Workshops

The BIG DRAW 2016: 'Wild Canvasses'

A Big draw festival event 2016, designed and delivered by Ami.

Set in a suburban field in South Manchester, this event was for anyone and everyone, whether they could draw, or thought they couldn't. It involved the building of ‘art dens’ or ‘bivouacs’, structures that semi sheltered the participants but also exposed them to the elements and natural environment. Constructed out of basic materials, including wooden poles, jute and canvas; involving knot tying, lashings and creating structures of various strength and shape, the canvas is stretched (alike a traditional painting canvas) across the framework. The canvas could be drawn on from inside or outside the structure, from a standing, sitting or lying down position.

Drawing is paradoxical in that it allows us to both ‘escape’ the real world (entering a world of fantasy and imagination, making stuff up) and, in opposition, also allows us to ‘engage’ and ‘connect’ in real tangible ways with the real world (through intense or prolonged observation). I wanted to stage an event that facilitated the opportunity for others to engage in this act, especially for people who don’t normally draw. It was art in an unusual setting, not in school, not in a building or gallery, its setting was important. Positioned in a suburban setting, on a through route connecting a local housing estate to the main high street and local amenities, this humble field is home to an abundance of often overlooked wild life, plant and tree species, as well as offering a wide open sky view. The field feels like a tiny patch of wilderness but is situated right in the middle of suburbia.
This big draw event linked the local community with their local landscape and mini wilderness. Its aim was to dispel with the myth that art is for an elite minority that is nothing to do with everyday life of most people.

Lots of people think they cant draw and so don’t try; they are too self-conscious about skill and outcome that they don’t do it. My big draw was about breaking down those pre-conceived notions and engaging with the process, enjoying the process. The field environment and the nature of the unconventional tents to draw on helped people relax and have a go. The drawings were a shared piece of image making, drawers could be anonymous, they could respond to what someone else had done before (this aspect was funny, liberating and inspiring). A kind of alternative graffiti, tribal type experience. ‘Collectively’ the drawings became something aesthetically like tribal art.

Some visitor comments...

"Was really good to mix a bit of outdoor chasing around with some artistic abandon".
"It has helped him to see that drawing doesn’t have to be done at the kitchen table".
"My son doesn’t usually sit down and draw but the novelty of being outside and drawing on tents rather than paper really engaged him."
"It was nice being outside because it was nice and cool. I liked the canvas because you couldn't rub your drawings out so nobody could rub off my pictures". 
"I enjoyed drawing on a surface that others could see and I enjoyed taking to other people about what they were drawing as they were doing it."