Drawing My Friends

On making art and feeling feels.

Fifteen months ago, I was walking through the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona. Yoko and I were at the tail of our Fall vacation. My lower back was bothering me, but Yoko had rallied us to get out of the Airbnb and on our feet that morning.

She thought I would appreciate Miró’s artwork. Google had informed us that bedrest was counterproductive for back spasms, and the museum was only a 25 minute walk away.

That afternoon, I stared at bright, irregular shapes across a number of Miró's paintings and sculptures. Those shapes stuck with me for weeks. The faces, too. Simple yet expressive faces (or at least what I saw as faces) gave objects personality.

I left with a coat of calm, creative feels inspired by those friendly shapes.

Fast forward to last March

When we started quarantining in Brooklyn, my anxiety swelled to a distracting hum.

Yoko and I were both privileged to hunker down in our apartment and work from home. But new fears, constant ambulances, and the unknown of what would happen to me, my family, my friends, my neighbors and my city roiled beneath my surface.

So, I started drawing on my iPad.

I itched for a new form of creating. A medium that didn’t involve a mouse or keyboard. A form of expression that didn't require words to capture a mood.

Drawing and illustration has been a marvel to me. What artists can produce with strokes of pens, pencils and programs often feels unbelievable. And up until last year, I couched my own drawings as "doodles" or "diagrams." They were part of my process at work, never "making art."

When I started coloring in my first shapes using the Procreate app, I wanted to channel the vibe I inherited from that afternoon with Miró's work six months earlier. For whatever reason, I also found myself pulling ideas from those painfully cute Japanese characters like Gudetama and Sumikkogurashi.

That's where I was at. I wanted chill. I wanted colors. I wanted friends. I wanted calm self-expression.

I titled my first drawing “Still Hungry.”

I remember feeling lighter as I filled in the oblong shapes with hot dog colors. My mind had transported above myself for a half hour or so.

So, I kept drawing—whenever I was in the mood to capture a mood.

Or a feeling.

Or an experience.

Or a meal.

I drew on good days.

And so-so days.

Reflecting now, it was less about what I made and more about how I felt while making it—engaged, calm, untethered but connected to my current state.

Since March, I've drawn about 50 of these mini-artworks. I call the collection, “Friends With Shapes.”

I printed a few Friends With Shapes for the first time last week.

Yoko's late father had held onto a gigantic Canon Pixma Pro 100 printer for years without using it. Canon weighs almost 45 lbs 😅. He had hunted down this deal for a free printer when he purchased a DSLR.

He believed Yoko and I would make use of it someday. We finally gave it a home in my office setup. I used the Canon last week to print a 13x19’’ version of my latest friend, titled “Electric Feels"—my most ambitious drawing yet!

The drawing was inspired by watching Song Exploder on Netflix, specifically the episode where Alicia Keys and Sampha co-write the song 3 Hour Drive. I felt something watching that! I loved how they connected. They explored. And they uncovered a song they didn't expect.

Looking at this latest print on my wall brings me joy.

It reminds me of dancing in clubs with Yoko before we started dating.

It reminds me of the music my brother likes to DJ.

It reminds me of being in the flow, outside of yourself, when the unexpected connects.


Kevin here! I write about creating, optimizing, and being a person. Subscribe below to join a few hundred folks and get notified whenever I publish new words. 👋