“. . . in fact, the enjoyment of the sketcher from the contemplation of nature is a thing which to another is almost incomprehensible. If a person who had no taste for drawing were at once to be endowed with both the taste and power, he would feel, on looking out upon nature, almost like a blind man who had just received his sight.” – John Ruskin
To paint well, we must learn to see well. And, one of the best and surest ways to learn to see is to draw from life. Drawing is the beginning. Drawing requires one-pointed focus and concentration. When we concentrate intently, we are rewiring our brains in that task. We now know that the brain gradually makes new neuronal connections in the visual and motor cortex as we draw. These new connections, in turn, make it possible for us to not only see better, but also to manipulate our pencil or charcoal more accurately. It is a positive feedback loop which activates the same pleasure centers in the brain which light up when we are looking at a picture of someone or something we love. The more we look, the more we see, and the more we love what we see. This has benefits for all areas of our lives. When it becomes a habit, incorporated into each day – (think of carrying a sketchbook all the time) – we begin to see and think of the world in terms of beautiful shape, form, color and line.
We live in an amazing age when it is as easy as the tap of the finger to record where we are or what we are eating for dinner and send it out for the world to see. This requires little of us and so returns little to us. Drawing requires some effort but the payoff returns us to a state of meditation and reflection that connects us to nature and calms the mind.
Betty Edwards writes in her iconic 1979 book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, “. . . draw every day. Draw anything – an ashtray, a half-eaten apple, a person, a twig. . . . In a way, art is like athletics: if you don’t practice, the visual sense quickly gets flabby and out of shape. The purpose of drawing is not to put lines down on paper any more than the purpose of jogging is to get somewhere. You must exercise your vision without caring overly much about the products of your practice. . . . In your daily drawing sessions, the desired goal should be to see ever more deeply.”
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–John and Ann