Drawing Conversations 3: Conference at the Ruskin Library, Lancaster University

Recently I have attended a conference titled “Drawing Conversations 3: Drawing Talking to the Sciences” at The Ruskin Library, Lancaster University.

It was a wonderful experience and a space to meet professional researchers and creatives, and to get an insight into what is currently being researched in the field of drawing, and how the tools drawing provides us with can be utilised in other fields and disciplines.

I even had the opportunity to speak to a few of those creatives and exchange insights about their and mine own work, which resulted in great conversations and my head full with new ideas I could pursue in my studio practice.

Here are some of the notes I took on the day:

Emma Stibbon

“Drawing: Soundings and Resonances”

  • immersion conveyed by scale
    • some artworks 3m x 2m
    • allowing people to experience the space
    • sense of witness – communicate that to the viewer
  • communication through drawing – conveying issues of our time
  • passion in recording
  • noted name of whom Emma partnered with for her drawing project: Prof. Kathy Cashman
    • Professor Cashman gave Emma insight about the geology of Iceland – the rocks etc.
    • NOTE TO SELF: have there been MRI scans/other scans of the brain studying people with depersonalisation?
  • time preserved within the material
  • daguerrotype – Mer de Glace, Mont Blanc Massif, Ruskin and Crawley (1854)
  • thickness of glaciers decreasing by 3-5m each year!
  • drawing as a language that is showed and understood across different fields and cultures
  • drawing can’t just do anything, DRAWING CAN BE ANYTHING
  • in dialogue with the scientists, and not in collaboration with them (there is a difference between the two!) – working alongside their research and collected data
    • scientists are often keen to invite artists at the end of their research to collaborate with them


  • Also speaking to Emma during one of the breaks I had a really great conversation about cyanotypes and the possibilities of this technique in relation to the drawing research that was spoken about in the conference:
    • She gave me the idea to prepare the drawing paper with the cyanotype solution and expose it to UV light
    • Try drawing with the solution!
      • apply solution with intentional mark-making, draw, expose to UV, develop!
      • some lines would disappear as a result
        • something really cool to consider; the chemical reaction as a drawing technique or tool
      • how long would it stay on the piece of paper?
        • would it eventually disappear altogether when exposed to the effects of time?


Jo MacDonald

“Drawing in Anatomy”

  • drawing related to seeing and knowing
  • da Vinci documented around 30 dissections in his lifetime – evidently driven by curiosity
  • also an artist who like myself makes recordings and turns them into transcripts – uncovering the though processes and knowledge that can be learned during study and dissection
  • “Anatomy of the Human Body” (Book)
  • resulting in a somatic understanding of her own body
  • absence and presence through recordings of phenomenology


Julia Midgley

“Drawing a Record – lines of engagement”

  • a drawing of a patient not speaking English used by nurses to initiate conversation so that he could point at parts of his body and explain what was wrong – so drawing can be used as a communicative tool, used to initiate conversation and dialogue
  • looks at medical images of bowels – apparently they are beautiful
  • therapeutic experience of drawing with a patient
  • intimate drawings and so she works small scale although has tried working on a larger scale (when in Liverpool)
    • this point was quite interesting – to compare what Julia said with the statements that Emma made:
      • Julia uses small scale for intimacy
      • Emma uses large scale for immersion and embracive experience of space
    • is there any way to combine the two? it seems to have been a dilema I’ve been faced with for the last half a year, because the two are my aims but it appears from this and my previous research that it is difficult to compromise with one scale
    • but the immersion aspect is quite important to me, amd since I noticed that larger scale works tend to have a more emotive impact on me – either when I create or view other creator’s works – I am leaning more towards the use of larger scale like Emma
    • the possible solution for this problem could be a use of smaller scale and finer line and mark-making techniques?
      • in that way I still get to achieve a grandure and an immersive appeal – the viewer can then choose to come closer to the drawing to be truely immersed in the intimacy that has consumed the drawing process
  • automatic – her drawings are immediate responses (this consept also appeared in several other times througout the day!!)
  • doctors also draw – one of the things we have in common – I guess this originates from a shared curiosity
  • disappear as a witness – a “fly on the wall”
    • this was as I remember also the title of the artist talk she gave at the university last year or term? – could be benefitial to look back at the notes for that?
  • drawing is a way of opening up trust and communication
  • graphic medicine was a term mentioned by one of the audience members, which is something related to people (in this case children were mentioned) drawing their pain as an example – sounds something along the lines of art therapy, but perhaps in this case the things drawn are more intentional and conscious decisions


Daksha Patel

“A Case Study using Drawing in the Context of Parkinson’s Disease”

  • movements and connections between the things
  • isolating parts of visualisation
  • Misprints series, graphite on cartridge
  • ‘other’ – nor near nor distant
    • drawing becoming the ‘other’
  • chance and the unexpected
  • recognising the potential in the unexpected
  • distorted drawings – quite difficult to distort drawings in interesting ways
  • need to be delicate and handled with care – suggesting the fragility of the body
  • art workshops with people with Parkinson’s
    • repetition and layering used as a common drawing technique with these people as it puts less pressure on the marks that are being made; is also a more effective method of relaxing them as they become involved in the repetitive act of mark-making and naturally forgeting about any expectations of ‘perfection’ or neatness
    • mindfulness and relaxed attentiveness
  • usually not able to sustain writting for 2 hours – but drawing was fine!
  • marks have a life of their own on drawing paper
  • space for different types of communication amongst themselves
  • each learning from each other
  • degree of ambiguity
    • uncertainty versus absolute knowledge


Louise Ann Wilson


  • scenographer
  • grief
  • walking through grief by walking through a landscape
  • infertility and childlessness
  • using the bedding of the child she wanted to adopt to stich-in her story
  • “Walks to Remember”
    • working with people with dementia
  • need to be open to what emerges


Q&A of the two artists:

  • People can see things that want in these images of visualisation
      • and so AMBIGUITY too!!
    • AMBIGUITY as something that opens space for dialogue – something an artist might want to use to get the viewer DIRECTLY INVOLVED in their works
  • Looking at drawings as if they are ALIVE – can move – can talk
    • an aspect of TIME considered in there
  • Look more differently, move and look more closely
  • Is drawing a research tool that can be used by all (the public) in our everyday lives?


Peter Matthews

“A Creative Collaboration with Marine Science”

  • Ambiguous language of drawing!
  • Allowing us to be present in that moment
  • A spiritual bridge that drawing allows us to form with nature
  • Drawings as an object are secondary in nature – the journey or process is primary
    • I guess that’s becasue this is where the learning and all of the thought processes take place for the artist
  • We need to get children drawing and playing – the government needs to fund more of this activity
    • allowing young people the opportunity to develop this skill as a tool with which they can investigate
  • Be HONEST with drawing – let it breathe and have its own life!!
  • Immersion in time experience
  • Observe what’s happening in real time – without technology
  • Instinctive and automatic mark-making in real-time
  • Being immersed in the environment
    • in the time and space he’s recording – being present at that moment, away from anything else
  • An extension of himself


Jennie Speirs Grant

“Drawing and the Art of Biosemiotics”

  • Non-visual information
  • Soundscapes
  • also uses carbon paper
  • Soundscapes infiltrate into the drawings
  • Birds don’t make random sounds – each has a reason and purpose
  • They need a 20 minute settling-in period, for them to stop noticing the presence of the human being – stop sensing your immediate presence in their surrounding
  • Origins of language
  • Since soundscapes are something I’ve been trying to, still unsuccessfully, incorporate into my own work, perhaps at the beginning I could take a different approach to them? And not pressure myself to create a whole audio piece at the very beginning
    • So my solution for it now would be to attempt and record the sounds in my head – the ones that emerge during recall – and as silly as it sounds I’m thinking of trying to visualise and represent the ‘noise’ in my head and not actual sounds – by that I mean when my moods and/or approaches fluctuate, moments of unsettlement, unease or anxiety etc.


Hondartza Fraga

“Drawing the Cassini Raw Images of Saturn”

  • Cassini Raw Images – there are thousands of unprocessed images available online
  • Key words: drawing, Saturn and melancholy
  • Pencil on antique paper
  • Chose images where Saturn appears most ambiguous
  • Falling and pushing it towards the very edges of the paper
  • Drawing negates closure
  • Fragmentation, messiness and ambiguity


Lesley Hicks

“Seer and Seen: Drawing from Webcams”

  • The main point I wanted to remember from Lesley’s talk was the fact that drawing enabled her to represent/show a landscape on the verge of disappearance
    • which means we have something very fundamental in common – the fact that we want to represent something ethereal and very temporary


Concluding statements and thoughts of the evening:

  • What are drawing’s limits?
  • Drawing as an instrument/tool
    • the inherent responsiveness of drawing
  • Is it a mechanism of asking science questions?
  • Opens up dialogue about things that aren’t spoken about
  • Taking a childlike approach to something as important aspect of the process
  • Drawing to become more sure about its area of specialism
  • Emotional connection people get through art, which is treated as its advantage

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