I don’t normally do book reviews but, a month or so ago a couple of friends and I were talking about the process of making art when one mentioned that she had recently bought a book called Drawing Project, an exploration of the language of drawing by Nick Maslen and Jack Southern. She had taken it away with her on holiday and had made the time to carry out one of the drawing exercises in it each day. The work she had produced was interesting and prompted me to buy a copy for myself. It duly arrived (thanks to Amazon) and for the past few weeks I have been reading it on and off. Today however, I took it out to my studio and spent some time working on the first set of project exercises.
The book investigates the process of drawing through a series of projects and exercises which cover the usual physical aspects of drawing including mark-making, line and tone, negative space; as well as looking at the intellectual side of drawing concepts, precepts and emotions. Each project is given its own chapter which include relevant exercises designed to develop and expand the artist’s drawing vocabulary; while a series of fascinating interviews and short essays with and by prominent contemporary artists bring the whole book alive. Artists who have contributed their thoughts and ideas include Cornelia Parker, Jeff Koons, Claude Heath, William Kentridge, Keith Tyson and Jake and Dinos Chapman. Alongside these towering icons of the contemporary art world are interviews and discussion with students who have carried out the exercises in the book. The whole making a comprehensive and informative study of the role of drawing in contemporary art.
What I enjoyed most about this book is that it is not a “How to Draw” book; rather it is aimed at challenging preconceptions about what a drawing is. the exercises included are also not ground breaking or revolutionary, but it is easy to get stuck in a groove and these simple but effective techniques offer up to the artist the opportunity to reconnect with the physicality of making a drawing.
What follows are my drawings following the first project which is about Control. Two sets of exercises make use of the “extended arm” (holding the drawing implement in non-conventional was including taping it to a long stick) and using two pencils taped together. Each of the exercises was timed to take 10 minutes.
Drawing 1 was made using a 4B pencil taped to a stick 60cm in length while holding the stick at the end with my arm outstretched. It produced a scribbly mark which was at first difficult to control, but intense concentration and looking at the subject helped with this.
Drawing 2 was made using a 3B pencil taped to a 30cm stick. The results are broadly similar to those achieved in the previous exercise, but the pencil was easier to control from the outset.
Drawing 3 uses a 2B pencil held in the hand at the very tip in the manner of holding a knife or fork. This produces a much more controlled line and heavier marks.
Drawing 4 uses a B pencil held in the middle of the shaft but again in the manner of holding a knife. It also produces a bold and expressive line.
Drawing 5 is a repeat of all 4 previous drawings superimposed over one another. This builds up the drawing giving it shape and dimension.
All 5 drawings in series
Drawing 6 is the first of two exercises in using 2 pencils taped together. It was made using a B and a 3B pencil held in a conventional manner, but keeping both points on the paper at the same time. It calls for more manipulation of the pencils while in the hand.
Drawing 7 is a repeat of the dual pencil exercise but this time using a 2B and a red coloured drawing pencil. Both Drawing 6 and 7 were timed at 15 minutes each.
I thoroughly enjoyed these exercises which caused me to concentrate more on the physical process of making a drawing. I am now looking forward to continuing with the next project which is all about Tactile Objects and Feeling a response… exciting!