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Drawing activities

  • Draw with black pencil on white paper then with white pencil on black paper. How does the effect differ?
  • Shade a piece of white paper using a thick piece of charcoal then use an eraser to draw into the tone to reveal white lines and shapes.
  • Experiment with unconventional materials such as shoe polish and mud on flattened cardboard boxes.
  • Use water on a paved surface to create ephemeral drawings. Document your drawings before they disappear. How do the documented forms differ from the originals?
  • How did drawing with an eraser, shoe polish, mud and water compare to drawing with a pencil? What do you need to consider differently as an artist? How did handling these materials make you feel? Did you prefer one material to another?
  • Create a line drawing with a pencil, a tonal drawing with charcoal and a loose ink drawing with a brush – all depicting the same subject. Compare your finished drawings. What were some of the positive and negatives of each approach? Is there one you prefer, and why?
  • Draw without taking your drawing utensil off the page. What was challenging about this exercise?
  • Draw something from observation without looking down at your drawing. Are you pleased with the result? What did you learn?
  • Create a series of abstract pencil drawings using colours that reflect the way you feel. Overlay the works with paint then scratch back to expose some of the drawing beneath. Add another layer of drawing on the top.
  • Select a subject then draw it twice: once from close observation and once from a photograph. Compare the drawings and discuss the differences between each approach.
  • Select a well-known story to illustrate. Consider the materials you will use and how the types of marks and strokes will add to the effect.
  • Go on a journey to the beach or in a bush or urban environment and collect items of interest. Bring this collection of found objects to class and create an arrangement to draw. Experiment using a lamp to intensify shadow and manipulate highlights in your still-life arrangement.
  • Create a drawing based on the interior of your art room, classroom or home. Place yourself in the composition in a creative way.
  • Use a view finder to plan a composition. Consider various angles and make a few quick thumbnail sketches. Develop the composition you are most satisfied with.
  • Working in pairs, ask one person to select an existing drawing and describe it aloud while the other person draws what is described to them. Compare the new drawing to the original artwork. Swap roles and repeat the process. Discuss your experiences and the results.
  • Of all the drawings you’ve created, selected the one you think is the most successful. Give it a title and write an artist’s statement about this work. Hold a class exhibition and ask the audience to respond to the works.

These drawing activities can be used in conjunction with the exhibition Contemporary Australian drawing: 20 years of the Dobell Prize and the Dobell Australian Drawing Collection.