Andrew Marr’s book about drawing is largely a picture book with lots of illustrations using either conventional pencils and paint or his iPad. It is a nice book to leaf through just to look at the pictures, and he is a talented artist. There are some delightful drawings of his daughters, for example and interesting sketches of his travels. But he also has very interesting things to say about creativity, and in particular, making. The book is an exhortation to people to take up making, as much as it is about drawing. So he says on page 90:
Drawing will make you a better person – not morally necessarily, but it makes you think. It will help you see hidden patterns all around you, and make you a discriminating lover of landscape, faces, and mundane objects. It becomes an education, which changes your brain as much as learning to play the piano or to dance. It is about striving to become more fully human.
He acknowledges that drawing involves a certain vulnerability:
To draw is to display yourself – your own mind, the quality of your memory and attentiveness. (p. 62)
But, he argues, we have a propensity for drawing:
To try to take down the world in in the shorthand notation of line seems a very simple thing to do. We seem to have an instinct for it. Mankind has drawn for as long as the record goes back. But once you begin you realise it is also a personal gamble. (p. 63)
One of the strong arguments in the book is that to make is to be fully human, and people who don’t make are denying part of themselves. I have a folk belief that making things makes us healthier, and that stultifying our creativity causes all sorts of illnesses. I don’t think that makng will make you live forever – my father made radio-controlled model airplanes all his life and died very young, but I do believe that not finding an outlet for our creativity adds to our stress levels and degree of satisfaction with the world. As Marr says, there is a very simple joy to be had in making something which has never existed in the world.
I have been interested to observe my own progress making daily zentangles. It really does make you see the world differently. I look for patterns which I could adapt to make a zentangle pattern in the world around me. I like sitting back having created something that wasn’t there before. And, I think, the daily discipline is making me a better drawer. No-one seems to want to hear that drawing is about practice, but I think it is: practice and confidence which are intertwined.
There is a review of Marr’s book which contains his thoughts about how having his stroke made him a better drawer at the following link:
The book is published by Quadrille, 2013.