has great scope to engage many more people with art. It’s also great for journaling for mental health, as you can easily illustrate your journal and add images straight on to any journal page.
I find it sad that drawing can be overshadowed by painting. Drawing is somehow seen as easier, less exciting, less skilful. It’s traditionally considered as preparatory to painting, rather than an artform all its own. If you see drawings in an art gallery, so many are preparatory sketches for paintings. It’s as if drawing doesn’t stand alone. This has changed and improved now that art is more experimental and varied, but it still persists.
Do you enjoy drawing? Do you have thoughts, experiences or questions to share on its impact? If so you might like to share these in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Thank you!