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Book review. Drawing Projects: An Exploration of the Language of Drawing - The Open College of the Arts
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Book review. Drawing Projects: An Exploration of the Language of Drawing


I am fascinated by the skill we call drawing. I have drawn and been encouraged to draw since early childhood and I have come to realise that I was also encouraged to look. Through my own practice I have discovered how these two skills are inextricably linked. I also love to look at other people’s drawings, these may be from the hand of a great master or one of my children but I always feel there is something to learn from another persons approach.
There are many books on the market about drawing designed to support a learner develop skill and style.  This recent publication I feel offers something more. What makes it different is the authors approach. Mick Maslen and Jack Southern have many years of experience in teaching drawing at foundation and undergraduate level. This has led to a book that moves away from teaching purely observational drawing into understanding the value and usefulness of drawing as well as encouraging an individual style.


It contains several aspects on the subject, as the title infers one of these is a number of drawing projects. These exercises in drawing are familiar to anyone who has studied drawing at university or college. They are designed to encourage close looking and the training of the eye, brain and hand to work together. For example, early on in the book students are asked to draw an object not by looking at it but by exploring its surface through touch.  Expressing these sensations though a range of marks and lines, the aim being to create a direct route of communication between the two hands. All the projects are supported by numerous examples of drawings from both students and recognised artists. These are not there to demonstrate the correct way to draw but rather illuminate the possibilities.
Dispersed amongst the projects are a number fascinating of interviews with a range of artists about their drawing practice. This includes Cornelia Parker, Jeff Koons and Kate Atkin. These articles shed light on how different artists approach drawing and how they use it in their creative process. Helping the student/reader understand the value and usefulness of drawing. In my reading of these sections I was struck at how personal drawing is. Drawing is a voice where ideas and thoughts can be articulated on a page and every person’s language is different and personal to them.

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One of the most interesting parts of this book is the introduction where the authors describe what drawing is, its history and why we do it. They refer to the work of psychologists, educationists and practitioners. It highlights how like everything else drawing has been influenced by fashion and its value in art has changed over time. I believe this book is the most up to date in style and content that I have seen. And would be useful to any student studying the visual arts at the OCA.

Book review. Drawing Projects an exploration of the language of drawing by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern. Published by black dog.

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Posted by author: Rebecca Fairley
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7 thoughts on “Book review. Drawing Projects: An Exploration of the Language of Drawing

  • I can vouch for this and totally agree with your review. I have a few drawing books including Tania Kovatts “The Drawing Book” and Bridget Woods “Life Drawing” both full of contemporary ideas, but not as good as this one. There is a good range of practical exercise, artist insight and general commentary. All the drawing I have done during the OCA courses is in support of painting projects, so it was really invigorating and challenging to go back and work through the projects in this book last year. It gave my work new impetus, so that drawings could operate better on their own or offer new approaches to painting. It is now useful to refer back to this and keep working at it.

  • Thumbs up from me also. Just in the early stages of the Drawing Skills module and I’m hoping to put this book to good use throughout the course. It’s just the sort of resource worth having to shift you out of the doldrums when it hits.

  • I agree, this is a very informative, thoughtful and inspiring book. The projects are great fun as well as opening up all sorts of possibilities. The wide scope of its approach may help to find and develop one’s personal voice i feel.

  • I also agree with all this. I bought the book a while ago and found it useful and inspiring. I often look through it. It also introduced me to The Drawing Room and their interesting exhibitions, where Kate Macfarlane who wrote the foreword is curator/co-director.

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