The Importance of Drawing

This event was held at the Drawing Room (see previous post) and three artists discussed drawing and how it played a part in their development of their practice. Sonia BoyceMargarita Gluzberg and Bob and Roberta Smith each spoke in turn which was brilliant.

I found Sonia’s talk particularly pertinent. She does a lot of tracing or embellishing and this removes the pressure of drawing having to be an evidence of skill. Tracing “frees up expectations” and takes away the sense of getting things wrong; it is still your drawing as you have chosen which lines to trace and how and in what medium. It also allows us to practise certain shapes and give the muscles in our hand the chance to learn how a line should go. I found this really interesting as my daughter does outlines of people on her iPad from photographs, and since doing so, her drawing has improved immensely as she’s traced eyes and noses so many times it’s a small step to go from fingertip on a screen to pen on paper.

Sonia Boyce’s devotional wallpaper, where she has drawn around the names of black women in the music industry to make their names the portrait rather than an image of the person, was fascinating to hear about. Sonia also mentioned about how children see drawing and writing as one and the same – they are drawing (scribbling, mark-making, exploring) and the lines they draw can become letters. She said how reading and speaking are also the same, as we say the word we are reading in our head, which is something I learned about from reading Tim Ingold’s book about lines.

To an extent, all drawings of something are a paradox as we are using illusion to represent something three-dimensional on a flat plane, and Sonia used The Treachery of Images by Magritte “This is not a pipe” to illustrate the point.

There was a discussion between the three artists afterwards about how drawing fits in as opposed to other parts of the work they do. These are some of the expressions they used:

  • intimacy
  • manual connection
  • on a page so you can control the space
  • contact with the paper
  • marks make a permanent mark on the world
  • marks articulate an idea
  • drawing is a fast synthesis of an idea
  • time to make drawings is a time to think
  • first point of contact

Another point made was that as drawing has always been viewed as preparatory or secondary to an actual artwork, it doesn’t have the historical weight of painting so is not burdened with referential context – there aren’t past masters of drawing in the same way as there are painters. Of course, drawings were done but there are not galleries full of them in the way there are paintings, and artists would not have displayed their sketchbooks. This means that drawing can be fun, fresh and playful.

I was very pleased I went, and came out feeling buoyant and enthused with my chosen degree pathway.


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