Drawing with Mindfulness

March 24, 2017 by Mary Hill   Comments (0)

Here we go again! Sometimes work seems to have a cyclical process. Sometimes a piece of work runs its course or runs out of steam. It seems uncertain where to go next. This is when I return to drawing. I recently completed a Mindfulness Training Course which gave me lots of insights to combine with my drawing practice. The skills of concentrating on a task and learning through a process are often things that many other artists do already. The mindfulness adds an opportunity to become more aware of the skills we have and enables us to use them to serve ourselves and our practice more effectively.

So how can mindfulness help our creative practice?

Mindfulness is about being fully here in the present moment. It is about developing awareness of the body and mind. This can help to slow our minds down. This in turn enables us to make physical space to focus on the task here and now. In this space there is no right and wrong only experience and the ability to notice our own experience. This can enable us to move from a judgemental mind to one that is curious, and asks questions- What if? Where? How? 

What is Mindful Drawing?

When we draw mindfully we bring awareness of our body/posture, thoughts and feelings to the process we are engaged with. This enables us to become aware of the feedback between the physical act of drawing and the creative mind.

Mindfulness training involves repeating meditations which helps to develop concentration and awareness. A drawing meditation combines mindfulness skills with drawing practice. An example of a practice follows. Allow about 10 minutes though can be longer if you wish.

A Mindful Drawing Practice

Before you start your practice you need to have all your materials ready in front of you so that you can stay in the practice and not have to go looking for materials. Its good to have a clear work area so there are not too many distractions. Chose some paper and something simple to draw with such as a pencil or pen.

Make your self comfortable.

Bring your awareness to your posture with your feet on the floor.

Be aware of how you are sitting balanced on your chair and your arms and shoulders relaxed.

Notice your breathing and how the breath comes and goes with out any effort.

When you are ready bring your attention to the materials in front of you noticing how your hands and arms can move effortlessly to pick up the pen and begin to draw.

This is an opportunity to trust in the wisdom of your body and mind.

Just draw whatever comes- there is no right and wrong. It is an opportunity to explore mark making, texture, imagination,observation-what ever is right for you.

When you come to the end of the drawing and put down your pencil bring your awareness back to your breath and the body and then open to the wider room.

This is the end of the practice.

This is something you can do every now and then when you have a moment or you can make it a regular practice. It is important to work in a way that suits you and the way you work as well as exploring new ideas and ways to work which may sustain you and your practice as an artist.



Curious about Time

February 28, 2017 by Mary Hill   Comments (0)

 One of the essential things I am interested in is how when we repeat a task over time it starts to alter our perception of the task in certain ways as well as potentially altering us. Can it also alter the essential nature of the task itself?

With a task that has very clear perimeters as to how it can be done it almost forces us to be creative and to engage our minds in new ways of thinking. This is the challenge I set myself. I work with a limited range of materials and set tasks which I repeat allowing for variations each time. The work begins with drawing and develops into using other materials alongside.

It is this steady deliberate approach which developed an interest into momentary readings which over a period show time passing. Each drawing/reading captures a moment which is immediately past. What can this tell us?

The materials I use for the drawings are ink and paper and willow sticks, thread and stones. Each drawing is on a 10cm x10cm piece of paper. I make a reading with the sticks and stones then draw them noting the date and time.

Out of the drawings and materials other tasks develop. Small 2d drawings with the actual sticks and thread become readings in their own right. 3d pieces develop which are less readings and more sculptural pieces developed with insights from the daily drawings.

Sticks and Stones

January 30, 2017 by Mary Hill   Comments (0)

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This is a new project exploring different ways of making an image with a limited number of sticks and stones. I am interested in developing simple practices inspired by my meditation and mindfulness practice. I make arrangements with six 'charachters', either sticks or stones or a combination and then draw them as a means of documenting and engaging physically with the process.

What is interesting is how such a simple idea quickly develops other meanings and ideas. I noticed that I could have one of three approches to making an image.

1. Random- Where the the stones or sticks are dropped onto the page as if throwing a dice and noting the image that appeared.

2. Random controlled- Where the sticks or stones are deliberately dropped in a certain way with an element of 'risk' and also an element of control.

3. Controlled- Sticks and stones are deliberately arranged in a pattern or form

I found this so interesting that in the simplest of exercises and could demonstrate 3 different research methods.

Binary language

Another thing I noticed is that the arrangements started to create a familiar system (not one that I know much about) - a system in which information can be expressed by the combination of the digits 0 and 1. 

This is evidence to me how playing with simple ideas may open up new ways of understanding problems.

The I ching

The third thing I recognised is how it reminded me of the I ching- an ancient Chinese system of divination involving the use of yarrow sticks. The I ching uses a form of cleromancy, which uses apparently random numbers. 4 numbers, 6-9 are turned into a hexogram which can then be looked up in the i ching book where each hexogram has a meaning.


The common thread here is systems. I am creating systems and there are probably no new systems just reinventions of old ones and new applications. I am using symbols, in the form of sticks and stones, to create a system which helps to understand the thinking process and becomes a creative activity in its own right.


November 25, 2016 by Mary Hill   Comments (0)

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I am still settleing into this project though are interested to see how using my process drawing method can help with character development. I recently finished an MA where I spent a lot of time developing a daily drawing practice to better understand my own learning and development process. I now want to use this knowledge and experience as a means for creative development. It means taking time over a project and letting the work develop organically through a regular work schedule. I have decided to work on a picture book which is not something I have done before as are used to shorter term projects. Ironically doing small daily drawing practices is giving me the stamina to work on larger creative projects. 

I am also beginning to understand the relationship between my more personal projects and my work as facilitator of Drawing for Creativity workshops. It is important to understand the distinction and the interaction between the two areas of work. If I blur the boundaries both can lose focus and get a bit mixed up. However they both feed an underlying interest in how we learn and create. This influences how I work in a participative and collaborative role and how I approach my own art practice.