I didn’t know how to swim until I was a teenager.
The only place I ever hung out in was the shallow end of pools. The area that when you stood up, the water would only reach your waist. The sissy end – my friends would call it. At first I didn’t want to join them at the deep end, but it got lonely (as it often does, on the shallow end). I asked myself – what was the worst thing that could happen? That I’d drown? There’s a lifeguard. Stick with your friends, hang on to the side of the pool and you’ll be fine. What if your leg cramps up and you can’t move them? Stick with your friends, hang on to the side of the pool and you’ll be fine.
So I made my way over to the deep end.
I didn’t drown. I stuck to my friends and inched out further away the sides of the pool gleefully with each subsequent visit.
Slowly over the next few weeks, I found that I could float quite well. I drifted away from the edges, letting go of the reassuring feel of the mosaic under my fingers and the sound of the lapping water against the hidden water overflow outlets. Swimming wasn’t hard at all, I thought. I could even tread water in a way that didn’t tire me out, with just my legs, kicking at a lazy pace that kept me afloat. I found that I could even do the same with just my arms.
Bobbing against the water and I found myself relaxing – I was using my body to stay afloat, but it was rhythmic and automatic, and not struggling spasms, like before. Being in the water felt good. I felt great.
And I moved further away from the edge. I did underwater somersaults. Backward flips, front-freewheeling balls. I was weightless, and I’ve never felt freer in my life.
Drawing reminds me of being in the water.
Not only was my mind free to wander and to do backflips when I’m drawing, but my hand were free as well. I draw from my shoulder, and not just my wrist – so that my movements across the paper was large and unrestrained. My entire arm and shoulder moves as I draw, just like they would if I were to float in a pool. It feels like I’m in a constant state of flow.
When I learned how to swim, I’ve found that it’s easier to stay afloat if I relaxed myself and let go. I don’t fight the water, I embrace it. I could feel myself melt into the invisible pores of the water, as if we are one.
Drawing, to me, feels very much the same.
Just like swimming, it took some time for me to embrace my strengths, instead of fighting against it. I’ve accepted that I draw the way I do, instead of trying so hard to be a second rate version of someone else. With each stroke, it gets easier; until you feel a part of you flowing onto the paper itself.
When that happens, it feels like I’m back in the water again.
And once again, I feel free.
(This article ran previously, but I edited and rewrote it again. I’m going to take older articles and re-run them again in the next coming weeks to get a jump start on things. P.s. It’s good to see you again, too!)