How creative mindfulness has transformed my experience of drawing

Life drawing by Wendy Ann GreenhalghThis morning I went to my first life drawing class in 17 years. 17 YEARS! Not only does this make me feel *ancient* – how can it be that 1998 and my Foundation Course were that long ago? I don’t know. But also – 17 years – why did I wait that long?

But of course I know why I waited, because the truth was that I found life drawing classes at college really challenging. Why? Well, I was inexperienced, I’d never done it at school – so I didn’t have any confidence, and of course *everyone* in the room was better than me, compare, compare, compare, and what I was drawing was rubbish, and at some point the tutor told me that life-drawing wasn’t my strength, and also I liked to be GOOD at what I did, and had very firm ideas of what a good drawing was and wasn’t and mine WASN’T, ergo I was a bad drawer and therefore life-drawing class which I went to … maybe 3 times… wasn’t enjoyable even though something about it really resonated for me – and I wanted to enjoy it – and used to look forward to going until the familiar sense of dissatisfaction sank in. 17 years later. I BLOODY LOVED IT!

So what’s changed? And does any of this sound familiar?

Of course what’s changed is my attitude to it, to drawing, to myself, and the reason for that is mindfulness, creative mindfulness. I’ve learnt through practicing myself and teaching many others that the most important instrument you draw with is your mind, and if we hold too tightly with it, the marks we make are tense and cramped and hesitant and have a certain lifelessness about them and we don’t enjoy it. But if we learn to let go with our mind, to just *be* in the act of eye following contour and hand following eye, and pencil following hand, that then the marks we make on the page spring to life, full of energy, interesting, loose, free lines that make us happy.

It takes time to develop a sense of trust in this process, and even the mindfulness of drawing a line, making a mark, takes some practice, but it’s such enjoyable practice. And what happened today for me – 17 years on from my last life class – was that I had that trust, that confidence to just be, just look, just allow it to unfold on the page – I could get out the way and *be* the process of drawing, rather than a tense drawer trying to get it right. And of course when we let go everything is easier, everything comes out better. My drawings aren’t perfect, the young me would say this bit is out of proportion, and *that* one looks a bit weird – but this me doesn’t care (halleluja!) because I so enjoyed the process of making them and I love them.

I wish I could time-travel, whisk back to 1998 and teach that younger me what I know now. But at least I know it now – and am so grateful that I get to share it with others.

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