Why I draw big dreams through little humans

Virginia Alonso Navarro, January 2017

I have this idea, that drawings can bring humans together. Humans who don’t speak the same language, or speak the same language but constantly misunderstand each other. Humans who share the same ‘wavelength’, and humans whose cultures are so different their worlds are universes apart.

I have this idea, that drawings can transcend language, expanding our minds in a way not possible by the confinement of words, definitions, grammar.

And I have this idea, that this can be achieved through very simple, accessible drawings. XKCD has proved this, and many others have joined too the world of cartooning and minimalistic illustration. Colouring books for adults are now a thing - and a very popular one. We’ve gone back to the visual, graphic aspect of things when we want to make sense of data and understand complex information; we seek simplicity; we want information to feel accessible.

At the same time, we’re seeking a deeper connection with ourselves, with our world, with each other. We’re realising that likes on Instagram or views on Youtube don’t satisfy us like we hoped they would. We’re realising that a phone conversation cannot outweigh a face to face one; neither could the most beautiful email embrace you like a heartfelt hug does. The same old promises that better, smarter technology will help us be healthier, happier humans continue being fed to us - virtual and augmented reality, internet of things, driverless cars… While I think these are extraordinary advancements which, too, make me feel optimistic about the future, I think we’re missing a point. The point that the answer to what makes us healthier, happier humans might be inside every one us.

What makes me ‘me’ in this world? What is this world to me? Do I like it? Would I want to change it? If so where to start? What moves me? What stops me? What is the most honest way in which I communicate my own desires to the world, and give back to others? What do I think about the future? What about my future?

These are some questions I believe can connect us closer to each other and to our inner selves. They help us feel in balance with ourselves and our core strengths; to feel a part of something greater than ourselves; to understand we are not the only ones feeling this way; to empathise with the inner reflections of others no matter who they are or what they’ve done so far.

With these ideas in my mind and inspired by open-hearted humans around me, I asked a bunch of friends a handful of questions, including:

What brings you most happiness to your day-to-day life?
WWould you choose $1m or a year with the person you admire the most? Why?
Share a childhood memory unleashed without boundaries or judgment.
I wish I was more…
I wish people were less…
In the future I look forward to understanding...
Something everyone should do at least once in their lives.
If you knew you would suddenly die in 365 days, is there anything you would change about your current life?

When I started, I didn’t know what I’d do with the answers, but I knew I wanted them. After 300 pages worth of people’s answers, I still get goosebumps every time I read a new submission. One day, I decided I’d draw one of the answers with the watercolour pencils my boyfriend had gifted me last Christmas, type a few others, and share the anonymised answers with those who had taken the survey. And one drawing at a time, I began producing weekly doodles of people’s answers, shared internally with those in the community. I called it, rather uncreatively, Friends of Virginia. The name stuck; the weekly drawings continued; the number of respondents grew.

I never thought of myself as a bad drawer, perhaps a lazy one, but I would’ve never called myself an artist. Let alone someone worth of painting people’s inner thoughts about the world and themselves. Friends of Virginia started from curiosity, and grew organically into what I call a work of art. I gave myself permission to pick up a watercolour pencil and start drawing. I gave myself permission to take people’s reflections and turn them into a doodle of my own. I gave myself permission to call myself an artist, and produce art worth seeing and experimenting by others. I’m still in a process of allowing myself to grow as an artist; putting myself out there. I’m still in a process of juggling my day work and my drawing schedule, marrying both parts of myself, different but part of the same core.

I don’t think enough people allow themselves to pick up a pencil, start drawing and call themselves an artist; but I suppose that’s beyond the point of today’s confession. Today’s confession is dedicated to the humans out there reading this, to understand why Friends of Virginia started, and why I think this is important. It is about a war cry for the emergence of our inner voices expressed through art. Through every day, simple, judgment-less, boundless, art.

Thus, this is my truth, today: I believe in the value and the power of visual art, of sharing, and of connecting with one another without judging one another. One day at a time, I have come to create of Friends of Virginia a project in which I can pull those values together and allow myself to make something out of it, which comprises others’ and my own learnings and discoveries, which I can share back with the world. It is never too early, or too late, to start. I thank every human along my path who have inspired me to ask questions, pick up a coloured pencil, and share.