A turning point in the history of of drawing came when Picasso, who could expertly draw real objects tried to reclaim his childhood talents and draw in a looser manner.

This led into the dada movement and then the surrealists who practiced exploring their unconscious with automatic drawing.

The aim of automatic drawing was to find your repressed self within the lines.  By automatic drawing I mean drawing quicker than your mind can monitor what is being drawn.

The steps are to empty your mind and enter a trance like state then draw without thinking. The surrealists believed this state in between sleeping and waking was a good place to access your dreams.

On side note: I do question if expression can ever be free. If we are attempting to access our unconscious when drawing automatically, do we not bring our histories with us. A criticism of the surrealists that practiced automatic drawing was they began to draw what they thought should be in their unconscious, loads of genitalia was drawn. This along with the idea that Jean Du Buffet was an outsider artist is going to be another blog soon to come. The idea of authenticity and also if it is even possible to get away from your everyday self, when you make art.

surrealist auto drawing
Surrealist Andre Maaon 1924 Automatic drawing

The base of my practice is automatic drawing or intuitive drawing. I used to have to get myself in a state of reverie before I drew. The first time I began this kind of exercise was the morning after taking part in a sweat lodge ceremony. I had only managed a couple hours of sleep and was still very affected by the activities from the night before. I was very much in a state of hypnagogia (on the threshold of consciousness), I did not want to get out of my friends bed because the world had not come back to what I know as everyday reality, so I began to draw, strange creatures were emerging without thought. Examples below:

I have kept up with this mode of drawing, however these days I can sit and empty my mind without going to the extremes of melting for 5 hours. I commented in the seminar that this practice keeps me sane (ish). How does this then differ from art as therapy? Drawing in my journals is one of my main go to’s in times of chaos and has certainly been utilised more in recent times when I let the state of the world overwhelm me. It is a form of escapism, it is comforting and the comfort comes through the thought that even if I go to the lowest point, there is something inside me hiding somewhere, that I can tap into and can let it form on paper and this infinite life force is like an old friend.

Until now, I have kept these drawings aside during my MFA, not knowing how to use them in my practice. Ironically you can see their influence in all my work to date in some form or another.

At the April seminar I drew two images wall size with charcoal. Upon reflection I found these images too obvious and unresolved. By too obvious I mean that although they were very strange looking creatures that people could not quite place, being drawn directly on the wall directly referenced cave painting therefore placing them in a time period. This did clash well with the slippers on the sculpture to create a confusion, however I felt hemmed in with the reading of cave paintings. The other aspect of making the wall drawings is that I had now created 5 beings – 2 sculptures and 3 wall creatures, this felt like overload and I felt they did not sit well with each other. It became 2 different parties of people and everyone was questioning what their relationship was with each other. This quickly frustrated and bored me.

In the first crit when I had the cut out paper stencils (same kind of images as the acrylic on hessian below expect they were coloured paper) this was not an issue. It became a question of their relationship but more like; did the sculptures create the coloured paper works or are they also viewing them as we are. More focus was on the wall work and the sculptures were almost overlooked, they blended in with the crowd of students that viewed the wall work. This, for me, was a successful reading. I am still working out why but at present I just know it feels more comfortable.

As previously mentioned, right now I am using shapes taken from the drawings to inform my hessian paintings and this is beginning to create a new language.

The pictographic direction these works are heading in fufills my interest in pareidolia, the act of seeing familiar objects in other objects or images that aren’t really there. For example faces in clouds. I know this is working as 90% of people after a few minutes of looking at paintings like the ones below tell me what the image or part of the image reminds them of.

Below are Dong Ba pictographs from Bon Priests of the Naxi People of China.They were created around the 7th Century and were originally used as a prompt for the reciting ritual texts.


These pictographs are quite obvious in their interpretation, you do not have to use the act of pareidolia to make out what you think they may be representing. This uncertain diagnoses is what I set out to create with my images. There is a fine balance and some images work better than others. I enjoy the almost ‘Simpson’ like quality to the Dong Ba pictographs and I find this amusing as they were created for something so serious as an aid to reciting rituals. The originals are just black line drawings but still have the quirky characteristics like the image above.

I am wondering when does a drawing become a painting? When does a sculpture become a drawing? At what point does that slippage occur? Do I care? Is it important?






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