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“The Act of Free Drawing with Silkworms Next Door”: Workshop plan and evaluation

The day was divided between two rooms:

I ran two workshop sessions titled “The Act of Free Drawing”.

Whilst Núria was next door with her silk worm drop-in installation.

We ran them 12-4pm on Sunday 24th November 2019.

MY INTENTIONS FOR THE SESSION:

  • I want to give the participants of my workshop an opportunity to experience drawing in a different way, where the outcome is not lead by technical aims but rather by an observational approach.
  • The participants are given the opportunity to explore their surroundings through drawing – to lay marks that reflect their experience.
  • To practice drawing techniques that reflect their observational experience – that embrace it – that allow the participants to be more mindful of their surroundings
  • The participants will be shown that drawing is accessible to everyone, and that they can use the materials around them to draw – to show them that drawing is all about experience and not technical skill

OBJECTIVES:

  1. The participants will practice different drawing techniques that will allow them to embrace their experience of observation
  2. The participants will come away with different approaches to drawing – ones that free their mind and promote ‘imperfection’ as part of their experience
  3. The participants will learn to understand how drawing can be used as a mindfulness tool

INTRODUCTION:

We will aim to begin the session between 12:00 and 12:10, allowing for any lateness and making of complimentary cups of tea or coffee that will welcome the participants.

BASIC OUTLINE OF THE SESSION:

  1. Introduction – start 12:10 at the latest
  2. Tasks and experiments – approx. 1hr30mins
  3. 13:30 – 14:00 – half an hour of applying these techniques and just having fun enjoying drawing

FIRST HOUR ACTIVITIES:

  1. 5 MINUTES – the participants will be asked to draw what they see – then asked to erase the image – this may be done in multiple ways (erasers, using fingers covering the image with a different layer etc.)
    • This will act as a first ‘warming up’ exercise
  2. Explanation of the previous task and what this means:
    • “There’s only so much you can do in 5 minutes, but my guess is that you tried to get down as many details of your object as possible, and that’s understandable, because that is what you saw in the end, isn’t it? – [but what if I told you that’s not exactly what you saw?]
    • The reason I asked you to erase or cover your drawing was to make you think a little further than that, and to show you that it’s not necessarily just about getting the facts of the object right – of getting the proportions, scale or even the shape right – drawing can offer a lot more than just that
    • What drawing is, is a tool – something that lets you record your encounter with something – it lets you embrace it and experience it in a new way
    • Drawing isn’t just about drawing realistically or getting the facts right – it is just another way of documenting how you see and feel – it helps you be more mindful of your surroundings and about your relation to it
    • So, then this workshop will show you how accessible it is – and how there shouldn’t be any pressure attached when it comes to drawing
    • We will go through different tasks and activities to loosen up the way we draw and the way we think about drawing – and seeing!
    • So, hopefully by the end you will come out with a set of techniques that will let you enjoy drawing to the fullest!”
    • [FOR EACH TASK TRY TO USE AS MUCH SPACE ON THE PAGE AS POSSIBLE – THE BIGGER YOU GO THE EASIER YOU WILL FIND IT]
  3. 1-minute drawing exercise – 1 MINUTE (or 30 seconds?)
    • Try to draw the object of your choice as quickly as possible
    • You can focus on one small area or the whole shape – just try to fill in your entire page!
  4. Drawing while holding the very end of the pencil – 5 MINUTES
    • Loosen up your marks
    • Focus on the process of mark-making
  5. Blind drawing – 5 MINUTES
    • Don’t take your eyes off the object – move your eyes around it – EXPLORE IT – follow its outlines – try to find new details any interesting textures or flaws that it may have
    • Your hand movement is to reflect the movement of the eyes
    • The idea behind this exercise it to get you to let you look at the object in a new way – be more aware of what it is you’re actually looking at – it’s not about being technically ‘correct’ – it lets you create almost like a MAP for the object – showing how your eye travels around it
  6. One continuous line drawing – 5 MINUTES
    • Try to not lift your drawing material off the paper!
  7. Memory drawing – 5 MINUTES
    • Observe the same object as you did in the two previous tasks – focus on your piece of paper and don’t look up – try to remember how it looked – how you saw it
    • Don’t worry if you can’t remember some of the features – just be creative and inventive – make something up!
    • Again, it’s not supposed to be realistic – just have fun playing around with the shapes, outlines and colours (if you decide to choose colourful drawing materials)
  8. Opposite hand drawing – 5 MINUTES
    • For this task draw your writing hand
  9. Attach drawing material to a stick – 5 MINUTES
    • Stand up and try drawing from a distance
    • Loose control over your mark-making
  10. Drawing roulette – 10-30 MINUTES
    • Depending on the numbers – take between 2-4 minutes per person
    • Stand up and move to the seat on your left – rotate clockwise

SECOND HOUR ACTIVITIES:

  1. Close the blinds
  2. Explanation:
    • Now that the room is dimmer, we see less details, which allows us to focus on the object itself
    • We will now repeat some of the exercises so you can see how it changes the way you see
    • You might find it hard at first because you’re not used to it and your eyes need to adjust too, but just be a bit patient
    • Also, drawings made in the dark are not supposed to look like anything you’ve made before, so just have fun making new marks!
    • [HERE INTRODUCE SHADOWS INTO THE COMPOSITION]
      1. The room didn’t get dim enough so will introduce different light conditions to compensate and see how that impact the structures we see – introducing shadows (?)
  1. Solid shape drawing – 3-5 MINUTES
    • Ignore the details and just draw and fill in the shape of your object
  2. Blind drawing – 5 MINUTES
    • Look straight ahead and make lines!
  3. Free drawing time! – 30 MINUTES
    • Grab your favourite materials, or go for a new one, and draw!
    • The idea is that the participants will use what they have done in the session to make drawings
    • But they don’t have to use the exercises or techniques that we have applied – just let them draw freely – in any way they may want – hopefully the workshop would have influenced them in some way and made their marks looser and more relaxed
    • But there is no expectation to see evidence in that, because the idea of the workshop was to show to them the different ways, they can enjoy drawing – they can utilise and interpret that in any way they wish!
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What my drawing ended up looking at the end of the drawing roulette with the second group!

REPORT:

  • Found it difficult to keep everyone’s engagement at the same time – the younger participants definitely lost interest the quickest
    • There was a girl that finished the tasks in literally seconds
    • I’m definitely happy that the younger participants were accompanied by their parent/carer – it definitely allowed me to focus on the workshop without too much worry of responsibility – also whenever the children would lose interest the parent was always there to motivate them to continue
    • This is something I would need to work in the future – although I feel like, at the same time, it would have been different if I was running it without their support – I think that the feeling of responsibility would push me to stand up and walk around the room to engage with the kids more
    • However, this confirmed my belief that in the future I would prefer to run these kind of workshops with adults, seniors or the youth – especially in the beginning – I feel like my communication skills are best suited for that at the moment – I was able to explain the tasks and communicate with them the easiest – and since I am only beginning to understand how to explain the purpose of the workshop and its activities having someone that I know how to communicate with is very useful
  • It was particularly difficult in the first workshop to assess the level of engagement of the participants with the activities – for the most part they seemed like a very closed off group of individuals, just doing their own thing, not wanting to be bothered
    • This became easier as the workshop progressed, and I was beginning to talk and approach these people more
    • Perhaps I should have moved around the room a bit more, during or right after the activities to develop that relationship and engagement
    • The drawing roulette activity was definitely a great way of bringing these people together!
  • Because I wasn’t able to dim the room to a desirable level prior to the workshop, I had to improvise during the workshop – this task seemed a bit daunting at first – but in actual fact there was no need for that – I simply allowed some of the activities to last slightly longer – the conversations also filled up a lot of that time
    • In the end we finished around 10 minutes (first workshop) before 2pm – this was also due to the drawing roulette activity, where I allowed more time for each person – this was actually a great way to end the workshop because the duration can be played around with a bit – especially since there were 6-8 people in each session
    • But it is important not to drag on too much – I’d say 5 minutes per drawing was sufficient and would be the maximum – especially since we were not doing detailed drawings and rather focusing on the mark-making itself
  • It was fascinating to have younger participants involved in the workshop – and although having such a various age range in the workshop had its advantages and disadvantages – a certain advantage was the curiosity, playfulness and inventiveness that the children brought to the workshop
    • On certain occasions it amazed me how much they changed the whole dynamic of the session and the new ideas that they brought to the table
    • For instance, one of the girls in the firs workshop began drawing portraits before I could even suggest it
    • They also introduced so much colour to all the drawings in the drawing roulette!
    • The girls from the first session also decided to draw from their imagination for the drawing roulette – which is understandable considering the fact that they are very acquainted with that – so they drew made-up characters – it was very interesting to see other participants who eventually received their piece of paper to work on, struggle with the task of adding new information to the drawing – even myself!
    • It was something unexpected for all of us
  • It was also difficult to introduce this freedom of drawing to young teenagers who still preferred using their taught techniques which incorporated ideas of realism – they were very careful with the marks they were making and quite precious with them
    • A similar thing happened with some of the younger girls in the second session – who seemed stuck at every task – not knowing what to draw – perhaps afraid of what was expected of them – not exactly understanding that they could be as playful as they wanted
      • At this point it would have been useful if I walked around for a bit perhaps paying more attention to them – trying to help out – but at the same time I think that could have potentially put additional pressure on them – if they felt that they were being watched
      • But the scenario would have been different if I just worked with children – meaning that I would naturally make the effort to walk around and engage with them frequently
    • Asking for feedback after every activity was definitely useful – and became way easier in the second session, where I also had more conversations as a result
    • I received comments that the tasks felt therapeutic and quite relaxing – the line/mark-making was relaxing for them
    • There were at least two people – one in each workshop – who said that they found that their drawings looked better when they drew with their non-writing hand
    • Received positive feedback on the blind drawing
    • The drawing roulette was definitely a success – which I realised after the second session where people themselves started to comment on how they would have never done the drawing in that specific way – meaning that the outcome was something new to them – something they would have never thought of – the collaboration project brought the minds of 7-9 different people
    • After each session I received positive comments and interest in any future events – people were asking whether I would organise something similar in the future – or whether it was going to be a regular thing at the gallery
      • There also seems to be a lack of workshops like this for children, in the area – so there would potentially be demand for workshops for families or children – something I could try in the future?
    • The second workshop run more smoothly but that was probably the result of the experience from the first workshop – however, the people definitely made a difference to the dynamic

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