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The Big Draw 2015

I was delighted to take part in the launch of this year’s The Big Draw festival in Oxford. The children’s laureate, Chris Riddell, and other distinguished advocates of drawing all helped to open the 15th annual series of events that encourages drawing by people of all ages.

The best sort of activity is one that combines mental effort with sensuous delight. That’s why I love drawing. The sheer physical pleasure of making a line with a good pencil on paper with enough tooth, or roughness, to put up a little resistance is inexhaustible; and the challenge of making the line resemble (as much as possible) the landscape, or still life, or face that we’re looking at is enough to put us on our mettle each time we try.

Drawing helps us see better. We never look at anything with so much attention as when we’re drawing it, and it’s a thinking attention, comparing this shape with that, the breadth of a hand with the span of the glass it’s holding, the darkness of that shadow with the brown of the velvet curtain, the foliage of that silver birch with the quite different leaves of the hornbeam beside it. Learning to draw is learning to see much more vividly and clearly.

It also provides us with a new source of pleasure: artists’ drawings. Great paintings in oils are stupendous, but the drawings and sketches (using pencils or charcoal or pen and ink and paper) the artists made beforehand are eye-opening in quite a different way. When we’ve been spending an hour or so trying to capture the way our children move when they’re young, and then we look at Rembrandt’s astonishing drawing of the toddler learning to walk, we find ourselves silenced with wonder.

Visit the Big Draw website

08 October 2015

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