Drawing Research

Book Reference: Maslen, M and Southern, J (2011) Drawing Projects: An Exploration of The Language of Drawing Black Dog Publishing, London

Further to my tutor, Cari’s, suggestion that I continue to explore what drawing is, I remembered a book on drawing that had been recommended by some fellow students I met, on a study visit in Edinburgh.

The books is split into three parts: a core text, a series of drawing projects, and a gallery of works by, and conversations with, contemporary artists.

One of the authors, Jack Southern, describes how drawing has many uses, for example, as an artistic outlet in and of itself that will be shared with others, but it can also be an activity to be carried out for oneself. It can help an individual to release and organise thoughts, to try out ideas and test knowledge about the subject. He also makes a link with our emotions and allowing instinctive movements to reveal themselves.

Drawing is described as a ‘descriptive visual language’, which I think means that, what we observe,  know, and feel about what we are drawing, can be transformed into marks and lines on the paper which other people can then ‘read’ and interpret.

Drawings can be thought of as ‘hand-made objects’, which makes me think of a drawing as something valuable and worthwhile made in its own right, rather than a throwaway preliminary to a ‘proper’ artwork.

Another observation in the book that interested me was the stipulation that children’s drawings often depict their whole knowledge and experience of what they are drawing. For them, drawing is a “whole body experience perceived through all their senses.” ie. Not just sight, or from a single viewpoint. This is something I am trying to incorporate into my current set of drawings – the texture and feel, and associations that the items have for me, as well as the visual appearance.

Kate Macfarlane (curator and Co-Director of Drawing Room, London) writes in her introduction to the book that, “The activity – the making of the drawing is of significance, not what that activity produces…”. In other words, the process of observing, and finding some way of recording what you have learned, by placing marks onto a two-dimensional surface is the most valuable part of the exercise.

There is a great deal more to discover in the book. The projects have some interesting exercises in drawing, such as using a drawing implement attached to a long stick; holding the pencil at the furthest end; using two pencils strapped together; tactile drawings; not looking at the page, just the object as you draw, and so on. Plenty of interesting options to explore as I start the next part of my coursework: drawings of the items from the museum archive – focused on line.

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