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Less Thinking, More Scribbling

(Originally posted Feb. 13, 2021 on my Artful Buddhist blog on Substack)


Scribbling is one of the most effective art techniques I’ve found to deal with my “Aspie anxiety.”


Someone recently asked, “How do you do that?” in response to the my Scribble Buddha. I made an arm motion above the drawing, and said, “I just move my hand like this.” She laughed, and then repeated the question. I then gave a more detailed reply, and mentioned that I was working on a new one that would have color and five images.


So, I thought, “Why not give a scribbling demo on Facebook Live?”


This idea came to me last night, after I spent three solid hours contorting my neck, shoulders, arms and body to get the scribbling just right on my latest 36x60 piece, “Five Buddhas.” Two-and-a-half years after learning the technique in a summer art course, I finally did what our professor advised me to do: “Go big.”


My first large-scale scribbling attempt just felt awkward. I had no idea how to begin, and I certainly had no idea how it would turn out. Eight Uni-Ball Signo pens later, it was done.


(“Sati” — 36x60, ink on paper, @jeffbrackettart)


Next, I tried out water-soluble colored graphite as an experiment. Unlike colored pencils popular among adult coloring book enthusiasts, the texture, range of color options are quite different. But, I had no idea what how the scribbling would work on top of the colored graphite.


My first attempt at scribbling over color this was my “Golden Buddha.”


Moments before adding color to the Golden Buddha [below], I posted to Facebook the fact that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. The accompanying relief from posting that helped loosen my approach to the Golden Buddha, which turned out nothing like I imagined it would. More important for the drawing process, though, was persistence when I thought it would be better just to toss into the recycling bin.


(“Golden Buddha” — 36x60, colored graphite and ink on paper, @jeffbrackettart)


Since then, I’ve written a post about overthinking my art, especially my inability to add color to my newest work-in-progress. At least five times since my previous post, I set up my colored graphite, got my brushes, water, and other supplies ready to go, only to dump the water and walk away.


(Pencil drawing, “Five Buddhas,” 36x60, @jeffbrackettart)


When I finally started adding color, I started slowly, patiently, and cautiously late in the afternoon on three days. But I still hadn’t added the layer of ink scribbles. And I am nearly twenty hours into this piece.


(First layer of color on 3 of the 5 Buddhas, @jeffbrackettart)


Last night I scribbled for three straight hours.


The first lines looked like an accident: random scribbles on a colorful Buddha. My immediate thought was, “Well, that was a waste of time. Now, it’s a huge piece of scrap paper.” But I’m familiar with the stages of these scribbles now: awkward —> okay —> ugly —> okay —> decent —> wow, that’s not bad!


After about thirty minutes, it started shaping up. Much later, after a trip to the kitchen to get a drink, I accidentally picked up the wrong pen. I’d been using a narrower nib, since the wider one wasn’t really flowing over the graphite. Not knowing what I’d done, it felt like I had loosened up my style.


The ink was flowing quite well now, and what earlier had felt tedious, slow, and uninspiring, was now inviting me in, calling me to take more risks.


So I did.


I suddenly felt “in tune” with the music pumping through my earbuds, with my contorted body, and with an eerie sensation of being precisely where I was meant to be. Sound sappy? Maybe. Was it spiritual?


Possibly.


(Scribbles added to 1 of 5 Buddhas; work in progress, @jeffbrackettart)


(Close-up of in-progress scribbles; @jeffbrackettart)


I’ve denied repeatedly that my art-making is spiritual.


Just like what I told myself regarding that “wild figure drawing,” when I truly let myself “feel” the moment (both physically and emotionally), I completely lose myself in the process, which is a goal I aspire to but rarely seem to follow in practice.


When I decided that the current drawing was headed to the trash, I no longer restricted my approach: I “got into it,” so to speak. The result was more persistence, patience, and a whole lot of new experiences with scribbling.


Of course, there’s always a chance that I will mess up somewhere else – I have four more images that need a lot of work. But, even if that were to happen, I could cut it into smaller sections, and play around with making a collage/mixed media piece.


Though it’s nowhere near finished, I have already learned a lot with the drawing: (1) My process overlaps with the term “spiritual” (which I will discuss in upcoming posts); (2) I’m serious about doing some live art-demos; and (3) When I trust myself and “let loose,” my drawing experience is loads of fun.


Update, July 2021: After 20+ hours of work on this, I removed it from my table and put it in storage -- I may return to it some day, with new ideas. For now, it is tucked away in a closet.


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