Through our hands and heart on to paper: ‘Lifelines’, June 2016

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It’s been exactly one month since I left full-time work and already I feel that I’m coming to understand how I want to develop my creativity. I spent last weekend (June 24-26) at Hawkwood College on a residential ‘Lifelines’ drawing course run by Morag Donnelly. To say the weekend had an enormous impact on me would be a understatement. In truth, it has opened my eyes to life and art in a way that either I had forgotten, or which has never really ‘clicked’ before. For the first time I felt that I could fully connect to the ‘essence’ – or spirit – not just of people, but to all things. The ‘poetry’ of life.

(c) Jonathan Mansfield

Morag and Paul June 2016

To give you some background, this was a life drawing class, but nothing of the type many of us would remember from art school. The unique processes by which we ‘let go’ – firstly of our inhibitions towards each other, and then to anything we thought we ‘knew’ about drawing – coupled with deep relaxation and the sense that ‘anything goes’ enabled our creative souls to emerge blooming. Parker J Palmer writes of ‘safe’ spaces for our souls to emerge in A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Towards an Undivided Life as a ‘circle of trust’: something which, I think, we all experienced/created over the course of the weekend.

(c) Jonathan Mansfield

Morag and Paul, June 2016

I don’t want to describe all of the processes that we went through, but it involved our hands, clay, water, ink and feathers. It felt very sculptural; very physical; grounding.

Here’s an excerpt from my notes:

Using hands.
Really feeling the body with our materials: clay, ink, water.
Using all of both our hands and fingers to make different marks, lines and gestures.
Imagining being around the body, feeling the physicality of her and her place in the surroundings.

What is clear to me now is that my hands are an exquisite tool for drawing.  I guess that would make sense given that humans used hands for drawing before they picked up a paint brush or pencil. Something very special happens when you draw with your hands: you actually feel the drawing. In your mind you connect to the model (literally ‘seeing’ them and holding them in your mind/heart). As your eyes are drawn down, around, and through the figure you ‘feel’ that flesh on the paper with your hands.

(c) Jonathan Mansfield

Morag, June 2016

At the same time a deeper connection is made to the person you are drawing: a sense that souls are meeting. An understanding that everyone and everything can be ‘met’ in this way: through our hands and hearts on to paper. Drawing to build relationships. Drawing to make connections. Drawing to express poetry. Drawing to feel love. Drawing to feel close to spirit. Drawing to make art. This isn’t something that I learned at college!

(c) Jonathan Mansfield

Morag and Paul, June 2016

I wanted to share some of my life drawings (below) that, up until now, I considered to be ‘good’ and ‘right’ but which leave me cold when compared to those above, as they lack that ‘Lifelines’ connection. Do you see what I mean?


(c) Jonathan Mansfield


(c) Jonathan Mansfield


(c) Jonathan Mansfield



(c) Jonathan Mansfield

I finally feel that I ‘get it’. I have a new direction and a renewed dedication. My desire to connect art and spirituality is no longer a vague, ‘untouchable’, quasi-religious experience, but a physical, corporeal, gutsy, sculpting of art and materials.

I’m literally feeling my way into a new world of artistic exploration. I’ve been thrown a metaphorical life line. Thank you Morag x


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I am a Wiltshire-based landscape artist, working outdoors, come rain or shine. I recently left full time work in order to pursue my life-long ambition of being an artist.

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