Drawing is a subject of interest in computer science, psychology, history as well as fine arts.
This is good at one point. But it is also bad as it hinders the emergence of drawing as a distinctive domain. If drawing is to emerge as a distinctive domain then those who operate within the field need to document its corpus of knowledge. BETHSHEBA ACHITSA writes.
When I came across Writing on Drawing; a publication of Intellect books in the UK and USA, I imagined how useful it must be to those attempting to write on this field. Stephen Garner’s essay kept my expectations high as he made a wide exploration into the field of research on drawings. But as I continued leafing through the essays by the other ten essayists I had to change my perception and look at the book as a research student in the field of drawing.
The 196-page book is a forward-looking text that provokes enquiry and shared understanding of contemporary drawing research and practice.
Though the need for charting relationships between the disparate fields of drawing is necessary to facilitate communication and suggest borders where the drawing world abuts the worlds of other disciplines, the editor “Stephen Garner” states that the mapping process is more confusing. It is out of dissatisfaction that he sought help from people who are both drawing makers and drawing researchers to come up with writing on drawing.
In the first chapter the book editor raises the question of drawing research, which is followed by a revelation on why a search for definitions is an understandable but ultimately frustrating occupation for drawing researchers by Deanna Petherbridge.
Angela Anning reminds readers that good drawing research in the present day stands on the shoulders of a past work. In her essay, she charts some landmark studies of children’s drawing as the foundation for her own work. Stephen Farthing’s essay concerns the neglected capacity of drawing
In the final chapters, Anna Ursyn and Howard Riley demonstrate an important synergy between research and education.
Lack of intellectual discourse in both the academic standing and our own understanding of our respective careers is a problem and researchers need to establish a critical discourse in their research work.
Like other researchers in other fields, the contemporary drawing researcher still operates within the context of a university with all its pressures and priorities. And therefore their researches are focused and formed in the light of research assessment exercises, collaborative opportunities teaching commitments and funding.
Agenda in the present day should not be about limiting and controlling but should be more about externalising, sharing our understanding. Thus drawing researchers should critically evaluate their work, define their merits of research and value contributions, share opinions and build innovative works. Without this their researches remain personal and inward-looking.
Garner thus recommends that higher institutions should conduct research training that deals with reading, interpreting and valuing images as many continue asking about the purpose and manner of drawing education today. Drawing research needs do not only consolidate current understandings and relationships in drawing but needs to chart stimulating range of options for future activities.
Away from the field of research, it is evident that any book or article about drawing attempts some sort of definition of drawing but the urgency with which historians and commentators develop, question or critique the drawings remains a problem at large. Serious art magazines have stopped publishing articles on drawing and painting and the numerous visits to artists’ studios are hardly carried out. Art galleries have taken over the role of advertising the drawings and paintings as they diminished from art magazines.
Art and especially one that deals with drawing is in crisis as more sophisticated computer programmes in drawing continue to pop up each day. The crisis is further heightened by the fact that schools do not consider art as a mainstream subject. Though Elementary schools in the UK encourage teaching of art as a way to train the hand and the eye, in other countries this subject is viewed as a way of corrupting the young minds. In Kenya for instance public schools do not rank the subject as mainstream and very few primary schools teach the subject.
With this at hand Anning’s essay is of use to parents and educators who do not consider the subject as important as the other subjects. In her essay, she explores how children’s art has impacted on theoretical models of the young child as a thinker, doer, artist, observer and meaning maker.
But in her conclusion, Anning states that if a child grows where drawing and design flourish their invented drawings have an audience and a purpose but if the same child grows where drawing is not valued then their drawings only meet one question: what is it? The world needs to understand that children’s repertoires exist for them to nurture or to narrow.
At a cost of ₤24.95, the book will be of much use to students and researchers in the field of drawing although those who try to write about drawing can still find it to be of great help. The reference notes offered at the end of each chapter enables one to find out more about drawing.
All in all, drawing remains a significant and important activity to translate, document, record and analyse the worlds we inhabit. This literacy in visual language needs to be ensured and developed, nurtured, enhanced and challenged as an equivalently important means of communication to the predominance of verbal and written communication in our educational systems and cultures.