A drawing is more than a photo

How it all started. I saw a pair of peregrine falcons mating, and was compelled to jot down the sighting in a very simple way.

A few weeks ago I started a daily drawing practice. Although I didn’t realise it at the time. I just happened upon a pair of peregrine falcons mating, and you don’t see that every day. I thought – wow! I should make a note of that. And I made a simple drawing and some written notes. I called it ‘A nature thrill’. I texted it to a nature-loving friend who was going through a tough time. Maybe it would help, to be reminded of the great abundance of life, where I live?

I enjoyed the process so much, and also the act of sharing the product with others, including on social media, that today I’ve created my 23rd daily nature thrill. Plus bonus haiku! And I don’t plan to stop any time soon.

The drawings are simple, often wobbly (perhaps because they’re drawn after my first strong cup of tea, early in the morning?!). The writing is messy. The drawings are more like cartoons – they’re not realistic. It’s taken me a long time to get to a point of thinking ‘these drawings are enough’. Actually, I think they’re rather wonderful.

Are drawings only good if they are realistic? Many people seem to think so. I suspect it has something to do with our lives being awash with digital photos, with powerful cameras a standard feature in just about every smartphone. But a drawing is not a photo, it’s more than that.

Photos, of course, can be artworks in themselves. But most of us (me included) just tend to snap away and hope for the best. For us, the act of taking a photo is instantaneous, and then we move on.

Drawings take time. One needs to slow down and observe, then be still in one place to make marks on the paper. At this point, it’s either about painstakingly drawing the subject in front of you, or reflecting on what you’ve observed before to draw something from memory. Most of these daily nature thrills are drawn from memory, sometimes with a little help from a field guide to get the markings/shapes of the critters right.

To me, the practice of drawing is just as important as the end product. This seems to be especially so when drawing nature. The act of drawing nature is both external/internal, contemplative and creative. It creates moments of stillness and heightens awareness.

I also find that creating a drawing on paper feels more intimate than taking a photo because there’s no technology (or only very old technology) between me and the drawing. It’s just me, with a pencil or pen in my hand, and the paper. Tactile, simple, immediate.

It’s taken me many years to believe that my drawings are ‘enough’, that drawings don’t need to be perfect, and that a quick, simple, heartfelt sketch can contain much more meaning, feeling and resonance than a painstakingly-drawn one. Plus, I get to experience the process of drawing every day. That’s the unseen thing, the personal thing, but for those of us who have experienced it – a powerful thing. I encourage you to try your own daily nature thrill habit. It’s a great way to enrich your life.

Today’s nature thrill – plus bonus haiku!

If you’d like to see more daily nature thrills, check out my posts on Twitter or Instagram.

6 Responses

  1. Melanie Venz
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    Thanks Paula, I really enjoyed this post.

    • Paula Peeters
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      Nice to hear from you Mel! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  2. Annette Hamilton
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    Thanks for reminding me to recognise when my drawings are enough and to absorb the ‘nature thrill’

    • Paula Peeters
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      No worries Hamo! Great to hear from you, I hope you’re going well

  3. Gillian Candler
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    Absolutely these drawings are enough, the quick sketches are full of life and character in a way a perfect lifelike image (or photo) might not be. Something you might be interested in – when I started writing Haiku a couple of years ago I discovered the rules for Haiku I’d learned didn’t need to be adhered to anymore, that modern haiku can be shorter, even just two lines. I’ve found that very freeing. See my blog post https://gilliancandler.co.nz/writing-haiku/

  4. Paula Peeters
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    Wow thanks Gillian for your kind words of praise, and also for the haiku link. I’m a complete newbie to haiku, but so far find the conciseness strangely liberating!