I Draw

What do you do that is so important to you that you would do it even if no one knew about it? Why is this meaningful to you? (up to 500 words)

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve drawn. First with crayons, but once I discovered pencils, they’ve been the only medium for me. I carry a sketch book everywhere I go. At last count, I have more than fifty sketch books crammed with drawings I’ve made over the years.

My earliest drawings feature birds, planes and superheroes. I was obviously obsessed with things that could fly. I moved on to buildings – an extension of Legos and Minecraft (yes some girls do Legos and Minecraft!). Two years ago, when I travelled to the Dominican Republic, I shifted to gadgets and people. At first, it was just an alternative to using my phone to take pictures because we went to villages where electricity for charging was scarce. The first drawings from that trip are diagrams of the biomass stoves we were helping families build. In the margins, I’d scribble notes of possible improvements. One day, I found myself so captivated by an old woman selling strange vegetables on the side of the road that I frantically did a quick study of her face. Looking back at it, it is clear that I was fascinated by her eyes because that’s where I put the detail.

I draw for myself and only for myself. I’ve never given my drawings away because they are my visual journal, a private set of reflections and I certainly don’t imagine a time when I would pursue art as a profession. So why do I draw?

I draw because it helps me see more and see differently. I favor a hyper-realistic style, therefore I must look very carefully at anything I draw. Every detail matters. I’ve trained myself to be a human camera and to look without judgment in order to make drawings that are faithful representations of my subjects. I don’t see the scar on the face as disfiguring, I simply see it as a jagged line that has different shadows and tones than the surrounding skin. I’ve also learned that a change of perspective gives me new details to enhance the drawing. Drawing the biomass stove from the point of view of the person assembling it gave me insight into the reason that the instructions we were giving were confusing to so many.

I draw because it frees my brain from its endless stream of chatter and daily worries. Once I start drawing, I’m in the zone and I think only about the next mark on the paper. It is extremely relaxing. I’ve also discovered that my unconscious is often still at work solving a problem while I’m busy with my pencils and sketch book. The intractable calculus problem suddenly has an obvious solution when I come back to it after a drawing break.

Finally, and perhaps, most importantly, I draw because I love to draw. Always have, always will.