Among the many forms of visual art, drawing is a powerful representation of the human imagination, spanning time from ancient markings on stone to contemporary expressions on digital platforms. The allure of drawing transcends ages, cultures, and mediums. Even the earliest documented human drawing, found in South Africa’s Blombos Cave, dates back 73,000 years. From the cave to canvases, pencils and charcoals in hand, it endures as a universal language of expression and creativity. This unbroken thread, intertwined with our very essence, is now evolving as a perfect antidote to the digital era’s relentless pull.
Drawing: A Timeless Language of Expression
Julia Balchin, principal of the Royal Drawing School in London, underscores the innate connection between drawing and human expression. She explains, “Before you can even talk, walk, or read, you can draw. Because of this, it usually serves as our first mode of communication.” Throughout history, drawing has been a cornerstone of artistic practice, from the Renaissance to modern times. Icons like Leonardo da Vinci and contemporary artists like Tracey Emin have harnessed the power of drawing to convey their visions, whether anatomical studies or personal emotions.
The journey of these activity hasn’t been without its ebbs and flows. The 1970s witnessed a dip in drawing’s popularity, especially life drawing, which was deemed unfashionable by the academic art world. Schools like the Slade and the Royal Academy even ceased teaching it. To address this decline, the Royal Drawing School (RDS) emerged in 2000, dedicated to offering a haven for artists and enthusiasts to explore the realm.
Resurgence Amid Digital Drain
Drawing, once overshadowed, has reclaimed its significance, catalyzed by its therapeutic effects and the craving for genuine connection amid digital saturation, further amplified during pandemic lockdowns. The Royal Drawing School witnessed an uptick in student enrollment during the pandemic, with numbers doubling in 2020 and consistently growing. Life drawing, accounting for over half of the school’s modules, provided an avenue for people to regain a sense of human touch and interaction, even in a virtual environment.
Meditation and Screen Time Limits
The act of drawing isn’t just a creative endeavor; it’s a tactile experience that offers respite from the digital whirlwind. Mark-making, whether with a pencil or charcoal, taps into our haptic skills, grounding us in a tangible world. This connection offers a welcome pause from screen-induced mental fatigue, contributing to improved mental health. In the UK, the benefits of art therapy are even accessible through the NHS.
Healing Through Expression
Drawing’s therapeutic potential extends far beyond its physical aspects. Artist Emily Haworth-Booth, who found solace in mindful painting during her struggle with ME, highlights how it became an anchor in her turbulent times. The act allowed her to be present, reassuring herself of reality’s solidity and offering relief from anxiety. This healing aspect is echoed by artist John Hewitt, who likens drawing’s meditative quality to yoga, creating a space where thoughts recede, and a sense of calm takes over.
Drawing: A Gateway to Self and World
Claire Gilman, chief curator at the Drawing Center in New York, observes the surge of interest in drawing during lockdowns, driven by a universal desire to translate feelings into tangible forms. Drawing invites us to perceive the world in a new light, encouraging a deep observation that enriches our emotional palette. Roger Malbert, curator and contemporary art writer, views painting as a transformative tool, shifting our perspectives and broadening our emotional horizons. By guiding us to truly see, these activity offers respite from screen-induced detachment, grounding us in genuine experiences.
Art for Healing and Expression
Chinese artist Zhang Yanzi infuses her delicate drawings with themes of “medicine and spiritual wellbeing.” She believes that art may heal emotional wounds. The soothing effects of drawing aren’t limited to artists. Artist Charlie Mackesy turned to painting as a form of processing trauma, creating poignant illustrations that resonated deeply with others.
Drawing: A Profound Connection
In an increasingly digital world, drawing stands as a refuge of tangible creation and connection. With each stroke, we engage with our haptic senses, distancing ourselves from the digital drain. The surge in interest during lockdowns demonstrates drawing’s universal allure – a shared experience that transcends screens. By offering solace, healing, and fresh perspectives, painting serves as a timeless remedy to the strains of modernity. It’s a gateway to the self, a channel for human connection, and a bridge between the physical and the emotional. As we lift our pencils, we engage in a profound dialogue with the world, enriching our lives through the act of creation.