Drawing and Visualisation Research
TRACEY:  journal | space




  • Where are the masterpieces of digital drawing?

    Does digital drawing dissolve the Albertian Window?

    Does digital drawing dissolve the boundaries between author and viewer?

    Digital collaboration in drawing – what are the opportunities?

    Motion capture as pencil in a virtual space?

    How does drawing in the third and fourth dimension challenge our traditional practices?

    Can computational modelling advance our understanding of drawing processes?

    What are the benefits of having an intelligent assistant?

    Does e-paper change anything?


  • Deborah Harty

    In order to address the issue of drawing and technology it may appear to be pertinent, given recent debates, to commence with a discussion of what is meant by either drawing or technology. However, it is interesting to discover that amongst the submissions for this call for papers there is a general, albeit unwritten, sense that drawing still includes qualities of “… spontaneity, experimentation, directness, simplicity, abbreviation, expressiveness, [and] immediacy …” (Craig-Martin 1995, p.9). Furthermore, whilst a few acknowledge that indeed a pencil was once deemed by some to be technology, there seems to be a general consensus that technology, in this context, relates to the use of a digital or computerised interface - including wacom tablets, drawing programmes and what Hastings (Electric Finger: an experiment in touch surface drawing) describes as a pocket “electronic sketchbook” - an iPod Touch. What is also interesting to highlight is that the inclusion of the word ‘technology’ in the call for papers has expanded the range of submissions to include disciplines not always greatly represented in this context, for instance, digital audio, animation and architecture.

    Given the attributes of drawing and technology considered above, the submissions mainly focus on how the intervention of technology either enhances or is of detriment to these qualities; uncovering complexities in the relationship between drawing and technology that reach beyond considerations of mechanical production or issues of media.

    In the first instance, there are considerations as to how technology has enhanced drawing or drawing processes. In this context, the positives to be gained from emerging technologies such as the iPod/iPad and drawing programmes include: increased speed, accuracy and usability ostensibly without the necessity for either developed technical skills or hand/eye co-ordination. Katz (The Impact of Digital Technology On My Drawing Practice) states that the ease with which she can work with an animation programme has developed her drawing practice beyond still imagery offering alternative directions in which to develop her work. Brkljac (Artistic representations of architectural design schemes: Forms, Compositions and Styles) argues that the use of computer technology in architecture expedites the process of drawing and extends the potential for visualisations not viable when drawing with traditional means. The use of technology is also considered to open up the possibility for collaboration, not only by sharing and interaction - through the use of the Internet or social networking sites - but also, as Bell and Thompson (Loss and the Effect of Computer Drawing on Time, Revelation, Iconicity, Authenticity and Morphology in Art Practice) discuss the possibility to work “collaboratively with the machine”. Whilst potentially challenging notions of authenticity and authorship, long attributed to drawing, the submissions focus on and discuss the potential of the collaboration to offer new possibilities to their practices. A further benefit of the use of technology and the Internet is the possibility for drawing to be more accessible to a wider audience away from the gallery space.

    The challenges to drawing with technology, considered within the submissions, materialise when considering how technology interferes with qualities that have become synonymous with drawing - spontaneity, directness and immediacy. As Brice Marden (1979 in Serota 1981 p.56) states whilst drawing, “… there is less between the hand and the image than any other media.” How this quality of drawing is affected by the use of technology, which generally means the use of an interface that removes the directness of mind/body/paper is considered within some of the submissions. Hastings acknowledges that whilst using an iPod Touch to draw, “The finger moves, the mark is made, but it is still disconnected from my body.” The main area of contention appears to be with distance either: physically – the body is not in contact with the drawing surface, or virtually due to the delay between the movement that makes the mark and the resulting translation of that mark by a digital/computerised interface.

    Nevertheless, the challenge of an interface is not considered as noteworthy when concentrating on creativity and its importance in the process of drawing, as Lewis (Drawing and Technology) states, “Technology doesn’t bring anything by itself … it is just a tool”. There is a sense that whilst technology both enhances and challenges qualities attributed to drawing, it is the creative impulse that drives the technology that is of significance. As Ursyn (Computer versus pencil: practice, research, theory) discusses, technology and “virtual assistants” can enhance and provide shortcuts for the drawing process however, there is still a need to develop hand/eye co-ordination and a “good eye”. In agreement with this, Taveres et al. (Teaching How to Draw. Technology and its repercussions On Contemporaneity) state, “Technology should be a stimulus for creative capacities …” Lewis discusses the element of deskilling when using technology to draw, arguing that the element of skill is not removed from the process rather it is present in the “set up” rather than the “production”.

    In the Gibson and Love (Advanced Media Control Through Drawing) paper a differing theme is introduced to that of other submissions - how drawing can enhance technology. They discuss the use of “dynamic drawing” in a live context to provide a performative element to a live audio performance. They liken the performance of drawing to that of either the playing of a musical instrument or that of a conductor, enhancing the audience’s experience of the audio performance. Drawing in this instance becomes the tool of technology.

    It appears that the general consensus from submissions to this call for papers is that technology can enhance drawing processes whilst not completely replacing traditional methods of drawing and the acquiring of skills. Advancements in technology are embraced, however, hand/eye co-ordination and the development of cognitive skills are still deemed important and necessary to learn. As progress in technology continues and definitions of drawing expand those who draw, embrace and exploit the new opportunities arising. As Faure-Walker (Drawing Machines, Bathing Machines, Motorbikes, the Stars…. Where are the Masterpieces?) states, “We gain nothing by being inflexible …” However, whether drawing with today’s technology – computers, iPads, wacom tablets etc - ever becomes viewed, as a pencil has, as traditional drawing media remains to be seen.

    1CRAIG-MARTIN, M. 1995, Drawing the Line, Reappraising Drawing Past and Present, [exhibition catalogue], London: The South Bank Centre.
    2MARDEN, B. 1979 in SEROTA, N. 1981, Brice Marden: Paintings, Drawings and Prints 1975-1980, [exhibition catalogue] London: Whitechapel Art Gallery.