My current journal is filled with drawings and a fair amount of writing. A long time ago my journals were sketchbooks with a few words. Then they became notebooks of mostly words, with a small sketch inserted here or there. The small sketches were illustrations of something I was writing about – a special church steeple, and interesting sign, a fountain… Now I find that I am drawing to write. I am trying to use drawing as a way to see things more deeply in order to describe them better in writing.
I was drawing a beach scene recently: the branches of the palm tree gracefully arching over the sand, framing the water as it lapped the shore. I drew in little marks to indicate the sea debris washed up on the shore, but it looked all wrong. A second, more careful look, showed me that the trail of sea debris (shells and seaweed and the occasional bottle cap) ran parallel to the ocean in a wave-like pattern. Well duh! The waves had deposited this stuff, so it makes so much sense that the debris follows the waves’ patterns. I erased what I had drawn, used a 6B pencil and with soft strokes and smudges, created the trail anew.
In another sketch, I attempted to draw my nemesis – rocks. The beach I was on had a rock cliff wall forming one of its edges. I was a bit at loss on how to establish the correct perspective – the rocks formed no straight line leading me to a point I could use. I kept at it and produced something resembling the scene, but it didn’t capture it very well. I went out in the water and followed the rocks around a bend – no wonder I had a hard time establishing the perspective point. I saw that the dark line where the rocks meet the water is really a shadow where the waves have carved away the rock. The rocks that seem to be outcroppings in the water are actually connected to the rock cliff. The rocks are not just gray, they are brown and tan and all shades in between. I meant to redo my sketch, but never got around to it. If I ever do, I will start with a sweeping line to indicate the path of the rocks as they disappear around the bend.
Last night, as I began to write about my trip using my 6-image poem observations, the words I collected on the trip, and the sketches, I saw the power of the drawings and how they can help me write more detailed, “honest” descriptions.