Drawing out the inner artist

3rd December 2004 at 00:00
Tom Deveson looks at what a group of Year 9 students learned as part of this year's Big Draw

This year's Big Draw - the culmination of the Campaign for Drawing - resulted in more than 1,000 events being celebrated across the country. At St Giles's Church in Camberwell, South London, one event linked directly to John Ruskin (1819-1900), the Victorian visionary whose genius lies behind the existence of the Big Draw itself.

Ruskin spent five decades trying to persuade the British public that art is an essential, not merely decorative, human need. He had considerable skill as a painter, but even more as a shaper of language. Inspired especially by the examples of Wordsworth and Turner, he produced writing of passionate conviction and eloquence, arguing that: "to advance it (art) men's lives must be given, and to receive it, their hearts."

He also founded a charity, The Guild of St George, which, in 2000, started the Campaign for Drawing to mark the new millennium. Ruskin designed a stained glass window for St Giles's. In 13th-century style, it has distinctive red and purple colours, echoing those of Chartres Cathedral in France, and uses dozens of small biblical scenes to compose a striking whole.

It provided the background to an exhibition called Draw Your Dreams, devised and run by a group of Year 9 girls from Charles Edward Brooke School, just down the road from the Camberwell church.

Classes for local primary school children and over-60s began with simple mark-making. Students then looked to see what their marks reminded them of, then turned the marks into a representation of a subject, such as the sea, that others recognised and enjoyed, "having done something I never thought I could do", as one put it.

The Big Draw inspired them, says artist Sarah Richardson from the local Creative Partnership. Drawing can inspire your pupils, too, she says.

Sarah's suggestions

l Warm up by loosening your hands, wrists, arms, head and heart.

Stretch to get oxygen to your brain.

* Use a variety of tools, such as pencils, chalk, charcoal and anything else you find interesting.

* Begin with marks that help you relax: scribbles, straight lines, curves.

* Look at your marks, turn them round, try them at new angles. What do you start to see? Do you see the beginning of a person or an object? Add more marks and develop what you find there.

* Don't cross anything out. Add to the drawing, don't subtract from it.

Draw a picture, perhaps a face, using a single line; draw without looking at the paper; do your drawing upside down; do a squiggle and pass it on to a friend and then another to make a picture of "consequences".

* Try a variety of pressures to make different tones.

* Make marks that you feel are happy or angry or excited or mysterious. See where they lead you.

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