Skip links

Drawing & Mindfulness

This past weekend I lead some wonderful folks at Dharmata Sangha of Austin in a drawing meditation workshop using drawing as a way to cultivate mindfulness. This group of adults spent 3 hours learning how to use a classical line drawing exercise that I regularly teach in my drawing lessons, as a way to enhance their meditation practice, and experience the calming effect of being present.

My idea to use drawing as a form of cultivating mindfulness was hard-earned during my nearly 20 years of dragging myself day in and day out (some days kicking and screaming) to the art studio to create. Some days are blessed: my mind is clear and the practice of making comes easily. Other days, my cluttered mind stifles my creativity and chatters so loudly I wind up leaving the studio with little accomplished besides circular thought! For me, choosing to be a professional artist requires that I take on a daily wrestling match with my head, to ensure that more days than not, I am lucid enough and present enough to create.

Through my art teaching, I’ve witnessed that I am not alone in this “loud mind syndrome”. Some days my students can reign it in, and other days they merely plop their behinds down on the studio chair and do their best to get something accomplished toward our commitment, because they said they would do so. On the days when we’re in the flow of things, when our minds quiet and still, so that we may really be present, both to our bodies and the world around us, we get to engage in the most beautiful process of creation. We get to sit quietly, attentively, and ideas, images and honed craftsmanship pours out of us.

After years of seeing others experience the same restorative mindfulness that can be achieved while making art, I want to assist others in gaining access to this state of being. I am offering these drawing/meditation workshops, not so that these students can learn to make art, but so they may merely get to experience the quietude that happens when we are fully engaged in the process.

This weekend’s workshop with the people of Dharmata Sangha was just lovely. I heard some really great comments such as “when I started drawing the leaves on the trees, I had the experience of delving into each leaf, as if there was no separation between nature and myself.” I took pictures of the drawings from the workshop, but guess what? In this workshop, the drawing is just a by-product. They are merely a recorded history of our experience of making the drawing, and the adventure in creating and being present is more important to remember. So who needs to see any drawings anyway?!

  1. A wonderful approach, and one that is very close to my own heart (both the battle and the benefits)! So nice to see someone harnessing the power of drawing for this practice, so important in our very busy, chatter-filled (both inside and out) modern world. To draw something allows one to connect with it–really SEE it–in such an unparalleled fashion; this, together with the presence it both cultivates and necessitates, makes for an exceedingly powerful combination. Let me know if you teach a workshop in Southern California!

  2. I have a question so i’m doing a project on how drawing helps you be mindful is there anything in particular that you could draw that makes you more mindful.

    1. Hi Eliana! Thank you for this question, I’d love to hear more about your project. There are two exercises that I teach in the process of learning to draw things realistically, that easily create a meditative state in both kids and adults. I have a video tutorial on one of them up on the site, Step 3: How to Draw a Blind Contour Drawing . The other exercise is learning to shade, and I am filming that video tutorial this week, so it will be on the site shortly. What the two exercises have in common are that they have a very narrow focus that require you to be FULLY PRESENT the entire time. If your attention strays, your drawing demonstrates it. By staying focused with your eyes & mind, making very small movements with your pencil, you can easily enter a meditative state- where thoughts or feelings arise but you don’t grasp onto them. My meditation teacher says “The heart of meditation is the awareness that is like this vast sky. All arising thoughts and feelings are like clouds. They appear and vanish into it. The sky does not reject or claim them.” In the same way, these drawing exercises allow those thoughts to be there, but if you follow them- your drawing will suffer. If you bring yourself back to the present moment, refocus on the movement of the pencil and your eyes/hand, you will know what it is like to experience meditation. Happy to send you other references or chat more if you need more for your project. Hope this helps! Laurie

Comments are closed.