When illustrator, filmmaker and actor Gary Andrews lost his wife, Joy, unexpectedly finding himself raising his two children alone, it was natural for him to find refuge in creativity. He decided to draw a doodle a day and started by simply drawing a broken heart. And that’s how he began his doodle diary chronicling the ups and downs of life and everything in between as he continued life without his soul mate.
Gary says the practice of drawing every day has been a profound outlet for his grief.
“It gave me an outlet for the feelings and a way to vent them. Once down on paper, I could let that particular feeling go a bit. So I didn’t bottle anything up and let it fester. I also find that the feedback and interaction I get from my followers is hugely rewarding, as many are in a similar position and the drawings help them too.”
To maintain the discipline of drawing every day Gary established some ground rules to keep it simple and keep the creativity flowing.
“My rules are no pre-drawing (I go straight in with the pen), no longer than 15 minutes to draw it and it HAS to be something that happened. I never make anything up. Other than that, it’s pretty much whatever I want.”
The doodle diary has been a wonderful galvanising tool for him and his children to bond, cry and giggle over. Having something to focus on during their grief unexpectedly turned out to be very important to the children.
“I often find them looking back through the old sketchbooks and commenting on the drawings. It’s a focus for us to talk about what has happened, and continues to happen in our lives.”
The benefits of course are for Gary too: “It’s a wonderful way to reflect on your day, to remember things that have happened and to focus your memories. It helps you see what is important in your life.”
As an Ex-Disney animator (only a small part of a long and exciting career) and all-round amazing illustrator, drawing is what came naturally to Gary.
Journaling in any way shape or form is a terrific tool for working through grief, he says.
“I know a lot of people use journaling as a tool and a few who follow me do similar. I’m sure I’m not unique in this but have been very fortunate to have a platform through which I could share and inspire or help others,” he says.
“The text is there to give a context to the images and certainly helps. because I also post on Twitter there is a limit to the amount I can say which helps keep it succinct!” he says.
But it’s that precision that touches readers hearts – grieving or not.
Read more about creative practice helping you through grief in this Tiny Buddha article.
And for a different way creativity is being expressed at the end of life, read up on how I said goodbye to my cousin through coffin art.