Wednesday 14 December 2011


The BIG DRAW is a national celebration of drawing that happens every year in the month of October, during which museums, galleries and other cultural sites host events that encourage people of all ages to get drawing. This year Arnolfini took part in the BIG DRAW with a day of free activities centred around their current exhibition called Museum Show. 2011 has been an important year for Arnolfini as it celebrates its 50th Anniversary. Museum Show Part 1 and Part 2 is one of their largest and most ambitious shows to date. It charts the curious tendency among artists to create their own museums.

For The BIG DRAW I conceived a workshop that would respond to the exhibition by setting out to create a Museum of Drawing in the gallery. The title of the workshop is Speed Drawing and takes the formalized process of speed dating and applies it to drawing. The purpose is the same: to encourage people to meet a large number of new people; the outcome happens in the medium of drawing.

In the Light Studio, chairs were set up in a circle, in pairs facing each other, where participants met face to face in a series of five-minute slots, and at the end of each five-minute period a bell rang to signal to the participants to swap drawings and move on to the next chair.

I felt this workshop offered a great opportunity in that all the participants had meaningful interaction with each other. After the initial uncomfortable moment that comes from being face to face with a stranger, everyone got really involved, focusing intensely on recording on paper the person opposite them.

This environment became a guideline, a set of margins within which we were able to share what drawing means to each of us. I have always been fascinated by the drawn line, both in its traditional use and its relevance in contemporary drawing practice. This publication shows how it can be used as a device for bringing people together and connecting with each other through the simple act of drawing.

Working within the context of Arnolfini provided a platform for experimentation, a situation in which visitors could engage in an activity they may not have experienced before and try something new. It is wonderful to see what can happen when chance and experimentation are allowed to play a part in the process.

Throughout the day we saw hundreds of people of all ages and abilities come together and join in the activities with a great amount of energy. As the day progressed the drawings built up and started to form a timeline of our progress. The sheer quantity of drawings produced, as well as the vast range of approaches that demonstrate many different ways of seeing, overwhelmed me.

It seemed only natural to want to preserve what was achieved on the day, and that is how the idea for this book was born. At the heart of The BIG DRAW lies a powerful ethos of sharing which is why I decided to collect the drawings produced and share the outcome in the form of a document that would allow this project to have the widest possible audience.

It is with great pleasure that I present this publication: a celebration of the wonder and beauty of drawing.


Many individuals have helped bring this project to fruition. Above all I would like to thank Nik Slade with whom it has been a great pleasure to work.

I am also particularly grateful to Max McClure for his beautiful photographs of the event.

In addition, I would like to thank all the staff at Arnolfini, including Christine Atha, Daniel Cioccoloni, Faye Joines, Sorana Vieru, Nadia Addonizio, Anna Kot and Lucy Odlin for their immense support throughout the day.

I am also extremely grateful to Arts Council England and Bristol City Council for allowing this project to happen and to The Campaign for Drawing for inspiring people to draw.

Finally, my particular thanks go to all the people who participated in the BIG DRAW, for their eager response and hard work on the day, which have made this book possible.

And a big thank you to Rachel at Bristol Bound for her wonderful job on binding the book!