TH E â€‰GOOD DRAW I N G Edited by Stephen Farthing Kelly Chorpening Colin Wiggins
cc w ca m be rwe ll c h el s ea w i m ble don
br i g ht 7
t he good drawing Edited by Stephen Farthing Kelly Chorpening Colin Wiggins
cc w cam b er wel l c h el sea w im b l ed on
This book is dedicated to Deirdre Hopkins and the Rootstein Hopkins Foundation for their support of the Artist in Residence Programme at the National Gallery London, the Rootstein Hopkins Chair of Drawing at the University of the Arts London and for the meeting that enabled this publication.
Contents 9 Series Editorial 11 Editorial six pract it ion er s / six d raw in g s 15 Michael Craig-Martin 19 Katharine Stout 26 Stephen Farthing 32 Grayson Perry 38 Colin Wiggins: On David Hockney’s chosen drawing 43 Kelly Chorpening in con v er sat ion 49 Michael Landy, Kelly Chorpening and Colin Wiggins ‘ wh at 69 72 75 78 81 83 85
is a g ood d raw in g ? ’ – respon ses William Cartwright Mary Clare Foá Michelle Fava Irene Barberis Anita Taylor Angela Hodgson-Teall Simon Betts
Series Editorial David Dibosa, Series Editor, Bright publications The Bright series returns to the fundamental mission of higher education: to produce, store and disseminate knowledge and experience for the sake of the expansion of human con sciousness. A lofty ideal indeed – but these ideas nevertheless still lie at the centre of a vision that enables learning to remain sustainable despite impediments. Through the series, Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges of Art and Design (CCW), consolidates its existing networks of communication, linking those engaged in art and design both within the University of the Arts London (UAL) and those working beyond its boundaries. Bright facilitates the circulation of debates taking place across a range of art and design disciplines. Today’s learning environments are not only international, they are also inter‑disciplinary. There is therefore a pressing need to trace the development of thinking both across national borders and disciplinary fields in order to identify the emergence of innovative practices and to build on them. One important dimension of the Bright series is the recognition that different levels of engagement with knowledge production and dissemination take place according to the place we occupy within existing learning networks. Students just starting out on an exploration of their ideas cannot be expected to work at the same level as that of professors with established research careers. The question, though, is not about length of experience; it’s about the intensity of a person’s commitment to furthering their ideas.
Editorial A lot of drawing requires careful observation, measuring and plotting. While the resulting combination of lines, smudges and erasures might resemble something of the world, it also evidences the drawing’s own creation. Each mark is a decision to select a bit of information and represent it in a particular way, but what determines these choices? On reflection, it becomes clear that drawing is really a process of translation: from the three-dimensional world into line; from an idea to a mark; through the eyes of a particular individual, at a specific moment in time. For the maker, questioning this set of conditions pro vides an intellectual framework for drawing; but this framework does not explain why a drawing is good for the viewer. The question, ‘What is a good drawing?’ provided a platform for a day of discussion between eminent artists and art historians, and an opportunity for those present to consider drawing’s place within current artistic practice and art education. The National Gallery, with its collections of Western European painting and a robust educational programme, was an ideal venue to engage in this dialogue and examine how the practices of the past necessarily inform the present. The occasion brought together an invited audience of BA, MA and PhD students and researchers associated with the Centre for Drawing at UAL, the associate artist of the National Gallery of London and delegates of Drawing Out 2012, the second in a series of cross-disciplinary drawing conferences co‑organized by UAL and Royal Melbourne Institute of Techno logy (RMIT), Australia.
A small but varied selection of drawings provided focus for our discussion, with debate tending to engage with on the set of conditions that determined each drawing’s creation. In asking the question, ‘What is a good drawing?’, finding consensus seemed far less important than did recognizing what the overall conversation was saying about drawing’s place in the world today. This publication provides a record of some of the discussion that took place on 28th March 2012 at the National Gallery, London.
si x practition e rs / si x draw in g s
Michael Craig-Martin I decided to choose a drawing by Josef Albers for quite a few reasons. I was very lucky when I was a student: I went to Yale and although I was not taught by Albers, he had left only a couple of years before so I was taught by all of his assistants, and was taught all of his courses. They had an enormous and lasting impact on me as an artist. Albers is so much better known for his paintings than his drawings, and everybody knows the Homage to the Square paintings; but far fewer people are familiar with his amazing drawings. Albers had the idea that he wanted to focus his paint ings entirely on the question of colour. The reason why they take the format that they do is to remove every other distraction in order that one can concentrate entirely on the interaction of colour that occurs in the paintings and prints. When it came to drawing, he had another idea entirely, which was that drawing should deal with space. But he also felt that there was no reason at that point in history to draw things that you could actually make. His idea was that drawing should be an independent activity and that what one drew should exist only as a drawing; one should create a kind of space that could exist only within the drawing. That is what you see here. There’s an aspect of the drawing, of course, which is a perceptual play and this is true to Albers’s own interests. Albers was very interested in the question of perception and in the exploration of perception as a way of locating the experience of art in the viewer; that is, in the physicality of our capacity to visualize things. What it is to understand what it is that we are doing when we look at art. When we look at things. 15
Vittore Carpaccio, St Augustine in his Study, a drawing, Venice, Italy, around 1502
Josef Albers, Structural Constellation, 1954, pen and ink on graph paper, 35.6 Ă— 45.7â€‰cm
The other thing about choosing Albers is that in many ways he could hardly be more unfashionable at the moment. He is wonderfully out of fashion as the work is abstract; it’s very cool, it’s completely non‑referential, it’s what people often call ‘mech anistic’. But I think that they’re amazingly passionate images. Albers was the first artist I was familiar with who drew on graph paper. It’s perfectly obvious why he would have done. So this is a drawing from the 1950s. As you can see, simply through the use of two different weights of line, he creates an image that can be read one way but as soon as you start to see it in another, it shifts and you then see it in a different kind of way. Colin suggested that I look at Albers’s drawing in relation to an old masters drawing and here we have this wonderful drawing by Carpaccio of Saint Augustine, the vision of Saint Jerome. It is very interesting to see the difference between the two drawings and what they tell us about the idea of vision that each drawing represents. I do myself believe that you can understand a culture profoundly, or a period of time profoundly, by the different ways in which space is depicted. It tells you a lot about everything else, about how a culture thinks about itself. In the Carpaccio, which is a highly narrative drawing that is wonderfully descriptive and full of detail, you obviously have the quite recent discovery of perspective. He is very confident of this, he knows exactly what he is doing and there is a mystery in this drawing, which is different from the kind of mystery that there is in the Albers. Here, the vision is taking place outside the window. You can’t actually see it. It is the wonderful event of the appearance of Saint Jerome, and we only get the light com ing in the window to show us what is takin place. So you can see that Carpaccio’s drawing was as radically different from what had occurred in drawing previously, as was Albers’s drawing when he created it. It’s an intense observation of the details of everything in the room and all its objects, which is also, of course, a way of describing the great scholarship of Saint Augustine. Michael Craig-Martin is an Irish artist and teacher, currently living in the UK. He is represented internationally by Gagosian Gallery in London. 18
Katharine Stout I dislike it when someone enquires after a baby, ‘Are they good?’ as if an innate goodness or evil determines whether the child might eat, sleep or behave in line with orthodoxy. From the mid18th century right through to the mid-20th century, styles and techniques set by the academy provided the official benchmarks for whether a drawing was considered to be good or not, though artists always found ways to deviate. Since Renaissance times and throughout the emergence of modernism, drawing was the official starting point of all training and its application was understood to be preparatory for the so-called ‘higher arts’. Nowadays, there is no longer a question about whether drawing is a primary rather than a secondary discipline. Artists such as Sol LeWitt and Mel Bochner expanded the definition for drawing and moved it from the periphery to the heart of their quest to redefine the very terms of art practice in the 1960s by casting aside the agreed conventions of art. Its currency was later confirmed by the resurgence of interest in drawing-based work during the 1990s. At this time, William Kentridge, Raymond Pettibon and a host of younger artists brought the medium to the forefront of contemporary practice with work that followed in the wake of a revived interest in expressionism and narrative. Since then, the level of interest in work using this medium has continued to grow. It is the potential for individual expression that drawing allows which may suggest why it is so prevalent and increasingly visible in contemporary practice today. Drawing as a discipline is somehow porous enough to allow itself to be ‘infiltrated’ by
modes that historically sat outside the realm of fine art – for example, styles and techniques more commonly found in carica ture, comic books or architecture. Many artists work unequivo cally across numerous disciplines so the idea of a hierarchy of media seems outmoded. At the same time, what makes drawing appealing is that it can somehow exist ‘under the radar’; that is to say, free of the historic baggage that is inevitably carried by both painting and sculpture. The idea of there being a consensus about what might make a good drawing seems a little question able when what defines the medium is its flexibility and the way in which artists chooose to constantly reinvent it. To come to the task at hand. I find Desert Galaxy by Vija Celmins (1974) compelling on a number of levels. This double-image drawing brings together two of Celmins’s recurring motifs, the desert landscape and the night sky, both made from photographs rather than directly from nature. In many ways, it fulfils conventional criteria concerning what might make a good drawing in that the figurative image is achieved through considerable skill. The technique by which the image has been created has clearly been rigorously and patiently refined over years of practice. Celmins spends many hours, days and months on her intense monochromatic works, which are created not only as drawings, but also as paintings and different types of print. It is significant that Celmins concentrated exclusively on drawing for a sustained period during the 1970s, eschewing the discipline of painting in which she was trained because she was ‘unsatisfied with the conventional space they had’. She put this shift in focus down to a ‘realization that the image and the support could unify, and the way to do it was through pencil’,1 and spent the next fifteen years exploring the simple materiality of graphite and charcoal on paper to create some of her most iconic works. Celmins has returned time and time again to the same images – desert scenes, star-filled night skies, oceans and most recently spider webs – as they ultimately offer a familiar
vehicle for interrogating the subtle differences in pencil, in her own mood and in her handling of space. What holds the viewer’s gaze is the way in which Celmins’s images of subliminal views both evoke infinite depth and yet constantly remind the eye of their inescapable flatness, being nothing more than graphite sitting on the surface of the paper. This demand for attention that the work seems to invite is not accidental. In conversation with her peer and friend Robert Gober, Celmins remarked: I think that one of the things that people tend to look for too much in art is meaning. And they tend to project meaning much faster than I would like them to. If I was a dictator, an art dictator, I would tie them up and say: ‘Here, look at this. And look at it again and look at it again.’ Her work has an intensity that derives both from the laborious technique of laying down the graphite bit by bit and the emotional resonance of the sublime subject matter. As such, this work bears lengthy and repeated viewing, and as the artist herself comments, ‘when you look at them, don’t you want to come up for breath?’.2 Celmins is part of a generation of artists who were based in Los Angeles during the 1960s and who sought to re‑engage with representation instead of the expressionist abstract mark, as a way to represent the external world rather than the subjective self. This shift from one generation to the next was perhaps best expressed by Jasper Johns’s statement in 1965: ‘I’m inter ested in things that suggest the world rather than suggest the personality.’ Some artists, particularly those located in New York, depicted the changing world around them through the strategic adoption of figurative styles from outside the realm of fine art, such as caricature, comics or advertising. On the opposite coast of America, particularly in Los Angeles, artists such as Celmins and her peer Ed Ruscha were perhaps less concerned with pack aging and consumer objects than their Pop Art cousins on the east coast and were more interested in the mediated image.
Vija Celmins, Untitled (Desert-Galaxy), 1974
Before the invention of photography, drawing was regarded as the most direct means to offer a visual description of our environment, a convenient and practical tool for artists to record what they saw. However, for artists such as Celmins, the observational gaze was filtered through the camera lens. Celmins has suggested that her themes are as much vehi cles for the material exploration of an image as they are a res ponse to their Californian locality. Although the desert, ocean and sky can be understood on one level as a desire to paint and draw what she could see in the immediate environment of her LA studio and expansive landscape that typifies California, she is also interested in investigating the very nature of representation itself. Celmins has remarked that ‘the material – charcoal, and pencil and paper – are bigger players in the night sky pieces. The work is much more abstract, even though your mind says ‘this is a deeper space’, I think that the uniform nature of the graphite sitting on the surface keeps you engaged in the flat place. There really is no depth to it.’3 It is interesting to note that even
work in an exhibition he curated, Living Dust (2004) and in the accompanying catalogue, he describes Celmins’s drawings as ‘objects as much as views, and the kind of looking they imply is both intimate and impersonal, an afterglow of the operations of non-human mechanisms. The subjects of the images, while they share the quality of suggesting vastness, a resistance to framing, are not the point – a photograph could convey that far more efficiently. It’s rather the narrow but infinite gap between immaterial perception and its material recording that is their enduring content.’ Katharine Stout is a Curator at Tate Britain and Associate Director at The Drawing Room in London. 1 2 3 4
Grant, Simon interviews Vija Celmins, Thinking Drawing, Tate etc., issue 9, p.2 ibid. p.5 ibid. p.4 Musgrave, David, Living Dust, 2004, Norwich Gallery
John Ruskin, the influential 19th-century artist, art critic and patron who zealously promoted the practice of drawing from nature, was aware that the mimetic act of representing nature was only ever an ‘abstract of natural facts’. In his influential drawing manual, The Elements of Drawing, published in 1957, he states, ‘Good drawing is, as we have seen, an abstract of natural facts; you cannot represent all that you would, but must continually be falling short, whether you will or no, of the force, or quantity, of Nature.’ The idea of mimicry or copying after reality has informed the ongoing discourse around mimesis by philosophers and art theorists since Plato, and it is through the repeated treatment of a familiar subject that Celmins explores the endless possibilities of representation, as clearly autonomous to its ‘real’ subject. In contrast to her peers, Vija Celmins’s highly distinctive work has only received the international attention that it merits in the last fifteen years or so. Yet, younger artists have always admired the singular focus of her work, which for me is another reason to single it out. British artist David Musgrave included her
Stephen Farthing I believe that drawings can be made for good and bad reasons and it is the reason or reasons why a drawing is made that is of primary importance to me in assessing its worth. So from the beginning, I favour moral over aesthetic judgements. After this, there will always be the skill, fluency and accuracy with which a drawing is made, but I am intuitively more forgiving of form than I am of content. I think, for example, that because Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of war machines are driven by a sense of brutality and control they are not as good as his anatomical drawings. I believe that Torres Garcia’s apparently childish drawing of Latin America inverted is better than Gerardus Mercator’s very precise projection of Brazil because it questions the global distribution of power in a way that I approve of. I also believe that the first analytical drawings of the phases of the moon are good because they persuaded the Catholic Church to excom municate their author Galileo. Throughout the writing of this short paper, I found myself thinking as much about the people as the drawings, particularly (because I was writing about drawing) their moods, attitudes and mind sets. I considered, for example, Peter Gollwitzer’s two personality types. On one side, he has the Deliberative group, the open-minded draughtsmen who favour accuracy, impartiality and analysis; and on the other, the Implemental, the closed, optimistic and prone to partial analysis draughtsmen.1 Using his system on live cases, I found it possible to situate Leonardo as a classic Deliberative and Picasso as an Implemental; having
done it, however, I think that all I achieved was confirmation of the irrelevance of authorship and the importance of looking at drawings, not people. With these thoughts in the background, I would now like to introduce my first drawing. What it looked like or whether I liked it or not were unimportant details. When I chose it, all that was important was who drew it. It is a study, an example of practise typical of what a nine year old, supported by informed parental encouragement, might produce. It was drawn with a pencil from life, from the statue of Hercules that once lived in the hallway of Picasso’s childhood home in Malaga. As one of a number of self‑defining drawings made by Picasso at that time, it is the record of his struggle to draw like a ‘grownup’. In it, he catches the turn between the upper and lower body. He even manages to keep the body more or less in pro portion, but gets in a mess – as most lower intermediates would – with the relationship between the flow of the whole image and the irritatingly difficult detail of the hands and feet and head. At some point towards the end of the drawing, Picasso surrounded his central image with a scribbled zigzag line that I suspect functioned in his mind as the energizer of what was otherwise a lifeless image. Although today this line might read as ‘presentation’, at the end of the 19th century it would almost certainly have been viewed as ‘desperation’. In 1898, the value of the learning exercise that drove this drawing was not in question. By 1968, however, even the very best academic drawings were more likely to be viewed with irony than with envy. By 1968, the informed audience would have readily engaged with the nine year old’s awkwardness – but not, I suspect, his ambition within the academy. That would have been seen as good as worthless. Picasso’s drawing was made as part of a well-intentioned quest to learn to draw like his elders, as a stepping stone towards becoming a successful artist. What we are left with today, how ever, is a struggle; a struggle that locks seeing, recording, measuring, solitary rehearsal and ambition into a shaky graphite
line. I think it may be a ‘good’ drawing, but to see it that way we have to accept that good drawing is not always about winning. It can be about visualizing our weaknesses and recon figuring our perspective, thus acting as a learning and not a showing off process. My second drawing is unquestionably good, possibly brilliant. It is one of billions of images that have been made within the same conceptual frame. It comes in multiple shapes and sizes, has multiple authors and has, as a concept, been developed and refined over four or more thousand years or more. The excessive time and deliberation that underpin its multiple authorship and final appearance have, I suspect, had a very positive effect on its clarity, legibility and accuracy. It is, however, its unambiguous clarity of purpose that attracts me to presenting it as an example of Good Drawing. In advance of my explaining why, I need to first set the scene by very briefly introducing what I believe drawing to be. You may be able to make a drawing on the surface or surfaces of a three dimensional object, but you cannot at the end claim that three-dimensional object as a drawing. Drawings are images. When a Maori receives a facial tattoo, he receives a drawing that is quite literally an interface, a second layer of information: his face does not become a drawing, his skin receives a drawing. It is clearly possible to draw space, possible even to give the illusion of a drawing existing within space, but for something to become a drawing it must have been frozen as a two‑dimensional image within both time and space. There are both natural and man-made events; the wake of a boat seen from the air, an asterism seen through a tele scope, or the vapour trail left by a plane can appear to be draw ings. They are, however, not true drawings – they are virtual drawings. Virtual because they give the appearance of being frozen in time and space. We see them that way because distance flattens their dimensions, close-up we know that the airplane, boat and solar system are all heaving, spatially challenging time-related episodes.
The white linear arcs we see in a blue sky thirty thousand feet above us are neither fixed in time nor in two dimensions. We know this because they change shape as we move and time passes. If they appear as perfect curves from the north and south, then the same lines will appear as verticals from the east and west. Like Alexander Calder’s bent wire sculptures, they are not drawings. They are linear forms animated by time and space. We might imagine that Walt Disney’s film Fantasia is a drawing because it is constructed from drawn two-dimensional images, but it is not; Fantasia is a film that is designed to gener ate rather than arrest movement.
Sundial: British School at Rome
The sundial translates solar energy into readable drawn repre sentations of time. As measured conceptual images, the sundial’s drawings join that cluster of drawings that include most maps and diagrams. These are drawings that are all designed to be both accurate and easily read. We see the shadow resting on the line marked ten and know that it is ten o’clock. More sophisti cated than the map that requires us to turn to a key, the sundial has a key physically embedded within the image that it draws. Like a frame cut from an animated cartoon, the sundial’s image is ‘fixed’ during our reading. We know that the image is in perpetual motion but because we read it so much faster than it moves, we perceive it as static. So for the reader, time stands still. When we draw, we convert multi-dimensional infor mation into readable two-dimensional matter. When the sundial draws, it does just that. If we plant a stick vertically in the earth, the shadow that the tip of that stick makes will, over the course of a day, describe a locus on the ground beneath that is determined by, firstly the stick’s position on the earth’s surface (its latitude and longitude), then secondly by the movement of the earth relative to the sun. Although the follow ing day the stick and sun will together draw a similar locus, it is only after three hundred and sixty-four days the shadow will follow the same path again. So every day and every location has its locus. This sundial has a punctured disc at the tip of its gnomon that enables it to draw with a pinprick of light rather than the shadow that a conventional sundial uses. The precise design of its face (the primary layer of each of its drawings) is determined by its location. This sundial sits on a south, south-west facing wall at the intersection of 41.5 degrees of latitude and 12.3 degrees of longitude. Each drawing it produces has a primary, secondary and tertiary layer. There is a fixed linear ‘face’ drawn onto its base plate that calibrates the second light-drawn layer. Together, they tell us that it is 11.50 am on 18th September. After these first two layers, there is a tertiary layer that is the gnomon’s shadow.
That is nothing more than a by-product of the drawing process, like the rehearsal marks that we might make on a sheet of paper before making those more decisive marks with the tip of a pencil. The gnomon’s shadow is contextual. So, at 11.50 am on a bright sunny day on 18th September in the courtyard of 61 Via Gramsci, this sundial made this beauti ful drawing. A drawing that not only tells us the time of day and the day of the year but that also connects our thoughts with much bigger issues by reminding us of our planet’s time‑based relationship with the sun. I started this essay by stating that for me the worth of a drawing was tied to the worth of its purpose and in doing so placed the draughtwoman’s intentions in the foreground. I then went on to describe a drawing by the very young Picasso, whose virtue I thought might lie in the visible evidence of its laudable goals. My answer to the question, ‘What makes a good drawing?’ takes into account not just the kind of drawings that we come across in art galleries but the others as well – the ones that help us to negotiate roads, coastal waters and airport terminals; the drawings that guide our energy when we play tennis, drive cars or shoot targets; and finally, the ones that re ceived opinion tends to lead us to first, the drawings that make our thoughts visible as we design, explain and dream. The very best drawings are all to my mind the raw evidence (both on and off the page) of good intentions and good deliberation. Stephen Farthing is an artist and Rootstein Hopkins Chair of Drawing, at the University of the Arts London. Stephen lives and works in London. 1 Peter Gollwitzer, Professor of Social-Personality Psychology, New York University. Since 1999 he has observed that the Deliberative mindset leads to an accurate and impartial analysis of information that speaks to the feasibility and desirability of possible goals, whereas the Implemental mindset promotes an optimistic and partial analysis of such information. Moreover, the Deliberative mindset is associated with open-mindedness, whereas the Implemental mindset is character ized by closed-mindedness. www.psych.nyu.edu/gollwitzer
Grayson Perry Why do we need to draw now? I am a contemporary artist. I live in an age where everyone has a camera on his or her phone and we all have access to the Internet. Drawing seems like an activity of historical re-enactment. Back when I first started, I drew to take control of the world. People often talk about line drawing as a way of taking ownership of the object, symbolically taking control over it and that’s what I wanted to do to aeroplanes, tanks and racing cars when I was a child. That was the spirit with which I went into the art world. Drawing as a visual download of your fantasies. I then learnt that drawing was meant to be this Ruskinian exercise where we look at the world and we get a precise record of what we’re seeing in an illusionistic way. Even in 1978 as I was learning life drawing at art school, it never really felt worth doing. The world has enough life drawings: we don’t need any more. For me, drawing always had a much more internalized, psychological, obsessional aspect to it. I was looking – though I didn’t know it when I was a student – for a school of art, an area of human creation, which matched up to my own personal attitude to making things. In 1979, I went to a show at the Hayward Gallery called The Outsiders and it was an absolute revelation to me, because suddenly I saw a group of spontaneous obsessive artists who I felt very at home with. Yet, these untrained, intuitive art makers did not seem to fit in with the world that I was entering. Contem porary art then seemed like a dour socialist backwater of culture, full of dull theory and politics.
going until there was nothing left of it. This was a person who was driven to draw. You can imagine how long it took to make a drawing like this. This drawing was done in 1905, so Wölfli didn’t have the history of contemporary art to look back on. This was a person who probably didn’t have a big collection of books and he certainly didn’t have the Internet. This was a man who had a clear relationship with a piece of pencil lead and some pieces of paper and he drew morning, noon and night for a prolonged period of thirtyfive years. Every Christmas, he got a box of coloured pencils and that would last him a couple of weeks. A lot of people like outsider art. A lot of them buy outsider art. Therefore, a lot of people make outsider art and consequently there’s an awful lot of bad outsider art. In the same way, there is an awful lot of children’s art that only their mothers would love. Like a lot of outsider art, Sonnenring has this amazingly driven, detailed, patterned quality, but why is Adolf Wölfli one of the best known outsider artists? Because, in short, he was really good. His works demonstrate the kind of qualities that we look for in great art. Wölfli is one of the masters of outsider art. He set the genre, his sense of pattern and dynamic composition, and the variety within his own oeuvre. His work would stand up in a show of early 20th century art. The other great outsider artist who is very well known is Henry Darger. Here is someone who is almost at the opposite end of the spectrum in their relationship to drawing in that he had no confidence in his ability to draw. Curiously, in one of the few instances when anyone ever saw his work while he was alive, his landlord’s wife remarked, ‘Why Henry, you are a great artist!’ He replied, ‘Yes, I know.’ Darger was a reclusive cleaner in a Catholic hospital and nobody knew that he was an artist. He would go to the chemist and get images that he liked from magazines blown up photo graphically so that they would fit the size of his drawings and collages, which were often very large and elaborate. He would then just trace them using carbon paper. He didn’t think that he could draw, yet he is one of the most celebrated and valuable outsider artists today.
In the intervening thirty years, I’ve witnessed the popular rise of contemporary art in London and across the country, and today it feels amazingly buoyant. But now a backlash of con servatism in certain sections of the art audience has emerged for whom drawing has become fetishised as this anti-modern thing. It’s become a handcrafted camera that people can use to show, ‘this is what real art is. It’s not that stuff that you see at Tate Modern: real art is drawing realistically’. I’ve never really bought into that. Being an artist who uses craft a lot in their work, I have become a kind of poster boy of the handmade and so I am often lumped in with this, but I am just trying to make art that works for me in an age of ‘anything goes’. I spend most of my studio time drawing. I was one of the cohorts of art students that went to art school because they liked drawing. I know that may seem anachronistic to the contemporary YouTube mash-up generation but that was how I, and many of my friends, ended up there. Nowadays, to do a realistic life drawing seems impossibly earnest. I asso ciate it with those posh people who go to art school thinking that it might serve to be a nice finishing school and they end up doing life drawings ‘with a twist’. For me, the value of drawing is getting what is in my head down onto paper. I have chosen the drawing Sunring (Sonnenring), by Adolf Wölfli (1905). This is drawing as total obsession: as psy chotic outpouring. It is about 13 feet long. Wölfli was a man who was terribly abused as a child, orphaned and then, as often with people who are abused as children, went on to become an abuser himself. He ended up in an asylum in Bern in 1895 and it was soon after entering it that he started drawing. As you can imagine he was angry and was kept in solitary confinement a lot of the time so he started drawing and continued obses sively until he died in 1930. This was a man to whom they would give one pencil and two sheets of newsprint at the beginning of the week, which would only last him about two days. He would spend the rest of the week begging, borrowing and stealing little scraps; he would allegedly draw with a 5 mm piece of pencil lead that he had found on the floor and would just keep
Adolf Wรถlfli, Sunring (Sonnenring), The Church Clock of Schangnau, 1905, pencil on newsprint
Adolf Wรถlfli, Sunring (Sonnenring), Sundial, 1905, pencil on newsprint
Adolf Wรถlfli, Sunring (Sonnenring), Bernese Highlands (Berner Oberland), 1905, pencil on newsprint
Adolf Wรถlfli, Sunring (Sonnenring), Sunring, 1905, pencil on newsprint
So, for me, these artists like Adolf Wölfli, Henry Darger and Madge Gill, with their obsessional need to draw are inspiring; this is an aspect of drawing that I feel very in tune with as an artist myself. I think that it suits me in the modern age. If I am doing a drawing now, I don’t go out and look at nature. I find nature quite tedious. If I need to draw something, I tend to look it up on the Internet. If I want to draw a defibrillator machine, I just Google ‘defibrillator’ on my computer and up come maybe fifty images – much better than if I went out bloody looking for one. I suppose I sit in a way with a kind of realistic view of what drawing means in the 21st century. A way that says that drawing is a branch of the crafts, in the way that most painting now is craft in that it is pretty traditional. There’s not a lot of great cutting edge stuff going on, and I’m happy drawing with two beers and a packet of felt pens in front of X Factor on the telly. Grayson Perry is an artist living and working in London. Perry was awarded the Turner Prize in 2003 and is currently represented by the Lieberman Gallery in London.
Colin Wiggins: On David Hockney’s chosen drawing It’s a tiny thing, hardly the size of a postcard. It is kept in a box in the British Museum and the box is kept in a securely locked case. And it hardly ever comes out because it’s very fragile and would be damaged by exposure to light. It is precious and special, because it’s very old and it’s by one of the so-called ‘canonical’ figures of Western art. I’ve chosen it because it was the choice of someone else we’d invited to join us at this conference who was unable to come due to his commitments with his big exhibition at the Royal Academy, and that is David Hockney. However, Hockney said that if he could have come, this drawing is what he would have chosen to talk about, which is why I am showing it. It has elements, I think, of what all of the other four speakers have been talking about. First of all to Grayson, I would say that it is obsessive. It’s by an artist who couldn’t stop drawing until he died. I haven’t said who it’s by yet, but I will in a moment or two. It’s a drawing that is just about ten centimetres high and it could only have taken a few moments to make. Look at the speed with which the chalk has been used. The drawing obviously represents two women teaching a little child to walk. Perhaps there is an element of caricature here: you must decide. We have already heard mention of caricature this morning, so I’d like to think about it for a moment. Perhaps ‘caricature’ is what all great artists do when they make a portrait. Obviously, there is a differ ence between a portrait that is a stone-cold accurate repre sentation of someone and a caricature. If a portrait is simply an accurate representation, then it can be very boring. If it has
Rembrandt, Two Women Teaching a Child to Walk, (circa) 1635–37
qualities that make you look again, something that makes you ask questions about the person depicted, then I think it might indeed be approaching the condition of caricature: that is to say, catching and maybe exaggerating the essentials. I haven’t counted how many strokes there are in this drawing, but I’m sure that it would be possible. I also think that you can actually see which mark was made first, the moment when he started the drawing. I think it is the area of the child’s face, which has clearly been drawn with the most attention. And after drawing the face of the child relatively carefully, the artist seems to speed up. When you are learning to walk, you tend to fall over a lot, so it’s probably quite a good idea to wear some sort of crash helmet and that’s what this rather perplexed little child seems to have on. And now look at the two adults. This is where the magic happens. One thing that we haven’t mentioned so far is magic. For me, what makes a good drawing is something that we can’t define, which is why I am here using the word ‘magic’. The magic in this drawing is how the artist has been able to communicate the different ages of the two women. They are both represented with the same rapid and slight chalk scribbles, and yet we imme diately know that the one on the left is the mother and the one on the right is a good 25 or 30 years older and is therefore surely the child’s grandmother. How on earth does the artist do that? If I could answer that, I wouldn’t be wasting my time sitting here talking to you, I would be making my own magic drawings – but I simply can’t answer it. This drawing was made by Rembrandt and it’s one of quite a few little scribbles like this that he made. It is not a preparation for anything else. It is not a study for a painting or a print, although when you look at his finished works you will find children and other passers-by included, that he’d perhaps noticed when he’d been sitting on a street corner. One senses that Rembrandt, when he made this drawing, was in some Amsterdam street with a pad of paper and a little box of chalks, just watching what was going on and making these amazing little scribbles.
Rodin famously used to get his models to walk about the studio and draw them while they were moving without looking at the paper. You can only really do that successfully if you’ve been drawing every day of your life for a long, long time. I think that’s what this drawing is about. It’s about a lifetime of looking and responding and mark making. It’s about move ment and volume. I love the Albers drawing that Michael showed. And although, Michael, you said that it is non-referential, I would actually take issue with that. As soon as you make lines that produce an illusion of volume and space, you are referring to the world that we live in. For me, there is actually quite an attachment to reality in the Albers drawing, despite its abstrac tion. And as Katharine was saying when she was talking about the Celmins drawing, the chalk in Rembrandt’s drawing is very definitely on the surface of the paper. It retains its identity as chalk. The artist is not trying to say, as he might have done when working with oil paint, that the medium has become something else, such as fabric or flesh. No, here there is never any doubt that we are looking at chalk on a paper surface and yet it produces volume and movement, and a touching narrative – utterly convincingly. I’ll finish by quoting something that David Hockney has said in several broadcast interviews in the last few weeks or so. I want to think about this idea of craft that Grayson talked about because Hockney has been advocating a great respect for craft, the making of things, which is something that seems to have been lost from contemporary practice. What he has recently said about drawing is that it is a combination of three factors, ‘the eye, the hand and the heart. Two out of three won’t do’. Hockney attributes this idea to an unnamed Chinese artist. Hockney has always been interested in non-western ways of representing landscape and he has been particularly inter ested in Chinese scroll paintings. So, to repeat – ‘a combination of the eye, the hand and the heart. Two out of three won’t do’. I think this beautiful and astonishing little work by Rembrandt fits this idea perfectly. It was made without any pre paration or planning and without any conscious thought.
There he is, watching this poor child hit the ground face first, time and time again, with Mummy saying, ‘Come on, you can do it this time, just three or four steps!’ And Grandma is saying, ‘have you had enough yet?’ And the poor little child is thinking, ‘please just let me stop now, I want to sit on the floor.’ The drawing is packed with humanity and captures what is actually a commonplace experience for all families with young children, since families began. And it’s the communication of this human ity that makes this not just a good drawing but a great one. It’s a drawing from Rembrandt’s hand that speaks from his heart to our hearts through the medium of the eyes. That’s why it is so precious. Colin Wiggins is an author and narrator, currently employed as the Special Projects Curator at The National Gallery in London.
Kelly Chorpening Plate no. 19. The image conflates Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger into a single caricature, floating on the sea, a reference to Key Biscayne, Florida where the two men often met. Agreement about really good drawing is widespread – when something has been translated into line with sublime economy and skill – but not all subjects warrant such glorious treatment. Sometimes, drawing needs to be bad, that is, unrefined, even ugly, in order to express outrage, contempt, disgust. Exemplary of this is a series of drawings created by Philip Guston in 1971 entitled Poor Richard. The seventy-two drawings chart former U.S. President Richard Nixon and his administration in their rise to the White House. The drawings, rendered in black ink, show little evidence of revision or refinement. If anything, there is a deliberate ‘dumbness’ about their execution: each line is as crudely drawn as the next, simply a repetition of marks that suggest an equally cerebral and visceral engagement; Guston drawing under a spell of contempt for the President. At the same time, they are skillfully done, particularly in regard to Guston’s talent for caricature. Once seen, Richard Nixon will always resemble male genitalia. Poor Richard indeed. As a series, they are tied together by Guston’s clumsy, cartoon-like drawing within a compositional format informed by the tradition of art. Guston strongly identified with the painter Giorgio di Chirico’s metaphysical landscapes, with their origins linked to the early Renaissance, and this is evident in the way that the figures and forms in Poor Richard are positioned within
an abstract pictorial space. This formal device provides a tableau for events in Richard Nixon’s life to unfold. Guston gives particular focus to episodes revealing Nixon’s unbridled self‑interest, which eventually leave the administration in ruins. Poor Richard accurately predicts Nixon’s future, and this only adds potency to the work. Philip Guston is so revered as a forebearer of the deskilled, anti-aesthetic that prevails in art today, that it’s easy to overlook the risks that Guston was taking when he revealed his new, figurative work. From the late 1940s, Guston was a wellknown Abstract Expressionist, part of a group respected for their high Modernist ideals, making work devoid of meaning beyond the properties of paint. But Guston was never very comfortable making ‘art for art’s sake’ – after all, he was the author of socio‑realist murals in the 1930s depicting the injus tices of poverty and racism – so as the political climate became more tumultuous, his misgivings increased. As he later stated: ‘When the middle 1960s came along, I was feeling very schiz ophrenic. The war, what was happening to America, the brutality of the world. What kind of man am I, sitting at home reading magazines, going into frustrated fury about everything – and then going into my studio to adjust a red to a blue?’ (Talmer, 1977). When Guston first showed his new figurative work in 1970, people were shocked by what could only be interpreted as a spurning of Modernism, a ‘shift from the lyrical to the grotesque’ (Ashton, 1976), favouring a ham-fisted, cartoon-like style, laden with cultural and autobiographical references. The hostile criticism that the work received left Guston deeply wounded. He soon retreated to upstate New York where he worked in isolation for the rest of his life. Though Guston was never thwarted by this experience, it nevertheless played an important part in the development of his subsequent work. Guston was plagued by intense doubt, and this is revealed to extremes; self-portraits are interchangeable with imagery of the Ku Klux Klan in ways that are both dark and ridiculously funny. This character is key to why the Poor Richard series resists becoming overly moralistic. There’s a reassuring
Philip Guston, Poor Richard, 1971
sense that, though disdainful of the hypocrisy of others, there is an ever-present degree of ‘uneasiness of his not so much aesthetic as moral and civic conscience; of his awkward position as a painter in the sheltering womb of his plastic alchemy …’ (Gomez Aguilera, 2001). This prevailing self-doubt, combined with a fear of more widespread criticism, also explains why Guston never allowed the Poor Richard series to be published during his lifetime. Yet, without knowing the context for Poor Richard, there is no question of Philip Guston’s contempt for Richard Nixon and his administration; and as the living memory of the former U.S. president fades, these drawings will remain a powerful record of one artist’s outrage at a corrupt administration. In this way, Guston’s work sits comfortably alongside past greats of political satire in art, such as William Hogarth and Honoré Daumier. Poor Richard serves as an important reminder in today’s political climate, where most artists struggle to find ways of addressing current events in their work, of contemporary draw ing’s capacity to be political. These are really good bad drawings. Kelly Chorpening specialises in drawing, both as a practitioner and educator. She is currently Course Leader for the BA (Hons) Drawing at Camberwell College of Arts, London.
in con v e r s at io n
Michael Landy, Kelly Chorpening and Colin Wiggins col in w ig g in s: Michael Landy has been the Rootstein Hopkins Associate Artist at the National Gallery since 2010. He is working towards an exhibition here in the Sunley room next year, in May 2013. Drawing has been central to Michael’s practice as an artist for a long time, from school days until now, but with one exception: the Goldsmiths years. m ic h ael l an dy: In 1998, I came up with the idea of destroying my worldly belongings one day at the kitchen table; it just popped into my head. Then I started to make lots of drawings of how I could go about destroying my worldly belongings. These are some of my possessions that I drew, and then thought about in various ways. I made twelve drawings and then showed them in the place that I used to live; it was off Brick Lane, on Fashion Street. I called it Michael Landy At Home. I hung the twelve drawings on plastic milk crates with my name on. The milk crates I tied together with electrical ties and built walls and hung drawings on them. For me, drawing is quite solitary really. It is my way of removing myself from the world and it’s just me and it and so one day I decided to draw myself as I didn’t have anything else to do. If you visit my studio in the East End there’s nothing in there, so I went down the road and got a mirror and I just started to draw myself. From there, I started drawing my family members.
I’m very slow at drawing. People sit that far away [holds his hands about 75 cm apart], so we’re looking at each other’s faces and I hadn’t looked at my sister for years and she hadn’t looked at me. I love looking. So looking at someone’s face, no one had a neck, so literally it was just these faces as they stared at me. It’s very personable and you find out all sorts: it’s confes sional. That’s not why I took two days to draw them, to get out as much information as possible, but I just like looking and trying to articulate that really, through a pencil. These are life size. It was a very, very intense period. I drew all my family members, then I moved on to draw everybody I knew. Not everybody, but I drew about 70 people, so I literally drew people in the morning and afternoon every day, booking people in like a hairdresser, and some would only come in for a few hours and other people would come in for a whole day. Some could commit for the whole two days. Sometimes, I’d draw someone and it wouldn’t look like them at the end of the day and you’d have to explain why. Maybe the top half or bottom half looked like them but put together it didn’t look like them and I could never understand how I could spend two days looking at someone and not get a likeness. I put that down to an off day. [Ethel, 2007, HB pencil on Fabriano paper, shown on screen] That’s my Mum. Maybe because the bottom of her head is flattened out it looks like I’ve beheaded her, but I actually like my Mum. I love detail, I love looking at detail and trying to transcribe it. I recreated my family house at Tate Britain. I did a photographic inventory of the whole outside of the house because everyone’s house is different, but when you walk down the street you don’t really look at them. When you walk down the street, you get a vague idea that they’re there, big built struc tures alongside you, but when you start to look at your house, you see it has details of its own. My dad had completed various half-finished bits of DIY around the exterior of the house.
kel ly c h or pen in g : I want to ask about the role that memory plays in your work. Looking at that Break Down drawing, it’s been 12 years now, and you’re looking at possessions that you no longer have. Do you look at that drawing now and think about the objects that you used to possess? What’s your con nection with that work now? m l : No, I don’t. I have the list. If I look at anything, I look at the inventory where I listed everything that I owned. If I was going to look at anything, it would literally be the actual written list. kc : And similarly with the portraits of people that you know. The people have changed, but you’ve arrested their likeness at a given point in time. m l : Yes, it’s like we’re looking at each other but we don’t really look. I’m looking at Colin but it’s not really until I’ve got a pencil in my hand and I’m trying to translate what I see onto paper that I’m really looking at him. I’m not sure if memory plays a part. I grab things at a particular time, so that drawing is about that particular time. col in wig g in s: Let’s move on to some other very detailed drawings that you made. What I love about these is the white space of the page. You talk about your obsession with drawing but there is a lot of white space in your drawings. m l : I didn’t actually draw at Goldsmiths, it didn’t seem the time to draw. There was life drawing but I’d done that from 16–18 and there was nowhere to go with that. I like looking and drawing, I could look and draw and make the connections between the lines but with this, as I said before, you just kind of simplify the process. That’s the living plant, a buttercup. They’re all plants or weeds (a plant out of place). They’re very delicate plants but stoic as well. Gardeners think of weeds as a nuisance and dig
them up but I like them because they’re really robust and grow in cracks in the street and the seeds disperse and they find new places to inhabit. Maybe if only for a brief while, on building sites, or wasteland. c w : We mentioned the medium of etching and we talked about it in almost negative terms. That it’s less flexible than a pen mark, pen and ink, but actually that is its strength. The quality of the etched line is because of what it is; it has got that limitation and precision, and that fineness to it. m l : This is what I did after I had destroyed my belongings, I ended up making weed etchings. kc : Am I right in thinking that these were made from botanical drawings rather than the actual plants? m l : No, I would dig them up. There would be bugs, they would be flowering – it was the actual plant. I’d go on expeditions to find them, to bits of car parks or places where the plants would be growing and dig them up. I’d have a whole room full of them.
whole time. Maybe they thought that I couldn’t draw. They literally would just not look. Some obviously do make observations; one person in particular tried to teach me how to draw and told me where I was going wrong – that was quite interesting! Another person fell asleep; I’d put a baseball cap on his head to hold the peak of the cap and I’d realize how heavy the human head was. His head kept bobbing. It was Mark Hix, the chef, and his head kept bobbing because he kept such weird hours. Literally, within five minutes he’d fall asleep. It was asking a lot of people to sit and some people have to talk through it, some have to literally talk throughout the whole process. The reason that I like drawing is because I like being by myself basically and I like being quiet. So with people talking to me when I am drawing, it becomes very hard then for me to engage with them. But I work round it. I made it work eventually. I worked around it. kc : For me, the thing about the portraits – having the sitter there for such a limited amount of time – is how the pressure to perform must have driven the way that you behaved and drew.
m l : It’s one to one.
m l : Yes, I couldn’t be in a bad mood, I had to be nice. Some artists, I’m sure, are very rude people and they’re like, ‘Sit straight, shut up, stop talking to me’. I couldn’t do that. I tried to be as neutral as I possibly could to make people feel comfortable.
c w : How different or similar is it to doing your portrait faces?
kc : You don’t have to do that with weeds.
m l : It’s all about how it’s in the face and on the plates it’s in the detail. It’s the detail that I’m interested in and I am trying to extradite that. I was taught drawing from 16–18 and after that, no one taught me anything when I went to Goldsmiths.
m l : No. There’s a lot of swearing involved in drawing and I could do that. It was literally because I wanted to simplify my creative process and just have this, me and the plant. I got this weird thickened tendon from holding the etching tool, it’s called painter’s claw. Your tendons thicken and I’d wake up in the morning with an action man hand … alright for holding a bazooka. For an etching tool, it’s not too good. My eyesight went at the time as well, so I was really getting old and falling apart.
c w : It is a direct observation.
kc : There is a difference though if you’re drawing a portrait – you know that the sitter will come and have a look. m l : Some did. Some would literally not want to look at it the
m l: That’s my dad’s foot. cw: So that’s not a detail is it, that’s a complete drawing? m l: Yes. He had an industrial mining accident thirty years ago and as a result of that he has slowly been deteriorating. When I talked about recreating my family house, I basically wanted to tackle a project about my dad. So I began with literally going to the house and drawing him. And that felt a good way to begin the whole process, rather than training a camera on him, which was too intrusive. I thought I’d just draw him, so I started off, because he’s very sedentary most of the time. So I just started to draw. Quite a lot of the portraits are profile of hims and he looks like a statue in a lot of them. It began at that. It eventually ended up with me because I draw and I also do installations that sometimes take two or three years or longer to materialize. So it’s just been my way into it, really and a way of making him feel comfortable about the whole process. c w : There’s another drawing of your dad, isn’t there. m l : Yes, he had a bypass and he said do you want to draw that, so I said okay. So you can see the colours of his feet, you can see he has issues with blood not pumping round his body. That’s a watercolour. I like to draw in all sorts of different ways really. c w : These are very conventional subjects aren’t they, portraits and plants? They’re very much in the tradition of what drawing is about. The self portrait, there is another take on self-portraiture which is rather an amazing drawing. [Left: Radcal Orchidectomy, 2005, coloured pencil on paper, 56.8 × 75.7 cm, shown on screen] m l : That’s my penis. I had cancer at the same time as my dad had his bypass: he didn’t know I had testicular cancer.
c w : Did your dad not know, or was it that you didn’t know? m l : Yeah, I had just had the operation, and he asked did I fancy drawing his operation and that’s when I told him. So I just thought I’d draw my operation. kc : What strikes me is that there was a prior discussion this morning about how there is a connoisseurship in drawing and a lot of people talk about how your drawings have obsessive amounts of detail, and there is this feeling of well that’s what good drawing is. This also falls into that category. Where it differs is the repellent subject matter, which is really interesting … . m l : Well, I don’t know if I’d call my penis that repellent … you can all have a look later on. kc : The medical conditions, which I think separates this body of drawings from the rest. m l : This is ‘Homage to New York’. A lot of these drawing techniques are techniques that I learnt between 16–18. These are drawings made with glue and gouache. Jean Tingueley is a Swiss artist who made a work called ‘Homage to New York’, a self-destructing sculpture that he built at MoMa New York and it only lasted twenty-seven minutes. ‘Break Down’, when I got rid of my belongings, lasted two weeks and all of it went to landfill. At the end of ‘Homage to New York’, that all went to the New Jersey dump basically. I liked the parallel and Jean Tingueley is someone whose work I loved as a student. I was a textiles student for a while and I went to Tate in 1982 and his kinetic sculptures were there dancing. I could make drawings out of them and I wanted to recreate this sculpture and so I began with just drawing it. I found lots of different ways to draw it, so this technique is literally me just squeezing the glue out.
c w : I’m not quite clear … m l : It’s all made out of junk. c w : This is a drawing? On black paper? m l : No, it’s on white paper. So I draw, I actually use the glue as a resistant to the water-based gouache so I draw out the glue first and then add the black gouache so that the glue resists it. It was twenty-seven by twenty-three feet, and painted all white. So it was silhouetted and very ghost-like and sometimes ideas start through just drawing things. I used black-and-white stills of this particular work and I made a documentary about it, and some fake sculptures as well. So most things start with drawing, which is a meditative process for me and then it also allows me time to think through the idea as well as I go along. kc : I have to ask a question as a teacher of drawing. You talk a lot about the techniques and the passion that you have for drawing, but it seems to come from your school experience and not from art college. Were you a bit baffled when you got to Goldsmiths that there was no drawing? m l : Not really. I always found it baffling when I spoke to students and they couldn’t draw. Not because I’m a fuddy-duddy but I just found it odd. But Goldsmiths just didn’t seem like the place to draw, really. It wasn’t discouraged. I think, as I was saying about life drawings, I could take it so far then I felt I stopped it because I didn’t know where my own voice was within it. When it just becomes mannerist or copying and you can’t really see yourself within that anymore, that’s the time to stop. I just did a lot of drawing between 16–18, I never went out. I was a bit of a hermit and just stayed in and if I wasn’t at school, I’d be at home drawing. m l: That’s basically a scraperboard. White oil on top of black and then I’ve inscribed into it.
You use the end of a paintbrush and you can inscribe into it. That’s about one and a half, or two metres long. I try to find different ways. I think if you try to find different ways to use the media then you draw in different ways. With an etching tool, I’d work very painstakingly but with something like this you can make much more gestural and bolder moves that could prob ably be a bit more fluid, which will evoke a sense of movement. c w : And that’s where the National Gallery come in because one day you got a phone call and we asked you if you would be interested in coming to the National Gallery and working in the studio with a view to having this show in 2013. I distinctly remember you saying, ‘Before you go any further, can I just check that you know what I do?’ m l : Yes … c w : We had, in fact, got the wrong artist but it was too late to go back and so here we are. So you became interested in one or two of our pictures. m l : Yes, it was that. As far as not drawing at Goldsmiths, the National Gallery was just not on our radar and so for me I only got to know the collections once becoming the Associate Artist. Karsten Schubert, who is my ex-dealer, offered me some money to make a drawing of Cézanne’s Bathers and that’s how those things start. Then suddenly, I looked at it and it’s a really fantastic painting. Jasper Johns drew it and Picasso made a sculpture of it, these geometric figures that are just huge, and so I started to draw it. Cézanne seems to draw the faces but he kind of defaces it, he seems to articulate it all at the same time. It’s just a really wonderful thing to draw. I drew it from a postcard; I didn’t do it from the actual painting, which is upstairs. I just drew it from a National Gallery postcard because in some respects it simpli fies the shapes. c w: So let’s look at one of your Cézanne drawings.
m l: It’s just watercolour pencil, but it’s very sculptural. kc: You’ve remained consistent in the way that the subject matter is pulled out of context and situated on the white paper ground – in a way that a lot of the drawings, perhaps all of the drawings, are. m l : I think the Scrapheap Services and maybe the ‘Break Down’ drawings are much more so. I literally would fill in space and make sure that there wasn’t any left, and as I’ve got older I’ve tried to open things up a bit more. Especially drawing from the paintings here, I especially like fragments and bits. So I leave it half finished. Earlier in my life, I would have a compulsion to finish everything and I’d kill it dead. I’d know as I was drawing through it but I’d have to finish it and at the same time I would realize that I was destroying it somehow. The life that the drawing had, I was flattening it all and not allowing it to have some kind of space and to breathe. I’ve tried to open things up a bit more and, as I say, I quite like them as fragments and to leave things out. c w : So with all of this empty space, you’re saying that you had the experience of making previous drawings where you would cover every single bit and kill the drawing. If you had done this drawing a few years ago, would you have carried on and covered every single square centimeter? m l : Not in this particular one but obviously part of the sense of the original painting is how it interacts with the landscape; the figures in the painting become part of the landscape really. As I isolate things, I have lots of white space around. c w : And that’s true of these drawings from El Greco. m l: That’s Christ driving the traders from the temple. Christ is this figure in the middle,
his followers are on one side and the traders are on the other. I like it, as I had the banking crisis in my head; I partly liked the idea of that. Also, just the way that he breaks through the space and defines people on the left and right. But I kept drawing Christ and I must have an issue there as in the El Greco he is much more elongated and the head is more like a pinhead, which drives me crazy trying to draw. I couldn’t get it right, it was driving me round the bend. I just like how he breaks into the picture and divides it in two. So, as I said, all the spaces at the bottom I’ve just left open. c w : … and given Christ a much bigger head obviously. And I should add that there are dozens, you didn’t just do these two drawings. You did a lot. And Cézanne? m l : Yes, I did a lot. Often I do nothing, then suddenly I find something to do and make hundreds of drawings. kc : In these, the ground is more activated. The drawings remind me a bit of late Michelangelo sculpture where the figure somehow emerges from the rock in a natural way, not sculpted. Your drawings have a degree of ambiguity. There appears to be a struggle going on between the paper ground and the drawn forms, more than in any of your other work. m l : Yes. c w : Yes, which is interesting because of course El Greco had been to the Sistine chapel and looked at the Last Judgement and for a lot of these figures you can find prototypes in Michelangelo. El Greco is actually stealing from Michelangelo. And when El Greco was in Rome, he offered to paint the Last Judgement again and to do it better than Michelangelo had done it. They don’t make artists like that anymore! The only drawing that’s not black and white is one from the Degas. m l : Yes. I don’t know how I feel about that. It’s just that during
my O-level art course, I remember the art teacher talking about it and saying that it caused a big fuss at the time because it was of naked adolescents. I just liked the way that the pictures split into two, boys and girls, I remember that was the first thing I related to when I came here to the collection. The Young Spartan Exercising by Degas. I don’t do a lot of drawings with colour. Most of the drawings are black and white. With colour, if I limit the palette I’m fine, but if I have too many choices I can go all over the place. This is Dosso Dossi, a small painting. I just love the passion within it – the amazing faces, and the three Marys, what about their arms? Their huge Geoff Capes shot-putter’s arms. It’s just the passion that it conveys that I really loved. cw: Well, this is a tiny painting and I imagine that 99% of our National Gallery visitors walk straight past it and don’t even notice it. And it’s by Dosso Dossi. But with your drawings I have a slide of your drawing scaled to the same scale as the actual painting.
give to that. So something like this is, it’s like copying, as I was saying earlier on, it’s life drawing as in copying. I wasn’t quite sure because most artists copy and appropriate things from other things. I drew from just four paintings in the collection and after that I just stopped, partly because that’s not what I wanted to show in the exhibition, but also I didn’t know where I’d take it. Nor where I was within it. Also I draw from photographs. I had a conversation with one artist who was appalled that I wasn’t drawing from the actual paintings. But that’s a very public thing to do, to set something up and actually draw in a public space. I do know the difference between drawing from the painting and drawing from a reproduction. But that’s just much more performative. I wasn’t really so interested in that aspect. Michael Landy is an artist currently living and working in London, represented by the Thomas Dane gallery. Michael is also currently the Rootstein Hopkins Foundation Associate Artist at The National Gallery.
m l : You never told me that. c w : And yours is on the left. It’s on this huge scale. Kelly, what is your first response to this massive inflation of inflated figures coming from a tiny little work of art? kc : Well, it’s very different from Michael’s other work. If you go back to the Break Down drawing, it feels very much like the scale of all of your possessions have been reproduced as though they were all a similar size, becoming an index. With this drawing, the transformation has gone in the other direction, and doesn’t have the same straightforward purpose, does it? m l : I always thought that I drew ordinary things. I am interested in the ordinary and the everyday, and what value and worth we
Michael Landy, Compulsory Obsolescence, 1998, ink on paper, 150 × 100 cm
Michael Landy, Claudication, 2004, pencil on paper, 42.2 × 59.7cm, MoMa
Michael Landy, Shepherd’s Purse 2, 2002, etching, 90 × 78.5 cm
Michael Landy, H.2.N.Y. Metallic suicide, 2006, gouache and glue on paper, 152 × 122cm
Michael Landy, H.2.N.Y. Homage to New York, 2007, oil stick on paper, 153 × 244 cm
Michael Landy, Lamentation over the body of Christ (after Dosso Dossi), 2011, watercolour pencil on paper, 194 × 155 cm
Michael Landy, Bathers (after Cézanne 3), 2010, watercolour pencil, 152 × 210 cm
Michael Landy, Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple (after El Greco), 2010, watercolour pencil, 153 × 244.5 cm
‘ w h at is a g o o d draw ing?’ – re s po n s e s
William Cartwright This essay approaches the question of, ‘What is a good drawing?’ from the perspective of drawing maps. Maps are produced to represent many ‘geographies’ – human or physical, formal or informal, real or imagined. It is argued that a ‘good’ map (drawing) is something that includes information about the essential components of a geography so that, when read, it communicates pertinent information required so that the map‑reader can build a mental map of that geography. It is this selection of information that occurs ‘behind’ the drawing that ultimately results in a good map – a good drawing. Yes, the actual drawing process itself is important, but too are the processes behind what is drawn. I assume, perhaps naively, that this process is not that dissimilar to how an artist makes considered decisions when composing and producing a drawing. Where the actual ‘marks’ are made on a medium are not placed by chance. This is an informed practice, where the decisions and deliberations made before making a mark are the essential ‘stuff’ that make a drawing ‘work’. It is through that this process that a good draw ing results. Mapping has at its core the requirement to accurately show phenomena in its spatial context. This has been termed ‘spatialization’. Here, the ‘stuff’ that underpins this discipline are mathematics (developing ways of representing a spherical earth on a flat surface), measurement of data, analysis or infor mation and the final depiction. Designers and producers of map products are concerned with whereness – something that
can be formulated and depicted in quantitative terms, and what ness – dealing with qualitative information. The whyness element of mapping is a combination of a user’s knowledge about the subject being depicted and the map producer’s skill in choosing the appropriate data, and then designing the most effective portrayal medium. The depiction of ‘somewhere in space/time’ depends on a number of elements – the choice of the method of graphic portrayal, the attributes of the information that have to be de picted, the influences on how the nature of the data and its location may alter, the catalysts for change that bring about the final location in space/time for particular data elements, and the rules and conventions for depiction. The choice of depiction techniques that need to be employed are those that relate to the type of data being depicted, the viewing preferences of the user and the specific demands of the visualization method and equipment being employed. The collection of data, map design and compilation is informed by location. What is shown, where it is shown, and whether it is shown at all, is determined by the information that needs to be collected to enable the design of an appro priate map. Before the application of computers to mapping, the profession was focused on ‘pre-delivery device’, that is, the consideration about what should be produced to provide the best representation of geography. This engagement with the actual process of ‘drawing’ enabled ideas and concepts about what should be represented to be formalized. This was done via sketches, map annotations and actually drawing the map draw ings. The mental map was transferred from the designer/carto grapher to a physical representation on some drawing medium. The advantage here was that the cartographer was able to visu alize the geography of the real world, form a mental map, and then devise schema that would allow a concept to be transferred onto paper, before being further developed and refined, and then used as the starting point for actually generating the final representation. The sketch of the idea would then be translated
into the language of maps, and symbols, lines and annotations developed to provide ‘translations’ from the language of the sketched idea to the language of map production, with its associated specifications. In the era of computer-assisted cartography, computers ‘assisted’ in the development and production of maps. However, relatively recently, the whole process, in some instances, has been transferred from the human cartographer to the computer-as-cartographer. Maps are produced more efficiently, for less cost and much more quickly. However, it is argued that the ‘drawing’ input into map conception has been removed altogether. No longer are the concepts behind ideation and the mental map formalized, developed and implemented via drawing and sketching. It is further argued that, by removing the ability to sketch one’s mental map, inferior representations of geography result. Yes, machines can collect data, analyse and compile geo graphic information and draw maps. But it is the human input that develops a good map from a good drawing. Even in today’s computer era of cartography, it is still the engagement in the drawing of mental images of geography that result in better, more insightful, and more effective cartographic design – ‘good’ drawings.
Mary Clare Foá The answer to the question, ‘What is a good drawing?’, depends on who’s asking, what for and when. Knowing the con text and time of the drawing; conditioning the signification of the work, and also of the questioner; and conditioning the recep tion of the work, allows for an informed interpretation of how and why a drawing might be given a particular value. Also, remembering that we are each of a time and place that positions our own viewpoint, might get us nearer to assessing what it is that we are looking at, while keeping in mind the issues at play in the procedures of making and seeing. But these sweeping statements close down debate and neglect a crucial issue in the creating and receiving of a drawing. What constitutes good practice in the making of a drawing? I propose that the practitioner’s level of engagement expands, at some unquantifiable point, to become intention and, when intention and knowledge (informed, innocent or ignorant) activate a work, that work then becomes credible. Engaged application and intention activate credibility, which stimulates an interaction with the viewer. In this way, the viewer is prompted to assess the work and arrive at a judgement as to whether or not they believe what they perceive to be either good or not good. But enough waffle; if it is the case that the practitioner’s intention is the crucial issue in the process of making and receiv ing a work, then perhaps we need to ask, ‘What did the maker intend the drawing to do?’ and, ‘What does the drawing actually do?’ – then we might be better informed to assess whether the drawing is good or not good.
At London’s Drawing Out conference in 2012, Professor Stephen Farthing referred to a drawing made with a blue pencil on a map (The Palestine/Israel border) as being an example of bad drawing because of what it has affected.1 That colonial zeal dictates an imposition onto others without foresight of the consequences is no surprise; but that the consequences are so dire, long-running and due to a pencil marking a paper surface is destructive in the extreme. Clearly, the maker(s) of this mark had intention, but I propose that their intention was drawing without due care and attention, and being badly informed. The action of the drawing was insular and disconnected from a broader awareness of the rest of the world. I suggest then that connection versus disconnection within intention is another crucial component contributing to the value of a work. I will return to this point, but first I would like to redress the balance by referencing another map that had more positive consequences and therefore, in my opinion, qualifies as a good drawing. Thomas Harriet’s drawings of the moon (1609) mapped an unexplored terrain with great care – without it, Armstrong might have said: ‘Houston, this is untranquil base the Eagle is stuck.’ Now, back to the importance of connectivity – why is it important that a drawing contains awareness of connectivity? It is not simply a hippy statement (wishing the world would wrap itself into a big group hug) to say that everything is connected, and I propose that to miss the significance of connectivity in any form of creative practice is to blindly stumble through life pre cisely without due care and attention. Professionals from astro physicists to philosophers have understood the importance of knowing we (humankind) are part of and patterned into a whole. Pulsar discoverer Jocelyn Bell Brunell, in her 2011 South Bank lecture (2011) stated: ‘If it weren’t for the stars, we wouldn’t be here: we are intimately and ultimately children of the stars.’ Maurice Merleau-Ponty, in his phenomenological interpretation of the world, believes that the merging between our bodies and our world occurs because the fabric of our bodies is the same as the fabric of our environment: ‘Between the seeing and
the seen a blending of some sort takes place.’2 If it is the case that all things are interconnected, then an action (in this case, a drawing) affects consequences, and we are responsible for the effects of our actions. So to conclude, in my opinion a good drawing is a drawing that contains the practitioner’s intention, and is one that is mindful of connectivity and careful of its consequences – and as form follows function, it may be the case that if we are pleased by the intention of the drawing, then we might also find the drawing aesthetically satisfying – although why some thing is beautiful or not beautiful is a different kind of argument. 1 See Sykes-Picot Agreement, 1916, in which the British and French divided up the Middle East, then colonial secretary Winston Churchill’s 1921 White Paper leading to the 1922 Balfour Declaration in which the UN decreed that the Jewish homeland should be placed ‘in Palestine’. See further the Belgian artist Francis Alÿs’s performance drawing, The Green Line, in which he walked the border through Jerusalem that separates Israel from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, which the green pencil had marked on the map in 1948 denoting the Armistice Agreement. Since 2000, a blue line now runs close to the green line, and so it goes … (whose God is it anyway?). 2 M. Merleau-Ponty, ‘Eye and Mind’ in The Primacy of Perception, USA: Northwestern University Press, 1964, p.162–164
Michelle Fava When we see a drawing, we make an immediate judgement. We decide whether it’s worth a second glance, what it might be telling us and whether we like it. These judgements are fast, intuitive, emotional, complex and unstated. That we make these snap judgements points to an unconscious process of analysis and evaluation, with idiosyncratic, undeclared criteria. Those judgements aren’t static or permanent, but we judge a drawing’s quality before we can articulate why. Indeed, any explanation will fall short; never quite doing justice to the richness of our intuitive grasp of the quality that we seek. Our explanations may even be unwittingly fabricated, postrationalizations of why we felt the way that we did when we first saw the drawing. It is only when a consensus is needed that we must validate our criteria. A collective judgement is neces sarily explicit, wordy and likely incomplete. When the purpose of a drawing is clear – to ideate, to present structural information, to convey a design concept – its quality can be defined by how well it performs its function. In a fine art context, any definition of quality (or indeed of drawing) would necessarily provoke rebellion. Perhaps this is an important function of the exercise of defining ‘good drawing’: to continually and cyclically define, challenge and redefine. There are a few situations where drawing is explicitly judged, for example in curatorial or educational contexts. I will argue that, in arts education, what makes a good drawing need not be defined.
There is a distinction to be made here between other people’s drawings and our own. We judge our own drawings even as we make them an intuitive process that guides us incrementally towards what becomes our practice. Despite this tacit knowing, when pushed, most artists will resist defining the quality that they strive for, likely giving a different account each time that they are asked. Students often judge their own drawings harshly, as anyone who teaches drawing can testify, sometimes rejecting them after only a few marks have been made. Sometimes (more and more frequently) students even fear making the first mark. Why is this? In my own observations of artists drawing, it seems that they evaluate periodically during the process. However, this only appears to be happening part of the time. Another phase of drawing involves an absence of judgement: periods during which the drawer simply draws, postponing the moment of judgement to a later pause in drawing activity. This is likely because the process of judgement impedes the drawing act. Judgement and perception compete for cognitive resources. A judgemental thought taking place as the pencil meets the paper leads to an uncertainty, which is in turn imbued in the quality of line: a premature evaluation, if you will, caused by a performance anxiety. In my own judgement, this becomes a poor drawing. Similarly, a forced, over-confident line is equally unsatisfactory. The line that I seek is free of judgement, at least in the moment of its conception. I believe that this performance anxiety can be connected with students’ experiences of assessment procedures. Cumulative experiences engender an awareness that one’s work will be judged by someone else, against often ambiguous criteria. This awareness can also lead to a shift in the intuitive judgement processes. The danger here is that the student’s aims shift towards the short term goal of achieving highly at assess ment, their intuitive judgements becoming concerned with the anticipated judgement of others, rather than with their own developing sense of purpose.
The question of defining quality is of central importance in academia as, over time, our definitions come to shape our institutions, and the students and work produced by them. To illustrate this, I would like to draw an analogy with the peacock. Over generations, the male peacock’s tail has become increasingly large, spectacular, predator-enticing and unwieldy. This is due entirely to the aesthetic preferences of the female peacock. Over time, the process and criteria for judgement come to shape that which is judged. I would like to posit that, within the academic arena, universities and the institutions that monitor and assess them play the role of the female peacock. As such, they should be suitably careful with their measures and definitions of quality. The critical faculty for independently defining and pursuing purposeful work is (arguably) the cornerstone of an arts education. I therefore argue that the responsibility of defining ‘good drawing’ be decentred, from lecturer or institu tion towards the student, with a more dialogical and fluid set of criteria.
Irene Barberis Drawing is a continuum; a multi-faceted, transdisciplinary global practice. It is something that almost every person encounters and partakes in at some period during their lives; from the early childhood marks of notations, writings and texts to open-ended contemporary processes. Drawing is akin to a visionary process, is open ended, in itself is kinetic; as some have said, it is a verb, it is an action, it is a movement across a thought, gesture and trace, it is the mark and its residue. There are no rules; drawing can be as minimal as a breath and as complex as the wave structures and recordings of the ocean. Drawing is kinaesthetic; a movement between points, a connection, recognition and gesture of any idea, mark, trace, line, symbol, shape, medium, space or surface. Everyone has their own language of the mark.1 Drawing is the sensory and/or conceptual transmission of ideas. It is a cultural conduit for articulating the transformation of meanings and experience, a cultural lens through which to view complexities of human endeavour and the environmental, social, political and economic forces of globalization. Defining what a ‘good’ drawing is, is a remarkably diffi cult task, especially as the word ‘drawing’ has such expansive meaning. In the western art academy, a ‘good’ classical or traditional drawing is one which ticks the boxes of design/ desegno – composition, line, tone, balance, spatial harmony,
volume, rhythm – and on which contains conceptual clarity. It encompasses ‘traditional‘ skill and is a product of ‘good draughtsmanship’. A good drawing has simplicity, a pared-back or essential presence; it contains animation and spontaneity, and a unity of components linking us in some way to the wider spectrum of the cosmos. A good drawing explores intersecting porosities of the visible, invisible and conceptual, and in so doing reveals particularities of ideation – the artist’s process of thinking. Sol Lewitt, in his paragraphs on conceptual art, says that ‘it’s difficult to bungle a good idea.’ 2 (I think this is so.) William Kentridge speaks of an invisible work that precedes his visible work, an interface between himself and the realization and formation of his ideas.3 This invisible work is part of his metho dology in the overall drawing. My theory is that a good drawing, in whatever manifesta tion, moves us neurologically and kinetically into a space that I term the ‘liminal edge’, the boundary between logic and the unknown or intuitive, permitting the viewer to potentially access both the rational and intuitive experience of the artist’s percep tions at the point of making. The artist is witness to the selection of … (idea, beauty, phenomenon, light, time, conviction, pathos, etc.); the drawing is a ‘signifier’, a residue of the artist’s perceptions at that time; and the viewer, in a transhistorical way, is witness to the drawing. In this sense, a good drawing carries the artist’s intentions and visual knowledge succinctly, allowing others to experience their insights. It is the poetry of the mark-making, the intuitive response to the visible, invisible and conceptual, which elevates the ordinary into the extraordinary. A ‘great drawing’, or a ‘great work of art’, transforms you; it shifts your being, your thinking, your emotions and your perceptions. You are transfigured by the interaction – you move away, knowing that you are altered, your perceptions changed and your thinking expanded – it is liberating, or it can be the most confronting experience – either way you have entered a meta-space.
Conclusion Technical prowess, obsessive outworking of vision, inspired moments, deep perceptual insights, clarity of vision (to name a few), translated into marks or movements, produce in the viewer a neurological shift, a ‘psychochoreography’4 mirroring what the artist has experienced. The drawing is the conduit whereby the viewer is able to become a participator and sharer in the translation, response and outcome of the one who has drawn – be it on a cave wall, an altar, a sketchbook from the Renaissance period, a wall from the 12th century or 21st century, or a pattern of equations – this, for me, is good drawing; a ‘great’ drawing changes you. 1 Barberis, I., Keynote as a Drawing, Drawing as a Keynote, Crossing the Line: Drawing in the Middle East conference, 2011, American University in Dubai, Dubai, p.1 2 Lewitt, S., ‘Sentences on Conceptual Art’, Art Language, Coventry, vol.1, no.1, May, 1969. New York, pp.11–13. In Art In Theory 1900–2000, Harrison, C. (ed.) and Wood, P., USA: Blackwell, 2003, pp.849–851 3 Rosenthall, M. (ed.), 2009, William Kentridge, Five Themes, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, p.13 4 ‘“Psychochoreography” is my neologism for the process of the neurobiological activity of the internal journey of the production of the mark and the witness of that mark.’ Barberis, I., A Parallel Paper: Blurring the Edges 2012, Drawn Out conference, 2012, University of the Arts London, London, p.6
Anita Taylor The history and practice of drawing is as long and extensive as the history of human culture, and the act of drawing remains a fundamental means to convey and to analyse experiences of the world(s) we inhabit. Drawing exists in many forms, is used for many functions and with many intentions, be they conscious or subliminal. The quest to define ‘a good drawing’ brings into play multi-layered relationships of the value, nature and question of intent, of measurement against a benchmark or convention, of authority and connoisseurship, and of consensus or accord with regard to the meaningful and qualitative exchange between viewer and originator posited in the drawn form. Since 1994, the annual Jerwood Drawing Prize exhibition has aimed to affirm the value of drawing by providing an open forum to evaluate and disseminate current drawing and its practices. Through the selection process, panellists are encouraged to collectively establish criteria and to consider the nature and boundaries of drawing as a field. Continual refine ment takes place as literally thousands of drawings are laid out for each panel to see. Consequently, debate arises about what is of value in drawing as a field, in the drawings presented, and as to what makes ‘a good drawing’. To understand what makes a good drawing, the tacit intentions and purposes of a drawing, and its realization through the drawn act, need to be considered. Why and how drawings are made, and the known exemplars in that field, help to establish what constitutes ‘a good drawing’, be it a measured objective or realist drawing; an invented scene;
a diagram, plan or map; a rock drawing; a decoration; a medi tation; a record or documentation of an event; a sketch of emergent ideas; or a construction after nature. The lens of the drawn language provides a vital means to record, to confirm, to probe, to speculate, to document and to digest the world as experienced, in order to gain and share insight, knowledge and understanding. Inherently, a good drawing is one that is fit for purpose and inventive within its means – a consummate synthesis of idea, form and content. One that creates equivalence to the experience or communication at hand, and one that can apprehend and captivate the viewer (and maker) to find a new or renewed relationship with, and understanding of, what it conveys. Often an autographical means of forming a record, drawing inscribes and enshrines particular values as a distillation of the experience of seeing and being; visually embodying and physically tracing a residue of thoughts and actions that ultimately represent and affirm human presence. A good drawing embodies these qualities and interprets and translates the originator’s present, and prescience, into the viewer’s present. A good drawing confirms the visible, encounters the past and the present, and tests the possible. Ideally, these qualities proffer an exquisitely rendered visual invitation to locate the interstices between proposition and possibility, between seen and unseen, and between memory and forgetting. An imprint of the imagination, a good drawing enables discovery.
Angela Hodgson-Teall I use the term drawing to mean ‘the act of telling a story or making an impression with a simple tool or material that fits in the palm of one’s hand’. Working from the dual positions of art and science, my drawings belong in both areas, hovering between one and the other. Good drawing hits the spot – attention hovers in the act of becoming. The psychoanalytic framework to my position was exemplified by Paula Heinman when she explained that: We know that the analyst needs an evenly hovering attention in order to follow the patient’s free associations, and that this enables him to listen simultaneously on many levels […] By listening in this manner, the analyst avoids the danger of becoming preoccupied with any one theme and remains receptive for the significance of changes in themes and of the sequences and gaps in the associations.1 Using drawing as an analytic tool, one crystallizes the story. The drawing hovers in a state of becoming. Drawing belongs in many worlds and enables the examination of thoughts and feelings over time. For example, attention may hover and slowly turn into words so that it becomes a line of poetry. Imagine another thought forming into an idea in a scien tist’s mind, which she expresses as a scribbled note or diagram in the margin of her experimental notebook.
The diagram is not only the province of the scientist. Rosalind Krauss2 in the Optical Unconscious, a re-examination of 20th century culture, explains that there are both linear and diagonal axes in the relationship between figure and ground. For me, grounded in science, these relationships are key. Krauss includes the expanded fields of the not figure and not ground, giving my concept of drawing more scope. She refers to the diagram’s ‘idiotic simplicity and its extravagant cunning’. The drawing can be a simple line of movements that become a dance or performance. A useful description of drawing by Gerlinde Gabriel3 expands the position of the figure. ‘For the hand holding the pencil which makes the line of drawing is also a form which cups itself into a container, suggesting a structure, a “body”, which begins to be the inside and outside of what is the material condition of sculpture.’ This flows back into the inclusion of dance and performance in the definition of drawing and social sculpture.4 So, if a drawing can fit into any of these categories, then what is a good drawing? I argue that a good drawing tells a story or gives an account of something that exists in the world and its imaginations. And a bad drawing … well, that’s just the drawing you do before you make a good drawing. 1 Heinmann, Paula (1950), ‘On countertransference’, International Journal of PsychoAnalysis, issue 31, pp.81–84 2 Krauss, Rosalind (1993), The Optical Unconscious, MIT Press, Massachusetts, p.27 3 Gabriel, Gerlinde (1993), The Body of Drawing, South Bank Centre, London, p.5 4 www.thefutureissocial.co.uk
Simon Betts ‘What is a good drawing?’ Any answer to that question would require a set of prescriptions that could force the practice, kicking and screaming, into a definition that contemporary drawing denies. Tony Godfrey, in his essay ‘Jerwood Drawing Prize 2004’, quite rightly asks, ‘How can we say one drawing is better than another when we can see so many types of drawing, with different media, different interpretations?’. One: a Landscape What counts as drawing now can move between its graphical and material heritage (with the continued relationship with its earliest materials and processes), and practices and approaches that leave the page altogether, and use actual architectural spaces, digital processes, performance and live forms, at times even photography. What seems clear to me is that drawing has an inexhaustible capacity for reinvention and change. And depending on an individual practitioner’s interest, purpose, intent or material inquisitiveness, what makes a good drawing will only be as definable as the last ‘good’ drawing. At its core, drawing is a democratic activity. It belongs, like writing, to everyone. Drawing’s graphical materials can be relatively cheap, are relatively easy to use, and allow all of us at some point – even if it is only a doodle while on the phone – to make a drawing. It does not belong exclusively to artists, and the use of drawing by engineers, doctors, surgeons, architects, carpenters, performers and choreographers underlines a demo cratic reach. Therefore, with so many practitioners who use
drawing and so many approaches to drawing being explored, I am with Godfrey; defining a set of shared criteria for ‘good’ or ‘bad’ drawing is problematic. One size does not fit all. Two: an anecdote. Three years ago, I showed a young A-level art student around the Wimbledon College of Art undergraduate costume design summer exhibition. We came across a costume design drawing of an old figure, cloaked, hunched and using sticks to walk with. Drawn with only line, articulated only with a stick and ink. Ink, stick, lines: humble materiality and process. But reading the lines and reading between the lines, this drawing offered up a rich, moving and highly evocative portrayal of character. This drawing told us about age and spoke of poverty and loneliness. This drawing was powerful in suggesting a narrative, that we could only begin to understand, of how a life must have felt and been endured. We could almost smell the ill health and hardship. All this was communicated with only line and marks; no need for anything else, a masterful coalescence of process and content: a good drawing. I asked the student what she thought of this piece. She thought it was a good drawing, and we discussed why she liked it so much and why it moved her. But I was completely taken aback when she commented that she would not be allowed to draw like this at school. Why? Because it was drawn without any ‘shading’ and apparently you cannot draw with only line. Good drawing seemingly involves drawing the subject using line and then shading it in. (I inferred from the conversation that she meant shaded using a pencil followed by ‘smudge-‘n’-rub’.) So this exquisite drawing, this piece of emotionally charged graphic invention, drawn with the simplest of means but with the maximum of content and feeling, would not be deemed a good drawing because it did not have any ‘shading’. So there you have it; what makes a good drawing is ‘shading in’. This anecdote has niggled away at me over these last three years as it says much about a certain drawing pedagogy
that fails to recognize drawing as a communication skill. It has niggled at me because it speaks of a prescribed and simplistic methodology for teaching drawing. And it has niggled at me because it fails to encompass the rawness and richness of draw ing, its unlimited capacity for experimentation, its processes and techniques, and how it can support an individual’s desire to think, interpret and communicate visually. Tony Godfrey asked the right question, ‘How can we say one drawing is better than another when we see so many types of drawing?’. But if we accept that what counts as drawing now is less fixed and more fluid, then discussing, or rather defining what makes a good drawing needs to be more openended, and less singular. (The word ‘makes’ is a good one. I have always preferred the idea of making drawings over draw ing drawings). Therefore, perhaps the answer, or answers, to what makes a good drawing resides in the multiplicity of uses, functions and purposes of drawing. Three: provocations. What makes a good drawing: is asking through making drawings, what makes a good drawing is experimenting with drawing and asking, ‘what if I try this?’ is challenging convention and taking liberties is the visibility and immediacy of the hand, and the actions it produces, even when it makes mistakes is a sense of touch is a drawing’s purpose, intent, and capacity to communicate, is the refusal of drawing to be categorized and to close down possibility is when a drawing explains, and gives us information or know ledge that helps us to negotiate the world is its discourse between definition and the unresolved, the systematic and chaotic, certainty and speculation is its ability to instruct is its capacity for reinvention is when content and process coalesce
is its capacity for material exploration, and invention through making marks is a drawingâ€™s capacity to create a life of its own is its ability to capture our imagination, catch us off guard, or encourage reverie is the space it gives to visual thinking, playing with ideas and finding solutions is disregarding the rules and subverting technique is never being afraid to make a bad drawing. But what really makes a good drawing is not having to â€˜shade inâ€™. Ever.
Appendix Biographies iren e bar b er is Irene Barberis is a committed artist with an extensive and diverse exhibiting history both in Australia and internationally. She is a painter, working also with drawing, installation and new technologies. She has contributed significantly to arts education through her academic work in various Australian and international universities, most recently at R M I T University, working in research, painting and drawing, and with national and overseas postgraduate supervisions at PhD level. Irene has participated in RMIT’s offshore programme in Hong Kong since 1999. She is an international curator and speaker who has hosted and organized international conferences on drawing. She is the Founding Director of Metasenta® Pty Ltd, a global arts research ‘satellite’, which functions between universities, arts organizations and artists, and initiated the Global Centre for Drawing (GCfD), which is dedicated to deepening the role of drawing throughout the developed and developing world. Her international arts projects collaborate with artists and institutions in the UK, Europe, Australia, USA, the Middle East and the Far East. Born in London, Irene holds a PhD from Victoria Univer sity, Melbourne. She runs Metasenta® Publications, which publishes artists’ writings, ideas and studio works, is currently authoring a book on Metasenta®, and is the instigator and commissioner of Contemporary Australian Drawing #1 (2012), Australia’s pre-eminent book on drawing, authored by Dr Janet McKenzie. She is Co-Director (with artist Wilma Tabacco) of Gallery Langford120, a commercial gallery in Melbourne, Australia. sim on b ett s Simon Betts is currently Dean of College, Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts London. He studied painting at
Sheffield Polytechnic and Chelsea College of Art and Design, and he has exhibited nationally and internationally. His drawing research interests are centred on developing drawing courses and pedagogy that promote new approaches to teaching and learning drawing. He co-authored (with Stephen Farthing and Kelly Chorpening) the UAL Drawing Certificate course, and led the development of the cross-disciplinary MA Drawing course at Wimbledon College of Art. He is currently working on a joint science/drawing project with the Medical Science Faculty at RMIT Melbourne, where he recently held an Interna tional Visiting Fellowship. w i l l i a m ca rtwright William Cartwright is Professor of Cartography in the School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences at RMIT University, Australia. He joined the University after spending a number of years in both the government and private sectors of the mapping industry. He is Chair of the Joint Board of Geospatial Information Societies and Immediate Past-President of the International Cartographic Association. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a Fellow of the British Cartographic Society, an Honorary Fellow of the Mapping Sciences Institute Australia and an Honorary Fellow of the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute. He holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne and a Doctor of Education from RMIT University. He has six other university qualifications – in the fields of cartography, applied science, education, media studies, information and communication technology, and graphic design. He is the author of over 300 academic papers. His major research interest is the application of integrated media to cartography and the exploration of different metaphorical approaches to the depiction of geographical information. m i c h el l e fava Michelle Fava attended University College Falmouth (MA) and University of Central Lancashire (PGCE). Having taught drawing in FE and HE, and worked as a visiting artist in schools, Michelle
is currently a doctoral researcher at Loughborough University, where she is a member of t rac ey, the Drawing Research Network, and Loughborough University Design Education Research Group. Co-founder of the symposium series ‘Thinking through Drawing’, which seeks to bring together cross-disciplinary perspectives on drawing and education, Michelle’s research interests are concerned with drawing and cognition, and pedagogic and curriculum development in arts education. Her PhD research is concerned with observational drawing and the psychology of attention. This research involves close obser vation of artists’ drawing processes, using video and eyetracking footage, together with verbal accounts of drawing. It considers the educational relevance of contemporary theories of visual attention and their relevance to contemporary drawing pedagogy, seeking an account of drawing that bridges disciplinary perspectives and has practical value for educators. m ar y c l are foá Mary Clare Foá graduated from the RCA in 1984 where she was awarded the RCA drawing prize. Foá teaches drawing at the University of the Arts London (Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design) and London Metropolitan University. Foá completed her PhD, ‘Sounding Out (Drawing in response to the outside environment)’ at Camberwell College of Arts (University of the Arts London) in 2011. Recent exhibitions include the Jerwood Drawing Prize (2010) and Berlin / London C4rd (2011). Foá’s work can be seen in Hyperdrawing (i.Taurus 2012) and at Summer Hall in this year’s Edinburgh Festival. an g el a h od g son - t eal l Angela Hodgson-Teall has worked as an artist in the territory of medical humanities since the 1990s. Through diverse drawing practices and empathic interactions, she entices others to produce artworks with her. Drawing is used to explore thoughts and emotions, both in crafted pieces and interventions. These allow viewers and participants to slow down, play, analyse and
reflect, creating a third arena within the context of the gallery or other public space where the practice of empathy is critiqued. Recent projects include the artist’s residency The Future is Social at Flat-Time House in Peckham run by artist Sonia Boyce, and the exhibition and conference Thinking Through Drawing at Macy’s Gallery, Columbia University, New York, 2011. Her PhD is entitled ‘Drawing on the Nature of Empathy’ and the research practice is located in the hospital trust where she works as a consultant medical microbiologist, bringing the two practices into the same tight and often uncomfortable arena. a n i ta taylor Professor Anita Taylor is Director of the National Art School in Sydney, Australia. She was formerly Professor of Fine Art and Director of The Research Centre for Drawing at the University of the Arts London; Dean of Wimbledon College of Art, UAL; Vice Principal of Wimbledon School of Art; Deputy Head of Art, Media and Design, University of Gloucestershire. She is the founding Director of the Jerwood Drawing Prize, the annual open exhibition for drawing in the UK (1994 – present). Anita Taylor studied at Mid-Cheshire College of Art (1980–81), Gloucestershire College of Art (1981–84); Royal Col lege of Art (1985–87); and was elected Academician of the Royal West of England Academy (2004). She was artist-inresidence at Durham Cathedral (1987–88); and also Cheltenham Fellow in Painting at Gloucestershire College of Art (1988–89). She has exhibited widely since 1989 with works held in public and private collections in the UK, Europe and Australia, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Royal West of England Academy and The Jerwood Foundation. Professor Taylor has an extensive record of teaching, research degree supervision, and external examining in Fine Art in the UK and internationally. She was a member of the Art & Design Panel for RAE 2008, and the AHRC Peer Review College (2004–07).
Image rights P.16 Josef Albers, Structural Constellation, 1954, pen and ink on graph paper, 35.6 × 45.7 cm. © The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and DACS, London 2012 P.17 Vittore Carpaccio, St Augustine in his Study, a drawing, Venice, Italy, (circa) 1502. © Trustees of the British Museum P.22–23 Vija Celmins, Untitled (Desert-Galaxy), 1974. © Tate, London 2008 P. 29 Sundial, British School at Rome. Photo by Stephen Farthing 2009 P.34 left Sunring (Sonnenring), The Church Clock of Schangnau, 1905, pencil on newsprint. © Adolf Wölfli Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts Bern P.34 right Sunring (Sonnenring), Sundial, 1905, pencil on newsprint. © Adolf Wölfli Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts Bern P.35 left Sunring (Sonnenring), Bernese Highlands (Berner Oberland), 1905, pencil on newsprint. © Adolf Wölfli Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts Bern P.35 right Sunring (Sonnenring), Sunring, 1905, pencil on newsprint. © Adolf Wölfli Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts Bern P.39 Rembrandt, Two Women Teaching a Child to Walk, (circa) 1635–37. © Trustees of the British Museum P.45 Philip Guston, Poor Richard, 1971 P.49/62 Michael Landy, Compulsory Obsolescence, 1998, ink on paper, 150 × 100 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery
P.51/62 Michael Landy, Shepherd’s Purse 2, 2002, etching, 90 × 78.5 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery © Tate, London 2008 P.54/63 Michael Landy, Claudication, 2004, pencil on paper, 42.2 × 59.7cm, The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection Gift © MoMa 2012 P.55/64 Michael Landy, H.2.N.Y. Metallic suicide, 2006, gouache and glue on paper, 152 × 122 cm. Courtesy Thomas Dane Gallery, London © Michael Landy P.56/65 Michael Landy, H.2.N.Y. Homage to New York, 2007, oil stick on paper, 153 × 244 cm. Courtesy Thomas Dane Gallery, London © Michael Landy P.58 top/67 Michael Landy, Bathers (after Cézanne 3), 2010, watercolour pencil 152 × 210 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery P.58 bottom/66 Michael Landy, Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple (after El Greco), 2010, watercolour pencil, 153 × 244.5 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery P.60/66 Michael Landy, Lamentation over the body of christ (after Dosso Dossi), 2011, watercolour pencil on paper, 194 × 155 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery
The Good Drawing Editors: Stephen Farthing, Kelly Chorpening, Colin Wiggins Series Editor: David Dibosa Editorial Assistant: Laura Lanceley Thanks to: CCW Graduate School Assistant Hope Freeman The National Gallery, London The Rootstein Hopkins Foundation and to Deirdre Hopkins The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia Copy editor: Colette Meacher Design: Atelier Dreibholz Printing: Holzhausen Druck GmbH, Austria Published by: CCW Graduate School, 16 John Islip Street, London, SW1P 4JU This title was published as part of the Bright series of publications produced by CCW. i s b n 9 7 8 - 1- 9083 3 9- 01- 0 ÂŠ 2012, CCW Graduate School and contributors
In asking the question, ‘What is a good drawing?’, finding consensus seemed far less important than did recognizing what the overall convers...
Published on Sep 14, 2012
In asking the question, ‘What is a good drawing?’, finding consensus seemed far less important than did recognizing what the overall convers...