On Saturday the 14 April I had the opportunity to run a cross-disciplinary drawing workshop in Wellington near Taunton. The day aimed to explore the essence of drawing as a visual language to engage with the sensorial world. An excellent group of 14 students joined me from all levels of study and a wide variety of subjects including photography, fine art, painting, textiles and visual communication. I wanted to use the morning to work through a series of exercises using drawing as a tool for inspiring, underpinning and invigorating their different creative practices.
I began the morning asking students what they thought drawing could be beyond the traditional skills they might have learnt. Some keywords emerged that acted as a guide for the exercises, including drawing as invention, play, process, action, memory, language, non-art, materials and generative. I thought about how some of these questions related to research by the educator Eileen Adams, also the excellent book Drawing Ambiguity offered alternative approaches for practitioners to use.
For the first exercise, I asked students to collaborate on a drawing, thinking about the action of their body to make a mark. Everyone started with a sheet of paper and drew a line, they then passed this to the next person to respond to that line and moved again. The movement of drawings, each time mark-making in response to the drawing that was presented to them, was a good way to break down assumptions over ownership, allowing students to make a collection of marks as part of a collaborative group.
In the second exercise, I asked students to work in pairs, taking an object they could hold in their hand, and without looking at it, drawing what they felt. I wanted to get the students to engage with their senses, forming a connection that questioned how they interpreted something they couldn’t see. Some interesting results emerged if a little tentative at first. The next exercise asked the students to swap objects and for one of the pair to describe the object while the other person, turned with their back to their partner, interpreted what they heard. There were questions asked about how to draw adjectives like hard, soft, cold etc. which I felt was good to hear and essential for opening out possibilities for interpretation. The results were visually engaging, and a further discussion reflected on the difficulty of language but also the importance of using it carefully to allow the person to find the marks to connect with the words.
The final exercise considered how the place we were located in could be used to form memories for a drawing. I asked students to focus on key areas that captured their attention, both visually and audibly, and try to record these in their memory. Returning to the room, they drew these fragments of memories both as direct representations and as abstract formations. The first attempt for some was frustrating, as their drawings didn’t live up to their intentions, I asked them all to make another attempt but for each student to decide what they wanted to do to develop the process. Some students went back outside to listen and not look, and others focused their intent on capturing a point that stuck in their mind. The results produced a wide-variety of individual outcomes that reflected their intentions; this was excellent to see and opened up a conversation about the development of their creative voices.
For the afternoon session, I asked the students to work in smaller groups, to discuss each other’s work. We collated common themes and spent time working through concerns and questions on their study. It was great to see students across-disciplines engaging in drawing as a means to experiment and hopefully they all took something away that might show the benefit of drawing as a way of forming lateral creative links with the world.
I encourage students to try to attend workshops and study visits or find students to connect with in your local area as a way of adding to your learning at the OCA. You can find out more about the Southwest Initiative Group through OCASA or ask them a question through this blog post.
Sawdon, P. and Marshall, R. (2015). Drawing Ambiguity. 1st ed. London: IBTauris.
Adams, E. (2018). The Campaign for Drawing. [ebook] Available at: https://www.ufg.at/fileadmin/media/institute/kunst_und_gestaltung/bildnerische_erziehung/aktuelles_archiv/2012/Eileen_Adams.pdf [Accessed 17 Apr. 2018].
Images courtesy: Doug Burton, Anne Bryson, Amano Tracy