A Fine Art Lesson in Graphic Recording: Are You Seeing Right?

A Fine Art Lesson in Graphic Recording: Are You Seeing Right?

I have been graphic recording (“drawing out”) ideas fast and furiously for the past four years. But when I started taking Fine Art classes, it felt like the exact antithesis of what I did. It was counterintuitive, and surprisingly, I wasn’t taking to drawing fine art as fish to water.

“Here’s a photograph. Just draw a pencil outline of this on paper as accurately as you can, by following the picture closely. No erasers please.”

This was my first Fine Art drawing lesson. The task sounded simple enough. After all, I have been drawing out ideas as a business for the past years. How challenging can this be?

I was very wrong. Minutes after starting on the drawing of a whale, I was hardly having a whale of a time. I could feel my eyes boggling from the overwhelming details — even in a seeming mass of a creature like a whale. The more I tried to go fast at the deceptively simple task, the more I shrivelled up at my unwitting departures from photographic accuracy.

Two lessons later, when I congratulated myself for getting better at this outline thing, I realised that I hadn’t actually gotten it right yet. Instead, I merely thought I did. Drew two birds, both ridiculously plumper than the photos. Yet it was difficult for me to see (literally) where I went wrong.

Say hello to one of the two oversized birds I drew.

It took a while to calibrate my eyes. But one day I began to see and articulate where I had missed. Once I could see, I was able to correct my mistakes. How well I saw was how well I could correct my mistakes.

In between these art lessons, I had continued graphic recording work. Surprisingly, I was beginning to notice shifts in my visual style and expressiveness, even when required to draw it quick, that attention to detail was coming through.

I realised that my eyes were not seeing things for what they were, but what I thought things were.

Despite teaching graphic recording participants about first seeing in their mind’s eye then drawing it out, I had a lot to unlearn in this area.

The veil was coming off.

So much of how we see are actually lenses or “veils” that we’ve acquired through bad education or personal experience, rather than grounded in the truth.

No wonder Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

You thought skies were blue? Most of the time, they aren’t really “true blue.” Even if they were, the colours are never uniform.

If you tried to paint clouds and were taught to use white, that is bad advice unless you are going for one-dimensional paper cutouts.

Two terms on, I was practising charcoal drawing while watching my new classmates go through the same struggle I had.

This time, everything finally clicked for me.

The fine art of drawing? It’s simple.

Trust and obey. Trust the Way, trust your Guide. Have faith and patience. You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.