If you’re looking at the sketch, you perceive that I am not an artist. And yet I draw. It’s fun. In fact, the very fact that I’m not good at it, not gifted as an artist, is liberating. I have no expectations of myself regarding the outcome. It’s sheer play.
Judy Ward Thomas got me started. We were browsing around in a store that carried off-beat gifts and books, including a book with a blank page for each day of the year and a challenge to draw some particular thing on that day (“Draw a hippopotamus,” “Draw something yellow” “Draw frustration.”) We were inspired, and decided to buy not that book but small empty journals with no lines on the pages. Our idea was to draw one sketch a day for as many pages are in the books.
Here’s what it does: helps me see.
So, for example, last Sunday afternoon, I reached for my bag to get something or other and inadvertently grabbed my little sketchbook lying there at the bottom of my bag. I decided it would be a good time to do my daily drawing, so I pulled it out and found my favorite pen, the one with the very sharp point.
In order to sketch the day, I had to first see it, so I looked around. What I saw was amazing. I thought, I am in a stunningly beautiful place having a phenomenally delightful experience. It was true. People I love were sitting on both sides of me under a bright blue sky. We were about 10th row center in a gallery of wooden benches. In front of us, another person we love was up on the the Lake Harriet Band Shell stage as part of the Kenwood Symphony Orchestra playing glorious selections from Verdi and Wagner, alternately. Bikers, boaters, and all varieties of dogs and their owners were enjoying the sunshine and music along with us. Swallows were laughing overhead, dodging in and out of the shelter (aiming perfectly at one performer’s head, we learned later!). Through the wall of windows behind the orchestra, clouds and birds. Behind it all, the lake. It was a great day to be alive in God’s world, a created person among created/creative people, listening to skilled musicians performing beautifully composed music.
The sketch took 2 minutes and provided me with a) 2 minutes of play, b) increased awareness of the gifts life was offering to me and a prompt to open them, and c) a souvenir of my joy.
It works the same way in sorrow. During the last 6 weeks, I have been too sick to sketch some days. Drawing requires one to have a certain amount of life in one’s veins. Enough to spare some for the page. But here is one drawing I made during that time.
It’s a box of Kleenexes. It was a day of tears. In my weakness I could do nothing but cry out to God. He heard, and was with me. He was the bed that held me up, the blanket that kept me warm, and the Kleenex box that said it was okay to cry, okay to be weak, okay to not accomplish a thing, okay to rest and wait for healing. I’m glad I sat up and made the effort to sketch the box; now I have a souvenir from that dark, precious time. And I don’t think I had ever really looked at a Kleenex box before—certainly never realized how it epitomizes unconditional acceptance.
In Happiness and Contemplation, Josef Pieper says, “The vital function of the arts in man’s life consists above all in this: that through them contemplation of the created world is kept alive.”
Do you find this to be true?