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As well as my expressive visual art practice I like drawing ‘from life’. During my art training it was a requirement to learn ‘objective’ drawing. We were taught to pay attention to what was in front of us instead of imposing what we thought something or someone should look like. Our drawings became documents of our attentive looking, our hands embodying that attention by responding to a subtle curve with a delicate line, or comprehending a rock face with textured mark making.

During one class we were outdoors drawing trees, I had chosen to study the base of a eucalyptus which had a hollow just where the trunk entered the earth. It was really difficult to communicate the hollow through drawing, but I persisted. Then it occurred to me what a privilege it is to learn about the tree through drawing; to understand it – to get a glimpse of the creator’s hand - how it is formed, the secret details that remain invisible when we simply walk past it. I felt I had a sense of how God might see the tree, of the intimacy with which the Divine is connected and familiar with creation.

I still feel that sense of privilege today as I catch the beauty that surrounds me in my every day in large and small ways- whether the sky from my balcony at sunset or during storms, tracing the passage of light and shadow even if I do not draw it; or the little birds who visit that same balcony and spark my delight with the fragmented texture of their feathers and tiny beaks and feet. Being able to see and feel nature is a gift my artistic vision has given me.  It was fascinating to learn that people who draw well actually see the world more clearly. It was a further surprise to learn that even if we do not have an artistic bone in our body that the act of drawing while attending to nature teaches us to be able to literally see nature more clearly. It gives me hope that more of us might treasure the created world which God gifted to us; not only as a background upon which our lives play out but as a source of companionship, comfort, delight and wonder.

The drawing I share with this post is a long study of about 3 hours. I was on a retreat at Jollity Farm on Thetis Island. I had begun it to pass the time and soon it became something more contemplative.

Learn more about Cornelia’s expressive art practice at  

Isaiah 45.18-19

For thus says the Lord,
who created the heavens
   (they are God!),
who formed the earth and made it
   (God established it;
not creating it a chaos,
   but forming it to be inhabited!):
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I did not speak in secret,
   in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
   ‘Seek me in chaos.’
I the Lord speak the truth,
   I declare what is right.