Mindful Sketching – Peggy Dean

“How to develop a drawing practice and embrace the art of imperfection.

It’s been a while since I reviewed an art book, but I’m forever looking for ways back into the hobby, the creative part of myself. I’m also a big fan of meditation and mindfulness, so the title of this book sounded perfect. It turned out not to be quite what I was expecting, but actually, I really liked it a lot more.

I think it’s fair to say that the past few years have been tough on us all, in many different ways. While I picked up this book expecting to find tips for drawing, it turned out to be much more a book on mindfulness, using sketching as a different ‘way in’. And I love that!

There are so many benefits to a hobby like sketching: it takes you out of yourself, it can put you into that ‘flow state’, and can just let you express yourself non-verbally – art therapy being totally a thing. The author encourages the reader to use sketching for all of these things, and as a way of filling an otherwise frustrating delay, be it hours or just a few minutes. She encourages you to look more closely at a scene, to find things that catch your eye, and to examine how things make you feel. If you’re at all ‘arty’, you’ve probably already had that moment of “Oh, I wish I could capture that!” – but have you ever stopped to think why that scene, that moment, caught you like that?

So it’s not just about art – although there are lessons here in materials, perspective, framing, and (I think very importantly) not going into too much detail. I’m not 100% convinced you’ll understand perspective or be able to apply using a pen as measurement from the brief overview (I mean, I’ve known this for years and still struggle a lot!), but even if you can’t quite catch the technicality – it does feel a little like someone who finds a thing very easy not necessarily realising that others can’t – there’s still plenty of examples and demonstrations to at least get you going. And as the book says, “the end result is just a bonus”.

Because, yes, I do think this is more a book on mindfulness, on celebrating life. That art is the medium is just one route.

For me, I haven’t made as much of a start on actual sketching as I’d hoped, and I know when I do I want to come back to a lot of the exercises and tips again. But more importantly, I feel very encouraged to try more sketching and use a lot of the tips here: not going for too much detail, seeing that imperfect often looks nicer, and even the subtle use of colour. I certainly feel more okay about just trying to capture the little scenes that, for whatever reason, speak to me. I know my results will probably frustrate me – Peggy Dean makes it look *so* easy, but it’s not – but perhaps I can stay mindful that I’m a beginner, and the only way to ‘get good’ is to keep trying. And most of all, enjoying the journey.

Disneyland castle behind author's sketch version

“Please embrace imperfection as it arises and celebrate your ‘mistakes’ (If I may say so, you’ll find this works in all areas of life.)”

Mindful Sketching book coverNetGalley eARC: 176 pages / 11 chapters
First published: 17th May 2022
Series: none
Read from 6th-17th May 2022

My rating: 8/10

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