Why Drawing Matters

November 7, 2018
Maybe what catches your eye is the corner of the curb in a parking lot where the weeds are refusing to give up to fall. (Strathmore 400 Series Toned Mixed Media Paper and black color pencil.)

Drawing matters for a number of reasons.

Last week I had a note from a past student who had recently lost her mother. The student had stopped drawing for months. Grief disrupts life in a thousand ways.

When I was writing to her I was thinking about my own maternal loss this year, the death of Phyllis, and how I have been and have not been coping with it—grief is complicated.

My grief intensified my drawing practice. My sketching habit is well established and it’s part of how I process, so in cases of loss, I tend to draw more. But that doesn’t help if someone has shut down, so I thought about what is important about drawing. 

Grief requires a response. That response can be healthy or unhealthy. We have to check ourselves and make sure that any response keeps us in the world instead of taking us out of it.

And I wrote this to my student:

Sketching helps to train us to improvise; to take what is before us and what we have with us and respond to it [what is before us] in the present moment. And that practice is something that we can then take out into the rest of our lives. I don’t think that makes us better people, but I think it makes us more resilient.

Another corner of a parking lot for a quick five minute sketch. It’s also a good way to test paper. (4 x 6 inch block of Fluid 100 watercolor paper.)

We need to be resilient to get through all that life gives us.

Drawing matters because it can help us with that resiliency.

Do some spontaneous drawing today—whether you are out and about, or simply passing the table and see the fruit bowl!

What you draw isn’t important.

It doesn’t even have to look like anything to anyone. (I’m the only one who knows that first drawing in this post was meant to be a fully rendered gouache painting but I was interrupted. I can still “see” that painting.)

What is important is the act of drawing because of what it gives you: the pause, the breath, the noticing. It will bring you back to the present moment. And that is important.

    • Jen
    • November 7, 2018

    When I lost my mum I felt a deep desire to perpetuate her existence by focussing on the parts of me that ‘came from’ her. Although she wasn’t an artist she once remarked that she and I both ‘need to’ create, and that need brought me to sketching and this blog through a roundabout path. Embracing and developing what of her is in me brought a great deal of comfort. For me it was certainly true that the ‘doing’ was the important part, not the end product.

    1. Reply

      I’m so glad that you are able to keep your mom alive in your life by honoring your creative side.

  1. Reply

    Thanks, Roz. Sage advice as always. Sometimes we don’t sketch because we don’t find things that are important enough, forgetting that it’s the action of sketching that’s important.

    1. Reply

      Yep, it’s good to remember that drawing matters regardless of the subject matter. And it’s fun to look at something that isn’t “important” and see newness there.

    • Tina Koyama
    • November 7, 2018

    After my mom died, I bought a pack of 50 sheets of 18×24 watercolor paper (student grade) and made 50 abstract paintings. By the time I finished all 50 sheets, I knew how to move forward through my grief. Not that I was over it (that was 9 years ago, and I still grieve occasionally), but I knew what to do. Talk about art therapy! I haven’t had grief like that since, but next time I do, I’ll probably buy a big stack of paper again.

    1. Reply

      I think that’s an excellent thing to do. And a great job at listening to what you needed.

    • Suzanne OURTH-GLESENER
    • November 13, 2018

    Hello Roz,
    I am really touched by your post:
    You turn the most insignificant spot into a lovely sketch and remind me that only the act of sketching is important!
    I started only drawing a few years ago and still struggle, but my best days are the ones I managed to create a little something.

    My mum passed away quite unexpectedly a year ago (along other people who were dear to me) and I am more aware than ever that our lives are made just of certain number of days and that everything is constantly changing and moving and that we have to adapt to those changings.

    The present moment is all we have and all that matters!

    Thank you so much for keeping us inspired!

    With all my best wishes,


    1. Reply

      Thank you for your kind words about my sketch and blog post. I’m so sorry to hear you recently lost your mother. I am so glad you are using your sense of the importance of the present moment to adapt and change and savor those moments. Thanks for writing.

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