Drawn: The Art of Ascent

How do you make a detailed pen sketch perched on a precipice at 8,000 feet? What would you learn about yourself and your climbing teammates if you could?

If you climb, you likely know the art of Jeremy Collins. His detailed line drawings, vivid colors and creative maps regularly appear in Alpinist magazine, Rock and Ice, and have even graced the cover of National Geographic and the New Yorker.

I don't climb but I love his style, his nerve, and his vision to translate what he saw on the heights to what he lives in the valley. Whether you climb or not, you will marvel at his book Drawn: The Art of Ascent.

Being Drawn

Married and with young children, Collins sets out from his home in Kansas City in the four directions of the compass in search of ascents never before attempted.

The artist explained to, "I illustrated literally hundreds of other peoples’ stories for all the climbing magazines, and created maps of those journeys. I’d always ask editors 'Is there budget to send me on location to create this map?' to which the answer was always 'nope.' I think one of the biggest steps for me was coming to this realization that I had to become my own story, to follow my own map, and live that."

On a Kickstarter page for the movie of his story, Collins continues:

Over the course of four years, with my wife's blessing, I set out on all four of the journeys; from the jungles of Venezuela, to the China-Mongolian Border, to the northern reaches of Canada, and closer to home in Yosemite Valley. 

Each journey had a deep personal story for me, from the death of a friend, to the celebration of life, the love of my children, and the struggle of a tribe. I made many new friends, and their story became mine. I painted a schoolhouse in Yunek Village with the children and installed solar power for their emergency radio. I built a staircase in the Yukon to pay for a helicopter ride. I said farewell to a friend by releasing his ashes on each summit. 

Along the way I filled five sketchbooks with art drawn from the experience. These journals are what inspire the story. These journals are what comprise the book.

Instagram: @jercollins_com

Drawn: the Movie

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, a movie accompanied the book, which went on to win the 2015 Banff Award for Adventure Travel. 

Remember who you wanted to be.
Remember where you wanted to go.
— Jeremy Collins

One cannot stay on the summit forever –
One has to come down again.
So why bother in the first place? Just this.
What is above knows what is below –
But what is below does not know what is above.

One climbs, one sees –
One descends and sees no longer
But one has seen!

There is an art of conducting one’s self in
The lower regions by the memory of
What one saw higher up.

When one can no longer see,
One does at least still know.
— René Daumal (1908–1944)


Advice on drawing

Quality over quantity is appropriate in many things, but for creative development I advise letting quantity reveal your quality. I receive many notes asking for advice on "how to draw better". The only response I can give is a question: how many hours a week are you willing to do a thing to arrive at the quality you want?

Take more pictures. Draw more drawings. Climb more climbs. Run more runs. Make more. Play more. Be more.