Monday, 24 November 2014

Drawing devices

Drawings as a record of action and process often include various drawing devices as part of the experience.
My earlier post on camera-less drawing reminded me of an area of drawing which uses a variety of strange and complex devices that can enable an artist to record information. One of the earliest examples we have of artists using devices to help them record the world is this image by Durer.

A complex arrangement has been set up to draw a lute in perspective. One person uses a pointer with string attached to indicate specific parts of the object and another person holds a marker so that when the door is shut a record can be made of where the point goes. This would have involved some complex moves. For instance before the door can be shut the stringing has to be moved out of the way. The string is kept taut by having a lead plumb attached to the ‘eye point’ which in this case is a hook set into the wall. It would be interesting to recreate this situation. How accurate would a drawing be? Looking at the situation more closely, Durer has made the drawing of the lute a lot larger than it would actually have been. Obviously he is trying to illustrate the process in detail, but if you look at the distance between the frame that holds the drawing and the ‘eye point’ on the wall you can tell that the frame should be a lot closer to the lute, if the drawing was to be the size it appears to be. At some point someone should try and build one of these devices, I'm sure  we would then have a method of making some quite fascinating drawings.

Another strange drawing device is one introduced already, the camera obscura. But what would this be like to work with? How would you make a device like the one in the image below?

The camera obscura above seems to work almost as an extension of the artist’s body. It operates as a sort of performative piece; if you ever encountered an artist actually working like this, you would probably accept the activity as a cutting edge example of contemporary drawing practice. Imagine walking round town making drawings in this way.
Could you create a 'costume' or 'outfit' that worked as a portable camera obscura? The sedan chair camera obscura (below) is another similar device, but you need a couple of willing helpers to get you around. 

These devices can be seen as sculptural objects in their own right, but they have much potential as objects that could be part of a much more environmental or performative approach to drawing practice.
One of the simplest tracing devices is a pantograph.

This too can be extended to make a more performative event. The very ungainliness and difficulty that begins to stand in the way of making a drawing begins to be interesting in its own right.

There are lots of different jointings that pantograph type machines can have, this is called the Watts connection.

There is a long history of these devices and they make for quite fantastic images in their own right.

Pablo Garcia's drawings of drawing devices 

These devices can of course be reconfigured to accomodate more modern materials, look at the work of Trevor and Ryan Oakes here

 Trevor and Ryan Oakes: The concave easel

If you are inventive enough anything can become a drawing device.

Tim Knowles

Tim Knowles turns a tree into a drawing machine, the artist John Stell (a former LCA Fine Art student) attached spot lights to his legs and photographed the linear light traces of himself walking at night.

John Stell

Alan Storey: Handle With Care

Storey's shipping crates when folded out are seen to be surfaces for specially prepared pen carrages that translate the movements of the container as it is shipped.

Alan Storey: Handle With Care: Montreal to Vancouver
Trans-Canadian highway

Many things can be done to record traces of events. Just leaving things out in the world will usually result in a drawing of some sort or other.

Images of surfaces that have been scratched, simply by heavy contact with the world.

Nikolaus Gansterer is an artist that works in this territory; for example he uses: "a writing tool suspended inside hardware that inscribes on a paper the wave movement of a canal, drawing instruments held on stretched ropes that are pressed onto paper by birds sitting on the ropes, 
papers attached to street cars that brush through the city or even plain papers get buried in the park becoming a test field for microbial activities". See his work here link 

Nikolaus Gansterer: Traces of Spaces
Modern computer technology has of course enabled artists to go much further with these types of ideas. Andrew Kudless has produced some facinating drawings using programmed robotic machines. Find a link to these here.
 "Untitled #13," from "Scripted Movement Drawing Series 1" (2014) by Andrew Kudless


  1. Thank you!!! Ameliorative!!!

  2. Thank you!!! Ameliorative!!!