“Drawing is a mechanism for exploration as much as a tool of representation”
Tania Kovats 1
I have always felt intimidated by the idea of drawing but at last this project has made me realise that, although I was always disappointed by my observational drawings, there are other ways of drawing and they are valid and enjoyable.
As a geographer I am comfortable with maps, diagrams and annotation. My sketches are a way of capturing an idea and solving problems before I start making. I often draw as a way of thinking and then I never look at that drawing again. People have commented that my sketchbooks are very organised but the truth is that I am so tentative that I draw on scraps of paper, receipts, tickets and the edges of newspapers. Occasionally I have to sort through all of these in search of lost inspiration and then I scan them, print them out, often at a different scale, and glue them into the book.
The structure which I have focussed on for this project requires me to draw up a detailed plan so that I know where to score and fold the strips before plaiting them together. The initial drawings are the most pleasurable part of the process and are where the exciting “What if?” questions are followed. Light lines and erasing allow refinements and changes although always within the constraints of the logic of the structure.
A change in the size of one block, for example as the result of splitting a strip, can trigger adjustments throughout the piece and once accepted it is rarely possible to return to the original rhythm. Scale is also important as what appears to be simple at the top can become increasingly complex further down the plan. I make scores of drawings before making the decision to undertake a large piece of work.
I decided to excavate my structure to see what I could discover about it and this process has been liberating. When drawing a map one usually begins by tracing essential elements from a base map and then adding selected information on top of that so I have used this method in the project. Starting with a base plan beneath tracing paper I have found and drawn lines, blocks, planes, dots, hexagons and triangles. It has been more satisfying to abstract lines from a pre-existing plan rather than to imagine lines and then draw them because I am discovering something rather than being driven purely by aesthetics.
Some drawings have led to a deeper understanding of the structure, others have not. As soon as I stop thinking about a textile which must be made and focus on the drawing itself I am freed from the structural logic and can play. I have tried to remain open and question what I am seeing. Richard Fortey has said “curiosity is the enemy of certainty”3 and curiosity also feeds the imagination.
My experiments have included different surfaces (tracing paper, Tyvek, glass, gesso), different tools and media (knives, pens, markers, graphite, glue, ink, thread), layering and folding. Some have ‘simply’ been pencil on paper.
Before I started this project my drawings were private. Now, no longer apologetic, I have enjoyed making so many that I can’t decide which ones to exhibit.
- Quotation by Tania Kovats in Drawing Water, Edinburgh, Fruitmarket Gallery 2014, page 11.
- Plan for Unconformity photographed by Jo Hounsome Photography.
- Quotation by Richard Fortey, The Wood for the Trees, London, Collins 2017, page 3.