Tag Archives: art-making

The importance of drawing in everyday life

notebook project (detail)This spring I was invited to write a guest post about the importance of drawing in everyday life for the Roundhouse Community Centre blog in relation to the Vancouver Draw Down. A post I wrote on this subject in 2009, The importance of drawing, has long been one of the most widely read posts on this blog.

As someone who draws almost every day, teaches drawing and presents drawing workshops to folks who don’t normally draw, I’ve thought a lot about why drawing is so important. Here’s a revised version my latest consideration of this topic:

It’s so easy to become overly focused on the practical aspects of our daily lives. In doing so, we forget the importance of activities that allow us to reconstitute ourselves as individuals within a world of possibilities. The act of drawing is a ready opportunity to attend to our psyches. Drawing can and should be for everyone.

When someone says, “I can’t draw,” I refuse to believe them. There are so many ways to draw: based on observation, memories, the imagination or the random movement of a tool across a surface. We drew as children and chances are you still draw—when you doodle, make maps, sign your name…

Contrary to popular belief it’s not hard to draw. It doesn’t require special tools or knowledge. Drawing doesn’t need a purpose or agenda. It’s about creating marks and communicating with ourselves and others. No drawing is ever perfect, in fact, a drawing’s failure may be its greatest strength.

Drawing is a practice. The best way to learn to draw is to do it over and over again. The process of drawing, the pleasure of creating a mark on a surface, is as important as the outcome.

Drawing is about noticing relationships between things and making comparisons. It’s about recognizing the possibility for improvement, while appreciating what has already been accomplished. It’s about handling materials and working with and against the tendencies of those materials. It’s about noticing something new about the subject or the process every time you draw.

Drawing is a form of meditation. It’s about being committed to the here-and-now, staying attentive to the hand as it moves across the page.

Drawing isn’t necessarily a solitary activity. Great pleasure can be found in drawing side-by-side with others as well was through collaborative drawing. Shared drawing can help overcome outcome anxiety through the process of creative exchange. Our individual creativity is both generated and celebrated as it interacts with the creativity of others.

The act of drawing is an opportunity to create and recreate ourselves every day.

(Image is a detail from a 2011 daily drawing project, discussed here.)

All that was left

My Memory Festival project, All that was left, uses text extracted from the other festival projects, but only uses those parts of the text that don’t convey specific meaning. Something has been said or is about to be said, but the message is lost.

The installation is up and available for viewing at the Roundhouse Community Centre until Sunday, Nov 18. The opening celebration takes place this evening (Nov 14) beginning at 5:30 pm.

Here’s what the stacks of text looked like before I started the installation on Monday:


Drawing on paper, drawing on the wall

All of the images I use for my wall drawings are photo-based and drawn on paper first. I draw them multiple times to see what needs to be emphasized and what can be left out.

Of course every drawing is different, but it’s interesting to compare the two versions. The drawings on paper are generally smaller. Paper is much smoother than the surface of the walls, so the walls are more forgiving. It’s almost impossible to erase and correct something on paper, whereas I can usually redo parts of the wall drawings (even though I try to avoid doing this). I can tell, and I imagine other people can as well, when a drawing has been overworked. I love working with (and against) the inconsistencies of the wall surface.

These drawings have been adjusted to the same size. The one on the left is on paper, the one on the right is on the wall:



Artist talk

I just found my notes for the artist talk I gave at the Burnaby Art Gallery earlier this month.  You can probably tell that I decided to emphasize the provisional nature of this project. As noted elsewhere in this blog, I’m conscious of the perils of discussing my work publicly. I don’t want to over-simplify my process or get in the way of the viewer’s interpretation.

I don’t usually use the notes I’ve made when I speak. It’s enough just to have written them out and have them nearby.

The problem with stories

I’ve learned, the hard way, to be cautious when I share stories that relate to my work. When an artwork is based on a story, or relates to a story in some way, it’s easy for it to overwhelm all the other aspects of the work. The formal decisions that go into the development of a work become insignificant compared to the seduction of the narrative. The story takes on a life of its own, independent of the artwork. The work’s capacity to produce a range of possible meanings is foregone.