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Pen and Ink Drawing As a Motivation for the Writing Process and Other Arts

Starting drawing before any creative project
Starting drawing before any creative project

Updated August 06th, 2020

I almost always try to do a pen and ink drawing before I begin writing a play and before I start on a new quilt. I have never thought about how much this is a part of my process until someone asked me recently if I knew how to draw. I was thinking of people who actually perform serious drawing as an art form. 

I am not a person who can give anyone step by step pen and ink drawing lessons or do a quick draw like the caricature creators that I see in open markets and malls. I do the drawing for a couple of reasons, and it has always been a solid roadmap for where I would like the work to go.

Pen and Ink Drawing Before Quilting

When I am sketching for a new quilt, I am trying to create a model that is as close as possible to the finished product. Of course, it does not always end up that way, but that is my original intent. Getting it down on paper is a way that I can have a good conversation with myself. A pen and ink drawing helps me know what I might be missing in my representation of a thing or where my projection may not be accurately telling the story of what I truly intend.
A sketch pad, then, is like a diary on some levels. After the quilt is done, it tells the story of how it came to be. For scholars and other quilters who like to study creative processes, this is extremely helpful. If there is ever any question about what I have tried to convey in fabric, there is a reliable record of what I was thinking and how I conceived my work.

There are many quilters who may create idea books with fabrics and colors, but they do not believe in the idea of doing a drawing. They rely more on the process of creating as they go. I am the first to admit that that process makes me envious at times. It is a gifted artist who can hold the image and intent in her head while the quilt is evolving. I supposed there is also something to be said for knowing how to draw, even if it is not a perfect rendering of the final quilt. For me, it means I think in my head but organize those thoughts outside of my head.

Pen and Ink Drawing in Order to Write a Stage Play

In playwriting, a drawing is all about creating the world of the play. When characters first come to mind, I seem to always hear them as voices speaking. Sometimes, I have no idea who these characters are, at first, and no idea how they exist in context to one another. I just capture the language when I hear it and commit to a long process of discovery.

By the time I get to the pen and ink drawing phase, where I am decidedly placing the imaginary props in their respective places on a stage, the characters may have been talking for some time. I have a need to start drawing what a room looks like, how a chair is made, where the walls will be positioned in relation to the audience. For this part of the process, I always choose graph paper because it serves a useful tool for both writing and drawing. It has always been helpful for stage managers, prop designers and lighting and set designers to look at these notes. It helps them create in real time the world that I have imagined.

Why Pen and Ink Drawing Works in a Creative Process

I do not know that if I were not involved in these two arts that I would be drawing, although I find it fascinating as an art form. Whenever I have indulged this form of expression as a means of working through a creative process, I notice that it helps me shut the world out and calm down. It is an art in itself to be able to be alone with your own thoughts.

I started sketching ideas. First, I made the walls and the furniture within the house with no doors. I gave the house only one solid wall that the audience could see and it kissed the stairs. I imagined that while characters were on the stage having conversations, the audience would be able to hear and see everything the off-stage characters were doing. All of these revelations came from merely drawing the house of the play.

When Pen and Ink Drawing Isn't Sparking your Creativity.

Things don't always work the way you want them to. I could not shut off the characters in my head long enough to discover the world of the play. In most cases, this meant that I was trying to push the process beyond its readiness, to move to the drawing pad too soon. Every writer knows, though, that he or she is never really in control.

I have been grateful for the gifts that pen and ink drawing has afforded me as a writer and a fiber artist. I want to believe that this part of the creative process is acting on some law of attraction. After all, most of the things we dream cannot actualize until we are courageous enough to write them down. Drawing is another form of that. Once you sketch a world or an image on paper, it is alive. You have created something that has a life of its own.


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