The Drawing Year 2021
BA Communication Design, Glasgow School of Art
I normally work with words and drawings together, and often in book form. I like the intimacy of books as objects, the way language and image react to each other, and the act of guiding someone through a narrative, with all the beats and reveals of a page turn. Before the Drawing Year, I felt that the illustrator-part of my brain was becoming over-reliant on its own visual shorthand; I applied to this course to feed more range into my drawing, by engaging with observational drawing more.
I studied on the BA Communication Design at Glasgow School of Art. Drawing was important, but at the same time it was one component in a broad mix of approaches we were challenged to take up in response to set briefs. How the work would function and communicate when reproduced also became an important consideration. The Drawing Year has placed an emphasis on observation and on engaging with materials in a more tactile way, responding quickly to a given moment, and trying to allow for more accidents and mishaps in making the drawing.
Speeding up my drawing has been important. I’ve noticed my eye and power of looking sharpen and realised how easily it can slacken again. I’ve re-learnt a dexterity in my hand that had probably been dormant for a while. In terms of my general practice, taking away the presence of text has made me appreciate it all the more and given me more ideas on how to fuse text and image together in future. The year has given me a lot of time to reflect – not just on how I draw but how I absorb visual information in general – which kinds of image or themes sink in, and why.
The course Mapping: Internal Landscapes with Andrea McLean helped me a lot. I valued that time to just take stock and organise what I wanted to process through drawing. Drawing as mapping opened up how I thought about representation and interpreting spaces, whether physical spaces or spaces as memory. In a way we were scratching the surface - I wish that course was longer!
I enjoyed Drawing at the British Museum and looking more closely at various histories of drawing across cultures. Several tutors encouraged me to use collage - this was an important step in thinking about the construction or system within a drawing, and in learning to embrace the unexpected.
The School has kept us regularly updated with the continually changing situation with Covid and adapted its classes. As facilities re-opened, we were given larger spaces to work in for social distancing and consideration was always given to the model. Some online courses were able to focus in on the contextual side of drawing, and cross-referencing in perhaps a closer, more detailed way than an in-class setting might be able to convey.
By regularly using the studio and checking in with peers, we’ve all maintained a sense of community throughout the pandemic. We’ve had a few informal crits and sometimes organised location-based drawing trips outside of class time. The group-learning aspect has been the best part of the experience – to be around a group of talented and generous people who have taught me so much.
The Drawing Year has provided an exposure to looking at art in a way I hadn’t previously experienced. Whether this is through museum or gallery visits or just discussions with peers, it’s been stimulating and valuable.
After this year, my immediate feelings are to return to making books and narrative-based work, and to explore writing more. I’m sure what I’ve learnt here will feed into that. The course has given me more thoughts on my teaching, and I’ve started working on the Young Artists trainee scheme as well. Before the course I was teaching on a BA Illustration programme and some evening drawing classes, so it will be good to return to these with a refreshed perspective.