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Give Your People Presence

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Is Drawing a Spiritual Discipline?

Betty Edwards, in her Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999) calls for a different way of seeing as a beginning point for drawing. In my 60+ days of producing a dumb sketch daily I can say with certainty that my seeing has been altered. I’m open to and actively looking for much more detail in ordinary life. In particular, in the back of my mind I spend my days looking for scenes or objects or people I can reproduce (badly) on paper. And I see far more detail in buildings and structures and postures and faces than I did two months ago.

Starting to see differently feels like a small victory.

Can a dumb sketch help you be present?

Can a dumb sketch help you be present?

Edwards has a long section on brain functionality, how the left brain works versus the right brain. I have a growing skepticism about the neatness of those two categories. I think there is some truth in the distinction. And the distinction works well for release from our typical analytical state into a more meditative zone of creativity. I’ve long depended on that zone for more creative writing assignments. But the research citations feel a bit dated and frankly I’m always a bit skeptical of forced black and white interpretations of complex physiology.

But this notion of sitting with stillness before a scene to observe, capture and (potentially) understand—it feels like a life skill that could and should translate into all sorts of different settings. Slowing to see and hear has begun to awaken all sorts of new thoughts in my brainpan. I find the practice encroaching on normal conversations, on meetings, on writing, on driving and even as I pray.

Especially as I pray.

I cannot help but wonder if learning how to observe, capture and (potentially) understand is a step toward being more present with all the beings in our lives.


Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

February 9, 2015 at 9:00 am

10 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on Dumb Sketch Daily and commented:

    Drawing helps me be more present.


    February 9, 2015 at 9:06 am

  2. She does tend to go on a bit in the opening few chapters! Stick with it until you’ve tried at least a few of the exercises though 🙂


    February 9, 2015 at 3:23 pm

  3. Art is a spiritual practice which invites you to be still and look more closely at reality. In addition art’s creations are ways for us to give beauty and messages to each other. So, it serves a social/collaborative function, too. Those little nothing drawings I make with the “inspirational” messages allow me to do something besides just looking and seeing better. Art gives me a gift to give. Even a crummy little sketch can bring delight to someone. Try it: give away your little sketches with a nice message.
    I admire this column.


    February 9, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    • I’m really crazy about the “collaborative” function of dumb little sketches. They seem to invite comment. I know that you do give away your message with cool, colorful art, which is neat. Thanks for your words.


      February 9, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    • Patricia, do you have a blog? I’d love to see your work. (Sorry for butting in)


      February 9, 2015 at 6:25 pm

      • Amen!


        February 9, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      • I’m glad you commented. Patricia has a ton of important stuff to say. I first came in contact with her “Improv Wisdom,” which I’m exploring using in a writing class. If you go to her Twitter page (@patryanmadson) you’ll see some of her wonderful art.


        February 9, 2015 at 7:13 pm

  4. I love your writing! Man, I totally agree with you on this. It is meditative, drawing. As meditative as prayer, yoga and meditation. No doubt. Isn’t it wonderful to look at the same scenery totally differently?


    February 9, 2015 at 6:24 pm

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