One of the most enjoyable and inspiring aspects of my art education was my introduction to experimental drawing. This immediately expanded my understanding of what drawing is and what it can be used for.
So what is experimental drawing? Experimental drawing, as opposed to traditional drawing, can be defined as the study of purely making marks on a surface. It is both a sensory and physical activity, which has recently been widened to include artwork created in a wide variety of media. Often an artist will make a deliberate decision not to draw with a pencil, using a variety of different materials.
What is an Experimental Drawing?
Mark making and making a mark. Any focus on experimental drawing should and can start with mark making activities.
Create an experimental drawing book. A good idea is creating a small sketchbook which is filled with a variety of different marks, built in the broadest possible range of materials. Focusing on the quality of line and mark making when completing this task.
Employing a wide variety of experimental materials is essential here. Emphasis can be placed on how a mark is created say speed drawing, blind mark making using a nontraditional medium to draw with.
Try to overcome misconceptions about experimental drawing techniques as many of these drawings will have a unique childlike quality. At art school, this traditional idea of ‘good’ illustration does not exist. Look at the following techniques:
What is a blind drawing? The purpose of this method is to continuously stare at the subject as you draw it. Keep your eyes on the subject matter. The quality of a continuous line drawing will display freedom that a regular hand drawing will lack. Place the media on the page and focus on observing the object as you draw. Don’t be tempted to look down at your picture until after you have completed it. This method is best attempted under timed conditions.
Negative space drawing
If you are drawing a still life or figure select a medium that is different from what you usually draw with. Concentrate on the spaces between the objects or arms, for example, and illustrate the areas. Created between the objects and not the objects themselves. This technique can create some visually exciting compositions and is well worth a try if you are looking to expand your repertoire of drawing methods.
Opposite hand drawing
The opposite hand drawing method is a technique that is practiced in a lot of art school and is similar to the continuous line, in that its purpose is to introduce to the student to a new way of drawing. Again, select a drawing medium that you are not used to working with. Begin drawing with your opposite hand, focus back on the act of observing and drawing what you see. The quality of these drawings again will display freedom and loosening of the line that a more controlled traditional pencil drawing does not present.
Drawing from the elbow and shoulder
This focus of this technique is on how you control the pencil. Instead of drawing on a small piece of A4 or A3 think large-scale expression. Focus on creating large sweeping expressive marks either from the elbow of the shoulder. This will result in an entirely different type of quality being introduced into your work. As an art student, I remember a student employed the whole of his body while drawing, twisting and turning as he created large expressive marks to music.
Drawing with your arm extended or with a long stick
Again, this drawing technique can be practiced on the floor or on a larger sheet of paper attached to a wall. The added benefit of drawing on the floor is that it allows the drawer to move around and engaged directly with the work from many different directions, similar to how Jackson Pollock produced his action paintings. Different drawing mediums can be masked to the end of a stick and used as a device to draw.
This technique aims to explore how different drawing methods can produce different marks in response to the observation of a figure or a still life for example.
Ask your students to respond visually an interpret a word. Ask them to return to it in a purely imaginative way. You could extend this task by choosing five words from the dictionary, students will then be free to interpret a response in the form of a preliminary drawing. They are free to write the word and allow their pictures to develop as they want to.
Touch or contour drawing
This drawing method is ideal for encouraging students to explore and develop new ideas. Place a random object in an enclosed sealed bag. As the students initially focus on the touch or feel of the object inside the container. The objective here is not to guess what is inside, and then produce a representation of what they think it is.
Students should be encouraged to respond to their senses intuitively and produce an experimental drawing based on their tactile sense of touch.
Drawing to music
This can be a very successful lesson for motivating and encouraging students and developing drawing skills. As a timed activity, it allows the students to interpret what they are listening to visually. Stick to classical and ambient tunes music as this allows the students to work under timed conditions in a calm and relaxed environment.
Experimental media drawing
As I mentioned earlier, a pencil is not the medium of choice when attempting any of these drawing methods. In fact, the more experimental and unusual your choice is the best. One of the themes I have explored as an artist is the link between the artist drawing and natural materials. I was particularly interested in the on-site installations by the British sculptor Richard Long who would make pictures deliberately from the materials he could gather on-site. Inspired by the shear impact of Long’s work, I decided to create some on-site drawings on location on the coastline. To do this, I utilized found pieces of driftwood to create drawings in the sand and driftwood sculptures.
Another useful technique I have experimented with is drawing with twigs and charcoal. These drawings while similar to Richard Long’s wall installations resulted uniquely and effectively in producing highly experimental pictures uniquely.
Make a conscious decision not to use a pencil. Charcoal and graphite
Another excellent technique for experimental drawing is to cover the whole page with graphite or charcoal, making sure to the entire sheet. You can then use an eraser to draw into the image and create marks. This drawing method is excellent if you are interested in creating new marks and expanding your knowledge of drawing techniques.
What is Experimental Mark Making?
The primary reason behind and wanting to understand the process by which mark can be created for their own sake, and how the artist can extend their understanding of drawing techniques.
What is mark-making in Art and Design?
What is mark making in art and design? The phrase mark making in art and design refers to how artists create patterns, lines, and textures with marks when drawing and painting. This can be expanded to include marks that are produced in any material be it a line in the sand or an ink brush on paper.
Why is mark-making important?
Why is mark making important? It allows people to develop practical skills in drawing. This is especially important in young children, where art can be developed intensely as a useful skill in conjunction with an expressive and imaginative outlet.
Holding and controlling a pencil when drawing.
It is essential of developing a full repertoire of drawing skills if you really want to become accomplished at drawing. Consider the varying levels of mark-making, and control that can be achieved when drawing, say from the wrist as opposed to the shoulder. The complete artists who wish to respond to the world around them through drawing will be able to work and control their drawings and sketches with a full range of techniques.
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