Drawing to Write

rocks1.JPG
My first attempt at drawing the rocks – what a mess.

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.

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12 thoughts on “Drawing to Write”

  1. I love hearing your thinking as you sketch, and believe those rocks look wonderful. The revising makes me want to look again, to find just those lines that make it right, at least in my eyes. Sketching into the writing is a good eye, helps with the thoughtful story, doesn’t it?

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  2. I enjoyed reading about your drawings. It seems you have a real talent and now using those drawings to help describe writing is wonderful. Don’t stop now!

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    1. I have a wide variety of notebooks, everything from composition notebooks to artsy journals. I often receive notebooks/journals as gifts from family and friends. Currently I’m using a 5-and-a-half-inch by 8 inch Strathmore art journal that my son gave me, along with sketching gear. Some of the pages are drawings only, others are all writing and others are a mix of the two. I have some pages pre-gridded for writing to remind me to try things like looking for sensory detail.

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  3. There exists in this writing life an ebb and flow between drawing and writing. Illustrator friends tell me frequently that they find their stories in the drawing. I need the words to visualize. Your post is reflective of these processes. I enjoyed your thoughts and words.

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  4. I think your sharing is crisp, ordered, and so well written that it is easy to feel your sense of things. You offer the fall and the growth of writing in such a way that the reader feels a commonality with you and you with them. Amazing!!!

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  5. Just as trying to write does for me, drawing did for you- required you to challenge your first impressions and go back to look for more detail and- more important- the reason behind the line. I thought of you this evening– I was in a new store just selling the most beautiful journals! I wasn’t tempted for myself, but you do a nice journal justice!

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  6. This piece fascinates me since it is all about the process you take with your sketches/writing. I am not much into producing art, so it was helpful to hear more of your process and how the drawings help you with the writing.

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