An illustrated life

Each of the projects described in this book has at its centre something drawn by hand.*
Quentin Blake

A positive thing that can come from anxiety is that it can be a sign that some things in your life, and in you, are out of alignment and need addressing.**
Kate Sutton

Quentin Blake’s words form the opening sentence
in the third book I’ve picked up from the illustrator
so far this year –
If you’ve ever read one of Roald Dahl’s tales then
you’ll know Blake’s work.
“Something drawn by hand”
feels like a very healthy thing to do,
Proffering a joining of our inside and outside worlds
when the rush and noise of 21st century life
refuses us rest and reflection.
I’d also picked up a copy of
Kate Sutton’s Drawing on Anxiety, a journal
in which Sutton encourages drawing in a mindful way:
Drawing calls for us to be more present,
it allows the flow state, and to fully focus on the
task at hand, which can be ever so soothing.**

Here are some some of her examples: draw
the things you find yourself doing when
unhappy and anxious, and
the things that make you feel calm, draw
the things you hold tightly on to, and
the things you would do if you weren’t afraid.
Draw nature taking on a city, the
things that help you sleep better, the
things that help you in the morning, draw
your inner critic, and
some things your body has told you.

This assumes that
everyone can draw –
And we can –
It’s just that many of us gave up at
a very early age; Lynda Barry asks:
How old do you have to be
to make a bad drawing?^

How old were you?
We wrongly think that some can draw whilst
most cannot, but
drawing is more about seeing than drawing,
Being present, paying attention, being led into
a larger world.
Don’t draw complicated,
Draw simple (I call it doodling) –
I love Blake’s images because they are uncomplicated, yet
full of life.
Here’re are a couple of things to be playful with:
Take a number of objects out of your cutlery drawer and
draw them as simply as possible;
Search for “images of Quentin Blake” on your browser,
Choose some images you really like and simply copy them.
Now to find some words:
Before writing and drawing were separated
they were conjoined.^

I enjoy illustrating life with doodles and words –
Even taking unhelpful thoughts and feelings, and
doing something different with them, something more, so
here’s a third thing to try:
Re-member an unhelpful thought –
This’ll never work,
You’re rubbish at this,
What a mess you’ve made,
You don’t belong here
The internal critic is trying to protect us, but
in a really unhelpful way,
So we’re going to provide some help by
inserting a word
(or replacing negative words like “never” and “don’t”) from
the following list:^^
(Self) Awarely
When we play with our sample thoughts, they become:
This’ll work vibrantly,
You’re fearlessly rubbish at this,
What a thoughtful mess you’ve made,
You bravely belong here.

Create a picture to go with your sentence – perhaps
something a la Blake, and maybe
add a little colour, too.
Notice what happens as you do this, as
you playfully and imaginatively
illustrate your life.

*Quentin Blake’s Beyond the Page;
**Kate Sutton’s Drawing on Anxiety;
^Lynda Barry’s Making Comics;
^^Borrowed from Mourad Diouri’s I am ….

Longing and belonging

And the message of all these stories, the secret our poets and philosophers have been trying to tell us for centuries, is that our longing is the great gateway to belonging.*
Susan Cain

As soon as humans had completed the evolutionary process, they found that a longing for transcendence was built into their condition.**
Karen Armstrong

Our lives came with an ample supply of
Longing never runs out;
We may bury it or misplace it,
But we’re never far away from our
inward longing –
Who is my True Self? – and our
outward lining –
What is my Contribution?

*Susan Cain’s Bittersweet;
**Karen Armstrong’s A Short History of Myth.


Play cultivates humility, for it requires us to treat things as they are rather than as we wish them to be.*
Ian Bogost

Play is part of developing trust. Play opens the heart and gives focus and delight, like an abacus did when we were young. Smartphone calculators? Not so much.**
Anne Lamott

We’re in life for the long haul,
Which can sound a little like gritting teeth,
But we have the wherewithal to play through life.
Humility – discovering our developing our
talents and abilities –
And gratitude – noticing and appreciating
our worlds,
Make it possible to play towards the generative qualities of
oneness, enoughness and perseverance.

*Ian Bogost’s Play Anything;
**Anne Lamott’s Almost Everything.

Between here and there

Classically, the understanding of life, the unfolding identity and creativity, the notion of growth and discovery were articulated through the metaphor of the journey.*
John O’Donohue

When we play, we engage fully and intensely with life and its contents. Play bores through boredom in order to reach the deep truth of ordinary things.**
Ian Bogost

May you never be left without a journey to embark upon,
They are all around.

*John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**Ian Bogost’s Play Anything