unfulfilled it stood
atop a wooden table
the empty vase had not a drop to hold
its needs were transparent
but no one ever met them
the thirsty vase had not a bloom to boast
I saw the lonely vessel
and chose to make it special
through my drawing it would be the star
destinies are chosen
by every individual
it need not be what other vases are
I decided to share my week of sketching with Jacek, my father-in-law who is a very experienced visual artist and graphic designer. I explained my self-imposed psychological experiment to him and he listened. I could sense him trying to resist the temptation to be technically critical given his expertise in this creative domain. However, I was surprised to hear him say to me ‘you have a good eye’.
He gave me some sound advice along with some art tools and encouraged me to keep practising my new skills. Armed with a weighted lead pencil and a pad of butcher’s paper I attempted to draw a simple subject, an empty glass vase.
Jacek said to start with identifying proportions and focus on the form of the object, the detail will come later. He also advised that I draw from real life as I’m limiting my perception of depth drawing from my own photography. He said that I need to practise planning ahead with my vision for each artwork and avoid erasing, rather draw ‘line over line, over line’.
Upon using the weighted lead pencil I immediately felt a difference in this medium and it made me more mindful. While observing the empty glass vase I thought of Ellen J Langer’s book Mindfulness and her studies on assigning categories to people and things. Langer observed that when we apply unconditional facts to things it can lead to mindlessness. For instance, many wouldn’t question the label we’ve assigned to the object we refer to as a ‘pen’. She suggests that we consider that it ‘could be a pen’ and that this line of thinking opens us up to other possibilities for its use than the purpose we’ve commonly assigned to it. Herein lies mindful creativity.
I thought of Langer’s research as I sketched. I know that a vase is usually adorned with flowers and filled with water but in this case it was without either. I wondered if it was any less meaningful and I concluded that it wasn’t. Studies show that we evaluate things based on our needs and at that moment, I needed a subject to draw. The empty vase was valuable to me in that context whether or not it contained flowers or water.
I drew the vase and I wrote an accompanying poem for it. I thought of it as a metaphor for the expectations we place on ourselves and on others. How quick we are to judge and label things and assign some arbitrary value to them. Where would our minds take us if we were open to other possibilities?