Somedays, are play days. Before “getting down to work”, I experiment with different papers, brushes, and materials. Otherwise, I can so quickly get too fussy, too absorbed in drawing it “right”. Subject matter comes from some object on my desk, a collection of old “Golden Nature Guides”, a “New Yorker” cover, a book about old wire kitchen implements, favorite picture books, a garlic bulb from the garden.
The process of play allows me the freedom to muck about, there are no mistakes, only observation, and curiosity about the results. I make marks on paper, I test new brush strokes. I contemplate them. I like them, I don’t like them.
I experiment with color, dropping paint into water on the page, swirling two colors together. I make notes about how I achieved a color or I don’t. I create staring birds and happy scarecrows. I make dark black shadows around delicate sketches. I watch the ink flow out of the pen. I press hard, the line is thicker. I don’t, the line is thinner.
Somedays I grab a random item from the house and draw it with ink and then scrape away at the image with an old credit card (see below).
The habit of play days
I find there’s an abundance of information in my life. If I’m not careful with the internet, with Facebook, I am soon immersed in too much wisdom and advice, in too many details of people’s lives. I feel like there are hooks in my attention, all clamoring for some action or emotional response. My energy and my focus get scattered way too thin to be creative.
Messing about with art is such a great purposeless use of time, yet it centers, motivates, and inspires me. I produce something wonderful or I don’t. It carves out space for wonder, for reflection. There’s time for staring out the window. I take a pause from the busyness of each day, and somewhere in my random observations, in the doing nothing of importance, new ideas come. There’s no rush, no stress, nothing to accomplish, no deadlines.
I encourage you to set aside time to play. Choose one aspect of art, such as line, space, repetition or embellishment. Try different pen nibs, use kids’ paints and crayons and see what results you get.
The process is enjoyable. It mostly generates questions. What if..? Isn’t that fascinating? What else could I try? Where might that take me?
Play will inspire you to keep on drawing and painting, to be more reckless and you’ll be delightfully surprised when something exciting happens.
Above – Trying out a china marker. Pulling the pencil slowly over the paper creates interesting lines.