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Cross-discipline drawing workshop

On Saturday the 14 April I had the opportunity to run a cross-disciplinary drawing workshop in Wellington near Taunton. The day aimed to explore the essence of drawing as a visual language to engage with the sensorial world. An excellent group of 14 students joined me from all levels of study and a wide variety of subjects including photography, fine art, painting, textiles and visual communication. I wanted to use the morning to work through a series of exercises using drawing as a tool for inspiring, underpinning and invigorating their different creative practices.
I began the morning asking students what they thought drawing could be beyond the traditional skills they might have learnt. Some keywords emerged that acted as a guide for the exercises, including drawing as invention, play, process, action, memory, language, non-art, materials and generative. I thought about how some of these questions related to research by the educator Eileen Adams, also the excellent book Drawing Ambiguity offered alternative approaches for practitioners to use.

For the first exercise, I asked students to collaborate on a drawing, thinking about the action of their body to make a mark. Everyone started with a sheet of paper and drew a line, they then passed this to the next person to respond to that line and moved again. The movement of drawings, each time mark-making in response to the drawing that was presented to them, was a good way to break down assumptions over ownership, allowing students to make a collection of marks as part of a collaborative group.
In the second exercise, I asked students to work in pairs, taking an object they could hold in their hand, and without looking at it, drawing what they felt. I wanted to get the students to engage with their senses, forming a connection that questioned how they interpreted something they couldn’t see. Some interesting results emerged if a little tentative at first. The next exercise asked the students to swap objects and for one of the pair to describe the object while the other person, turned with their back to their partner, interpreted what they heard. There were questions asked about how to draw adjectives like hard, soft, cold etc. which I felt was good to hear and essential for opening out possibilities for interpretation. The results were visually engaging, and a further discussion reflected on the difficulty of language but also the importance of using it carefully to allow the person to find the marks to connect with the words.

The final exercise considered how the place we were located in could be used to form memories for a drawing. I asked students to focus on key areas that captured their attention, both visually and audibly, and try to record these in their memory. Returning to the room, they drew these fragments of memories both as direct representations and as abstract formations. The first attempt for some was frustrating, as their drawings didn’t live up to their intentions, I asked them all to make another attempt but for each student to decide what they wanted to do to develop the process. Some students went back outside to listen and not look, and others focused their intent on capturing a point that stuck in their mind. The results produced a wide-variety of individual outcomes that reflected their intentions; this was excellent to see and opened up a conversation about the development of their creative voices.
For the afternoon session, I asked the students to work in smaller groups, to discuss each other’s work. We collated common themes and spent time working through concerns and questions on their study. It was great to see students across-disciplines engaging in drawing as a means to experiment and hopefully they all took something away that might show the benefit of drawing as a way of forming lateral creative links with the world.
I encourage students to try to attend workshops and study visits or find students to connect with in your local area as a way of adding to your learning at the OCA. You can find out more about the Southwest Initiative Group through OCASA or ask them a question through this blog post.
Sawdon, P. and Marshall, R. (2015). Drawing Ambiguity. 1st ed. London: IBTauris.
Adams, E. (2018). The Campaign for Drawing. [ebook] Available at: [Accessed 17 Apr. 2018].
Images courtesy: Doug Burton, Anne Bryson, Amano Tracy

Posted by author: Doug Burton
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11 thoughts on “Cross-discipline drawing workshop

  • I would have loved to have attended this workshop and Wellington is not that far away – but how would I have got to know about it please? ? Who was the organizer so I can make sure I dont miss another such useful day. I belong to the SW student group but did not receive any notification about this.
    Anne 509944

    • Hi Anne, you are on the list so you should have received all the newsletters with all the scheduled study days for the year. I have sent you an email, so if you don’t receive it, please can you let me know.

  • Hello Anne,
    I believe the workshop was originally meant to be led by Michele Whiting but had to be changed at the last minute. It was in the SW group newsletter in March.
    There’s still work to do around how these group events are advertised and opened up more widely to the general OCA community but that’s another conversation and will be better handled in the next academic year.
    Please email Anna – – to ensure you are on the mailing list for the newsletters and schedule of events.

  • What a way of getting out of your comfort zone! Mess and digital photography are in 2 very distinct camps, so for three hours, my soul was in a knot of gigantic proportions. I ‘collaborated’ with L3 painting student Krystyna Dembny who set me the task of photographing a tiny part of ‘our’ drawing and then to pixellate it & paint it. I have done all of that but have ‘painted’ using photoshop & I am quite pleased with the results. Many thanks Doug for coming to our rescue, and all the other students for turning up!!

  • Doug recommended the book Drawing Ambiguity, it is available in the Libraries West service, well not at the moment as I have reserved it.
    Another fantastic day of engagement with the enthusiastic and opened minded SW students. This year I have experienced textile students read out their writing in a group, photographers draw, eaten a cake as part of the photography project plus everyone making books. The cross disciplinary attitude of the group is its greatest strength.
    Thanks Doug for facilitating a great day.

    • Ha! Karen – Its me that has this book from the library! – and the Hyperdrawing one. They are both very good! My husband will be popping them back into town tomorrow. So it shouldn’t be long before you get them!
      This looks like it was a fantastic day, gutted to have missed it. Thanks for the write up, Doug.
      Completely agree about the benefits of cross-disciplinary working. It’s a great group. Thanks to Anna and everyone for the work you all do to keep it going.
      Hope to see people at another event in the future.

  • A great, informative, and confidence boosting day. Always good to meet other students to break the isolation often felt by working alone at home. Thank you Doug for some great pointers to ‘unstick’ my thinking and push me onwards. Thanks too to Anna for organising these study days and for getting this group off the ground. It really is helpful to extend learning, meet others and be able to discuss any problems/difficulties and have a tutor to guide us.
    Must not forget to thank those who brought cake along too…… thanks to you all.

  • An uplifting and informative day, I loved it! These opportunities to get together with other students, to work with them and discuss with them cannot be underestimated. Thankyou Anna for organising us, and to Doug for leading us. I have brought home two drawings I would like to develop, one as a textile drawing and one as a Mixed Media drawing on paper. Thankyou everyone.

  • Firstly, thanks to Anna who had the idea and gumption to set up these study days in the first place – and has kept them going thus far! Secondly, thanks to Doug for stepping in so that the day could go ahead – as the comments have shown – it was a most enjoyable and inspiring day. One thing that all the students seem to agree on when we meet is that the the personal contact is very important for those of us that have no other choice but to study via distance learning. These meetings have certainly had a positive affect on me – I’ve met students close to where I live, it’s boosted my confidence and there is nothing better than chatting over a cup of coffee and cake so thanks to all of those who have participated.

  • Looks to have been another inspiring workshop in the South West and I’m sorry I missed it. I certainly agree regarding the value of belonging to a multi-displinary group.
    OCA Thames Valley Group is also open to OCA students of any Discipline. At present we are mainly photography students but slowly diversifying with the addition Graphic Design, Drawing and Moving Image students. We meet in Bordon, Hampshire and welcome new members.

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