I’ve been practicing drawing, and I’ve noticed something.
I’ll sketch a picture of a cat, and look at it and think, “Meh.”
Then, I take a pencil and go over the contour line again with a bold stroke. Along the cat’s back say, over its ear, the paw curled into a J at the end of its foot.
Suddenly, the cat almost leaps off the page. The bold line has made all the difference.
I was thinking about why, and came up with this:
- Definition is important. So often in a sketch I kind of go lightly, trying to get a shape right. But when I define the shape with boldness, I decide. I’m all in. I’m committed.
- A boundary is is bold. On a white sheet, a bold line says: I exist. Madeleine L’Engle talks a lot about the synchronicity between faith and artistry in her book, Walking on Water, and some of her point is that God is Creator, and creativity mirrors the original creation. God said, “Let there be light.” Bam. Light. A line coming out of nowhere surprises us. It’s evocative and full of possibility.
- A contour line separates. It focuses. It’s this, not that. It’s here, not there. It creates an edge, a border, a limit. In a world of grey shadows and things that are hard to be clear about, a line is refreshing.
It struck me the other day that living a rich life starts with drawing a lot of clear lines. It is spending time defining one’s life: being intentional, thinking about values, deciding how and when and why we will act. It is boldness: taking risks, practicing bravery, and being creative. It is choosing to focus energy here, not there.
It’s also surprisingly simple. A line is just a line, after all. Any toddler that can grasp is already good at bold lines. Especially if it involves crayons on walls.
Yet simple does not mean easy. I always have to take a bit of a breath before I jab the pencil down and make a clear path of graphite on the clean white page.
I have been noticing drawing more, now that I’m doing it. Especially picture books, since we read a lot of them. And here’s what I see: some illustrations are lush, with all kinds of shading and shadow and detail. But many more are not. Sometimes, the ones I like best– Mo Willems’ books, for instance–are little but bold lines and splashes of color. But it’s the illustrator’s personality that makes the difference. The artist’s uniqueness gives each character life.
One bold line can create delight.
We moved this past week. Every bone in my body aches. (Also, I am terrifically tired, so bear with me if this post is somewhat incoherent) But the house we are in is a dream come true. Here’s why: we dreamt. We talked five years ago about where we’d want to live if we could live anywhere, and much to our surprise, that conversation has become reality. We are seriously gobsmacked.
Let me be clear: I do not think the be-all, end-all of my life is a house. Houses are important, sure, but just houses. No, what feels good is not only the house, but the intention, the dream, the praying, the planning, the hoping, and the watching it all come true. It feels incredible to draw a bold line straight to the stars with gleeful abandon.
If it were really about the house, I think I might start feeling a bit stale in about a month. But no: the line keeps going. Out of the house, out of life as I know it. I sense that even if we moved, life would still feel like a dream come true, because there would be plenty more adventures to come.
Every day, I am trying to draw the lines of my life more boldly. To practice the simple art of defining, of being intentional with this moment or the next. To take a deep breath and put passion into the way I’m sketching my day. To trust that life lived boldly, with a risk, will leap out of the background and take off running.
PS. I wish I could my cat drawing here, but it’s lost in the moving shuffle, and hey, I’m tired. Thanks to René van Belzen for these fun cat sketches.
Want more bold, joyful lines in your faith? Check out my free e-book about post-perfectionist faith here.