What to draw

In October, as part of the Big Draw festival, you’re invited to Draw with me – we’re going to draw something every day. Here’s the list, updated daily, of your assignments. 
Drawing hand

Draw something, be happy. © Laura Eades 2011

If you want to join in the Draw with me event, there’s more information here. You don’t need to specifically sign up or anything! Just take part.

This is drawing for the pleasure of it. Just fulfil your brief, every day, with ninjalike efficiency and cavalier abandon, laughing at the results. As the band CAKE said, “We’re going for distance, we’re going for speed…“, but you’re not all alone, you’re in good company, in your hour of need.

Your hour of need, when you’re wondering, “But what will I draw??”. Here’s the list.
1.       Piggy-in-the-middle gets a catch

The elusive middle ground. Do you avoid it, as I do, veering off towards the edges? We look down on the middle, saying it’s mediocre, and that when you’re there you don’t know which way to turn. But if we were to ask Piggy, perhaps she’d say that although it’s hard work being in the middle, it’s a more rewarding and fun place to be than we realise.

2.         Certain holes left unfilled

I’ve been reading about Buddhist monks, eating until they are only ‘two-thirds full’. It strikes me that leaving a bit of breathing space  is a great idea. But it’s easier said than done – the impulse is there to fill every gap; seize every opportunity; make every day a sandcastle with the sand packed in firm and tight. Choosing which urges to act upon is a life-skill worth mastering.

3.         Gladys Gladness Gladeoli

The day before yesterday I turned around abruptly on our balcony and a metal beanpole spiked me, quite hard, on my eyelid. It’s proximity to my eye gave me quite a fright and I shiver when I think about it. But when this happens, it’s quickly followed by a surge of gratitude for my sight. Without which, I couldn’t draw. In the future, I’d like to cultivate a sense of gratitude in my daily life.

4.           Smooth gear changes

It took me hundreds of driving lessons to get clutch control. Recently I’ve become aware of how I begin and complete activities in my day, and the effort and resolve it sometimes takes to sit down to do things. Especially creative things. I sometimes have to set a fifteen-minute timer: I need a deadline just to begin! In the future, I’d like to flow into and between activities with less resistance.

5.          Pant pant like a long-distance runner

Doesn’t mean in the future you can’t go fast. Can’t go all out, to your maximum, if you want to. Just means you’re not gonna borrow energy from tomorrow to go faster today. Instead, finding that rhythm that makes you feel like you could go on forever, and staying on it.

6.          Exercise your right (and your left)

I’m a latecomer to the world of physical exercise. If I keep doing some I may, as an elderly woman, be able to touch my toes. But when I look at the happiest moments in my life, I’ve been moving my skeleton about much more then that at other moments. I need to remind myself to keep doing this thing that makes my heart feel so much better. Even if I’m stiff, lopsided and crunchy; it’s such a source of happiness.

7.         Arms around

“Hold tight”, I say to my daughter on the swing. When the ride gets exciting, will I remember to hold onto the people I love? When I’m up up and away will I find ways to be connected, to stay in real, funny, human, everyday communication with those I treasure? I’m bad at it, I know. I think of people and don’t tell them so. I get monomaniac and then a little news or hello is a bit of a bother. In the future I will notice and honour whenever my loved ones reach out, and put my metaphorical arms around them every day.

8.           Hello Monday

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live the kind of life that didn’t involve waving goodbye to your loved ones at the start of the week and trudging off to work? I’m reading Murakami’s book on running and his life in Hawaii sounds really very pleasant: early rises, writing, running, then messing around for the rest of the day. There are plenty of people doing it. It doesn’t have to just be a fantasy.

9.           Gentle cat

I say to my daughter when she’s rough: “Be a gentle cat”, and then she comes and strokes you. Some manuals might say this is quite weird parenting and quite an abstract message. I think I had in mind the silky way cats rub against the world. You never see a cat throwing a cup across the room. But then, we don’t have any cats, so you never see them in our house full stop, except in your imagination.

10.           Buried treasure

What’s going on in our unconscious? Instead of burying toxic waste from our experience, can we put inside messages of value? As a teenager I didn’t realise I could speak to my unconscious directly. Whenever you’re in a half-waking, half-sleeping state of mind, commuting or walking or drifting, put something valuable away: say something that makes your greater self feel possible.

11.            Variety is the mice of life

Imagine a mouse. That loves dancing. But it also has mouse chores to do, like stealing crumbs and putting them in a matchbox. It steals the crumbs over and over, a daily habit that never changes. It has automated it so that it can dream of dancing while it crumb-gathers. But the dream of dancing is not automated; it’s different every time. One day jive. One day in a mosh pit. It never notices the crumbs chore. And It always savours the dancing because it’s full of variety; it never takes dancing for granted.

12.           Play play every day

Play the ukulele. Play ping pong. Ski. Read books. Toss stones at a tower of pebbles on the beach. Get wet in the sea. Get the sledge out. Whatever puts a grin on your face – wouldn’t it be possible to make a future life with as much space for these things as possible? Some people even get paid for doing them. Others have cleared the decks to make work support fun.

13.          And the rest

Imagine a future where you can anticipate tiredness – see it cruising like Jaws’s fin – and refresh yourself before it grabs your ankle and pulls you under. Is that enough metaphors to make a reviving soup? I think so. Tiredness is quite a dodgy state to let build up (though there are situations, like when you have a new born child, when you can only float with the lack of gravity it brings). Tiredness disconnects you, holds you hostage with its own set of unreasonable demands, and weakens your will. Rest, but also relaxation and connection, will be our coastguards in the future.

14.         Elegant figures

In the future I’d like money to be simple, to be plentiful, to be something that can be shared. I’d like to have no fear of it. I’d my feelings about it to live comfortably in my body, not in the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, but in somewhere that makes for a looser and more graceful movement in my life.

15.          50/50

I’ve talked before about discovering this thought: “I need to learn to meet life halfway“. The other night, we went to see a friend’s mindreading show, and it was shocking to discover the breadth of the unconscious mind – far, far vaster than I normally give credit. In the future, I’d like to put less conscious thought into things. Plan it less. Think it less. Try a little less and let it happen a little more.

16.            Savour the flavour

Taste everything that’s there. The sweet and the sour. Don’t let it get swallowed up in the business of things. Roll it around your mouth. Open up all your senses to it. Enjoy its present, its past and its future. Of course I’m talking about chocolate. But also, the chocolate box of life itself.

17.             As high as can be

I’m talking about natural highs of course, and getting a lot of them. Joy. Physical, visceral joy, like messing about in waves, or emotional joy, like the rushes you get on a wedding day or a romantic holiday or a really funny weekend with friends. I don’t really want the other kind.

18.           Quack bong boom

Talk to yourself in a new language. Remember the things that stuck in your head as a child? Don’t you need to tell that child some things sometimes? I think if I could read the language of my unconscious it would be very colourful and bouncy and full of the images from storybooks. That’s why I think drawing some of these things might be useful to our inner selves in the future. Create your inner world and populate it with characters you’d like to see more of.

19.         Big and strong

This drawing idea is borrowed from Jonathan Mead’s excellent ‘Momentum Challenge’. What superpower do you have? When the chips are down, what hidden strength do you pull out of the bag? Think of how you act in urgent situations. Picture your strength as an inner superhero or supercreature, to better summon it when next needed.

20.          Camouflaged pattern

I think I’d better be a creature of routine in the future, since I make heavy weather of decision-making about how to appoint my time. I’d like a beautiful, rich and elegant pattern, filled mainly with the things that enrich my life. I’d like the doing of the things I love to be a happy inevitability, and the doing of chores to fit in unnoticed, and the living to a matter of spontaneous choice that’s always different.

21.         A cat parachuting a tin-opener

This is a guest contribution from Amy Ng of Pikaland and 1000-things-to-draw fame. I like this image – it’s matter-of-factness speaks to the practical side. Rise above your existential angst by grabbing your tools and fixing things. Making small, concrete changes. Then, even cats can fly. Plus, Amy adds: “Smart kitty holds onto the only thing she’ll need in an apocalypse”. Suggesting you might want to get rid of some of those ‘tools’ that aren’t really equipping you for the kind of future you’d like, and keeping the ones that are essential for opening the cans of Whiskers.

22.           Well-tuned antennae

In the future we’ll have full sensitivity. We won’t numb out, dumb down, sedate ourselves and be dopey. We’ll feel our feelings, even the unwelcome guests, and even when we’re relaxed, we’ll still be gently alive.

23.            Migrate towards home(s)

Finding our place and time, or maybe the perfect places for the perfect the times, we’ll use our freedom to go on epic flights and our ability to put down roots as befits our nature, or the calling of a particular place and time. We don’t have to worry if we’re in the right place, because the wind and the flock will take us where we should be going.

24.         Out in the air

Big landscapes, and small outdoorses; open windows and heights and views; dunking in the sea and napping under trees; walks beside rivers; the vast horizon of the sea; the busy fathoms; the window-boxes and balconies. These await us to oxygenate our eyes and fill our lungs, in our future.

25.                   Give in, givin’

What can I do that’s helpful to other people? This is a question I ponder, and I hope, that in the future, the unique way that each of us can contribute to the world will become apparent to us. The question cannot be ignored, whether you win the lottery or not, because generosity, giving and kindness have been proven to be one of the pillars of happiness and fulfilment. Don’t forget to learn to receive too, though.

26.             Neat kit

In the future, I’d like to desire less, accumulate less, and live with a more streamlined kit for my life. This involves some habitat management: decluttering, fixing, finding the right place for things, holding onto the things that make me happy, serve a purpose and are hard to replace, and making the elements that feel like home transportable.

27.           Crazy horse

Even wilder, sillier and funnier. The future holds your expression of yourself that’s completely unharnessed. You’ll let your humour, and your instinct for where to roam, take you to new terrain. With steam coming out of your nostrils.

28.             Treasure beyond measure

In the future, you’ll compare yourself less to other people. Worry less about hierarchies and slippery poles. Open your ideas of success, and your ability to be grateful for your own gifts, up far wider. You set your own standards to measure how great you are. You have to create new scales, because you discover you’re more wonderful than you ever counted upon.

29.               Drop it

My friend said, profoundly: “Usually what you dislike about someone initially is their defences. The more you know them, the less defended they become, and the more lovable”. I’d like to learn to drop my guard. Stop being spiky. Stop being so damn self-protective.

30.              The other half is beyond sight

My Dad showed me the drawings he did two nights ago, while he was recovering from an injury. They are truly astonishing. I never would have known all that was in him. He wouldn’t either. We do not know all that we know.

31.               Already begun to move

The future started ages ago, when you started thinking about it. It began when you visualised it. It’s happening now, already. So don’t worry about it. It won’t be perfect, that’s for sure. It won’t even be an improvement on the now, necessarily, though you’ll probably have nailed a few of those things you’re hoping to iron out. But in the now is everything you need already. It’s already with you. Make now good, and the future will take care of itself.