A wonderful day with lots of visitors taking up our expressive drawing challenge for Made in Roath festival. We rolled out long sheets of paper, and invited participants to use paint, charcoal and pastels to experiment and have fun.
“Expressive, or automatic drawing was used by the Surrealists to express the subconscious using any technique that eliminates conscious control and replaces it with chance. No drawing skills required, just a chance to experiment with lines and marks to create bold and dynamic work. Drawing from instinct and feelings, rather than formal technique, without the pressure to create something recognizable can be very freeing.”
Automatic drawing or painting can be described as “expressing the subconscious” using any technique that eliminates conscious control and replaces it with chance. The basic techniques originate from spiritualism, practiced by artists such as Georgiana Houghton and Hilma Af Klint, both of whom have recently had their work exhibited in a revival of interest and appreciation of automatism and early abstraction.
Surrealists such as Andre Breton and Andre Masson, were keen to experiment with automatic drawing and promoted it as an art movement. By this time, ofcourse, psychologists of the unconscious had dismissed the idea of spirits speaking through the artist: it was the subliminal self that could express itself in ways that could lead to the development of real artistic genius. The new interpretive framework was now wholly secular and based on the insights of psychoanalysis, but the basic techniques were adopted from spiritualism.
Whichever way you wish to interpret it, drawing randomly without rational control is a good way to avoid inihibitions that freeze the flow of creativity. It is a way to bypass the ‘I can’t draw’ mentality a lot of people develop when the natural artistic confidence of childhood is abandoned.
Making simple marks and considering the relationships between them bypasses jugement by the logical brain about what is “good” or “accurate.” It opens the doorway to the intuition, allows the emotions to be engaged, and allows enjoyment of the pure physical experience of artmaking.
Some of my experiments:
One of Georgiana Houghton’s spirit drawings – The Eye of the Lord (1 Sept 1870), and Joan Miro – Preparations for Birds, detail, 1963.
Sometimes, when you don’t have much money, you have to use whatever is lying around for your art. There was a pile of old carpet tiles in the studio when we moved in, so I’ve started working on the back of them. I like that they have already had a life, and some character of their own; it helps me avoid the fear of the stark white canvas and the fear of making mistakes and having to produce something. The carpet tiles don’t care what I do to them, so I feel free to play. They don’t mind if I walk over them with paint on my shoes, or spread glue about and then heat it so it bubbles up. They don’t mind if I peel away their sticky backing to get at the fur underneath and then paint over it for texture. I might try working on the carpet-side next.
Some more carpet tiles beginning their second incarnation as art surfaces.
And just so I don’t forget, here’s some sublime pieces I’ve discovered recently by Dutch artist Walter Rast. His website here.
Featured on sculpter Robyn Gordon’s sumptuous blog, here.