My mind is often cluttered with things on my to do list with little time for stillness. And maybe that’s because I think I don’t have the time, I simply don’t make the time or sometimes it doesn’t even occur to me to have “me” time. Maybe I should add “be still” on my daily list of things to do.
Throughout my life I’ve undertaken various mindfulness activities not just your traditional and more commonly known meditation activity. One activity that I always seem to come back to keep me centred, give me clarity and still my mind, is sketching.
Sketching can be social or a solitude activity, depending on your mood.
Now I know some of you reading this might be thinking “but I don’t draw or sketch and don’t know how to”, it’s ok I’ll show you how you can slow your busy mind with a simple sketch. If you already know how to sketch then this post is a good reminder to take some time out to do this activity at least once a week.
Sketching to still your mind isn’t so much about the end result of an “amazing” sketch, it’s about the process of sketching and the wellness it brings.
With a lot of our daily activities and tasks we can be easily distracted by the have to’s and should do’s but with sketching from life or on location (which is what I prefer to do) there’s a large element of being in the moment and having to be present through observation.
Let’s begin : 7 Simple Sketching Steps to Stillness
Before you begin, consciously make the decision to relax, be curious, and have fun! This is a relaxing activity.
- Start by turning off your smart phone or at least put it on mute for the next 20-60 mins depending on how long you choose to spend on this activity. Allow yourself to have the time to enjoy this exercise.
- Give yourself permission to have some me time to create stillness in your mind. You might want to get yourself a cup of tea/coffee/juice before you begin. You might want to do this before you head to work, during your lunch break or at the end of the day after dinner. Whichever time you choose just be sure you are less likely to be interrupted.
- Get a pen . Any pen will do, it doesn’t need to be fancy like a fountain pen. I prefer to use a fine line pen that you can get from OfficeWorks or your local supermarket or newsagent. I discourage you from using a pencil. With a pencil, there is a tendency to want to erase any “mistakes” you feel you have made sketching. We don’t want that. There’s is no such thing as mistakes in my book. To me it’s all expressive and creative lines. They’re all meant to be there.
- Get a piece of paper or something to sketch on. Again nothing fancy just a simple A4 piece of photocopy paper will suffice. Or if you prefer a little notebook or sketchbook if you intend to continue sketching as a pastime.
- Choose your subject either a piece of toast (one with lots of holes and interesting patterns) a piece of bark, or a cracker.
- Spend 1-2 minutes really looking at your subject. Look at it with a child-like curiosity. Take your time with this step and don’t rush it. Pick up your toast/cracker/bark and have a close look at it, look at it as if its the first time you are seeing it and have never seen one before. Be curious. Notice all the lines, bumps, and holes. Notice the colour and shades, the dark and the light. Notice the texture, what does it feel like between your finger tips and in your hand. Bring it close to your nose and smell it, what does it smell like. Imagine what it taste like. Be curious about it.
- Now it’s time to put pen to paper. Just keep in mind that all you are doing is sketching shapes on different parts of your paper. A sketch is a series of shapes put together. So just look at the shapes in your subject.
Now hold the pen lightly and loosely, there’s no need to press hard or hold your pen tightly. Begin with the outer core/edges of your subject. In the example given in the photo I begin with the outline of the toast. I slowly begin to follow the line around the toast with my eyes and pen at the same time and there’s no right or wrong way to follow the lines, just as long as you keep it slow. Just imagine a snail moving along those lines and your pen is following that snail. You can go a little faster but just keep it slow. Just be mindful of the shapes you are looking at and add them slowly to your sketch. Once you have finished this then chose another point to follow or a shape to add to your sketch. You may choose to shade it in or not (you can use hatch/ cross hatch lines to create shading and depth, or you can just leave it – see photo below). Each time you see something new in your subject add it to your sketch.
Remember to keep it slow and loose, be curious about your subject. Stop when you feel you have finished. You may want to come back to it later or you might feel that you have finished and want to try something else. Just simply enjoy the process of slowing down and being present.
Do this a couple of times a week and to slow down and be still and in the moment.
Things to notice :
- your breathing will slow down
- your muscles will relax
- some of your senses if not all will be heightened and you will become more aware
- you will see things in your subject you have never noticed before.
- you will have a new appreciation for the small everyday things.
Let me know how you go with this activity here in the comments or feel free to email me . I would love to hear from you. Attach your sketch too if you like I’d love to see it.