Why I Draw

I write about drawing a lot. I write about how to draw, how to draw more, and how to draw in your own way. But what about why we draw?

This is going to sound melodramatic, but I say this in all seriousness: Drawing has had a profound impact on my life. Without drawing, I don’t know who I would be, where I would be, or how I would deal with everything that happens in life. Drawing is the most powerful tool I have.

But again, why? Why is drawing so powerful? What does drawing do for me? Why do I draw? I’ve been thinking about these questions for a long time, and my answer comes in 3 parts.

Why I Draw. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios.

1. Drawing helps me see the blobbies inside me

I tend to bottle things up and push things down. It’s taken me 30 years of life to realize this doesn’t work, and eventually everything just crashes down in a wave of exhaustion and confusion. I’ve realized how easy it is to be unaware of my inner thoughts and feelings and how deeply important it is to be in tune with them. So now I’m trying to become more aware of how I’m feeling, and drawing is aiding that process.

Over the years, drawing has evolved from something I did for fun, to something I did for my job, to something that opens up a channel to my inner self. Besides talk therapy, drawing is the only thing I’ve found that can help me see what’s really going on inside.

Almost every time I sit down to draw in my sketchbook, what comes out is a direct reflection of how I’m feeling in that moment. My sketchbook becomes a visual diary that can illuminate feelings I didn’t realize I had. I turn off my thinking brain, move my pen across the paper, then look down and think, ‘Why did I draw a big, bulbous toad with his belly hanging over his feet, droopy eyes, and a dead pan face? Oh, yeah. It’s because that’s totally how I feel right now.’

Drawing in my sketchbook helps me learn about myself. It keeps me honest with myself. It feeds something deep down inside of me, and it allows that something to come to the surface. I call these things blobbies, and drawing can give them a voice.

Why I Draw. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios.

2. Drawing helps me share the blobbies inside me

These blobbies are inside all of us, and if you’re anything like me, you’re not in the habit of going around talking about them to other people. But this is why we have a stigma around mental health and why we all feel like we’re the only ones struggling with our blobbies. We put on a mask, act like everything’s ok, and in turn believe that everyone else has their stuff together.

My drawing and writing has allowed me to share these blobbies in a way I never could before. Becoming vulnerable with others and sharing what’s really inside me is powerful for both me and whoever sees my art. Because we all struggle with our own blobbies, seeing other people’s can remind us we’re not alone.

Van Gogh once wrote in a letter to his brother,

Does what goes on inside show on the outside? Someone has a great fire in his soul and nobody ever comes to warm themselves at it, and passers-by see nothing but a little smoke at the top of the chimney.” -Van Gogh

When I share my fire and blobbies, I’m able to connect with other people on an entirely different level. The connection you share with someone who has experienced something similar to you and the validation you feel from hearing a story similar to yours is invaluable.

I used to think that motivational quotes and emotional artwork was melodramatic and over-the-top. But now, having gone through a period of darkness, those works of art have taken on a whole new meaning. When we’re struggling, just having someone to relate to is extremely powerful. Others have been this to me when I needed it, and I aim, by sharing my own blobbies artwork, to be this to others.

Why I Draw. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios.

3. Drawing helps me deal with the blobbies inside me

Not only does drawing help me become aware of the blobbies inside me, it also helps me clear my head by reflecting on and clarifying those thoughts and feelings.

When I sit down to draw, everything else drops away. The external world fades out and it’s just me, my blobbies, and my sketchbook. Drawing allows me to anchor myself in the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past and stressing about the future. It forces me slow down. It helps me focus on the only thing going on in this one moment: this one line, this one mark, this one color.

If I begin a drawing feeling agitated, grumpy, and stressed out, I almost always finish a drawing feeling more relaxed, content, and at peace. I draw my stress. I draw my worries. I draw my blobbies—often literally. Sometimes as the blobbies leave my pen, they leave me.

Other times, the blobbies are still there inside me, but I now have more awareness and acceptance of them, instead of denial and shame. When I finish a drawing, I’m reminded that my blobbies don’t control my life, I do.  It makes me feel more accepting of who I am in this moment. Drawing reminds me that I am capable of change and growth.

Why I Draw. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios.

Why I Draw: Drawing improves my mental health

Drawing helps me do these things, but I am still far from perfect. I have anxious thoughts, get overwhelmed, shut down, and get stuck in my own head. I can still feel insecure, powerless, stuck, exhausted, grumpy, hangry, unaware, depressed, and stressed out. Sometimes my blobbies run the show without me even knowing.

I am so very imperfect.

But that is precisely why I need drawing.

 


 

Thanks for reading, and I hope drawing can do the same for you.

Let me know why you draw by commenting below!

<3,
Christine

 

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13 Responses

  1. I really love getting these articles. Drawing has the same effect on me.

    This is a bit obscure as someone who drawn most of his life and actually gotten into graphic design as a career because of it. Due to a major shift in life events, thing in my mind have suddenly brought into clarity that I don’t really want to be doing design and actually I’d really love to work somehow as an illustrator. Any tips on how to get there? Courses? People to talk to? Paths to follow.

    – Mike

    1. That’s so awesome, Mike! My path was similar to yours it sounds like—I went to school for graphic design and worked as a designer in a studio for a year, and freelanced for a year before venturing off into illustration. And that was actually spurred by a major life event for me too! I have tons of tips on how to work as an illustrator! I try to focus most of my resources on concepts that can apply to hobby-ists and pros, but it’s interesting to hear so many are interested in tips for becoming pro as well. It would be too much for me to list out advice on working as an illustrator here in this comment, but you’ve encouraged me to pursue it through a resource soon! If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me: christine@3.86.208.187 Thanks for your comment and the idea for a new resource and maybe even a full course in the future! :)

  2. What a great article. My story is similar to Michael’s, although I have not been drawing my entire life, I have been a graphic artist for 15 years and have only recently realized that I love to draw and illustrate.

    I would also love to know how to get work as an illustrator.

    1. Hey Tom! Thanks so much for sharing! As I told Michael, I started out working as a designer too! I think designers make awesome illustrators because we’re very good at simplifying, seeing things visually, and honing a composition. Now that I know you guys are interested, I’m going to be either writing a resource or course on this subject soon, because it’s too big to talk about in a comment, so keep an eye out! :)

  3. Hi Christine. If you can feel all of the things that you mentioned above, and you have found that drawing helps you navigate through the fug/confusion/stress/pain, then I think that you have found a perfect way to deal with the reality of our imperfect life.
    The imperfections are what makes the journey so interesting and our learning to deal with our humanity is exactly why art is so important to each of us. We can face upto our imperfections and splash ’em out in full colour, or in words, song or dance. Celebrate them!
    We will never be perfect and who’d want to be? Being perfect would probably mean the end of art.
    I like both your drawings and your writing and I really hope that you will continue.

    1. Yes! I agree so much with everything you said! Art is totally an amazing way to face and celebrate our imperfections, and if we were all perfect we probably wouldn’t need art, so it’s good that we’re not! Thanks so much for sharing, and I’m glad you enjoy the resources! :)

  4. Always good food for thought in your posts!
    We moved from the US to New Zealand last year and to help my son transition I started drawing little notes to include in his lunchbox. I already spend a lot of time working on my own drawing, trying to build up a portfolio, etc. but man if those little morning doodles aren’t one of the MOST important components of my practice!

    I limit myself to ten minutes and usually don’t have a clue as to what I’m going to draw until I sit down. It’s really helped me loosen up and helped me develop new techniques and work with materials I wouldn’t have otherwise. The best part is that it means that no matter how busy the day ahead is, I sit down at my dedicated drawing space and actually put pen or pencil to paper. I think starting my day like that makes it much easier for me to return home from the school run and sit back down again – it gets things started for me.

    1. Thanks, Kirsten! Oh, New Zealand—wow! That must be so lovely! I’ve always wanted to travel there, maybe one day! And what a wonderful story you have about using lunchbox drawings as your chance to explore, experiment, and get started drawing each day! That is such a fantastic idea. And giving yourself the time limit is perfect! I feel that way about my sketchbook drawings too. As long as I do one quick comic or marker drawing each day, I feel like at least I accomplished something that day! And usually it leads to more creativity and productivity! Thanks so much for sharing, Kirsten and keep up the lunchbox drawings! :D

  5. Great article, Christine.

    I can relate one hundred percent. I’ve always said I couldn’t draw but started sketching in Skillshare classes in my retirement. Stress is my constant companion but when I pick up pencil and sketch pad I literally feel the tension leaving my body.
    You are so on target with this article.
    Thank you for encouraging others.

  6. Hello Christine,

    thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Your article hit a string in me, and I felt that it’s so related to me.

    I’m a pharmacist From Syria, and I am working in a humanitarian Org. in Turkey.
    I left my family in Aleppo. and my friends are scattered. the news of my country -as you know- is terrifying… horrible.
    because of the language barrier here in Turkey, I felt lonely.
    I started to draw 2 years ago -I’m 37 years old- just to forget a little bet the reality.
    drawing is my escape… to keep myself sane…

    1. Wow, Majed! I’m so sorry that you’re in that situation, but I’m so glad you’ve found drawing as a way to deal and relax. Your story and life sound really interesting, I wonder if your drawings are autobiographical? It could be really meditative to make a journal or sketchbook of your experience. Thanks for sharing, and be safe!

      1. thank you for your reply and for your sincere feelings!
        actually no, my drawings are not autobiographical… for a lot of reasons.
        maybe I can tell you about them privately.

        I only draw things away from my experience.

        have a nice day! :)

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