Drawing and Mindfulness: Seeing and Stillness Exercises

April 28, 2020

Drawing and Mindfulness tutors Helen Burgess and Ethan Pollock offer a drawing exercise and a short meditation that ask us to be still and notice the aspects of our subject and ourselves that might ordinarily be lost.

Sweaty Shoes

This is a quiet exercise that explores different ways of seeing. It takes about 15 minutes.

Setting up: Choose an object- something simple like a cup or a piece of fruit is ideal. Any drawing materials to hand- pencil or charcoal, and paper.

Sit somewhere comfortable, maybe at a table, somewhere you can rest your object and also draw.

Each of the suggestions below offer a different way for your mind to contact the object. The timings aren't too important, a rough guide would be about a minute each. Go through each of the stages in turn before finally drawing the object. You could do this exercise with a friend, in which case one of you could read the suggestions aloud.


·       Hold the object, close your eyes and feel the weight, shape, plasticity and texture of the object. Pay attention to the sensation of contact between the object and your skin. Keep exploring, allowing the touch sense to become dominant in your experience.

·       Open your eyes and rest the object in front of you. Now look at the shape of the object- where are the edges? Look at the differentiation between the object and what ever it is contacting- air, table etc. Can you see definition clearly or is it elusive?

·       Next look at the object in terms of light and shade. Where does the light fall on the object? Is it darker or lighter than what is around it? Allow light to be the way you understand what you see.

·       Look closely at the surface of your object. What colours can you see? What is the texture? You may want to pick it up again to examine it.

·       Broaden your attention- the object is part of the bigger arrangement of the whole room. Let it be part of everything you can see.

·       Now become aware of this object moving through time, or as time moves through it- where has it been, how did it come about? It has a history, it is here now, and it will have a future.

·       Imagine this object has appeared to you in a dream. It is a significant dream and the object is important. No need to create the narrative, you can reflect as if you have just woken and are aware of the feeling of the dream.

·       Close your eyes and see the object in your minds eye. What is it like to you now?

Now set a timer and draw the object for 5 minutes, using intuition rather than any particular technique.

Did any of the ways of looking impact the way you drew? What surprised you?

If you feel like it, keep drawing.

Mum's birthday picture.jpg

5 Minute Meditation 

During the day, to help you stay grounded and present we will lead you through short guided meditations like this one throughout the course. By taking time to gather our attention, we can be more centered as we observe and create. Listen and follow along to experience for yourself the difference 5 minutes of mindfulness can make.

Summer School // Mindfulness and Drawing runs 20 - 24 July 2020.

For more information and to book click here

Artworks from top: Rachel Hodgson, David Gardner, Helen Burgess and Arjuna Gunarathne