I realized last night that of my 25+ years working as a creative designer, I’ve only been drawing for two.
That’s right: two.
Think of all the years I could have been seeing differently; the memories I could have made richer just by picking up a pencil and sketching the world around me. A lot has happened during those 25+ years, but I doubt I’ll remember it all nearly as well as I might have had I taken the time to draw and write about it.
Starting a nature journal (and later, an illustrated journal) transformed how I see and think. I’ve been passionate about mindfulness and systems for most of my life, but I had no idea how much more there was to the world around me until I started making time to slow down and pay close enough attention to really notice and draw things.
There’s something special about those moments when I draw a subject before me. The way I see changes, and the commonplace transforms into something wonderous right before my eyes. I believe repeating this practice on a regular basis has helped me feel a deeper sense of connection to the world around me...and has maybe even made me a better person.
I think this is why I love even my ugliest drawings so much (most of them are ugly, btw). My drawings are my ticket stubs to life’s moments.
When I draw, my brain slips into a flow state where I absorb so much more detail. When I look back at my drawings, memories of where I was sitting, who I was with, the time of day, how the air smelled, whether there was background noise or music—and so on—at the time I drew them become as vivid as any of the watercolors in my palette.
Historically, as a digital creator, I was able to fuss and refine with unlimited ‘undos’ until I loved my final product. Drawing and painting offer me no such refuge (there are no Ctrl+Zs when you’re watercoloring), and I’ve had moments where I’ve felt quite discouraged, especially in the beginning, when my goal was centered on the product rather than the process.
I was discouraged because I was looking only at the drawing itself, and the drawing itself looked nothing as I had hoped. When I changed how I approached drawing and focused instead on the process, it freed me from myself and allowed me to just make. It was liberating.
Keeping an illustrated journal has helped me live more intentionally, and I love how combining my insights with my observations from drawing, writing, and noticing has changed the way I look at everyday life.
I wrote this article because I want to contribute to others who are also interested in leading a more intentional life through drawing and journaling. I’ve been inspired by a lot of wonderful creators over the years, and I’d love to pay that forward in my own way by providing encouragement to you to consider starting (or re-starting) your own drawing practice.
See if it helps you see differently, too.