Just being in nature is incredibly good for your well being, be your mental or your physical health.
Doing an activity in nature emphasise even more these benefits, engaging both mind and the body into the natural environment, interacting with it and getting fed and resourced by this interaction.
Wether it’s walking, climbing, skiing, biking, running… But also drawing!
Its been quite a few years that I have been packing my sketchbook and drawing supplies when I travel. I must confess , they usually stay in the bag and do not get used. Wether I am going away just for the week end or for longer trip, I seldom find- or rather create- the time to draw. These moments of escape feel far too rare and precious for me to "waste them on drawing"(in a way that I can draw when I am home, not that drawing is a waste of time!)
So I would rather walk, climb and explore all day rather than " take it easy" and stop to draw an afternoon.
My thirst for enjoying these places that I love but do not have the occasion to spend enough time in turn me into an action machine, extra eager to explore during the day and too tired to pick up the sketchbook to draw in the evenings.
Slowing down and carving some time away from the "adventure time" can feel challenging, but it is essential and well worth it. It does create a difference experience, and makes the moments even more precious and enjoyable, because by slowing down we can taste every moment instead of speeding up through them.
After a year of not enough adventure and outdoor time and drawing from pictures only,
I wow to myself that on my next trip, I will make the time to slow down, and take my sketchbook out to draw from real life mountains.
As it happened, I had the occasion to win a sketchbook made of unused prints from the talented Lindsey Fox (@lefoxstudio), the perfect inspiration and the perfect format to bring with me on my travels to France in May.
During these three weeks, I explore new places, find some time here and there to do some sketches that I would start in my hikes in the day and finish in the evenings... The pinnacle of this french trip was a four day backpacking journey where I could fully draw extended amounts of time, fully immersed in the landscapes.
Drawing on a backpacking trip felt like the perfect balance. Having a few days by yourself and no distraction else than nature's beauty, entire days from dawn to night, and a path naturally punctuated with places to stop helped creating these pockets of times to sketch.
During a lunchtime break, at the end of the day, or to fill these few hours after diner and bedtime... It was a bliss experience to create on the spot and to fully immersed yourself in these stunning sights.
This is a practice that I really want to continue and expand... I am dreaming of big drawings, paintings even, and travelling to some of my most inspiring places to create pieces in nature....
And this is something that I would really encourage anyone to start or keep doing.
A few things happen when drawing from nature...
It does become a way to explore the place, with your eyes, with your pencils/brush/pens, to look at it from a new place and a new angle and deepening further your relationship to it. Because you might look at a mountain a lot more if you draw it rather than if you just take a picture. You start becoming familiar with the features, that pile of rock on the right, that line in the rock face, that spire that create an interesting shadow... From seeing the object, you see the light, the shadows, the shape, the colours, all the small details... The gaze keep zooming in and out, noticing all the details and patterns to bring them back to the bigger picture. Your drawing become the tale of that deep, intimate exploration.
Moreover, it will make the memories of that moment, of that trip, of these landscapes a thousand times more precious as we poured more emotions and time into appreciating them in more details.
Sketching also have a way to make you present and focus, and this is emphasized even more whilst in the outdoors. All the senses are stimulated, the sounds, the sights, the smells, the touch... It's an immersive experience that creates a very "in the moment" bubble. Being in the moment, in the flow, is the optimum state of our human experience. I often find that art and climbing are the two activities where I can get to that flow state, as I think that in these two you are in fully in the moment, fully immersed in what you do, both with an intense and a soft focus.
Finally, sketching in the outdoor can be a form of meditative practice. Movement meditation, such as yoga are a lot easier and work a lot for me than just trying to sit still.
So does climbing and drawing, which I both approach as form of movement meditation.
Somehow, a big part of my mind disconnect when I draw, I let an other part of me, much more instinctive and intuitive, take over and speak on the paper ( or move on the rocks:).
All form of meditation have extensive benefits for our well being, and combining this with nature is amplifying all these good things!
Wether you want to take he meditative approach or just having fun with your creative practice, outdoor sketching is wonderful way to stop, slow down, reconnect to ourselves and to our environment, creating a new relationship to the landscapes and make the memories of our adventures even more precious.