In the popular imagination, drawing is a linear and schematic form of representation using pencil, ink, crayon or charcoal to render the outlines of objects and their spatial location. However, in reality drawing is more often preoccupied with a subject’s form, volume and plasticity, sometimes including cross-hatched shading or washes of ink or watercolour. Whatever its attributes—and whether it is ‘realistic’, abstract or diagrammatically schematic—drawing in its own ‘graphic’ right can be seen as faster and more visually to-the-point as an artwork than other art methods like painting or sculpture.Read More
Drawing—for its own sake as an enticing image—can be seen as elemental or immediate. It is an art-making method that is not fussy or overly complex, and yet maintains an impact that is quickly grasped. This said, drawing does not have the status of other art types that are generally perceived as more labour-intensive, more conceptually ‘serious’, or more market-amenable. It is rarely seen in international biennales, unlike media such as video, film and performance. Only a few contemporary artists are famous for their drawings; Marlene Dumas is one, Richard Serra is perhaps another. William Kentridge is highly regarded for his drawing practice, which is a vital part of his filmmaking method.
While drawing’s history goes back thousands of years to marks scratched onto the walls of caves, since the 1990s digital drawing has become another option, done with a computer programme, a screen and a mouse, or with a tablet and just a stylus or finger. In the contemporary art landscape, both methods now exist side by side.
Drawing’s motivation can be seen as specifically functional—as a research tool or aid for investigation that provides a record of thinking or preliminary exploratory work for final pieces in other disciplines like painting, sculpture, film or performance. Through coded mark-making, it structures the visualisation process, assisting in preparatory efforts of developing preliminary groundwork. Individual stages can be taken in isolation to be elaborated on further, or presented within a group and sequence.
Work that uses painting media in an understated or restrained way—such as on paper rather than canvas or board—is often seen as drawing rather than painting. Drawing usually uses dry media like pencil or crayon. If in liquid media, it is generally in ink or watercolour. In both cases, drawing serves as a preparatory study, and generally anticipates another fuller, ‘completed’ version later.
When drawing is used as the end-medium of a concept (rather than as a research methodology) unorthodox supports might include beach sand, wheat fields, the sky, human skin, animal skin and photographic emulsion. In the history of art, drawing marks have been created by car or bike tyres, the harvesting of crops, the cutting of grass, bacterial colonies, smoke from candles, worms dipped in ink, bullet holes, exploded fireworks, and bodily secretions like sperm or blood, within a mixture of additive and subtractive processes.
Early photographs were called drawings with light and may be seen as another mark-making method, along with other more overt types of drawing like tracing, frottage (simultaneously a type of printmaking) and graffiti (simultaneously a type of painting).
Questions regarding the definition of drawing may include: Can a drawing be writing? Can textual instructions for a painting, sculpture, film or performance be a drawing? What about tentatively scribbled plans, a simple typed philosophical proposition or processes involving a ‘drawing out’ of ideas from a larger exhibited art statement? The use of text in drawing can be seen as an extension of diagram, chart, map, or graph methodologies. Such inclusivity illustrates the open-endedness of drawing.