PART 3: PHYSICALITY AND GESTURE – project 3 Drawing machines

Drawing machines

“Aim: Push the concept of marks as a tracery of movement by making marks incidental to your own movement.”

Find something which moves and attach a drawing medium to it so that it creates a drawing by itself.”

For this project I took a squiggle ball which is a plastic ball with a small motor inside. When the motor is started the ball rolls in a completely random way. For a drawing medium, a pipe cleaner  and pompom dipped in paint were attached to the ball.


Because the ball is likely to roll any where I set up a frame around the paper surface using lego bricks. The ball didn’t belong to me and so I was limited in what painting medium I could use as I had to return the ball to its owner in good condition. So I chose watercolour so that I could clean the ball.



I did three different images using blue and/or red paint. Two of the images were on watercolour paper and one was on marker paper.

I took quite some time studying the images before applying my own marks to them. I have an ongoing fascination with the surface texture of tiles and brickwork and so I decided to experiment with using the mechanical marks to bring out faces and designs which I’d seen in these objects.

I used a selection of drawing media for these experiments – charcoal, soft pastels, ink – and worked over the surface made by the mechanical tool. This was quite delicate work because it was important not to lose the original marks. The mechanical marks continued to be guide in this.




While I was working on these, the rain began to fall quite heavily and it struck me that rain was an ideal mechanical drawing machine. So I quickly took two paper surfaces and applied paint to one and charcoal to the other and placed them outside in the rain to see what would happen. I had absolutely no control over this work – I couldn’t  stop the rain when I felt the image was complete and because the paper was wet I couldn’t move it. If I had tried to move it I would have been interrupting the mechanical movement of the paint.

The charcoal surface was placed under a drip from the roof. This was interesting to watch but I soon realised that the charcoal was not going to move and change with the drips –  it proved impervious to the wet.


If I had taken time to think both of these ideas through I could have achieved a more interesting result I think, but it was a spur of the moment idea!

In these two experiments my own marks went down first and the mechanical marks were then added which was an interesting addition to the original idea. I’ll be continuing to experiment with my own marks on these pieces.



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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