Constanza Dessain

The Drawing Year 2012

BA Social Anthropology, Cambridge University

I first heard about The Drawing Year when I did my Foundation at Byam Shaw and we used to come down from Archway on a Monday night to the Royal Drawing School’s Free Life Drawing for London Art Students. I was enticed by the immersive nature of The Drawing Year and the prospect of a supportive community for my work. 

I think the narrow perimeters of the classes on The Drawing Year were incredibly freeing: in a session you just have to respond to the task you are presented, rather than always grappling with your own subject matter. Within this constructed environment I had the luxury of time and freedom to just look, which is something I don’t think is always easy to create for yourself alone as an artist.


My undergraduate degree was in Social Anthropology at Cambridge, so it was a very academic environment, and one that gave the intellect total primacy. What I like about studying drawing is it acknowledges the different orders of knowledge. A good drawing is hard to define, and needs to stem both from the mind, from a physical skill, and crucially, from a depth of feeling. There was a moment on the year when I had a release from anxiety, when I thought to myself, ‘just trust the process’. I think in some way that gave me the confidence to stop judging each drawing according to its own merits, and to know instead that over the year something good would come!

I did not start with a very established drawing practice and so I was very responsive to every teacher’s method, which sometimes varied enormously. I would flex my drawing back and forth in different ways, and felt anxious about ‘style.’  Talking to another student who felt similarly I realised the most important tenet of being an artist: one only ever wants to be a truer version of one’s self.

Learning to draw has given me a stronger sense of validity, and has given the foundations of my prints and paintings an integrity. It has also given me a mesmeric process. When I draw I am private, slow and meticulous. I draw intensively at the early stages of my projects and when I am consciously and unconsciously seeking out new points of interest. This provides me with contemplative images to play with, in later, more extrovert stages of making my work.

Brown on Crumpled

Since finishing The Drawing Year, the School has opened up some amazing opportunities for me. Being on residency in Delhi and in Dumfries House in Scotland have both been really invigorating experiences, in part due to living intensively with other artists and getting to understand their practices. I have also done an amazing range of teaching work through the school, from The National Gallery to the International School of Fine Arts, Modingar. 

I am still in touch with quite a few people from my year, and from other years. Through teaching and using the print room at Shoreditch I still feel very much part of a pretty unique, working community.