Extensive Experimentation with Media

In this assignment, you will be developing study pages of pure experimentation with a variety of media and two or more papers. Your experimentation will not be tied to an observational image, but will consist of making marks for their own sake. The main goal is to experiment with a wide range of lines, tones, marks, and erasures through:


  • a variety of arm and hand motions

  • a range of energies and drawing tempos

  • a range of pressures with the medium

  • a variety of media


Isolating media use from observation and concept, you will be able to experiment freely. The process of putting the various media down, moving around, erasing them, treating them with care, with energy, with aggressiveness will be the focus. Try all the processes suggested below, plus anything else that you want. This is pure experimentation; the only way not to succeed here is not to push it far enough. Keep moving from one page to the next, using each medium and looking for different responses.


Experiment with all of the different types of media that you purchased for this class. Try the different media on the different types of paper that you have. Feel free to introduce other media and other types of paper.


Here are some ideas for experimentation.


Step 1: Isolate Joints


An interesting experiment to begin with is to isolate the different joints of your arm and hand-shoulder, elbow, wrist, and knuckles and practice moving one joint at a time. Observe the latitude of movement of your shoulder compared to your elbow and wrist and knuckles.


Draw with the motion coming only from your shoulder. Keep all the other joints inflexible. Stand back from the page and then draw with great arcing motions, from your shoulder. Try this with each of the media on each page.


Next, draw only with your elbow to see what the range of motion is. Be certain to keep your shoulder, wrist, and knuckles locked in place.


Next isolate your wrist, locking all other joints. See how quickly and how flexibly you can move your wrist; push the limits to see just how convoluted you can get the motion. The motion will be shorter than in the shoulder and elbow drawings, but perhaps more controlled.


Next draw with only your knuckles to see how restrictive this feels.


Move back up to the wrist then at the elbow and then your shoulder. Identify where the sweep comes from, where the control comes from, and how all the joints work together to give you maximum possibilities in drawing with variation in weight, speed, value, rhythm, and expression. In the process, sense the varying pressures that you can exert from very light to very heavy and how this pressure influences the drawing process.


Step 2: Tones


Now with each of the media, create tones on the pages. Each time you create tone, be certain to make a complete range from very light to medium to very dark. Experiment with the buildup of the tones by drawing with the side and with the point of the charcoal, graphite, and any other media. Then, rub into each with a soft cloth or chamois. Try erasing into the toned areas in as many different ways as you can, developing his many different tonal variations as possible. Experiment with soft and sharp edges and create space with changes in tone and edges.


To push the experiment further, think about atmospheric weather changes and create areas of energy based on windstorms, dust storms, hurricanes, torrential rains, cloud formations, hot windless atmosphere, cold damp atmosphere, and so on. In other words without drawing from any thing, imagine different energies and try to address them with the media. Go for rich, deep, dark areas and beautifully changing middle tones. Put the medium down, erase into it, put it down again, push it around, erase it, filled it up with dark fresh tone top of rough middlegray tone, and so on.


Use every combination of media: vine and compressed, graphite and compressed, and so on. Note the obvious and subtle differences among them.  For every medium, coax out nuances, until you have developed tones that amaze you. Continually stand back from the drawings to see the developments.


Step 3: Lines and Marks


Now, using each medium on each paper, draw lines and marks on top of the tones that you have already developed as well as on any bare areas of the papers. Range from large gestural slashing lines to minutely, carefully done attentive marks. Draw in different speeds, quick, quick, quick, for two minutes and then frantic for 30 seconds. Then slow down and draw as slowly as you can with as much pressure change within the lines and among the marks as possible. Make marks and lines change from light to dark, thick to thin, using the side of the charcoal and other media, then the tip of the charcoal, twisting your wrist into contortions, and using no wrist with just the shoulder, then all from the elbow, twisting the charcoal in your fingers, and so on. Make sharp, jabbing marks as well as long, undulating, curving line; change the rhythm again and again: short, staccato, long, and drawn out. Try holding one type of medium in one-hand and another medium in the other hand, and then draw with both hands simultaneously. Have both hands and medium create mirror images of each other; started together at the top of the page and circle out to the edge. Stand back and edit.


Step 4: Erasing and Drawing


Focus on the two types of erasers. Hold the eraser in your writing hand and charcoal and the other and continue to create tones, lines, and marks, but draw with the eraser. Do not think of it as a erasing, but as drawing. Change surfaces and transform areas with the eraser. Stand back, consider, edit, push, and change.


Step 5: Spitz Water


Using water from a spray bottle, spritz a small area of the paper and draw into the damp surface. Using all the media in and out of the damp areas, continue to layer lines into tones, tones into marks and so on. Create areas of transparency with vine charcoal, put compressed over it, push it around with your hands, and fingers. Develop opaque areas of dense surface and create different spatial illusions; push it.


By the time upi stop, you, your sheets of paper, and the floor should all be covered in charcoal, graphite, eraser bits, and so on. You should have developed rich, varied, free experimentations, and you should feel loosened up, and have a sense of what the various media can do on different types of paper.



Minimally adapted from Drawing: Structure and Vision, by Drury and Stryker