The Art of Drawing: unlocking through lines
Updated: May 29, 2022
- with artist, photographer and art director Ana Rita Sousa
In 2021, Ana Rita was feeling burnt out and flat both personally and professionally. She had lost motivation and felt paralysed for months – feelings I heard echoed by multiple friends during the peak of the pandemic.
She was looking for a way to come back to herself, and drawing proved helpful.
Earlier this year she committed to a 40-day drawing practice each morning – "committing to continuity felt like an extension to what I was already doing [drawing], but with structure. It felt like a good exercise to test if something would actually change in my practice and mindset."
"The continuity in practice brought motivation and an overall sense of accomplishment. And even when at times I felt stuck, I knew I would move through that, by drawing."
Can you describe the practice? Drawing has been a form of disconnecting from screens and overthinking, and consequently connecting with self on a deeper level. Not rationally. Intuitively and instinctively.
It is also a tool to develop trust in a primal type of knowledge.
It's fluid and unpredictable (at least I try to focus on that). As a form of letting go of perfectionism, I focus on being present and as much as I can try not to predict or expect an outcome. The practice is the process. More recently the practice became quite therapeutic. I struggled with anxiety and while recovering from a burn out last year, I started to use drawing as a tool to express what I couldn't otherwise. Intuitively I came up with several different practices within drawing that would help me overcome states of anxiety and restlessness.
For instance, an exercise I refer to as unlocking through lines, involved me mapping mental, emotional and physical sensations through drawing – and by doing so repeatedly, I experience the ability to unlock creative and other blockages.
What prompted you to begin? I wanted to practice continuity and discipline as well creative resilience. Also, I aspired to experience a state of flow more often.
What was the method behind your practice? The process of drawing was often very fluid, until I got curious about making it a daily habit, and decided to do the 40 days practice. I identified a few patterns within my practice and decided to create a type of formula that I would repeat each day. Just like morning pages I did three pages each day.
01 I HAVE NO WORDS Late last year I started to weave in calligraphy and writing elements to my line drawing. That revealed to be as powerful as having a secret language in which words were not necessary to express myself. So the first drawing everyday was a wordless letter. No thinking ahead, no planning, just burst into the paper as if that was the most important thing I could ever write down.
02 I FEEL Line work has been a tool to map out and express emotions as they come and go. I had the chance to experience a few moments where nothing else seemed to work, but these simple exercises would help me to connect with my emotions, as well as physical sensations and shifting them at times. The second drawing was a representation of how I felt every morning. Quick mental, physical and emotional scan and once again, no planning ahead, simply drawing.
03 I TAKE SPACE Draw a shape taking as much or as little space in the page without ever lifting my pen from the paper. Never repeating it. I have done this for quite some time, it has always been really fun because there is no time for anticipation and when you do it continuously your library of shapes starts to enlarge really quickly. With time, I realised it was a great exercise to learn how to take space. And to do it with determination. These were the qualities I had in mind for the third drawing.
What have you discovered through the practice? Continuity and structure in practice are game changers. This simple exercise brought motivation and an overall sense of accomplishment.
I also learned and confirmed, the more you practice, the more you want to practice. Practice unlocks practice (like sports, meditation, learning a new language). You build fluency and frequency and that allows flow to happen.