Drawing Outdoors Helps Me To Cope With Life’s Challenges

Walk + Draw Participant Drawing

During the height of the pandemic, I would go on daily walks with my sketchbook, often a homemade paper one for easy carrying. I found that these walks were a healthy way of coping with the situation. If it weren’t for them and my art in general, I am not sure how I would have managed through that period of time.

It was why I set up Walk + Draw last winter: I wanted to share these creative well-being sessions with others who would get as much out of it as I did.

When I draw outdoors, I can switch off from distractions, events, and challenges and focus on what is in front of me. I get involved and put marks on the paper to capture the sea, the coastline, and a bird flying across my view. Thoughts on anything that’s troubling me dissolve and disappear.

When it is windy, I have to pay closer attention to everything. The paper in my sketchbook will flap and turn; any loose items may blow away to sea (that happened once to my distraught!), or jars of water or ink may topple over. I can’t be thinking about anything else.

I have to draw quickly and often more expressively, and I find my sketches are better. Not too much thinking, just doing instead. Not too much fiddling with the chance of ruining it either.

When it rains, I use the drops on my paper as part of the drawing. Unless the downpour is heavy, a few drizzles add to the sense of my being there, in the moment, recording what I am experiencing. I feel it adds a truth, an authenticity to my work. Rather than wishing it wouldn’t happen and trying to stop it from happening, I welcome it.

Whitesands and Barns Ness, East Lothian

I come home refreshed, having slowed down my pace, and the rest of my day seems to unfold more smoothly. I find I am more productive and energised. Sometimes so relaxed that little things that irritated me beforehand stopped bothering me. I smile at those little things instead.

I notice that it affects me when I haven’t been outdoors drawing and sketching for a while. A feeling that something is missing, a disconnection, and I get into my head too much.

When I draw outdoors regularly, I notice more contentment and a sense of well-being that spills over into the rest of my life. A quiet inner joy is more present.

Slowing down and focusing on what is in front of me, just like when I am drawing outdoors, I can more easily cope with any challenges I am experiencing.

Drawing Outdoors Together: Walk + Draw

This time last year I ran through a Walk + Draw session with a friend. It gave me the confidence to promote these well-being sessions, especially after my friend encouraged me to do so (she even sent me a couple of photos from that day on Whatsapp this week to say it was a year ago that we did that!). I also spoke to my course mates on the Paintbox School of Art Professional Development course. They helped me to “sense-check” it and one of them even signed up!

So glad I took the plunge. I love the small group format of Walk + Draw and have enjoyed running each one so far.

It’s a place to connect with like-minded, nature-loving people who are giving themselves some precious time to focus on their well-being and setting themselves up for the week ahead (sessions are currently on Monday mornings).

Walk + Draw at Belhaven Bay

While the first part of the session is usually in silence in order to arrive and connect with the landscape we are in, there is also a chance to chat about and point out to one another what we see or hear: patterns in the sand caused by the tide, skylarks out of view in the tall grass twittering away, the light peering through the clouds and illuminating a stretch of beach.

We stop regularly and get our sketchbooks out, starting with quick sketching to loosen up. A bit like warming up to go for a run. Then there’s usually at least a couple of chances to draw for longer, about ten to fifteen minutes, to work on something more sustained and immersive.

From now on I will vary where I facilitate Walk + Draw. Each session will be at different coastal locations in East Lothian. This is for some variety: to experience new sights, sounds, and inspiration, particularly for those who come along regularly.

Please note that I do not teach during these sessions. I only facilitate the experience and lead the group on the walk and through the different types of sketching we do. Of course I am on hand if you need any help or suggestions, but the idea is to just draw and sketch in your own way, and enjoy being out in nature. We don’t currently share our pieces with one another – so don’t worry if the drawings aren’t so good! (We have all been there!)

If you like the sound of drawing outdoors with Walk + Draw, please email me at carriejsanderson@gmail.com to book your spot or ask any questions you may have. You can also find more information here.

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