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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Drawing under Hypnosis - Session Two

My drawings describe an inner world; imaginings, sensations, a particular motion, memory or emotion. I set up environments to draw within, for example I could position myself in an imposing or comforting part of a room, immerse myself in live improvised music or be placed under hypnosis. I then draw the impact these outer environments have on my inner world. Though the environments are planned, what emerges during the drawings is unpredictable. I respond in the moment, choose whether to follow a mark or form and what it suggests, is it right? There is always a fine balance between release and control, this is perhaps most evident in the hypnosis drawings. 

I have been collaborating with Devin Terhune (Lecturer in Psychology at Goldsmiths, London) to create drawings whilst under hypnosis, as part of my Arts Council England funded project 'Drawing as Experience'. Below is a summary of what happened during our second session, for more sessions follow this link. 

Devin and I have developed a process for each drawing; first we discuss what I want to explore in the next drawing, for example this could be drawing with my hands and arms moving independently of me (anarchic hands). Devin incorporates this idea into his induction (a set of verbal instructions that place me under hypnosis). Once hypnotised I draw and, with luck, my hands and arms have become anarchic.

For 'Dinosaur' I was to become 'fully absorbed in the drawing'. During it I felt relaxed, heavy and 'inside' my drawing in a way I don't normally feel. Early on in the drawing the jaws of what I recognised to be a toy dinosaur began to emerge, I remember finding it funny but deciding to stay with it, to let it happen. I was also very aware of sounds, the trains outside and footsteps above, these influenced the marks too.

Afterwards I remembered I had tidied away one of Jackson's toy dinosaurs just before Devin had arrived.
Anarchic Hands and Arms 

During induction I was told I would have 'Anarchic Hands and Arms' (meaning they would move independently of me, and each other) When I began the drawing I wasn't sure if I liked losing control of a part of my body, it felt alien, looked robotic, and the marks reflected this. I got used to it fairly quickly however and enjoyed observing, with curiosity, my new spidery looking language. Again I think my sensitivity to sound influenced the drawing too, the hard, scratchy sound of the charcoal moving seemed to breed more hard scratchy marks.

When we tried this technique in the previous session I had been sat at a desk with smaller paper, this larger scale exaggerated my movements and the marks, better describing the effects of anarchic hands and arms.

Anarchic hands and arms (large scale drawing)

Anarchic hands and arms

Imagining Jackson

Imagining Jackson

How do you draw love? I wanted to make a drawing about my son Jackson, to somehow describe my feelings for him. During the drawing I was really struck by how present and real my feelings were, with only Devin's induction and Jackson's comforter 'monkey to evoke them.

I felt very sure of what I wanted to do, the center of the drawing became a repeated smoothing of the pink pastel representing the rush in my chest I get when I watch Jackson sleep, a surge of love. Surrounding this were marks I recognise from my music drawings, in this context they represented the sound of his laugh. In the bottom right hand corner things  became more solid looking, brought on by thoughts of his squishy legs, arms and the crease at his wrist.

Devin mentioned afterwards that the technique of bringing about specific vivid images, which in turn bring about emotions, is used a lot in hypnotherapy. He also pointed out that I am a very visual thinker (as opposed to verbal) and he is not surprised that I am an artist.

Draw freely, without any constraints (large scale drawing)

Without Constraints

'losing control is a bizarre psychological state. With everything we do we have a sense of agency, a sense of being in control of our actions, this is a fundamental part of being a person in the world.’ - Devin.

What does it mean to draw with total abandon? 'Drawing without constraints' was a drawing in which I did not hold back, I was instructed to draw without worrying about how it looked at all, to just let it happen. What followed was a joyful wallowing in the physicality of making repetitive, addictive, sweeping marks at speed. I was reminded of swimming.

Whether I am instructed specifically to 'draw without constrains' or not, each hypnosis drawing is a balance of abandon and control, criticism and risk. The power between them shifts within the course of each drawing, I make judgments as I go, sometimes that judgment is to do nothing and let 'the hypnosis' lead. The other layer of control happens around each drawing, before it starts - in the discussions Devin and I have about what the focus of the drawing will be, and afterwards - in the choice whether to pursue that method again.

Please note it is important to only try hypnosis with a trained hypnosis professional.

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