Sometime I get people asking me
why y’all still draw by hand?
its so tedious, and slow
and if you make a mistake you gotta start all over again
why don’t you change up
get with the times
go digital
use computers
they are so much more
efficient, uniform, and perfect
compared to the human mind and hand

This is true
and we offer two courses at our community college
in landscape design
in the advanced class we get into some software
and click away at the screen
importing 3 d plants from a virtual warehouse
visualize a space while orbiting and zooming in and out
snapping lines of exact 8’ – 2 1/2” straight retaining walls with ease
these are good advancements, improvements
we evolve with the times, and the new clients’ expectations and wishes
I do not dispute this, nor its importance

On the other hand
we have many students who are
ex accountants ex chemists ex doctors ex IT specialists
ex software engineers ex architects ex ex ex
who have spent many many too many hours at the keyboard
and don’t really want that anymore, at least not all the time
they want a balance
they want to be with fluid nature not rigid culture
they want to know the world that functions as a web of connections
take a break from the boxy world of top down hierarchy
so they turn to plants, hoping for some new connections and friends
some sweet scents and down time
the last thing they want to do
is to sit back in that ergonomic chair, hooked up
or we have many students fresh out of high school
who have already spent countless months, perhaps years,
with shows and video games and movies and social media
probably more time with a screen than sleeping
probably more time with a screen than with people
so to get them to learn the basics of drafting, and the origin of the art and science of horticulture
we start at the beginning
we start with simple hands on objects and basic observation skills of the outside world
allow that process to take hold
and grow like a vine

there is a warmth and person feel
that comes from a hand drawn picture
in the big architecture firms that can afford it
the renderings, the perspectives, look at how they beam
they are hand drawn, not machine drawn
a good artist can bust out a drawing
and exceed the speed of a computer’s drawing
a computer plan may have to be
photographed uploaded edited imaged cropped moved and saved
whereas the hand drawn plan is relatively simple to execute
paper, pen, straight edges and ruler

In addition
in those human drawn lines
there is emotion and manna and mana
embedded in the picture are a persons experiences and trials
maybe a person working through their traumas and fears
they are all there
its kinda meditative really, a drawing
a process with a defined start and finish
a relatively straight one, not one full of zig zag mazes and infinite scroll down loops

drawing by hand, there is less of an inclination or ability to
edit and change, save and redo, paste and track, copy and rename
it is more of ‘bang’ shot beginning to end
less of a strain on the mind doing the this or that, analysis, more this or that
nor is there as much the anxiety of a plan that seeks to be perfect
every little detail, perfect
yes a person did this, it might even have a tiny tiny mistake or two
the gist is that
we are drawing a plan, a preliminary idea, something to get us off the ground
something to ground us and root us, into the earth
thats all
we are not drawing the blueprints for a high tech science instrument to the milli milli accuracy
we are not designating the specifications for an advanced prototypic 3 billion dollar machine
we are just
making a garden

computer designs are good at the straight lines
not so good with the
the gentle curves or serrated edges or dynamic flows
that is part of garden design
thats the softness, the gentleness, the peacefulness
we seek in nature
maybe one day there will be cookie cutter factory designed gardens
custom clicked gardens
gardens you can just swoosh through the email and plop down
instant garden
one size fits all garden
rubber molded garden
eternal never changing garden
plastic never dying garden
really, is that what you really want?
ponder this a little bit longer, what you are getting into…
a garden is a personal thing, ya know…
it is a treaty a compact an agreement a covenant
between a sanctuary and people
it is installed by a contractor
maintained by a gardener
and designed by you
a visionary who can weave all the disparate elements together
and sink it down deep deep deep

So back to the hand drawn plans
you get to touch tools and learn their special function
tools that are not icons, tools you can touch
you get to make mistakes and crumple up the paper all mad
no you shouldn’t break the computer that cost 1000 dollars, throw it out the window
no matter how frustrated it makes you…
you get to see a vision in your mind travel through your nerves and muscles and become reality
you get to be actively engaged, whole body married to the creative process
the whole thing is so cool and fun
tactile, textured, full of vibrant colors
this is why we still
draw by hand
at least initially… in the first semester of class
yes I know, I am with you
I am not a luddite resister going around town in a horse pulled buggy
using a hand cranked flour mill and sitting around a wood fire
yes, the year is 2020…

There is something else. In art and design classes they use this one book called Drawing on the right side of the brain. It challenges you to see things in different perspectives, as a way to balance the right and left spheres of your brain and become a better artist.

Well for those of you who did not grow up learning this stuff – the left side of your brain controls the right side of your body, and the right side of your brain controls the left side. Funky right? Also, the left brain is more associated with the analytical logical ‘rational’ side of behavior. What we think of more as ‘the head’. So science and math and languages. Theres the left brained engineer, investment banker. Leaders in big industries and tech, business. Whereas the right brain is more associated with creativity, intuition, visualization, spatial abilities – more ’the body or the gut or the heart’. So art and music, sports, poetry and stories. Not as much valued in our society today, materially speaking anyways. Besides sports. We are primarily a left brain dominated culture. A right handed culture.

Imagine the left brain sees the world as geometric shaped boxes, black lines on white paper. Squares and more squares. The right brain is full of beautiful colors, but not well structured. Splatters and stuff everywhere. Put the two of them together, and you have the world and life and a garden. That is the design. On many occasions scientists have visualized the solution to a problem by seeing images in their dreams. These are the scientists that have the left and right brain interface well bridged and working together.

Having come across this in high school, I am not sure of the research and source at this point, but simply retelling it as a point of interest. Back in the day they were investigating the brain and treating the mentally ill with whatever they could think of. One of the methods they came up with was cutting off sections of the brain, this was called a lobotomy. They hoped that in so doing they would be able to restore function and health in some way shape or form. In the course of these experiments, they did an interesting study of the right and left brains, stimulating parts of the brain and seeing what happened. When they stimulated the left side the patient articulated language normally, when the equivalent right side was stimulated they would cuss, ‘like a sailor’. That is to say, these cuss words in our vocabulary, normally avoided by most of us civilized folk in day to day life, come from another part of the brain. They are emotion charged and you might say primal, having to do with scatological or sexual phenomenon that is common to all animals. So these words serve a function beyond mere insults. Out of the right brain emerges a punctuation mark in the midst of chaos, expressing equalizing and decompressing the mind and the situation. Basically the right brain is a little bit repressed and neglected in our culture, and so in designing and drawing a plan, we hope to give it some light and find that balance. This is not to say that you should go around the house screaming profanities at the top of your lungs cause you are stimulating your right brain this way. Its just to recognize this tilted scale and bring it back up to level.