I picked up this book, Drawing on the Artist Within, by Betty Edwards, after reading a comment about it somewhere on an art blog. I was already familiar with her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and this book suggested some really interesting ideas about the act of drawing.
Drawing on the Artist Within is more about increasing creativity and it's really pretty interesting. There is an exercise somewhere in the middle that I performed the other night and I thought it was worth mentioning.
She tells you to take a piece of paper and fold it into eighths. You label each of the 8 sections with various emotions, such as anger, peacefulness, etc.. You are to draw using lines (no pictures, no symbols, think analog!) and express the emotion. So I do this. I sat there for about 15 minutes and drew. Next, you compare your drawings with other people's examples in the book. This is where the stunning part happens. Amazingly enough, the drawings are quite similar. Your drawing of peace looks sort of like my drawing of peace!! I think this is an astounding thing, and a great personal discovery.
This means that underneath our layers of words and speech, looks and fashion, nationalities and religions, we all understand and "speak" the same visual language. That is so empowering!! What a confidence builder! It means that when I sit down to do a piece of artwork, and I want to share my feelings of loneliness and emptiness, there's a good chance that if I "listen" to my inner voice when placing objects on the page, I will be able to convey that message to you. Listening to the voice is key though, and it's easy to let other things sneak in and influence what you put in a given piece of art. That must be the "work" part of art. It's work to keep focused on your own idea, your own reflection and your own voice.