´BIG DRAW´- the first step in a creative journey | The Open College of the Arts
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´BIG DRAW´- the first step in a creative journey

Founded in 2000, The Big Draw is a visual literacy charity that promotes the universal language of drawing as a tool for learning, expression and invention. The charity leads a diverse programme of advocacy, empowerment and engagement, and is the founder and driving force behind The Big Draw Festival – the world’s biggest celebration of drawing.

Find out more about The Big Draw here.

This autumn OCA launched our own Big Draw activity. It was designed as a short online course which encouraged OCA students, and those new to OCA, to discover mark making by developing new drawing tools and inventions, and to use drawing to help support wellbeing.

Through a series of activities, participants were prompted to imagine, design, and test their own drawing ‘machine’, and to reflect on their results.

One student who took part was Amanda Lebides, below she shares her experience.

‘‘I have learned that what I have not drawn I have not really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realise how extraordinary it is, a sheer miracle.”
Frederick Franck ´The Zen of Seeing´

I decided to do BIG DRAW as a teaser for my registered course – the Foundation in Textiles. I have never embarked on any serious creative work before. I thought this would be a good idea get the feel for how it all works. In retrospect this felt like a good decision.

Overcoming the procrastination disease
Continuous line drawing

This short activity has broken many procrastination barriers. I realised my habit was being fed by fear of (dare I say it) the ´blank page.´ The productivity sparked as soon as I put pen to paper, I could feel my creativity surging and this persuaded me to complete the activity despite the finished products being quite amateurish.

Different art media – what now?
My version of ́Continuous line Drawing ́ from one of my photographs.

I chose to work with a lot of different media to give myself exposure to materials I had never experienced before. These ranged from a graphite sticks, wax crayons, gauche and ink. It was complete trial and error. Slowly I shook the critic off my shoulder and managed to just have fun and enjoy the experience.

Experiencing the right brain engagement was exhilarating
Line drawing with Q-tip tool

Getting into the pure creativity of the right brain was novel for me. I am not accustomed to facing the blank page with very few instructions. I found myself reverting to the common stripes, dots and squiggles and not being too creative. I chose rather to master the tools and materials.

Making art tools is not as bad as it seems
Q-tips on Balsa Wood

I was completely terrified by the thought of making my own art tool. I decided to start with research and Pinterest was huge source of inspiration. I may not have been too original but at least it got me experimenting and making things.

I mounted Q-tips on pieces of balsa wood with sellotape, dipped them into gauche and drew various parallel patterns.

The second idea was to mount a patterned paint brush through a fashioned sponge and draw with ink. That worked quite well, although the effect was not quite what I expected and the patterned brush did not create quite as dramatic effect as I expected.

Patterned paint brush mounted in a triangular sponge
Various patterns with this tool

Overall it was an enlightening and liberating experience to know I can make my own tools and that they actually work. I realised that even when things do not work as hoped, the alternative may be just as appealing.

Sketchbooks, logs and sorting out the confusion in my head

As practice for my course, I captured everything in a sketchbook. This was a huge learning experience and taught me the value and importance of the sketchbook. It is a piece of art in itself and that excites me. I never realised how much work was involved in putting it together, so I will need to bargain in time to do this when I start submitting assignments.

I was confused about the difference between a sketchbook and a learning log but this process has sorted out the confusion. I will generate both a hard copy sketchbook and an online blog and one will be a replica of the other. The sketchbook will display hard copy pieces pf work, drawing, prints of photos etc. The blog will incorporate digital photos. I am currently capturing daily reflections for myself. I decided on some items as entries and I have handwritten them into the sketchbook. That process of copying and writing gave me time to reflect and even more insight into my thoughts and feelings about what I was busy with.

Recording progress and learning is a big job!

I have become addicted to the daily reflections. Once I write something in my journal I act, whereas if I just think it I am not as conscientious. It takes a lot of commitment but I have been accustomed to daily journal for years, so this is a small addition. I am enjoying going back on what I wrote, sifting it and making sense out of it to apply to the sketchbook. This is a new addition to my usual journal practice and I think it will ultimately be one of the biggest leverages in my creative practice.

Research has many arms

Living where I do, there is not a proliferation of exhibitions or events. However I hope to find a way of compensating digitally. The libraries here are all well stocked but books are mainly Portuguese and I cannot read Portuguese, so it limits what I can do via our local library. I am hoping to find some online resources.

Conducting a little bit of research for BIG DRAW taught me that one thing led to another and I found things I never knew existed by just following on instead of closing down because it wasn’t what I was looking for.

My biggest learnings have been:

Since I will be using my photographs as the base for my work, I will have to use my creative licence and I struggled with this. The critic loomed big on my shoulder telling me I couldn’t draw, I was messing up and it was ´wrong´. Then I looked at what I had produced and I realised that actually what I had drawn had some appeal of its own. I realised my goal must not be to represent an exact depiction of the photo but rather to use the photo as inspiration to be creative and interpret as I see fit. That was a revelation.

I will have to take care when selecting photos because some may be too detailed or intricate. In many cases I will need to select only a portion of the photo.

I also realised that some of the busy plant photos are not that easy to represent.

Intricate and complicated photograph of salt marsh vegetation

More generally BIG DRAW has taught me that I will plan ahead more than I had. I will make a solid plan of action before I start. In general be more reflective about what I want to do before I do it.

I will need to investigate how much creative licence I can use in interpreting the instructions for an assignment.

Photograph used for blind drawing
Blind drawing from photograph. How much creative licence can I use?!

My goal is to take photos mainly in nature and interpret them in textile representations. I realised so many things about this process through these exercises. I will use the photos only as guides and not in any way try to replicate their complexity.

With BIG DRAW I got to experience different tools, forcing me into learning mode which I really enjoyed. It certainly has been an illuminating experience and I want to suggest that anyone embarking on a course at OCA should do this as a teaser to get started. Thank you for the amazing experience and the engaging manner in which you have out the course together – I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Posted by author: Amanda Lebides
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One thought on “´BIG DRAW´- the first step in a creative journey

  • Hi Amanda

    Although I’m not studying with the OCA (yet – I have the desire to study the masters in fine art one day!), I too am an artist living in Portugal (the algarve). Over the years I’ve gradually managed to meet other artists (of all nationalities), but it takes a long time. If you’re in this area, and feel like getting in touch, it would be great to hear from you. Cheers

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