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?