The Zen of Drawing In the Zone

Imagine yourself playing your favorite sport. Forgetting all limitations, you perform flawlessly and are unstoppable as you tally up point after point. You’re in a state of mind where time is suspended and movement flows without having to think of fundamental skills. This is called being in the Zone, and it’s the state of mind you want to strive for while drawing. Drawing from the Zone can be a peaceful meditation for sketching quick ideas or creating deeply inspired work.

Becoming One With Your Pencil

Being in the Zone is when the intense concentration on what you’re drawing gives way to effortless zen-like pencil strokes. It’s as if your drawing hand takes on a mind of its own, while lines and shapes flow from your pencil tip. For beginning and advanced sketchers alike, finding this blissful state of transcendental drawing can prove to be elusive and challenging.

Baseball legend Yogi Berra famously said, “Ninety percent of hitting is mental, the other half is physical.” And so it also goes in drawing: much of the process is mental, even before pencil meets paper. Letting go of preconceived notions about drawing and training yourself to see like an artist will help you start mental conditioning. Taking your drawing skills into the Zone–and staying there for extended periods of time–takes a special mindset indeed.

3 Ways to Draw Yourself Into the Zone:

Be the Pencil: Visualize Drawing
Like an athlete in training, envision yourself with pencil in hand, poised and confident, your arm gliding effortlessly through long, graceful arcs. Picture yourself laying down guidelines and accurate construction lines, making corrections, and finishing your drawing with artistic flair. The artist Andrew Wyeth once said, “I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.” Dream about drawing.


Often, at the beginning of my high school drawing classes, I’ll get students into the zone by doodling for several minutes. Sometimes students, like the one shown above, will transform a random doodle into an elaborate abstract composition. Can you remember doodling during class? You were probably in a deep meditative state of mind.

Eliminate Distraction

Music can help you focus and get deeper into your drawing. Maybe the sounds of ocean waves or wind rustling through trees will trigger your mood for inspired sketching. For some, silence is the preferred mode for getting in the Zone. It’s important to find a special place where you can focus on matters at hand, silence your inner critic, and draw out your inner artist.

In the photo above, two Santa Cruz students share music while preparing for a challenging lesson on proportions.

Be Spontaneous
Random acts of doodling are excellent for prying open the doors of creativity and stepping into the Zone. Experiment. Loosen up your line work. Draw on top of mistakes: let errors and corrections add to your composition. Embracing mistakes, then getting past them, gives way to the spirit of discovery. And then the real fun begins!

Drawing can be a very productive meditation. Whether drawing from observation or imagination, it takes effort to find the Zone, just like when you’re playing sports. But with practice it gets easier and easier to naturally drop into it. Keep pencil to paper, push your drawing abilities into uncharted waters. Suddenly, unexpectedly, you’ll feel the cerebral shift as the gravity of the Zone pulls you into its orbit. Once there, each pencil stroke will feel like it’s being channeled from a fearless, profound place where anything is possible.

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Rob Court

Founder and drawing coach at the Scribbles Institute, Rob helps adults and kids learn basic drawing skills for work, school, and enjoyment. He is the author of a number of how-to-draw books.