Experimental drawing course

What a busy studio it has been this weekend on the Experimental Drawing course.  We drew on easels, the floor and walls.  We did so many drawing experiments over the 2 days we could barely move for drawings!  The studio came to life with so much creativity, experimentation with different media, and the buzz of students daring themselves to try something new to see how far they could push the experimental mark making techniques they were using.

My studio has 3 internal pivoting walls so we had these open and taped huge drawing paper to them so we could make the largest scale drawings possible. We drew with traditional drawing materials like charcoal, pencil, ink and pastels and non traditional materials such as household emulsion and twigs.  We experimented with drawing techniques, resist mark making techniques, and ways of printing as part of making drawings.  The 2 days of the Experimental drawing course were full, fun and very fulfilling.

What did the students think?

Here is a flavour of what the students thought of the Experimental drawing course that forms part of the ‘Be more creative’ series.

“Lots of new techniques & materials.  Ideas for different ways of making marks, encouragement to be expressive, inspiration to be creative with techniques, ideas and materials.” – Nicola D

“Relaxed, enjoyable, learned a lot.  Very welcoming.  Suitable for all abilities.” – Ian M

“Very enjoyable, non-intimidating teaching style, accommodation for individual creativity with tips and ideas offered at the right level.” – Denise H

“Great.  Felt like being back at art school.  Play, self expression.  Immersive and fun.” – Sue A

I have learnt lots of new techniques for mark making, ideas for approaching drawing more open-mindedly and with less focus on realism which I will use in the future…” – Chloe H

“Different mark making techniques, useful in all aspects of my art.  Useful skills to start uni[versity] with.  Felt like a lot was fitted into a short space of time.  Learnt more than I thought I would.” – Daisy M

The Experience


Day 1

Why experimental drawing?  Because that is all a drawing really is – just a bunch of marks placed on a piece of paper to resemble an object.  All through the weekend I encouraged the students to stay in an experimental and playful mood, trying new ways of doings things every time they made a mark on paper.  If you stop experimenting, your drawings will immediately stop being exciting, creative and personal expressions of who you are. 

The theme for the experimental drawing course was constructive learning through PLAY.

2 of the charcoal-dust drawings we did at the start of the course.  This technique goes a long way to help students draw freely without inhibitions, without any worry.

This would be added to over the weekend so by the end of the course everyone would have a record of all the materials, tools and techniques we explored and learned about, together with notes about each one.

After a relaxing lunch in the studio we spent the afternoon working on a large scale drawing on the pivoting studio walls.  I was so impressed by what the students created and the way they immersed themselves in the music and mark making experience to produce some wonderfully inspiring experimental compositions.  It was amazing how each drawing has its own personality so like its creator.  Each was like a personal signature.  All drawings should make a personal statement like these purely abstract drawings

Day 2

All the students arrived eager to continue with the experimental mark making and we immediately got started with more technique demonstrations to add to the ‘Technique Catalogues’ we had started the day before.  We spent all morning working on these. 

After a relaxing lunch I set the students the task of ‘responding to’ a still life object in the middle of the room.  I know this is a little bit of ‘art speak’ but it was important to get the students to understand that even though we were now drawing recognisable objects I still wanted them to continue making abstract marks and experimental drawings.  I was really pleased with the results as everyone managed to stay in an experimental mood and create some quite inventive drawings.

3 ‘responses’ to the same vase.  It was so interesting to see the different creative and experimental interpretations of the same still life object.

We did a few large scale drawings of different objects and each time I dictated what choice of tools and materials they could use.  Narrowing the choice encouraged the students to be more inventive and stopped them inadvertently falling back into representational drawing mode. 

Before finishing up for the day we made one more final drawing where everyone was allowed to choose their own materials and tools and push their ability to try different and experimental ways of drawing to draw one final still life object.

Key Learning

The key learning that I wanted students to leave with at the end of this 2-day course, along with learning ways of working with new materials and tools was to realise that all drawings should be experimental as finding new ways of drawing is what makes our drawings personal and unique to each of us.  It’s when we forget this and simply try to draw ‘accurately’ worrying only about perspective, shading, composition and all the other technical things so called proper artists do, then we tend to lose the one thing that makes drawings exciting and engaging to look at – passion and fun.

Visit the gallery page
to see more drawings from the course.

The only way to keep this is to make sure that as you progress and learn more technical skills, become better at perspective, shading and all the other technical skills you need to know, you keep a place in your art making for pure experimentation, play and not worrying that you may be making a mess.  Guided and structured play is an excellent way to learn and improve as an artist and essential to keep your drawings looking alive, fun, engaging, and unique to who you are.

Materials and Techniques

We used a huge range of materials over this course which included charcoal, pencil, oil pastels, drawing inks, emulsion paint to name just a few.

It was very exciting to see student discover and experiment with new and interesting materials and techniques.  Along with learning the techniques I demonstrated, students also discovered other ways of using the same materials and tools and came up with all sorts of interesting mark making results, which was exactly what this Experimental drawing course encourages you to do.

Reconnecting with the child within and being happy to risk everything
is key to staying experimental and being a creative artist.

Everyone went home a little tired but inspired with a catalogue of experimental mark making they can refer to again and again. To find out full details about this course go to the course page on my website.