While I’ve been over here talking about intuitive painting and process painting and art zen, and such, I’ve had a niggling problem that’s needed solving and I just couldn’t find a way to even fully define it, never mind sort it. I’ve been thinking about it. Thinking hard about it. Wrestling with it, even. I did everything but feel about it.
A concept that I have been quite conscious and aware of for several months now is how the balance of intention and intuition is important in my art making (and life). One is the yin to the other’s yang. I need them both to be present in my work.
Several years ago, I developed a process I call “Drawing Toward Insight” (“DTI”) to help myself and others to solve problems and build personal awareness by using what I believe is a universal language of imagery. All humans have access to and understanding of this. We use the same kinds of marks to visually describe emotions and actions, and we can all learn how to use these to express things we might not be able to articulate with words.
For example, which of these images expresses sadness? Joy? Anger?
Pretty obvious, right?
By setting an intention before putting pencil to paper and deliberately seeking to explore a feeling, another person, or a situation without using words, we can tap into that universal language and gain insight into what we already unconsciously know. Really, it works. Take a look at this drawing by a participant in a DTI workshop.
They described it in this way after studying their drawing:
“This is a drawing of discord between two people. The person on the left is more sad than angry, but the person on the right is more angry than sad. They are not willing to talk about that thing between them, and so are at an impasse”
Finally, after doing yet more thinking about my situation, I remembered that I have this wonderful tool I can use to help me resolve stuff! (
Physician, Artist, heal thyself! ) So I got to work.
First, I sat quietly and set my intention: I wanted to gain insight into the roots of my feelings about a situation with an important person in my life.
When I was clear about my intention, I started drawing. I quickly felt moved to make bigger marks than a pencil would give me and add color to help describe emotions. The first several minutes went like this:
When I felt like I had made all the marks and spent all the energy I had around my intention, I stopped.
The next step is to put it aside and walk away for a few minutes or an hour, or even the next day. I wanted to give myself a chance to settle before I came back to look with objective eyes and made some notes.
Now, this might look a right mess to you, but to me there are several significant shapes and lines that I recognize as part of my own personal language of imagery. Where I placed those shapes on the page and in relationship to others began to tell me a story about how I was perceiving time and energy. The passage of time and exchange of energy. Which I really didn’t think had anything to do with the situation at hand! Turns out they do.
As I analyze my drawings, I turn the page 90°, then 180°, then again, until I see it from every angle. Sometimes things appear when the page is upside down that I totally miss in the original orientation.
I asked myself questions like, what do those colors represent to me? Why would I draw something that looks like a door with a window in it? Is that an ocean wave? Where did I leave empty spaces and what might those mean and why did I leave them where I did? There is meaning in all of this.
As I answered those questions and began to understand the current status of the situation, I realized that I wanted to go back in and simplify some of the “noise” that I felt was not contributing to a resolution and settled on this:
It’s not great art; it’s not meant to be.
It’s like a private diary that no one has a key to but me. I know the intention. I know the context of the images and shapes and colors I put on the paper and they are meaningful only to me. Every time I look at this, I will remember what the problem was and how I arrived at a solution.
I’ve conducted several workshops using this Drawing Toward Insight framework. Nearly all participants, curiously, have not been artists. They have been astounded at the things they did not know that they already knew and how anyone, no, everyone, can do this.
Yes, even you who are right now telling me that you can’t even draw a stick figure, YOU can do this.
If you’d like to find out more, leave me a comment. I’m interested in your thoughts. And thanks again for connecting and giving me the gift of your time.
Ok that is super interesting. Have I told you about this book called The First Signs: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Worlds First Symbols....? First let me say it is a science book about this researcher who researches the symbols in ancient caves. Not cave art per se but the first symbols like hand prints and other seemingly random marks. There is a language to the mark making we use today that is connected to ancient marks from 10’s of thousands of years ago. It’s fascinating! Anyway, you might dig it.