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Looking and responding to drawings

  • Why do artists draw? Debate the importance of drawing and why it is such an enduring artform.
  • Imagine how the drawings were made. Do you think they were created quickly or over a long period? Write a list of the steps that may have been involved. Imagine you are the artist and write to a friend telling them about your artwork and how you approached making it.
  • Record all the types of marks you can see in the drawings. Describe the textures and surfaces and suggest what materials could have been used to make them.
  • Consider the use of colour, or lack of it, in the drawings. How does it affect the mood of the work and your response to it? How would the mood and your response differ if the colours were changed?
  • Discuss the impact that size has on a drawing and on the viewer. How does your physical distance from an artwork when viewing it affect your appreciation of it?
  • What does a title reveal about an artwork? Do you think each title suits its particular drawing? Consider alternative titles.
  • What do you think lies beyond the edge of a drawing? Choose an artwork and create an image to extend the composition.
  • Select an artist and appropriate their style to create a drawing of your own. Look closely at their materials and techniques. What did you find most challenging about adopting another artist’s style?
  • List different categories of subject matter eg portrait, landscape, abstract, narrative, still life. What type do you prefer? Explain your choice to the class or a friend.
  • Choose one drawing and use its subject for a drawing in your own style. How does your work differ from the artist’s?
  • Discuss the way an artist has visualised a story or idea. Write a piece of creative writing inspired by one drawing. Compare your piece to the drawing, noting the similarities and differences.
  • How responsive are artists to the world around them? Look at a drawing and consider if the artist responded to the natural world or built environment or if they retreated to the inner world of their imagination.
  • Choose an artist and research their body of work. What other mediums do they work in? Can you identify their artistic style? Does drawing play an important role in their art practice?
  • Can an erased line be as powerful as a drawn shape? Look closely at a drawing and consider how partially-erased marks might complement articulated shapes to create texture and form. How is the artist’s process over time documented in the work?
  • Almost all drawing involves constructing artificial spaces on a two-dimensional plane. Choose three drawings and identify different approaches to space and perspective. How do the artists organise elements in a work and how do these approaches affect the viewer’s response?
  • If contemporary artists employ paint, collage and sculptural techniques to make a drawing, how do we distinguish drawing from other artistic mediums? Can a work of art simultaneously be a drawing as well as a painting or sculpture? What are the historical precedents for this blending of genres?
  • Research the history of drawing as a studio practice. What role did drawing play as an observational technique in anatomical studies and in preparing a painting? How and when did the practice emerge as an independent art form?
Student viewing an artwork

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