Elizabeth Layton began drawing in her late 60's. For her, it happened on a chance. She was severely depressed at the time. She had been dogged by depression most of her life - was in and out of mental hospitals.
Nothing seemed to help. She was diagnosed as having bi-polar disorder (manic Depressive illness) but here she was in her late 60's still suffering.
Her depression was so great. There seemed no way out. A friend suggested that she "take an art class" to see if it would help. Elizabeth enrolled in a college art class and attended one session. the class was about Contour Drawing.
Contour drawing is when you put a piece of paper in front of you, take up your pencil and looking only at what you are going to draw, begin to 'trace the outline of the object VERY SLOWLY with your pencil." You do not look at the paper when you draw.
Sounds strange? Yes. But those who try contour drawing find that they get something really alive and special as a result of their efforts - the slower they move the pencil, tracing every indentation and line, the better the result.
When that first class was over, Elizabeth Layton went home and continued contour drawing ...every day, for hours at a time. It became like full time work - consuming 7 or 8 hours a day. She sometimes took time to add color to the drawing. And she said that when she finished a drawing she wrote about what she felt while drawing.
This went on day after day, month after month from Fall until early summer.
Suddenly one day she realized her depression was gone! Elizabeth later said that she thought that the drawing (right brain activity) coupled with writing words (a left brain activity) had somehow balanced or change something in her brain.
Yes, she continued to do contour drawing. Her first pictures were images of her own face (Some contour drawing teachers like Betty Edwards suggest starting by drawing your thumb or hand.)
Then Elizabeth began drawing other people. She even did a series that documented the sojourn of a friend from the day she left her home for a Nursing Home until the day she died. Elizabeth documented all of it.
Her work is 'collectible' and it is hung in a number of galleries. But what is really interesting about Elizabeth Layton's work is her 'changing eye'. She herself said that when she first began to draw self portraits, she drew herself as an 'old hag' but over time she began to see the beauty in her own features. Her self portraits show this transformation.
Here is someone who 'became more fully herself' in Elderhood and in the process not only transformed herself but contributed to the beauty in the world.
Click here to see some works of Elizabeth Layton
What really inspires me about this story is that it was not until she because old, had entered Elderhood, that she discovered this aspect of herself.
And as for the 'lifting of depression" I can attest that when I do contour drawing - yes, I have dozens of drawings of my hands and a few 'self portraits' - I too find my mood lifts. There is a sense of joy that comes in the process.
Since I had no 'art class' that taught Contour Drawing, I used Betty Edwards's book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain . I have never gotten past the early chapters. I do not want to learn perspective ..take a class in oils or water color, although I have friends who have done so and found them life giving, I just want to do contour drawing.
Click here to find of copy of Drawing on the Right Side of your Brain Use the search function at top of the page at Amazon Art Books
Go to Elderhood, the third stage of human development
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