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1. Introduction to Drawing

Drawing is simply defined as the act of making a mark on a surface. The act has intention. Drawing is the act of making a mark on a surface with the intention of expressing something – an idea, a feeling or a reaction to something within us or around us. Drawing is the simplest and most basic of creative and expressive acts, something humankind has done since time began.

We can draw into the wet sand on a beach, onto a misted window, with mud-filled hands on a wall. We can turn pieces of burned wood into charcoal and use as a most effective expressive tool, one of the earliest known to us. Or we can select a more refined piece of equipment designed for the purpose of drawing, a pencil or a pen for example, and take a piece of paper on which we can explore the idea we wish to express.

Many of us “doodle”, drawing subconsciously as we focus on something else, suggesting this to be an act that is basic to human functioning. Since we first walked on this earth there has been an inclination to draw for its own sake or as a means to embody thoughts, feelings and emotions.


Waiting for a bus (detail) Ink drawing 1967

2. Drawing – the point of departure

In a visual arts programme drawing is a good place to begin. The skills to be mastered in drawing, the language of drawing which I shall describe later, can be readily taught and mastered with ease by a receptive and open student.

Overcoming fear – the fear of presenting oneself with a sheet of paper and a drawing implement knowing the intention is to express something – will for many participants be a much greater challenge. It will take courage to arrive at this point, to be prepared to confront that fear and walk through all criticism of previous effort when we were probably told “You can’t draw!” How often I have heard this from participants for whom this has become the biggest obstacle to beginning their creative journey. Some will fall at this point  so deeply rooted is this criticism that they are unable to travel further because of the  fear they are experiencing.

In its essential simplicity, in the sense that there are few technical skills to master, drawing becomes a valuable first step, a great way to open the door that has perhaps been closed for many years.

Inmate, Wandsworth Prison. Pencil drawing 1976

3. The Language of Drawing

Without an understanding of language it is difficult to tell our story. In visual art the media we choose to use becomes our language, the means whereby we express how we are and how we feel about something within us or around us.

Without an understanding of the language it is difficult to begin our creative journey particularly if beginning this journey is blocked by a fear of expressing ourselves. Relinquishing this fear and learning to use the language effectively and with confidence are keys to unlocking the message, of beginning our creative journey; and this language is one aspect of this programme which can, and should, be taught.

Some participants will enter this programme with little or no experience of using this equipment. What are the expressive limitations of a pencil; what is the difference between chalk and oil pastels; what is the best drawing material for strong and expressive drawing; can the different drawing media be used together?

These are important questions and it is the role of the facilitator of this programme to give “instruction” in the use of a range of drawing materials. During these sessions the expressive potential of the different materials will become clear. Importantly participants will not be shown how to use materials in a narrow prescriptive sense but be given a clear insight into the potential of each material for exploring their personal creative journeys. Instruction in the use of drawing materials is a foundation to this programme – participants will learn of the nature of each material and explore ways in which it can embody personal feeling, emotion and idea.

Participants will be placed in a position to make informed decisions with confidence – this material is the best to use in the expression of this idea.

Apples Oil Pastel 2002

Whilst  respect  for these materials is encouraged we will seek to end any sense within participants of a fear of them. These materials are there to serve us in our stated intention to explore fully our creative potential. Fear of the materials – “I dare not press too hard on the pencil in case I break the lead…….!” – will in itself become a block to personal expression.


The language of drawing includes exploring a range of drawing  media :


 Pencils and graphite lead;

colouring   pencils;

Fine and broad ink pens of many types;


Oil and chalk pastels;

Painting  materials.

All will be available and prepared for use by participants in a drawing session.

Spirit drawing –Jai Sri Radhe. Colouring pencil/pastel 2005

A question – when does drawing end and painting begin? We can draw with paint which is, after all, also about making marks on a chosen surface. It is possible, and most enjoyable, to load a brush with colour and vigorously make marks on a piece of paper, in the style of the Abstract Expressionists.

This is drawing with paint, but when does drawing with paint become painting? The two are so close, fused, one is the foundation to the other. There are those who will say that if you cannot draw you cannot paint, that you need to learn to draw before you can paint. There are many theories and opinions – it is for us to decide.

However the employment of paint as an expressive drawing media will be an important part of a drawing programme and will, as you can see, move into exploring painting as a creative activity in its own right.

4. Drawing and Painting

This article describes how drawing can become a first step to exploring your creative potential. First describing drawing as a basic human function, the article continues to outline the importance of overcoming a personal fear of “being creative” and developing confidence in a range of drawing materials.

The “language” of drawing is described, the link between drawing and painting is discussed and, finally, the value of drawing as a key to unlocking your creative potential is established:

5. Drawing Conclusion

Drawing begins our creative journey; it opens the door. ‘

As a session ends any fear within participants will be ended to be replaced by eager anticipation and an awareness that this is just the beginning.

Drawing in itself is an activity with great potential to be explored in its own right; but it can also become the foundation to exploring, with confidence, other aspects of visual art. An exciting creative journey has begun, one that we can travel for as long and as far as we choose.