This is an exercise adapted from Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, basically a master cartooning course in the form of a slim book. The chapters are divided into weeks, 15 in total, with exercises and assignments each week. The first is ‘Spontaneous Drawing’, which contains this gem:

Exercise 1.3

Pencil out a grid (or grids) in your sketchbook, enough to contain 100 small drawings. Now, spending no more than 5 seconds per drawing, let your stream of consciousness guide you, drawing whatever word comes to mind (do not stop to think about it). Examples: persons, places, objects, occupations, concepts, emotions, etc. You should, at the end, have a little system of pictograms. 

It’s both harder and easier than it sounds. Hard, if you tend to think about drawing as your hands driving a car, instead of receiving then transmitting ‘whatever word comes to mind’, as the exercise asks. Easy, because if you can let go, the images will come pouring out of your hand onto the page.

The effort is in the particular quality of attention that you need to hold yourself in to be able to do this. It has little to do with drawing skill, or ‘talent’ as we’re used to understanding it, i.e. making something look life-like.

When I did the exercise above, I was surprised at the images swimming in my head, all the little details of things I could remember, in the two hours that had passed since waking up, going out to breakfast and coming home to draw.

I want to practice this more, but I find it hard, because just before I sit down to do it, I feel as though I’m about to jump off a cliff. When I’m doing it however, it’s the easiest thing in the world, like breathing or being a note of music.

It’s just… that cliff!


Antid Oto – italian for antidote – was one of Leon Trotsky‘s earliest pen names. I also love the Malay word for it: penawar. A few months ago, I started taking regular walks and making drawings afterwards as a way to deal with worry, procrastination, hopelessness, writer’s block, internet rage, and digital distraction. I’ll post a series of them here, one every other day, for as long as I keep making them.