What is drawing?

Drawing is the basis of all creative disciplines and is also the most accessible creative medium. In traditional art forms, drawing is not regarded as an independent and complete artistic expression; it is a preliminary procedure in the completion of a higher artistic expression such as painting or sculpture. For this reason, drawing has always been associated with sketches, drafts, notes and doodles, and the conventional perception of drawing has always been that it is a two dimensional artistic composition made on paper with mediums such as pencil, crayon, pastel, charcoal, pen, ink, watercolour, pigments, etc. But drawing could be much more than that.

The #wecanalldraw series not only promotes the innate ability to draw and to create; it also challenges and reconsiders the conventional definition of drawing. Drawing could be anything. It could be either two dimensional or three dimensional. It could be a draft or a sketch for a bigger and more refined project or it could be the project in and of itself. Unlike other two dimensional disciplines such as painting, printmaking and photography, drawing is not being defined by the medium it uses; rather, drawing could be made with and of any material. It does not have to be static and flat on a piece of paper. It could be three dimensional and even mobile. Any composition of ideas through the expression of contours, spaces and colours is drawing.

I started a series of #wecanallraw workshops with children of the age of 6 to 8 in Richmond, BC in April, 2016. Every week I will prepare a set of visual problems to stimulate their creativity and problem-solving skills. Last week, we had the second session of collage exercises. In one of the exercises, the students were given only 2 pieces of paper – 1 white and 1 cream, and a glue stick. The visual problem presented them is that they need use very limited materials to draw something interesting. My exact instruction to them was “here are two pieces of paper and a glue stick, draw something.” Here are some examples of what they drew.

It is evident that their creative approach to this visual problem is not directed and restricted by the conventional perception of what drawing should be. Their drawings demonstrate expressions of contours, positive and negative spaces through various techniques of paper manipulation. Compositions were formed through different shapes of manipulated paper. Spaces and contours were created through ripping and overlapping. Textures were made with glue stain and by wrinkling and folding paper. Their artistic forms were not restricted to two-dimensional plan only. One student created a three-dimensional piece. When I asked him “how do I look at it?”, I was asking about the orientation of the piece as in how should it be placed for viewing; he just pointed to the centre of the piece.

He also made a piece that requires the viewers to unfold the paper to see what is inside. This makes his drawing not just an object art piece but an interactive art piece.

Last week, as the other students were making collage from colour paper, he made a tunnel-like form and placed ripped paper inside. None of the pieces of ripped paper was glue down so the content inside the tube was constantly shifting and creating different composition. These children’s creative approaches are highly innovative and spontaneous. Most likely they were not aware of the conventional perception of drawing and that I intentionally prepared these visual problems expecting them to think outside the box or that their works demonstrate perfectly how drawing could be defined differently. The point of the workshop is not to make them understand these concepts but to encourage and nurture the way they use their innate creativity to handle these visual problems and to come up with solutions of their own. The #wecanalldraw workshops do not teach creativity or how to draw per se. What students will learn from these workshops are how to recognize and understand visual problems in their own ways and how to come up with solutions and find resources to handle these problems. It is through the process of problem solving they form and create their own artistic expressions, that is to make art.


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