On the right lines

1st June 2001 at 01:00
Drawing skills are being promoted through a new initiative, reports Victoria Neumark

Everyone can draw, say the organisers of Drawing Power, a three-year campaign with the simple but ambitious aim of getting the country drawing. You do not need fancy technology: just pick up pen, pencil or chalk and start. In school, drawing can be integral to learning.

According to Sue Grayston Ford, director of the campaign, drawing is one of the most effective tools for understanding, expression and innovation not just in the arts, but in science and the humanities too. Whether it is a science diagram illustrating physical processes, a map showing weather patterns, or the partner to creative writing, a drawing can help pupils plan, think and communicate.

With current curricular emphasis on verbal literacy and maths, the power of visual literacy may be temporarily hidden from view. But Eileen Adams, education programme leader of Drawing Power and associate professor in the field of art, design, environment and education at Middlesex University, says Britain still leads the world in many graphic skills.

Teachers may be inhibited by experiences of "failure" in their own schooling. It may be hard for them to inspire pupils to draw. Drawing Power aims to renew people's confidence in their ability to develop their own graphic vocabulary.

It is headed by the Guild of St George, a charity set up by 19th-century art critic John Ruskin with the aim of "making a better world". Julian Spalding, Master of the Guild of St George, feels strongly that "drawing is a gift for education". So, he asks, why is it not better used?

Drawing Power has three elements: the Big Draw, Power Drawing and the Drawing Research Network. Last October more than 300 institutions ranging from the National Gallery to Brighton Pier hosted drop-in drawing sessions to encourage would-be artists. They called this sketchfest the Big Draw. This year's Big Draw on October 20 will be even bigger. If you would like o organise a draw-in, register your interest on Drawing Power's website: www.drawingpower.org.uk There will be prizes of up to pound;500. A fruitful theme, suggests Drawing Power, will be the 11th national Apple Day, which falls on the same day, promoted by the artsecology charity Common Ground (www.commonground.org.uk).

Power Drawing, a two-year education programme, will run from September. In its first year, the programme is conducting action research in 50 schools from Bristol to Kirklees. It will gather information from primary and secondary practice, looking at how drawing is currently used in school, what young people are learning from drawing, what drawing strategies work to promote learning and how teachers and other educators can use it in the curriculum. In the second year, teachers will experiment with different techniques, supported by in-service training and briefing sessions from Eileen Adams.

Teachers will be helping pupils to understand how and why they use drawing and what information is conveyed: for example, in geography, how field sketching differs from map-making. There are three themes: drawing as perception - for example, to explore what "a beautiful landscape" is; drawing as communication - for example, the game of "Pictionary" or a biology diagram; and drawing to manipulate ideas - for example, a political cartoon or a repeating pattern in a textile design. The programme will be completed with a book for teachers and a dedicated website, launched with regional conferences.

Power Drawing wants input from teachers, so register your interest by e-mail: edu@drawingpower.org.uk giving your name, schoolinstitution postal and e-mail address, with a short paragraph about your work using drawing.

The Drawing Research Network aims to link those involved in research on drawing in higher education and other institutions so that they can share information and support the efforts of the education programme. Register on the Drawing Power website.

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