CONTEMPORARY DRAWING MEETS STEM
“A project exploring and promoting drawing methods within the STEM areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics through a series of informational videos.”
What is your relationship to/with drawing?
My relationship with drawing has regularly evolved since my childhood. From copying characters from illustration books to more experimental representations, drawing gives form to my thoughts, feeds my imagination and allows me to create in a more spontaneous way. I see the lines as the skeleton of my work. The act of constructing/de-constructing feels like time rewinds and moves forward, bringing moments of surprises.
Being able to connect with the paper and hearing the soft sound of the materials gives me a sense of wholeness.
I’m interested in the multiple possibilities that arise when drawing. The various stages in the development of ideas transferred onto the paper are often immediate and direct.
The strength of a drawing lies in its progressive process and can be achieved with simple tools. I create many small works by using a single pencil; sometimes on good quality paper and sometimes on blank paper taken from second hand books.
The instantaneous nature of drawing doesn’t necessarily mean that the making isn’t time consuming. Especially when working with plants. The construction of a drawing can take many days or weeks where I switch from planned compositions and more controlled studies to more spontaneous and freer representation.
Drawing allows me to better connect to plants and to expose myself to new experiences and to changing environments. I would observe a section of a plant and apply on paper the construction lines that are necessary to capture its essence. This approach is gradually accelerated and the lines appear more expressive. The challenge is to represent life in what appears still.
One line can create movement and gives life.
Exploring in my sketchbook is very important. I do not fully plan the finished product. I write down and sketch my initial ideas. These ideas are like tentacles which develop into further ideas. I have a background in animation so I always use thumbnails to explore parts of a composition and sketch out my ideas.
In your practice of exploring the relationships between plants, humans and technology, what role does drawing play?
I’m interested in pushing the boundaries of drawing in an unconventional way. The more traditional approach is used as a starting point to construct the work and to create a continuity and connection between the various mediums and materials.
I’m challenging the act of drawing by transferring it digitally and by transforming it into a 3 dimensional artwork.
The initial pencil drawings are transferred onto the tracing paper. The tracing paper drawings are then placed on top of some of the drawings on paper to create depth but to mainly suggest the plant’s organs that are external as opposed to humans and other animals where the organs are enveloped by skin.
The repetition of layering and distortion of lines, forms and colours through the process of printing and manipulating scanned images symbolises plant and human biorhythm, and the notion of reproduction through the use of technology.
The three-dimensional quality of the work combined with the botanical pencil drawings refer to the impermanence of organic elements that decay and are transformed, in contrast to the static synthetic materials.
The drawings and the digitised hybrids of plants and human body parts entangled with plastics are reminders of the notion of biological mimicry in which organisms simultaneously evolve to resemble, and compete with one another.
Drawbridge is promoting drawing as a way of thinking - does the act of putting pen to paper help to teach/learn/understand/memorise in general and in the scientific area of your art practice?
Absolutely. All of the above.
In 2014, I enrolled in a Botanical Illustration correspondence course in the UK. I’ve learned to look at plants in a different way. The scientific aspect of Botanical art is as important as its artistic aspect. By spending many hours drawing plants using line, shape, tone and creating accurate textures and colours, I’ve trained myself to work in a structured and disciplined way. I’ve discovered a whole different world encompassing the unseen beauty of plants.
The slow and repetitive process of drawing to depict accurate representation trains my visual memory. Throughout the years, I’ve become more comfortable and confident with drawing accurately, rarely using my divider. For example, I would draw an invisible line onto a section of the plant and memorise its length. I would then quickly draw the memory of the gesture with a pencil by translating it into a line. The act of drawing becomes a language, a bridge connecting memory and movement, the plant and the drawer.
Drawing, with repetitive lines, patterns and textures, is an ideal medium through which to explore a thought or a subject.
Do you think drawing should be promoted within STEM disciplines. If so, do you have any ideas as to how to do this in the area of science/biology?
Drawing is a wonderful way to concentrate and reconnect with the ‘now’, the present moment. It is used in the field of Psychology, especially in child psychology, as a way of expressing emotions that are deeply buried in us. It might not heal a patient but it certainly facilitates the healing process.
It is through the interaction between the child and the therapist that drawing becomes a language.
Drawing connects people with each other and with their environment. Over the years teaching art and Botanical art to various groups, I quickly noticed the benefits of drawing in the participants. As they became more familiar with their subjects, by spending time with them, their visual memory developed and they felt more connected with nature. They started to identify and distinguish the various greens but most importantly they were emotionally connecting with their subjects.
Drawing can help people to understand science in a more sensitive way. Workshops could be organised to enable artists meet with the learners.
These workshops could be a collaborative process with the artists and learners both sharing their knowledge of their fields.
The learning process will become more fluid in this way and the connection between all parties deeper. Through dialogue and collaboration, all involved could wonder and discover together.
The act of drawing can highlight an idea, a discovery and perhaps facilitate a better understanding of science.
How important is drawing/mark-making to you in the problem-solving phase of art/everyday life?
Klimt used lines to explore the human form and to better connect with the nature of human existence.
In a similar manner, I use lines and apply marks to explore plants and to capture their essence and structure. When developing a drawing, I try to create a conversation between the lines, the material and the surface. I sometimes invent a bifurcated line leading to new possibilities. The drawing is unfurling in front of me, slowly growing, while new vegetal forms are emerging and new spaces are being revealed. The representation of plants is progressively transformed through repetitive lines and layering, and the more spontaneous coloured brush marks.
The initial accurate and controlled botanical pencil drawings shift into a freer and abstracted representation of the vegetal where all the various elements constituting the drawing become intertwined suggesting the fragility and the impermanence of the subject.
Like a plant, my eyes and hand are adapting to their new environment.
Are there any artists from a scientific background you are influenced by?
Biologist and artist Yoko Shimizu
American–Israeli designer and professor at the MIT Media Lab Neri Oxman.