Drawing as insider research

I have taken up two new activities this year, with the intention of keeping mind and body in working order.

Re the body, I have joined the village circuit training group for an hour two nights a week. This is challenging – but my competitive days are over, so I just do what I can do.

The brain activity is drawing. Hopefully this will balance the left-brained activity which I seem to spend most of my time on. For the next nine weeks I will spend Monday afternoons in life drawing classes. I joined the class this week and I loved it. The first two hour class is Developing Life Drawing; the second is Experimental Life Class.

Both classes started with gesture drawing. This involved 10 different poses in 10 minutes, i.e. one minute to capture each pose. I found this very liberating. The focus was on observation. We had been asked to take a roll of lining wallpaper to draw on, so there were no expectations of the outcomes. We were told that we should ‘look’ for more than 90% of the time and when we were drawing, our eyes should be continually moving from the paper to the model and back.

Most interesting for me was that I was told to try not to line draw, to try not start on the outer edges and work inwards, but instead to start in the middle and work outwards and in particular to avoid lines and instead scribble. We were shown drawings by Maggie Hambling and Henry Moore to illustrate this.

Maggie Hambling:  Source of image




Henry Moore: Source of image

I can see the parallels between this approach and insider research. The idea that the form/figure will emerge from the scribble resonated with me, particularly since when doing this we were asked to tape our pencils to a long garden cane, so whilst scribbling from the middle, we were at the same time standing at some distance from the paper. This seems to me the same challenge as presented by insider research.

7 thoughts on “Drawing as insider research

  1. keith.hamon January 20, 2016 / 4:13 pm

    I really like this connection between drawing from the inside out and researching from the inside out. I think it provides a visceral connection to a conceptually thorny issue for many researchers. I’ll be interested to see how you develop this.

  2. jennymackness January 20, 2016 / 4:49 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to comment Keith. You don’t say whether your interest is in my development as an artist or as a researcher. I have recently being reading around ‘insider’ research – an approach which is known to be fraught with difficulties. With respect to the drawing I found the process of drawing from the inside out counter-intuitive and difficult. Henry Moore makes it look so easy. It is clearly a very skilled process.

  3. Glenyan January 20, 2016 / 5:18 pm

    You are an inspiration, Jenny 🙂 What was the reasoning behind the garden cane? To help you stay in “scribble mode”?

  4. jennymackness January 20, 2016 / 5:30 pm

    Great to hear from you Glen and thanks for the question. I think the reasoning behind the garden cane was two fold.

    1) To ensure that we stood back and couldn’t get too close

    2) To make the drawing process more difficult to control.

    I found this very trying as the garden canes were not sturdy, so the whole thing was flexing. It was impossible to put a mark exactly where I wanted it to go or to apply the amount of pressure that I wanted to apply. Having developed on the page what seemed to me a huge, incoherent, unrecognisable blob, I turned the paper over and was about to start again, when the art tutor came over. She made me go back to my blob, and told me that it was great that I had got away from lines, and hoped that I had been put outside my comfort zone. I assured her I had. She said it was good for me to not be in control 🙂

    And this was my first class. Whatever will happen next week!

  5. keith.hamon January 20, 2016 / 7:59 pm

    Actually, I can be interested in both your drawing and your research, but I’ve seen much more of your research, and I can speak to the difficulties of researching and writing from the inside out. I can only imagine the problems with drawing inside out with a garden cane. It does sound rhizomatic, though.

  6. Yin Wah Kreher (@yinbk) January 21, 2016 / 8:11 am

    I took a figure drawing class too and found it to be an eye-opening experience. I venture to say that drawing, photography, any visual art is about the eye — hence observation is the secret ingredient. I find that using charcoal to draw frees me from an observation with line drawing.

    Totally agree with the inside-out approach, in research and in art, and in life, with regards to who we are. For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, i.e., our actions spring from the depth of what is in us.

  7. jennymackness January 21, 2016 / 9:11 am

    Yin – lovely to ‘meet’ you here. Thanks for your comments. Next week we will have to use charcoal and I’ll be interested to see whether I have the same experience as you. I’m not sure as I have never liked chalk – which I used to have to use on a blackboard in my early days of teaching. It always put my teeth on edge. I hope charcoal won’t prove to be the same.

    > out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks

    Thank you for sharing that thought. Lovely 🙂

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