Drawing in Church …

The above picture is one I drew in church last week.  My whole life, I’ve drawn in church.  My father was a pastor when I was growing up, and my mum understood that drawing can help right-brained people concentrate.1  And so every Sunday, when my father started his sermon, she would pull a box of art supplies from her purse so the two of us could draw.

Drawing can have a powerful meditative effect.  My mother’s work — which she affectionately refers to as her “knittings” — elevates this idea to a new level.  Each painting represents hundreds of hours of meticulous, repetitive mark-making to build textures.  All of these large-scale paintings began as tiny “knittings” worked out in small notebooks, sometimes in church.



I recently discovered another artist who draws in church.  Abrams illustrator John Hendrix has an entire section of his website devoted to drawings he’s done while sitting through sermons.  I’ll let him explain:

“Drawing in my sketchbook is the very best part of my work. I love it because it is linear improvisation. Much like jazz, it is unpredictable, exciting and unfiltered. Often with very good and very bad results. I attend church every Sunday, and I draw during the sermon. All of these pages were done in a pew (though I don’t bring my watercolors with me- that waits till I get home). Simultaneous drawing and listening transforms familiar language into something new- a feedback loop of symbols, theology and wonder.”

John’s work puts me to shame.  Behold:


I think this sort of meditative drawing extends beyond the pews.2  When I got to college, I started drawing in journals while I listened to lectures.  A lot of the pictures were mnemonic devices related to the lecture, others were the germs of what would later become stories.   (I still remember the afternoon in graduate school when I found myself sketching a certain blind thief!) 

College also happens to be when I started to become a better student — my grades went up, and I started to take a more active role in what I was learning.  I don’t think that’s a coincidence.  I can’t help but wonder whether there are kids out there struggling with school who might be helped by being given a box of art supplies?

  1. My mum never wore the “pastor’s wife” hat too comfortably. More than once she was confronted by ladies in the congregation for wearing too much black.
  2. Just to be clear, the sermon I heard this week had nothing to do with baseball or monsters … though part of me wishes it had.

8 Comments Leave a Comment

  • cat says:

    As a kid, I could not focus for an extended period on what someone was talking to me about if I was not drawing at the same time. To this day, I can look at my childhood drawings and remember what I was listening to while I was drawing. I now listen to audiobooks while I work on drawings/miniatures/ animations/puppets etc… Because they help me focus on the task. There must me something to all of it. I think the answer is in the absolute cuteness of that baseball-giving monster. Lovecat

  • John Hendrix says:

    Thanks for showing my church drawings, and I totally agree about the need to teach kids with right-brain/visual learning styles that drawing is a much better way to concentrate than glazed over staring at the black board.

    You mother’s work is beautiful.

  • I have to agree with you about mum’s work. I had the honor of being old enough to *see* her transform into the breathtaking artist she is today. The top pieces are from a gallery show she did based on some pieces in a Canadian bog. For months, she carried little grass clippings and goose turds in her purse to draw.

  • Kristine Arney says:

    I love seeing your mom’s paintings in this light. Did not know you would draw together in church. Priceless picture!

  • Jana says:

    Loved seeing some pictures of your mom’s recent work! Devastating and beautiful, and from the bits and pieces of earth most people take for granted, rarely even look at.

    I draw in church and lectures, too, but I used to get in trouble for “not paying attention” in church!

  • Lol. Sometimes I draw in church too, but it’s usually sketches of what I see around me rather than what I’m hearing. Not sure if that’s good or bad. : )

  • tanita says:

    Here via Fusenews:

    Glad to see someone else draws in church, although, WHOA – your Mom’s work is amazing, and I think art and a spiritual life have to be synonymous. And one can never wear too much black. ;)

  • Susan says:

    Our son was “very active” and probably ADHD so we encouraged him to draw in church. When a new youth pastor told him not to, we told the youth pastor that he’d better let our son draw as there was no alternative. Our son is now a commercial artist and he and his family are in church most Sundays.

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