The Adelaide Hills Council is participating in the month-long global festival The Big Draw for the first time.
Drawing is used by most artists in one form or another: for recording ideas, designing artwork, sketching landscape en plein air, drawing from life, or as a finished art form in its own right. It is regarded by many as a fundamental skill for artists regardless of medium or subject matter. At its simplest and most expressive, drawing is mark-making used to express and communicate ideas or emotions – in essence, visual language.
Visual language has been used by all humans from the earliest times and predates written language – examples include ancient pigment drawings found in rock shelters in Australia and caverns in Spain, pictograms on rocks in the southern United States and Pictish standing stones in Scotland, and so on. Before they can speak or articulate ideas in written language, babies use visual language to communicate.
Despite this evidence of drawing’s essential place in the fundamental skill set of human beings, many people say that they cannot draw – but they never try. Yet practice is essential to develop skills and knowledge of media, and enhance the communicative nature of different marks. Painter Camille Pissarro said, “It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover, to your surprise, that you have rendered something in its true character.” True character goes beyond recording a true likeness, especially today when photography can achieve this. Capturing of character requires the ability to see and express more than is visible at a surface level. As Edgar Degas said, “Drawing is not what one sees but what one can make others see.”
To address this lack of confidence and encourage engagement with visual literacy, the Campaign for Drawing was initiated in England in 2000. It has since grown to become The Big Draw, a month-long global festival with exhibitions and events in 25 countries and the participation of more than four million people.
This year, Adelaide Hills Council is participating for the first time. An exhibition at the Arts and Heritage Hub in Lobethal is the focus for a range of activities organised by Hills’ artists Barbara Millward, Belinda Broughton and Anne Griffiths in conjunction with h.ART, the Hills Art Group. There are additional activities at Torrens Valley Community Centre, Coventry Library in Stirling, and the Summit Community Centre at Norton Summit.
For the exhibition, 10 artists were invited to participate in 30 days of drawing with an emphasis on ‘play’ – the theme of this year’s Big Draw Festival – through experimentation and enjoyment in the process, rather than outcomes. Artists include printmaker Julia Wakefield, blacksmith Will Sexton, jeweller and sculptor Josh Lamborn, textile artists Barbara Millward and Maria Hilder, illustrator Zinia King, photographer and painter Helen Thomas, and several more. Drawings by each artist – quick sketches, idea generation, detailed studies, not necessarily completed works – were hung using masking tape or bull dog clips to convey the sense of an artist’s studio. Some included work in their primary medium – artist books, metal sculpture, dyed and knitted textiles, ceramics – demonstrating the integral nature of drawing within all forms of artistic practice.
Visitors of all ages are invited to use easels and drawing materials to draw still-life, oil pastels to add to the Forest Mural, different thicknesses of charcoal on a communal drawing screen, or experiment with mark-making using ink and brushes handmade by mixed-media artist Belinda Broughton.
Each weekend artists will be demonstrating different forms of drawing from hand- and machine-stitched ‘drawing with thread’, digital drawing, book illustration, and artist’s journals. Further opportunities are provided for visitor participation through scheduled workshops including drawing for the terrified, life drawing, illustration and others that link drawing with movement through music and yoga.
The exhibition was opened on September 16 by Melinda Rankin, the new director of the Adelaide Hills Council’s Arts and Heritage Hub. It runs over five weekends until Sunday, October 14 (11am to 4pm).
Feature image: Visitors are invited to draw with charcoal at The Big Draw exhibition in the Art and Heritage Hub, Lobethal.