Drawing in public is always something which raises the stakes slightly. As a teacher I am used to drawing in front of my class. I can assume that they will be receptive, and that it is easy to create an atmosphere where we all draw together. Drawing in public demands a different type of readiness: preparing for reactions from people who may feel that they need to critique the work, or critique by disapproving looks. I had a GREAT deal of fun drawing into a work below which began as a portrait of me by my 3 year old niece. The nature of this as a starting point meant that anyone who looked at my work might make assumptions about my drawing ability or ideas, whereas it is only the humour that they might gauge accurately as I found the process extremely funny. The train was very full at the time and, as ever, most people were watching their phones. I was easily able to draw a woman sitting opposite me and to my right as she did not look up from her newspaper at all. I observed one or two glances in my direction but there were no comments and everyone was very ‘busy’ most of the time studying their emails or social media. It is interesting how this has removed us from interacting with the world around us and it has made me aware of trying to be more ‘present’ in the moment. Whilst it provides a great platform for communication, virtual reality is also a barrier to the world: taking us away from the crowd we are within, avoiding eye contact, allowing for actual ‘blocking’ of others by engaging only in palm held interactions. Something which would have been unthinkable thirty or forty years ago. But this enabled me to feel untroubled by my various public displays of drawing, ‘approved of’ by collective disinterest.
(Above) A long ‘visual conversation’ with Tyga Helme. I absolutely loved this piece as it moved back and forth between us on a number of occasions. It has now become the banner on my new artist headed paper.
I bought some porcelain paper clay and have started to make palm-held faces from this. This is something I can build up over the summer term and fire towards the end of term. I am hoping to also make/design a clay stamp which will mark this work as my own, though it will need to be a little more like a hallmark on a piece of silver because otherwise it will be too dominant.
(Above). This piece began as a series of drawings developed by a class of students. At least six students were involved in drawing on top of each other’s work, looking at two images by artists to inspire ideas. We also gave them additional challenges such as observing connecting lines or negative spaces and depicting only this. I subsequently drew in turquoise ink over the study and then used some black ink. I really like the way it has the appearance of an ordinance survey map or a nervous system. I have numerous other pieces with a similar background to work on top of. I also photocopied all of the original drawings onto acetate so that the students can enjoy layering them on a light box and then working onto a photograph of their own collaborative composite.
(Above). Another piece worked on in the same way. My drawing only in dark ink over the top. Again, I am very happy with all the traces of other hands at work in this.
This drawing was started by my three year old niece with a black and purple felt tip and some pencil. I asked whether she would mind if I drew on top of it and she seemed hesitant about this but eventually said that this was fine. My design reflected a sense of the playfulness of being around her, of having my hair ‘styled’ and of the toys all over the floor. I realised that this piece also reminded me hugely of my father and drawing with him as a child. He used to play ‘Guess what it is?’ and we would spend hours watching him draw objects, or trying to draw them ourselves, taking it in turns and ending up with pages covered in lovely studies, doodles and ‘wrong’ drawings.
(Above) Portrait of me – by Coco (age 3) and me (age 39). Completed in very tongue in cheek way on train journey.
Sketching passengers on the train.
The works above were tandem drawing with a superb artist and ex student Rory Alexander. We met and drank tea and sat in the window of a high street pub, swapping drawings frequently. This is currently still a work in progress.
I have realised that whilst collaborative drawing is a truly enjoyable experience and activity, where work is given to others to complete in their own time, this can interfere with the chronology of ‘conversations’. I am not sure that this really matters. I have also been thinking a great deal about making more of these connections and really working hard at making connections with a range of other artists to collaborate with. I was hoping to raise funds for Crisis and to contact their fundraising coordinator to allow the project to focus on how it is daily human connections that make humanitarian difference: that it is acts of kindness, one person and one connection at a time that change the world. It may be a bit of a ‘project’ for me, and one which I am going to spend some time resourcing, enabling and documenting over the summer, with a plan to exhibit these conversations and auction them.
In the meantime, the ‘conversations’ continue.