Drawing Ten Thousand Things

Drawings from around the farm nearby and family trip.

Drawings from around the farm nearby and family trip.

Gwen Diehn, a lifelong artist and educator, decided in mid-2013 to document her drawings and take on the challenge of drawing ten thousand things. Initially inspired by the statement – “You cannot learn to draw until you have drawn the ten thousand things.” – Diehn considered this a tangent on her own continuous path of drawing and learning. The term Ten Thousand Things refers to the countless manifestations of the Universal (or Tao or energy or God or whatever term one uses for the mysterious animating force of the universe).

Diehn launched this new phase with typical enthusiasm – heading out on her favorite paths and tuning in to everyday things with fresh eyes. On that June afternoon she drew one of the first day lillies of the season, a mulch pile in the old apple orchard, a bird on a wire, and caught the large orange and white tail of a fox bounding through the woods—the first fox she had ever seen on her local trail – taking the fox sighting as a good omen.

Diehn found the rhythm of making between seven and ten drawings a day quite pleasurable – the journals filled up with scenes and illuminated maps; travel sketches as well as the faces or accessories of friends and family at meetings and events; the evolving grandchildren and changes of seasons were all recorded. When her sketchbook with around a hundred drawings in it was stolen along with her bag in Barcelona she estimated the number of stolen drawings and jotted it down in the sequence. Relaxing into the connectedness and fascination of everything, she often researched things she’d never seen before—the cleistogamous marriage of violets, the language of venery, caput mortuum in early spring, the elegance and economy of seeds and nuts. Continuing day after day, line by line, step by step, without looking back or ahead for four years until on a sunny morning in June, exactly four years after starting the project, Diehn spotted a hen scratching in the dust and stopped to draw her dancing motion, and wrote the number 10,000.

The entire sequence is documented online at Diehn’s blog – http://real-life-journals.blogspot.com

Reproductions of many drawings will be on view as well as all of the journals employed throughout Ms Diehn’s four years of numerically tracking her sketching practice. There will be a talk/presentation by the artist. An exhibition catalog will be available for sale at the opening.

Drawing Ten Thousand Things - cover

Exhibition Catalog

On March 2 – 4, 2018 Ms Diehn will teach a class at Asheville BookWorks – Armchair Travel Sketching: Building a Practice. The class will build a sketchbook to facilitate exploration and learn how to use it in a sustainable practice of looking, seeing, and noting/sketching.


Gwen Diehn has exhibited her artwork internationally and worked in many private and public collections, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. She has taught college art as well as workshops for many years and is the author of several other Lark books, including The Decorated Page, The Decorated Journal, and The Complete Decorated Journal. Her Live & Learn: Real Life Journals (Lark) was listed as one of the top ten crafts books of 2010 by Booklist. Gwen lives in Swanannoa, NC.  Follow Ms Diehn’s ongoing adventures at: http://real-life-journals.blogspot.com/