Drawing is Thinking

“Art schools have abandoned drawing in order to make time for all the software they have to teach. We get what we need for our professional life but don’t have an instrument for understanding the reality of life.” — Milton Glaser

Drawing is Thinking

For more than half a century, Milton Glaser has designed some of the world’s most recognizable images, including the I [Heart] NY logo, his colorful Bob Dylan poster and the DC Comics logo (1977-2005). He also helped design or redesign over 50 publications, including The Washington Post, New York magazine and The Los Angeles Times. Last year, Graphic Design USA named Glaser the most influential graphic designer of the past 50 years. His most recent book, Drawing is Thinking, contains 210 drawings and paintings that demonstrate not only his versatility as an artist but also his belief that drawing creates a better way to perceive reality.

In his book, Glaser states: “What is most compelling to me about the act of drawing is that you become aware—or conscious—of what you’re looking at through the mechanism of trying to draw it. When I look at something, I do not see it unless I make an internal decision to draw it. Drawing it, in a state of humility, provides a way for truth to emerge.”

He goes on to say: “Drawing can be considered a form of meditation. Meditation involves looking at the world without judgment and allowing what is in front of us to become understandable. … Like meditation, art makes us attentive.”

In other words, drawing forces us to think deeply. Glaser believes it helps us see the world anew. It clears our minds of preconceived ideas.

He illustrates this point with a story about drawing a portrait of his mother when he was in his late teens. He realized as he sketched her (“shifted his mind to attentiveness”) that he had no idea what she really looked like. Her appearance had become fixed in his mind through the years, and as a result, he was no longer seeing her. She no longer existed in the moment. What he held in his mind was an accumulation of all his historical encounters with her.

According to Glaser, placing pencil to paper affords us the opportunity to rediscover our world and reexamine our lives.