John-Paul Flintoff

Portrait of the artist

Today, I did a drawing. It was totally brilliant. Take a look.

What do you think? Didn’t I look happy doing it!

But you may be wondering what the picture looked like. I bet you are. After all, I said it was brilliant, didn’t I. But I didn’t say the finished work – the “end result” – was brilliant. I said doing the drawing was brilliant. I really enjoyed it, from start to finish, even when S came in and asked if she could have some more orange juice. I was on a roll.

If I showed you the finished drawing, “Portrait of the artist in an iPhone”, you might be inclined to place a different value on the process – you might say it wasn’t so great after all. You might say it was a work of genius. But either way, sometimes it’s good to value the process in its own right.

When I do workshops, I sometimes ask people to draw each other. And they sit in pairs, hardly looking at each other because they’re so worried about the drawing turning out OK. (Weirdly, people often forget that the work might be better, and more satisfying, if they actually looked at the person they’re drawing.)

Afterwards, there’s a lot of laughter as people show each other the pictures, and a lot of self-deprecating comments – we run tend to ourselves down so that nobody else feels the need to do it for us.

Then I ask them to do it again without once looking at the piece of paper. I point out in advance that the finished drawing will probably be a mess, but that they’ll have fun doing it. And they usually do.

(But at least half of them can’t stop themselves, and peek at the work in progress.)

When did you last really enjoy putting marks on a piece of paper – regardless of the final outcome?

blog comments powered by Disqus