Occasionally I hit rough patches with my drawing. It’s not a block or a rut, because the desire to draw is still there, but nothing good will emerge from my pen or pencil. As I’m making these rough drawings I hear my inner critic shouting at me that my work sucks, my drawings are no good, and that I should just pack it all up and never draw again. That’s how the critic works. The asshole* in my head waits until my defenses are down and then starts to wail on my already frayed nerves. It’s not so much that I give up, rather I keep plugging away, filling up page after page with shitty drawings.
And that is what I’ve been doing. Over the last few weeks I’ve had a load of crap on my shoulders, real worry inducing crap. The kinda crap I can’t just take my mind off. It’s always there and pervasive. This is when I’ve found my pen starts to create shit on the page. Noses off, eyeballs in the wrong direction, proportions that would make Picasso proud.
The thing is, that this shit, is gold where art journaling is concerned. Shitty drawings give me a window into my head in a way good drawings don’t. I can see the weight of everything that is on my mind in my bad drawings. I’ve regressed 2 years back in my drawing habit. This has nothing to do with the goodness or badness of the art (the art itself is just fine) it has to do with what I personally see in the art. Yes, there are specific things like proportion, perspective, and other REAL problems in the art, but that makes the drawing neither bad nor good, it simply IS.
A art therapy guy named Shawn McNiff ** writes about having a dialog with your art. That you should have a conversation with your piece, and listen to what it tells you. While I find that idea a tad whooo whooo frou frou for my tastes, I do listen to my art, I look at it and gain perspective on what is going on in my life. Like reading your own tea leaves or tarot cards, listening to your art is focus driven and largely a meditative process.
I’ll get more into how I personally reflect on my pages in a future post.
It was good to identify why my drawings were turning out “shitty.” Being able to look through my book*** and see on this day my drawings were really off, and on this day this happened, it was really weighing on my mind= invaluable lessons. Once I identified what was weighing on my mind I was able to break through the barricade in my head and the drawings started to flow from my pen and onto the page in my usual style.
*Yes, I often, and usually refer to my inner critic as the asshole-in-my-head.
** Check out his book: McNiff, S. (2004). Art heals: how creativity cures the soul. Boston: Shambhala. While I find many of his ideas about art therapy to be whoo whoo frou frou, he has many ideas that are VERY applicable to art journaling.
*** I’ve taken to calling my art journal “my book” why exactly I’m not sure, but I have.