Reviewed by Angela Marie
What does United Nations Resolution 66/281 have in common with artist and author, Alex Beeching?
Both are on a mission to create and foster something amazing. A state of happiness.
Curiously, I first thumbed through Draw Yourself Happy on March 20. Unbeknownst to me at the time, but discovered later on during that day, this was the United Nations International Day of Happiness. Spawned from a conceptualisation by prominent United Nations special advisor, Jayme Illien, to generate and promote a global happiness movement, this day was first declared in 2013.
In the words of Ban Ki Moon, ” Happiness for the entire human family is one of the main goals of the United Nations.”
That happiness is a fascination, and a sought-after product and concept, is indisputable. Google the word. Which of the 172 million entries will you choose?
Draw Yourself Happy is a book of secret pleasures. I will unashamedly say that I love this book. And that was from the moment that I started to peruse it. It made me smile. It made me feel happy. And that was before I undertook any artistic endeavours. I marvelled at the intricacy and the intimacy of communication. Yes, Alex was talking to me. In a wonderful atmosphere of acceptance, encouraging me to have a go. Without having to prove myself, I was being drawn in and welcomed to the band of artists. As an individual.
This is not a colouring book,although that may play a part. This is not a ‘How to draw’ book, although that too may play a part. This is not a simple book, although some activities may be simple. Draw Yourself Happy is described as ‘an activity book like no other’ and I have to agree. There is a seemingly endless volume and variety of activities to choose from. One could almost fill a year from one International Day of Happiness to the next. That is, if one could limit oneself to one activity per day.
The inherent beauty of this book is that it has been created from a lateral thinking perspective. It is not intended as a progressive exercise. The reader/ drawer is encouraged to jump about through the pages until alighting upon something that appeals at the instance. Activities range from simplistic to challenging, catering to the spectrum of happiness from quiet contentment to overwhelming joy. You have permission to be a child with a box of colours again. It’s playtime.
Alex Beeching does not say how to do something. He offers up helpful tips and ideas to encourage us towards our own style and our own ideas. He is supportive whilst challenging us and stretching our preconceptions of what we are capable of drawing. I have no doubt that Draw Yourself Happy is the end product of many, many hours of deliberation and honing. Pedestrian objects become intriguing and a candidate for investigation and contemplation.
Which activities are my favourites? Hard to limit but special mention to the triangle, peacocks, terrarium, patchwork tree, venn diagrams, abstraction challenge….. I think I had better stop.
For me, Draw Yourself Happy evokes a reminder that true happiness lies within us and we have the power to let it bloom. I was not anticipating how calm/ happy/ reflective I would feel through the act of drawing. That was an extra gift.
Alex Beeching acknowledges that he is “first and last a lateral thinker”. He strives to incorporate both his Iranian and his English heritage within his works. He is an award-winning artist and author, highly sought after for commissions, collaborative projects and installations. Think the University of London, and the Cheltenham and Bloomsbury festivals, among others.
Draw Yourself Happy
by Alex Beeching
$16.99; 192 pp