I appreciate the art work of Elizabeth Perry. Click here to visit Elizabeth’s blog and her latest drawings.
I have featured her pictures every few weeks. I find the images both sooth and inspire me. I believe artists have much to teach us about engagement and that there is an artistic approach to employee engagement. After you read this interview I also encourage you to click here to read an interview I conducted with Aganetha Dyck, an artist who collaborates with bees.
Elizabeth, thank you for letting me post some of your pictures and thank you for participating in this interview. How did you develop the idea to feature sketch book images in your blog? What has been the response to this?
I wanted to learn how to draw. Artist friends told me that the way to learn how to draw, was to draw – and to draw every day. So I bought a small sketchbook and began drawing. I made two rules for myself: one, I would draw in ink and not worry about mistakes or erasing; and two, I would not criticize the faults in any of my drawings, because I knew that once I started finding fault, there would be no stopping point. I drew in the book for 28 days, and was so excited by what I’d done that I posted a slideshow to my blog. The next day I liked my drawing, so I posted that, and then the next day… and the next… and so on. Today is day 1197 of my daily drawing project.
Occasionally travel or technical difficulties will knock me off line for a bit, but the daily drawings continue (they are part of my life, now) and as soon as I can get back online, I post everything. My site gets visitors from all over the world, and I treasure the emerging relationships and the altogether amazing moments when people have responded to my work with work of their own.
How do you maintain your own engagement creating your frequent sketches?
The daily nature of the blog keeps me engaged. Any one drawing is only at the top of the page for a single day. Good or bad, the next day’s attempt is different, and that keeps the project interesting. I am quite willing to fail with any single drawing – part of the delight is in letting go of the need to play it safe. I try new things. I vary my approach. I lean into discomfort. And slowly, my skills improve with practice, and that confidence leads me to stretch further, and take new risks, and the cycle continues…
Can you briefly describe how you “connect” with what you are drawing?
For me, drawing is not a verbal activity. To draw, I have to slow way down. I get myself to sit still and look. The more slowly I let my eye follow the edges or shapes of something I want to draw, the more I enter a state of relaxed awareness, and the rest of the world and its distractions fade. Most of the time I draw something very ordinary: a box of tissues, a piece of fruit, the mail on the table. My blog has become a museum of these tiny moments, a cartography of everyday life.
What has doing these images on such a regular basis taught you?
No one attempt is important – what matters is the accumulation of attempts.
What do you believe your engagement in this process may offer others about engaging in their work?
The novelist G. K. Chesterton wrote, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” Too often, we can be afraid to engage in something important, knowing that we might not succeed and we might look foolish. But I’ve learned that if a project is sufficiently important and challenging, I will need to let myself do it badly before I will be able to do it well. So I offer you this: If there is something you would really like to do (run a marathon? play ukulele? write a sonnet?) please consider this interview answer as a permission slip – go ahead – have fun – make a mess. Do it again. And again. And see what happens…Thanks for asking me these wonderful questions, David.
Photo Credit: Cherry Tree by Elizabeth Perry: http://www.elizabethperry.com/woolgathering/2008/04/cherry-tree.html