Exercise 4.3 Drawing and Thinking

Exercise 4.3 

The course material asks you to have a read of a key text Drawing Ambiguity entitled ‘Honks, Horns, Howls and Laughter’ (Sawdon & Marshall, 2015, p.83) before embarking on this exercise. I always find that conducting some research before I start the next exercise is a useful tool to start getting ideas for the drawing or experimenting I will be doing. I printed the text off and highlighted parts which I found interesting or that I could relate to with my own ideas. Below is what I pulled from the text:

  • pg 84. ‘daily discipline to document the fragments of my day began…’
  • ‘paper trails of sounds, conversations half heard, images glimpsed, flashes of colours, smells evoking memories.’
  • Pg 85 ‘re-trace a journey’
  • Pg 86. ‘the buildings sing. Look up at them’
  • ‘look down. Manhole covers, drain grills’
  • Pg 87. ‘i started with a notebook, then added a cheap plastic camera, taking snap-shots at night with flash to imitate those momentary glimpses a drunk gets staggering up alleys. During the day I began to experiment, passing the film through the camera 12 times or more, layering images to imitate the density of information…. I was becoming increasingly selective in the things I was attracted to.’ – I like the idea of re-using the film, layering photographs
  • ‘i started exhibiting thesis photographs as photo ribbons, short stories, real-life comic strips re-telling journeys and contact sheers like tiny 2D cinemas hung on walls.’ – could the story actually be a journey? An experience? 
  • Pg 88. ‘a poem made out of road signs’
  • ‘scraps of paper blown into dancing animals on the winds of passing traffic’ – I like his use of vocabulary to talk about his creative thoughts. Making the mundane seem exciting. 
  • ‘whose tyres drew these beautiful black flourishes on curb stones for miles?’ – seeing the beauty in everything, almost the things that go un-noticed
  • Pg 93. ‘in 2006 I was wandering the streets of Tokyo at night, photographing the drawings made by trucks as they caught curbstones.’
  • ‘to keep my thinking fresh I started drawing on hotel note pads without looking, letting my hand dance rhythms whilst imagining the limits of the paper so a not to exceed them. The object was to maintain a conversation and at the same time visualise the pencil describing the marks I saw in my head.’
  • ‘the poetry of streets: the fragments combine to form such dense rhythms that the richness of the information they carry becomes physically painful to be around.’
  • Pg 94. ‘the marks I make: zen calligraphy, graffiti, the shapes I see in a sheet of paper as I sit quietly in front of it, the shapes I carry in my head remembering nights on stage, the colours of japans lacquer boxes, samurai armour, the colours of far eastern household appliances.’
  • ‘charcoal – memories of beach bonfires’ – the materials are linked to memories and experineces. Similar to artist Vik Muniz (from exercise 4.2) who used sugar to draw with when he drew the image of children working on sugar plantations. 
  • ‘soft pastel – the texture and colours of deserts as we fly over continents, a fascination with red earth’
  • ‘chalk – school, Joseph Beuys, minerals dug up from fields. The conversation between all these elements and the surface of the paper. The way it buckles as it absorbs liquid, staining like the crumbling walls of Italian alleys.’ – the process and materiality of drawing
  • Pg 95. ‘photography and in particular the selection of found objects allows me to move quickly, make intuitive choices without the encumbrance of ‘technique’ or ability…. Making fast selections, attaching them to unrelated text, which becomes related because they’re on the same page.’
  • Pg 96 (image attached) 

From reading this text I came away considering a less obvious understanding to the exercise in the senes that what could a story be? What I had taken from this research point was that I could re-tell an experience, a memory rather than a story from a book for example. I contemplated telling the story of how my father passed away, as it is so vivid, however I felt that this would be too sensitive a topic to bring up. Due to time constraints I decided to base this exercise on my weekend back at home. On 26th January it was my mum’s hen do (she is getting re-married) and I thought that it would be a perfect opportunity to document the day and re-tell it to myself, whilst drawing, back in the studio. During the day I made notes, took photos and sketched anything when I could. It was an interesting idea in itself documenting every little detail as I was afraid I would forget something and I wanted to re-tell the story as perfectly as I could. From these notes I will re-tell the story, using the photographs to help me. To me, a story is like a sequence of events and I am leaning towards using wallpaper to draw on, however I feel that I have done the ‘long’ paper for exercise 4.2 and feel I should try something else. I feel tempted to use my newspaper print roll and combine experiments from exercise 4.1 with the use of mod rock (coming back to that idea of louise bourgeois and my mum). Im thinking of simply drawing it whilst talking and then adding to it after?!?! I’m thinking I need to draw with a quick medium…?!

  • I could prepare the surface for the drawing first…using mod rock 


I almost felt lost creating this piece. I felt anxious and tense as to whether I was doing it ‘right’. I felt that it was rushed, nothing was fine tuned. I didn’t really move along the piece as I had hoped to. I decided to use ink in the thought that the media would reflect the rhythm of a story however the outcome just looked chaotic, dis-organised and non-distinctive. It almost felt like I had recounted the day as a blur, which in fact it was extremely clear to me. 


I decided to try another drawing. I was inspired from an English lesson at the school I work at (year 1 Teaching Assistant). The current topic is poems. We are re-telling them and we had a lesson on responding to a poem through art. I wasn’t sure what poem to select so I searched ‘famous poems’ online and had a read of a selection and chose one titled ‘See It Through’ by Edgar Guest. This time I chose a different medium that would create a more definite line. I also decided to create this drawing in a more traditional way, rather than having a long surface to work on, I chose a standard large sheet of paper. 

See It Through


When you’re up against a trouble,

Meet it squarely, face to face;

Lift your chin and set your shoulders,

Plant your feet and take a brace.

When it’s vain to try to dodge it,

Do the best that you can do;

You may fail, but you may conquer,

See it through!

Black may be the clouds about you

And your future may seem grim,

But don’t let your nerve desert you;

Keep yourself in fighting trim.

If the worst is bound to happen,

Spite of all that you can do,

Running from it will not save you,

See it through!

Even hope may seem but futile,

When with troubles you’re beset,

But remember you are facing

Just what other men have met.

You may fail, but fall still fighting;

Don’t give up, whate’er you do;

Eyes front, head high to the finish.

See it through!


Again I was apprehensive in completing this but I treated the first drawing as a kind of a warm up piece and felt a little more relaxed. On reflection I wonder if choosing a poem, that I was disconnected to compared to a first hand experience meant that I felt differently towards what I was creating. I was perhaps concerned that I would not portray a true sense of my experience of my mother’s hen do and this would effect my degree of freedom over the drawing. I felt a lot more precious towards drawing this piece. I think perhaps the media I used was also linked to this emotional attachment. The oil pastel is a more noticeable, broad line and I felt that I had to be committed to making the mark. 

I found this exercise more difficult that I thought it would be. I found that I would stop talking when focusing on a section of drawing that I wanted to complete and I had to force myself to keep reading the poem, or keep retelling my day. I surprised myself by what words that I wrote. Peoples names, in the recount of my experience, that I had not considered particularly important to me at the time but perhaps my subconscious was steering me into a direction that I wasn’t in control of. I felt like talking and drawing was almost like the activity when you have to pat your head and rub your tummy. I had no time to add tone in, I tried to colour in some clouds for the poem piece but quickly moved onto the next part. Simply by chance I had taken some time to read a few more pages of Katherine Stout – Contemporary Drawing book (after a tutor hangout with my new tutor Bryan for UPM), which coincidently led me to read the chapter about narrative, language and style. I came across artists Sigmar Polke and A.R. Penck. It is noted in ‘Contemporary Drawing’ that ‘Polke succeeds in remaining independent from any one art movement, despite making work that looks like abstract expressionism, pop, op and neo-expressionism’. Penck created ‘stick figures and symbols, in a bold graphic quality which allowed him to embark upon a provocative social and political analysis of postwar Germany’. To me, these two artists works are very similar in style. The both have evidence of bold marks in their work and create imagery to tell a story. It almost has a humour effect attached to it. I think these artists works are more related to my oil pastel drawing, creating this sense of story in a clear way. I felt that any mark I made with the oil pastel was going to be obvious so that took any initial fear away as I just had to commit and draw what came to me. I don’t think Penck and Polke seemed bothered about what people thought of their drawings. This made me push on and be brave! I initially thought that I would present my story in a horizontal format, so that you would read the story as you would a book, but from these two drawings I think I personally prefer the story that is presented as one piece, being able to gather all parts of the story together. 

It was a really good exercise to ‘let go’ a little more when drawing and almost letting the language take over. The fight between talking out loud and drawing at the same time became an enjoyable challenge that I could potentially take further. I don’t think that there is a decent finish to this piece. I think it is almost presented a very quick sketch, an opportunity to get ideas and thoughts down. Looking back at A.R. Penck, I wonder if I could perhaps have aligned each mark closer together, creating a more compact, ordered story. It was an interesting exercise to do after the labour intensive drawing. After spending 56 hours on a drawing to minutes frightened me. I felt that I hadn’t spent enough time on this exercise to warrant moving on. I wonder now if this is why I had another go. 

Reflecting on this exercise has really proven to me that getting down important details, allowing myself to draw quicker and being less precious about what I am drawing is just as useful as a more detailed, ‘thought out’ drawing. 

From this exercise and the fortunate coincident of reading ‘Contemporary Drawing’ I completed a little experiment/ sketch whilst on the train coming home from work. Combining research from reading ‘Honks, Horns, Howls and Laughter’ and reading from Contemporary Drawing on artist Robert Smithson I started writing down any conversations that I was overhearing, keeping the speed of my writing along with the conversations. 

I liked the idea of handwriting being like someones signature. No-one has the same writing and it is personal to them. 

Poetry Foundation. (2019) See It Through. At: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44318/see-it-through (Accessed on 5 February 2019) 

Stout, K. (year of publication) Contemporary Drawing. (edition) London: publisher

ed. Sawdon, P and Marshall, R. (s.d.) Drawing Ambiguity: Beside the lines of contemporary art. (Place of publication not on document support) I.B. Tauris. 


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