Thoughts on the Book-Part 6

Posted On July 27, 2011

First, I apologize for the several months of hiatus. I was working on finishing a poem book with nature photographer Billy Joe Rhoades. Getting something like that to print takes a bit of effort. Second, thanks to those of you who leave comments regarding this series of blogs about Cat Bennett’s book, The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind. Now, back to the book . . .

We left off on p. 42, Chapter 8, where Cat gives several exercises for drawing what we see. Drawing with Tone and Contour Drawing is about softening the gaze and ‘looking’ at what is being drawn not for details, but for shades of color and the overall shape of the object. By seeing the shades of black to white and the type of lines that are drawn, we step back and observe the whole.

So often the focus in any art is on the details. Getting the eyes exactly right or the number of scales of the mermaid or just the right count in the measure to bring the song to the bridge or the chorus. There is something else to be seen by observing pieces of the whole but not the details. The shape of the face or eyes, the energy that the mermaid is expressing as she dives or surfaces, the feeling or improvisation that allows the musician to transition from one section of the song to the next offers a different perspective. Try backing away from a narrow focus and instead notice the tone, the shape of the line, or the emotion in the piece.

Sometimes, to shut the critic down, we need to do something unexpected. Try writing or drawing without looking at the paper or with your eyes closed. Attempt to write with your nondominant hand or even draw the object upside down! This gets us away from the details, away from trying to get it right, and asks the muse to come play. What would happen if we took a photograph with our eyes closed instead of the intense focus through the viewfinder? Could we use our sense of touch to ‘feel’ where to sculpt the wood or stone? What if we closed our eyes while stir frying and instead used our sense of smell? The censor would be stunned into silence.

If we began with simple objects and grew more complex, with how much more ease could we drop into the well of creativity when we picked up the charcoal with our dominant hand or focused the camera or ‘saw’ what the wood or stone could become? The variety of objects we use to inspire us, to model for us, gives way to how we feel about our art and how we feel about ourselves. Are we brave enough to draw a tree upside down? Do we trust our muse that what we point our camera at is worth capturing?

And perhaps that is what so much art is about: having the courage to express what we feel, what we see, how we interpret the world around us without fear of criticism or wondering if someone will question our truth. These exercises and more (which will be posted in my next blog) encourage our artist to step out of the shadow of the critic and to tap dance across our imagination. There is power in leaving fear behind and having the muse step into the spotlight, to be vulnerable and know that we’ll come out the other side in one piece. There is no other option if we are to tell our truth through our art.

Choose an exercise. Be daring. Express your truth in a way that stuns the censor and gives the muse a safe place to just be. is a site to visit to see what I’ve come up with when I’ve written with my nondominant hand or with my eyes closed. Leave a comment and let me know how it felt to draw a pear upside down or to cook with your eyes closed.

Written by Michele Venne

Writer of immersive and intriguing stories.

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    • michelevenne

      Right! It’s just a matter of having enough guts time and time again.


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