Watch a child draw. See how she scrawls with abandon, jabs the felt tip at the paper, colours an eye so deeply the pen drives a hole through the paper. Look as she concentrates on the action of the subject, strips out unnecessary detail, toys with scale. This is pure drawing, instinctive, expressive and truthful.
Children’s drawings are interesting, especially to artists, because of their honesty and their energy. Unfortunately, these qualities are frequently abandoned as they grow up and, for most teenagers, a good drawing is one that resembles a photograph, with the emphasis on precision and neatness. The result is usually a tidy drawing stripped of life; neat, dull and dead. The great challenge is to revitalize drawing.
Throughout October, The Big Draw seeks to do just that. Through thousands of events in countries all over the world, this loose ‘Festival of Drawing’ aims to promote the art of drawing, and stress its continued importance. For drawing is important, even today when almost everyone has a phone in their pocket that can record an image in 1/500th of a second.
Think about that image on the phone. It captures less than a second and, once stored, will probably be looked at again for less than a minute. Imagine instead making a drawing of the view, the face, the plate of food you wish to photograph. Consider the length of time you would have to scrutinize the subject; think how you would be forced to appreciate the spatial relations within it, and the tonal ones. How would you convey the differences in form, in texture? Imagine how well you would know your subject after this inspection.
Drawing is looking, and there is no better way to learn to see and understand the world around us. Drawing has the power to deepen comprehension and transform perception. As Kenneth Clark pointed out about Leonardo da Vinci, he didn’t draw so well because he understood so much, he understood so much because he drew so well. We can see the artist’s mind unfold in a sketchbook or appreciate the preparations that go into a painting through the preparatory studies. Drawing is the basis of it all; it is where exploration, development and refinement of ideas happen. Furthermore, these experiments themselves will be things of beauty and interest.
Nobody need be Leonardo to enjoy drawing. It is an activity that should be fun regardless of ability. There is something in the act of making marks (a deep, primal activity) that is eternally satisfying while the concentration required to see a drawing through to completion is often compared to meditation. Drawing forces all other thoughts from the mind. Drawing is good therapy. There is a Big Draw event in Dunoon in which the Cowal Elderly Befrienders will use drawing to explore memories with groups of older people. Drawing is increasingly used like this, to elicit distant memory, or, in other circumstances, help explain trauma.
The Big Draw website has an interactive map that details events around the country this month. The events cater for everyone and are varied in their approach. Exhibitions and ‘serious’ drawing events vie with the opportunity to draw with inks made from freshly crushed blackberries.
Encouraging drawing in schools is a central and vital aspect of The Big Draw. Picasso was right when he said, ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up’. The Big Draw can only help.