“Yoga” for Your Inner Designer

It is often said that a good athlete is one who practices as often as they can. The same can certainly be said about Graphic Designers.

yoga for your inner designerWe too need to practice as often as we can. The only problem for a graphic designer is that often our “practice” is being closely directed by a client and not always as creatively fulfilling and artistically freeing as we would like.

Why not try stretching your body’s most important “muscle” and practice a little brain “yoga” with automatic drawing (automatism).

Two examples of automatism.

For decades, artists have used this form of free drawing or automatism to allow their subconscious to direct their artistic process. Here’s how it works: without conscious planning or a specific image in mind, you make a single mark on a sheet of paper. The mark can be big or small, long or short,  wide or thin. Before you have time to reflect on the mark you just made, you make another one. This continues until you feel that you have nothing left to add to the page, or until your hand is tired.

5 Simple Steps

  1. Gather your supplies: Grab a few sheets of the largest paper you can find. Grab some color pencils, markers, crayons, water colors or whatever you have lying around.
  2. Set the mood: Find a quiet place where you can spread out your paper and supplies. Lower the lights, burn some incense, or turn on your babbling brook CD.  Do whatever you need to do to make yourself as comfortable as possible.
  3. Breath deep: Close your eyes and quiet your mind by slowing your heart rate and belly breathing for 5 full breaths. Next choose the implement you will begin to draw with.
  4. Make your mark: Place the implement on the paper and without thinking just feeling, move your hand, picking the implement up when you fel it is time. PLace your implement back down on the paper and continue this process until you feel that you have finished.
  5. Don’t judge: Close your eyes and breathe deeply again, clearing your mind. Open your eyes and look at your creation but do not judge your work. Your creation is not to be critiqued. Your drawing is an expression of your inner self and it was created without rules. There is no right or wrong, only pure inspiration.

Automatism is not just beneficial for artistic folk; children, writers, accountants, teachers, even engineers can enjoy the experience of automatic drawing.  The process can relieve stress, enhance creativity and even jumpstart brainstorming.

Definition & History of Automatism

automatism, n.
Pronunciation:  Brit. /ɔːˈtɒmətɪz(ə)m/ , U.S. /ɔˈtɑməˌtɪz(ə)m/ , /əˈtɑməˌtɪz(ə)m/ , /ɑˈtɑməˌtɪz(ə)m/
4.b.  The technique of seeking to eliminate conscious thought from the creative process; the result of this, a form of (esp. surrealist) art produced spontaneously from the subconscious mind. 

This concept of removing conscious thought from the creative process notion of was born out of the Automatism Surrealist movement of the 19th century.

French poet and writer Andre Breton is often considered the father of  surrealism; defining it in his 1924 Manifeste du surréalisme as “psychic automatism in its pure state”.

In the 1940, a group of New York based artists who were experimenting with the concept of their subconscious “voice”—including Arshile GorkyJackson Pollock, and Franz Kline—created a movement in American painting often referred to as Abstract Expressionism. Influenced by Surrealism, these artists introduced the appearance of automatism even when their pictures were deeply deliberated.

Related Links:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History — Abstract Expressionism
jacksonpollock.org  by  Miltos Manetas is a site (and iPad app) that lets you create your own Pollock inspired “automatic painting”.

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