Well? Drawing is drawing, isn’t it? You take a pen or a pencil, or maybe some charcoal and make some lines on paper to represent something that you are looking at or imagining. Can it really be that simple?
In her book, One Drawing a Day, Veronica Lawlor lists the following tools as recommended for drawing.
That’s pretty clear then? So everything else is mark making, painting, mixed media, or any other description or label. But that’s just what they are labels; categories and in the modern world a #hashtag.
The increased use of computer databases has encouraged us to use labels to facilitate quick and accurate searches and there is a danger that this will create an atmopshere of rigid definitions but it’s done nothing of the sort. at the same time as we are becoming more dependant on Google and hashtags we are seeing an explosion of creativity and it’s in art using a variety of objects and methods; recycling, found objects, eco dying and a general mixing up of all the different schools of art, design and textiles.
Now anyone can find a way to ‘draw’, to be creative. If nothing else you can pick up an adult doodle colouring book and enjoy the simple pleasure of putting pen to paper.
But human beings are stubborn beings and we’re often not happy unless we are critiquing ourselves.
God forbid we get too big for our boots so despite all these new ways to express our creativity there is still an issue around the negative feelings so many of us have about drawing and being able to draw.
When drawing for designs for textile and embroidery pieces I have always told myself it’s just mark-making and I’ve mixed it up with photocopies, stamping and tracing. It helps me relax because I don’t need to rate myself on accuracy or worry about how the picture is going to look in a frame. I’m looking for the motifs, the shapes and the marks that will make good stitches. I can be free to stylise the subject matter; doodle, collage, trace and rub. I can use digital programs to manipulate the image and colour to make it more appealing or complete.
If I was to buy a book of drawing I would expect to see pages of pencil and pen sketches. lots of tone and cross hatching, full of reality and accurate. Think Leonardo da Vinci, all of those drawings of taut muscles and flying machines!
I always believed being able to draw was something I could only dream of, it always looked like drawing was a skill you were born with and had to study and work on almost from birth.
Helen Birch helped change my views, her wonderfully simple book Freehand is full of examples of drawing that uses more modern techniques. There is colour, collage and digital imagery. Then, there is the excellent book Drawing Projects by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern in which they take head on the restrictions bought about by our traditional education systems and our need to express reality.
The simple act of drawing without looking at the pen or the paper is very rewarding and freeing. It’s a couple of years since I made these sketches but I remember it as a pivotal moment. I shocked myself, my hands could follow my eyes; I could enjoy drawing and like what I drew. It gave my confidence levels a huge boost and maybe one day I will actually finish the embroidery I started based on one of the sketches.
A representation, a record , a visual ‘copy’ of an item can be done in many ways and drawing is just one of these ways. Drawing is a habit, it’s a skill that can be learnt and with time and practise improved.
There are no limits on how and what you can choose to use as an artist to portray or record an item, a concept or an idea, and drawing is only one of these ways. It is not all of the ways. Sometimes a photograph is all that you need, or a texture rubbing or a huge blob of colour.
At the end of the day it’s all semantics; a distraction. What is important is to decide what you want to use and to focus, learn as you go; making any changes after well considered analysis or you end up getting tied up in technique not your feelings and your expression.