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OCA Textiles: Observational drawing as research

Observational drawing can be a great start to any project research. By observing and responding to a subject matter directly, qualities can literally be “drawn out” that you can use to develop into new ideas.  It is interesting to see the variety of different approaches there are to observational drawing. Some include the use of great technical skills others however are a result of bravery and confidence to go beyond what is thought to be a typical drawing. Approaches vary depending on what the subject matter suggests to the student or what the student is hoping to achieve from the drawing. 

“Drawings and works made with continuous lines fascinate me as they are akin to a  piece made with a reel of thread or couched threads” student Vicky Harrison.

In this blog we are looking at the work of two textile students and some of the techniques they have used for observational drawing in ATV part 2 . 

In these selected images by student Sheila Rocchegiani we can see her playing with a fabulous variety of mark making techniques. These include pen line drawing, white chalk on black paper, slicing card and inserting paper to create lines and close observational line drawing. In the video she explores the use of graphite powder.

In her learning log she reflects on her frustration with her initial observational line drawing and her decision to make looser drawings including the large drawing with her eyes closed which she has filmed.

“ I believe my most serious fault was the lack of an open playful approach to the drawings. Too much projected towards intended results, rigid because of over control”

“Well, to work then with eyes closed surely it could offer a delicious opportunity to let go of crowded thoughts and intentions”

“when leaving perfectionism aside I encounter poetry: the absent, what the eye can’t grasp, becomes amazingly present and dense of meaning” Sheila Rocchegiani

Video by Sheila Rocchengiani

Student Vicky Harrison worked in a loose experimental style from the start as a preferred drawing technique. From her selection of drawings we can see how she observes an object intensely recreating its image again and again in different ways. 

In my drawings “I really tried to get more interesting and expressive. I tried and tried. It was really hard  responding to a very formal little bag in that way .” Vicky Harrison

Here she has focused on a basket, indian embroidered fabric and a small beaded purse. She has experimented with hand made drawing tools, cutting bristles out of brushes, monoprinting and line drawing. 

“I love the contrasts that have been created in this basket by using the odd little tools that I had made especially the way that sometimes I managed to create three lines at once and other times it ended up as a block. I did not draw first as I feel that would have spoiled the effect and instead I outlined at the end.” Vicky Harrison

The inherent qualities of the subject matter you are drawing, for example the texture, surface, form or weight, may suggest the use of certain drawing styles that are best suited to capture the qualities. Try to really understand the objects before you even put a mark on the paper. Before starting your drawing hold your objects in your hands, consider how heavy they are, what their tactile qualities are, look at how they are constructed, are parts joined together and if so how. How you place objects down or group together could also suggest interactions or a narrative in the drawing. Make sure you have a variety of media to hand for experimentation, gather together a range of materials, from papers to pens, inks, paints, chalks and tape. Consider the scale you will be working at, for larger more fluid drawings you could work on the wall or floor. 

I stood up to do these drawings so my arm was not resting on anything  and worked fast as  it helps me lose control over the marks that I am making which I like.”  Vicky Harrison

Above all experiment and have fun with your drawing !

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Posted by author: Jenny Udale
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