A couple of weeks ago, a friend organized a last minute drawing course for us. Had I read the email more closely I would have been intimidated by the ”life drawing” prefix to the course and probably not gone. As it was I skimmed over the email, gathered my pencils and headed north to the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

Intimidation hit after I arrived at the studio and met the artist Michèle Devèze and the live nude model Carol. I was not intimidated by them. They were lovely and welcoming. I was intimidated by myself, by my stereotyped thinking that some people know how to draw, some people are real artists, and I am not one of them.Sometimes it’s better to just plunge into the unknown without second-guessing ourselves, fling off the habits that both restrict and shelter us.

Drawing is about breaking visual habits, many of which we may not know that we have. It’s about stopping, standing still and really seeing what is in front of us.This is how I see belonging.  It’s about acknowledging stereotypes and preconceptions — and we all have them — and throwing them away. It’s about really looking at the person next to you and seeing an individual not the label because belonging is a unique process for each of us.


We started the class with one-minute outlines then moved to sketching for two minutes then five minutes. As we did Devèze walked around her studio asking us to look for the slope of the shoulders, the backbone, the pelvis. These are our anchors for the rest of the body.

Just as life sketches need anchors, we, as humans, need anchors as ways to search out meaning in our lives. Belonging is one of those anchors. I’ve learned in the months I’ve been studying belonging that, for me at least, it floats in with the grace and lightness of a fluffy seed head, only when I make an effort.

Belonging isn’t about being static. It’s about constant change. It’s about changing my habits, stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something different.

I’ve discovered that I love the smoothness of black charcoal on my hands. The oily residue that coated my fingers as I mapped out the first three lines and the limbs and then filled in bits of body and structure. I was proud of my hands and surprised by them. I didn’t know about the charcoal smudges on my chin and forehead.

I worked with a hungry focus. Concentration hung in the room and encircled me. It dragged me out of my head, away from my cluttered thoughts and into the world of art. The sound of Devèze’s guiding voice pulled together particles in the air, binding my thoughts with those of the other students. Making art moved me to a different place. My body ceased to exist as a body and I became only eyes and fingers drawing lines on butcher’s paper.

‘Don’t draw what you think is there,” Devèze reminds us again and again. ”Draw what you see.””Don’t look at it as a leg. It’s not a leg. It’s only lines. Just look at the lines. Follow the lines.”

Too often we slip into auto-pilot. Driving the same way to work, doing the same tasks without variation, talking to the same people, going to the same place for lunch, behaving in the same way, seeing what we think we see.

”We see the world, not as it is, but as we are.” The Talmud.

Like me, my sketches are imperfect. I can see the flaws. But I can learn from them because there is beauty and depth in imperfection.

Only through constant change can we strive for the freedom of imperfection. Or is it by accepting our imperfection that we can embrace constant change?

As I push beyond my boundaries and share my imperfections and my vulnerabilities, I meet more kindred spirits.

As I question my habits, and step away from them, I move towards a changing, developing sense of internal belonging.