“The heavens declare the glory of God: one day tells its tale to another, and one night imparts knowledge to another” (Psalm 19v1)
Have a look at the first picture. What do you notice? What interests you? What do you find disconcerting?
This print is one of 14 based on drawings based on small, almost unnoticed natural forms; such as plants that people often call weeds. The humble, yet exquisite details of nature. Each image has a pair of gold leafed woodblock shapes in them. These are taken from the daily midday office in which the ‘glory be’ is sung with a different tune but the same words each day over a two week cycle. The woodblocks are in the shape of the notes and are placed in their different places on each print, in the same way that glory can be found differently in each moment of our lives. As Jorge Luis Borges says “There is no day without its moments of paradise”.
There has been quite a trend for mindfulness recently. Hopefully this will stand some of us in good stead when faced with possible months of lockdown, and all the extra time that goes with it. For me, the discipline of contemplation is really another version of mindfulness, just with the extra divine dimension. We take time, we take notice, we consider. Jean-Pierre de Caussade calls this ‘the sacrament of the present moment’.
The second image shows two of the many drawings I have made of observed nature. These drawings are executed in a deliberately attentive way, quieting the mind and allowing the eye to really see, rather than ‘look’ – to gaze rather than to glance. This is one of my regular spiritual disciplines. As William Davies put it “what is life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?”
Take a look at the pictures and consider these questions:
What do you notice more at the moment?
How can you learn to be still?
What helps you focus?
How do you connect with the divine?
You will need paper, pencil and a found object
- spend a good 5-10 minutes gazing at your object. See its shape, texture, tone (dark and light), fine details, overall presence in space, the shadow it casts, the space around it (what artists call ‘negative space’)
- start to draw your object. Try different techniques: drawing with your less preferred hand, turning the object upside down and drawing it, drawing with scribbles, drawing with dots, pressing really hard or really light with the pencil, drawing without taking your pencil off the paper (continuous line). Have fun, try hard not to judge yourself; this is about understanding your object – seeing not looking. Have several goes if you like but try to avoid the desire to rush.
- You may find this process disconcerting, but that’s normal. Drawing uses the right side of our brains, which is not used as much as the left side and so this may well feel uncomfortable. Drawing may not be how you would choose to contemplate, but observe what you learn from the experience and perhaps find something that works for you better.