Living life more vividly by drawing

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Have you ever sketched something to create a physical memory instead of just taking a photograph? Most likely you’ve more photos than sketches but drawing is something that can enhance your memory of past events and bring a richness to new experiences like travel.

Danny Gregory in the Art For All podcast ep 8, describes travelling somewhere new: “When I stop and study something new, it sparks ideas and I recognise new connections. I get insights into my own life by seeing how it differs from this new place and I learn not to take anything for granted. Just because we always do things this way doesn’t mean that’s the way you have to do it. So it allows me to kind of live life on more vivid terms.” Although travel is an enriching way to to experience new worlds, just by looking closer at your own neighbourhood, you open up to seeing things differently.

Gregory explains on a past Japan trip describes “I just wasn’t engaged and present. But drawing has changed all that. When you sit down and you draw something, all of your senses are on. Study Notre-Dame for half an hour and you’ll never forget it. Draw the plaza outside St. Peter’s Vatican and it will be severed into your brain cells. Not just the sights but the smells, the sounds the temperature – all of it. While I draw I’m experiencing life in super-high definition. Vacations are really expensive. You spend thousands of dollars on hotels and restaurants and museum admissions and they become even more costly when the memories that you’ve picked up, fade before your tan does. But I can open any of my travel sketchbooks and I’m instantly transported back to Florence, to Vienna, to Kuala Lumpur because the drawings that contain all those memories are there. They are encoded in ink and watercolor.”

Koosje Koene on the podcast agreed that “doing it [drawing] everyday and documenting certain moments and certain places, it is a way of taking photographs, only you use your pen.”

The idea that drawing can be even more effective at creating memories is something Juhani Pallasmaa discusses in a lecture on the thinking hand: “this multiple nature of the sketch… makes me remember vividly each one of the hundreds of scenes I have sketched during 50 years of my travels around the world. Whereas I can hardly recall any of the places I have photographed because of the weaker embodied recording in taking of photograph.”

If drawing helps us hold onto memories more effectively, perhaps we should consider picking up a pen instead of a camera more often.