Saturday, January 19, 2013

Letting Your Hand Wander

During my time in school, sitting in art classes and working on projects, it was a very serious affair. Art was always approached with an intended goal in mind before you'd even laid down your first mark on the fresh paper. Sure, you might sketch a few ideas out on newsprint to figure out spacial proportion, composition, maybe even scratch some color in to form a road map from blank page to masterpiece.

But doodling? Nope. No doodling. We drew from our minds as well as from life in front of us, but we always knew "what" we wanted to draw while we worked. If the budding young artist sitting beside me asked 'Hey Danni, what are you drawing?" I'd respond with something like "An apple tree at sunset, with a girl sitting beneath it reading a book" or "That vase filled with brushes, as a study of light and shadow on glass as well as transparencies." All very specific and structured.

And you know what? I was perfectly fine with that. I still do that with some of my work; sitting down with a clear idea of what I'd like to create and why and working on it until I'm happy with it. It's easy for me, laying down sketches and color and getting from point a to point b. That's how I've always worked, it's how my mind and my hands have been taught to communicate.

When I took Big with Dirty Footprints Studio last year, it was an incredible challenge for me to let that go. To approach the blank page and let loose - to scribble and add color and let my mind and my hand wander. To let my intuition guide me rather than my head. My inner critic had a field day with it; she and my intuition have some trust issues.

It was like doodling on a grandiose scale and I didn't doodle. Had never done so and in fact was positive that I couldn't do so because when presented with a sketch book or other small portable pad of drawing paper, it would collect dust. When I had attempted zentangles and mandalas they weren't what I'd call zen or relaxing at all! The desire to make them look awesome, to make them just so and my inability to let go of creative control made them abject failures for me.

But, while I was taking this class I forced myself to step outside of my artistic comfort zone and take a leap of faith. I surrendered myself to the process of painting fearless and wonderful, powerful things started tumbling from my head. All manner of shapes, symbols, colors and people poured on to my paintings, memories I had tucked away to forget about. It was healing. It was cathartic. Most of all though, letting my hand wander without my emotions getting in the way was freeing.

And now I doodle and sketch constantly. On scraps of paper, envelope backs and most recently in the little hardbound Hobbit Moleskine my best friend gifted to me over the holidays. He said it was for, "you know, ideas or maybe sketches. Whatever you want to put in there." And it sat untouched as I pondered how to start it off perfectly.

After a week of it collecting dust, I stuck it in my purse and carried it around with me for a bit. During a break at the day job I pulled it out, having forgotten the book I was reading at home, thumbed through it picked a page at random and started to sketch. Who says you have to start at the beginning anyway? And now that Moleskine and I are inseparable.

And it even has my first mandalas in it. They aren't "perfect" but they're exactly what I needed.


  1. Love it! My art classes in school were very much the same. You had to have an idea of what the piece was supposed to finish like. But my other classes were filled with me doodling on my bookcovers, folders, binders, anything that would just let my mind and pen wander. Keep doodling!!

  2. I think your mandalas are perfect! :0) And your little book is just what you need to help keep those creative juices flowing. :0)

  3. oh the joy of being in the moment.....huzzah dear one. the doodles are perfectly you. Oma Linda

  4. Your doodles are very nice :)

    Art classes definitely seems to feed the inner critic! I too find doodling and intuitive painting and drawing to be the thing that soothes my creative impulses without answering to my inner critic.

    With sketchbooks, I usually skip the first page, telling myself "I'll have time for a perfect first page later, right now it's time to make things!"


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