City Lit Blog

Drawing and the art of mindfulness

Story added 25th Aug 2017

The figure in movement life drawing, charcoal and pastel, Clare Barton-Harvey

An introduction to drawing and the art of mindfulness, by Clare Barton-Harvey, City Lit drawing and painting tutor

Mindfulness is the state of being present to and aware of what is taking place in the present moment. This presence of mind can evoke a sense of wonder, freshness and appreciation for the simple fact of being alive. In relation to drawing, mindfulness practice can be enriching in a whole variety of ways, including helping to sustain interest in ones subject matter and increasing sensitivity to and use of the drawing materials in hand. When present and alive to one’s actual experience, as distinct from ‘ideas about it’, the simplest things can take on a new life and become sources of inspiration - the touch of ones materials on the page, a particular quality of light, a sense of meaning/significance derived from a simple arrangement of objects…

Drawing itself naturally brings one into the present moment by virtue of it requiring a particular quality of attention in order to create. But by bringing greater awareness to the process of drawing and the moments in between the activity of drawing,  through the practice of simple mindfulness exercises, the quality of one’s attention and consequently of ones drawing, can become greatly enriched and enlivened.

What we frequently call mindfulness practice,involves purposefully making a time for stopping all outward activity and cultivating stillness, with no agenda other than being fully present in each moment. Not doing anything. Perhaps such moments of non-doing are the greatest gift one can give oneself’ Jon Kabat Zinn

One aspect of mindfulness is about cultivating calm and clarity of mind. When involved in any creative pursuit, our attitude is important and most of us at some point will encounter obstacles or challenges like the ‘judging mind’ for example, which is very common.

Mindfulness practices evoke curiosity and non-judgemental awareness as well as a broader perspective and humour, all of which are invaluable when trying to be objective and to think creatively about next steps. So, mindfulness tools can help us to become more aware and resilient in the face of obstacles and challenges when they arise. Mindfulness can be practised by pausing and connecting to stillness/calm, but also amidst activity.

‘The whole path of mindfulness is this:
Whatever you are doing, be aware of it’

Within the activity of drawing, by giving attention to the way one is standing/sitting, one can generate greater physical ease and reduce tensions that naturally arises during activity. This, in turn allows the movements of one’s drawing arm to be more fluid and versatile when articulating the shapes, rhythms and textures of ones subject matter. Similarly, giving attention to the process of ‘looking’, can help one to ‘see’ ones subject with greater clarity and appreciation. And with respect to ones materials – be that chalks, pastels, ink, charcoal etc… during the course we spend time exploring their different qualities and uses, which can lead to greater skill, kinship and versatility.

The toolkit of methods and approaches offered in Drawing and the art of mindfulness are ones that you will be able to take away and integrate into your existing drawing practice, or for beginners they will help to stimulate inspiration in getting started in drawing. 

Approach drawing from a fresh perspective on Drawing and the Art of Mindfulness, an upcoming course at City Lit, where you have the opportunity of exploring the simplicity and richness of the ancient practice of mindfulness in the context of drawing.

Visit Clare Barton-Harvey's website at

Drawing courses at City Lit

Mindfulness courses at City Lit