Wednesday, May 3, 2017

On podcasts and a daily drawing practice

I once commented to an artist friend that when I dash off a quick sketch of something in order to do a more careful drawing later, I tend to prefer the sketch to the later drawing. “That’s because you’re overthinking it,” she said.

I have a pretty good feeling that is the reason why I have often struggled to maintain a daily drawing practice. Even though I have plenty of available time, I have trouble sitting down to just draw. It's not that I  think that drawing in itself isn't a worthwhile use of my time, it's just that drawing by itself isn’t quite enough to occupy my brain, to keep it from paying too much attention to the act of drawing. It’s like I end up micromanaging myself, if that can be a thing.

Politics podcast from FiveThirtyEight 

In a seemingly unrelated development, I recently discovered podcasts. It started with the website, which I became a little obsessed with during the election. I found their nerdy analytical take on polls and their other quantitative ways of looking at politics to be strangely calming. And I still do. (That’s not to say that their podcasts, or website articles, are dry or ponderous. Quite the contrary, it’s all quite lively and engaging, in a rational sort of way.)

So I started listening to their regular podcasts, including a topical chat about recent events in politics, which are aired every Monday, and a few others of a nonpolitical nature.

We the People podcast from the National Constitution Center

But, like most people, I don’t like to just sit and listen to a podcast, or the radio for that matter. I want to do something while I’m listening. I know that many people will listen to something when they go out for a walk or a jog, but when I go for a walk, I prefer to listen to the birds and other sounds all around me, so that doesn’t work for me. I do listen to MPR News when I’m running errands in the car, just not at home.

Can He Do That? by the Washington Post, and The Daily by the New York Times

You see where this is going, right? Here’s what I discovered: When I draw, paint, doodle, or engage in similar art activities while listening to podcasts, my overthinking brain gets out of the way and my artmaking flows more freely. Sometimes my sketches have random notes jotted all around them, as well, which you may have noticed.

It’s not really multitasking, it’s more like a happy melding of symbiotic activities. 

Listening to Politics and More, from the New Yorker, and The Global Politico, from Politico, while making mini notebook ledgers

I’ve named some other podcasts that I listen to in the captions to the photos I've included here (and in the notes jotted among my doodles and sketches). These are all ones that I find engaging and informative without hyperbole or partisan rancor—because teeth-gnashing is not compatible with artmaking, in my opinion. (You can find any of them by searching the name in your preferred podcast platform. I use a podcast app on my iPad.)

And I don’t abruptly stop whatever I’m working on when the podcasts end, whether it’s an actual project, like making a journal, or just idle drawing and doodling. At that point, I’ll usually switch to classical music until I’m ready to stop.

And my brain doesn’t seem to notice, so it stays out of the way.

. . . and Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day