READING: “Writing on Drawing”


On the whole I found this a very interesting book and have made notes on sections which I felt were relevant to my own ideas and practice. The highlight of the book was the chapter written by Angela Eames. Several of the chapters were of little value to me because of the language used by the writers. I am perfectly able to understand academic language having spent my working life as a teacher and recently as a school principal but I have little patience with the use of academic language which seems to be used purely to promote the writer. I believe it is a great skill to write deep, thought provoking concepts with a simplicity that can be easily understood by the reader.

Chapter 1: Towards a Critical Discourse on Drawing Research

  • Research on drawing needs greater focus …difference between drawing practice and drawing research drawing also drawing research…need for a drawing agenda
  • Why artists draw as well as how they draw…the use of drawing to explore ideas
  • Allow others to engage with ideas through representation
  • Quote from Manuel Jaoa Ramos, artist and anthropological researcher: “When I travel alone, I cherish the feeling that time can be joyfully wasted. The act of drawing is a self referential form of spending time. On the other hand, making drawings is a rather benign way of observing social behaviour; both local people and fellow travellers tend to react to my drawings in mixed ways where curiosity, availability and suspicion overlap. By drawing I provoke modes of interaction that humanise me in other people’ eyes.” Very interesting slant ….’unlocking and externalising the understanding of others’
  • Page 19: ” My point is that artists should not understand but, by exploring, come to understanding. Not restrict himself to a process merely because it is traditional or regarded as proper, but push for a clearer experience of what drawing/ painting is by finding for himself the extent of his /its possibilities.’
  • Questions about drawing today, page 23
  • The relationship between drawing and thinking
  • John Berger: drawing is discovery


Chapter 2: Nailing the Liminal: the difficulties of defining drawing

  • Drawing constitutes the grammar of art
  • Page 28- David Rosand – “…drawing as the fundamental pictorial act. To make a mark or trace a single line upon a surface, energizes its neutrality; the graphic imposition turns the actual flatness of the ground into virtual space, translates its material reality into the fiction of the imagination.”
  • Page 31 – conflation of looking, nature and truth confirmed by Cezanne… interesting par.
  • Page 31 – Wassily Kandinsky in ‘The Problem of Form’…”the moment (the observer) appreciates…that line can have a purely artistic function, at that moment the observer’s soul is prepared to hear the pure inner sound of that line…The line…is a thing which is as much of a practical entity as a chair, a well, a knife , a book etc…Thus, in a picture when a line no longer describes a thing but functions a s a thing itself, its inner sound is not muffled by other considerations. Its inner power is fully released.”
  • Page 32 – Philip Rawson, book ‘Drawing’ 1969, – defines drawing as the most ‘fundamentally spiritual of all visual artistic activities’ because of its difference from the colour and pigment of paint, or the ‘infected surfaces’ of sculpture.’ ‘For a drawing’s basic ingredients are strokes or marks which have a symbolic relationship with experience, not a direct, overall similarity with anything real.’ For the first time, removed the discussion of drawing from direct embedding in painting or other art forms…investigated as an autonomous practice.


Chapter 4 – Looking at drawing: theoretical distinctions and their usefulness.

  • Page 59 -Dutch artist Armando…broken lines across the paper…”an exploration of the paper. The pencil explores the paper, searchingly or hesitantly, with a concentration that is directed at both the point of the pencil and the contact with the paper”. French philosopher in 1990 …Jacques Derrida asserts…” the act of drawing has something to do with blindness” (page 60) fascinating! Drawing as an intransitive act! “ What we see is the activity itself.” Page 63. Excellent chapter.


Chapter 8 –Embedded Drawing’ Angela Eames…

  • Page 125 – two and three dimensional work of Michael Kidner. …”considers the notion of focus and how drawing as a thinking process relates to outcome.” Interesting quote: “High-focus thinking relates to the logical and analytical whilst low-focus thinking presents the opposite end of the spectrum, loss of control, creative fancy and an ability to be receptive to the unexpected or fantastic. The state of mind required when drawing involves high and low focus thinking; alert, organized and rational in a preparatory sense, the ability to survey immediate time, space and interruptions and a continuous open mindedness to the particular situation.”
  • Page 126- MK…’trying to put down what I think I’ve understood about an object or an idea’.
  • P 127 – what drawing is – “a diagram to put down an idea before it floats away – to materialize an idea.
  • Page 128 –‘…drawing is always an illusion of reality…The feeling that two dimensions is a very inadequate description if you want to describe your notion of reality.’
  • Page 129 – love this idea…” I look best when I’m not looking – when the painting is looking at me as it were and I’m not even thinking about it necessarily. It just catches me and that is for me what a picture should be doing – looking at the spectator rather than the spectator looking at it, and nudging the spectator occasionally.” Page 131 –“Draw, look, see what has happened and anticipate what might yet happen. What does the drawing reveal to the drawer through the process of drawing? Who’s looking at whom? What is the drawing saying or demanding and how might we respond to that demand?”
  • Page 136 – “The difficulty is to relinquish the ‘habitual’ and to operate in a continual responsive, possibly imaginative and receptive manner. Allowing the accidental, the incidental, the intentional and perhaps the unintentional to merge in the results. To some degree this also implies a relinquishing of the ‘brain’ – an encounter with the uncomfortable. A comfortable encounter usually indicates the habitual approach and consequently a feeling that we have seen it before, whereas the confrontational encounter indicates a shift or change that is not immediately or easily accommodated and predicates something different. Kidner’s objects and images are not absorbed easily on first viewing. There seems to be nowhere to put them. They are not easy to catalogue within an historic visual archive. In time this discomfort on the part of the viewer, yields to a more comfortable state as the objects and images meld into a changing consciousness which informs our perception of a changing world.” Excellent description of what happens in the viewing process and the idea of tension.












About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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