Drawing Sessions #2

Julian Shepherd dreams of a time when Drawing Sessions happened each week…

Pulling back the green curtain into the Camp and Furnace bar, meandering past lambs wool jumpered musos and delicious wafts of roasted meat, to my target: Drawing Sessions #2. This 12 hour, experimental, participatory live drawing event is a special Biennial collaboration (and labour of love) between gallery and studios The Royal Standard and the Drawing Paper. Curated and published by designer and music producer Mike Carney and artist Jon Barraclough, Drawing paper is a simple and elegantly presented not-for-profit publication which is freely distributed about Liverpool, and whose spirit had been manifested in exploring the relationships between sound, performance and drawing.

Passing a couple coming the other way with their young daughter chattering, all jovial and animated, as Drawing Sessions came into view, a feeling of great anticipation and excitement descended. The sheer breadth of activity and movement in the windowless, bunker-like space, walls bathed from coloured LED strips, soft background noise from a mixture of artists, amateurs, interested onlookers, and young families with home-made sounds silkily floating through it all from giant speakers. It felt somehow familiar to me, loved and sorely missed – yet completely alien too. It’s difficult to explain.

Scattered and available for all were an abundance of drawing materials, stacks of multicoloured paper and slap in the centre of the room, from within shattered geodesic shells concealing the head and upper bodies of the Volkov Commanders (artist collective), came playfully indecisive pops and frissons resonating softly over their performance, only altering slightly their posture and direction within the space, as visitors sat at their easels or propped up with their boards against the wall reacting and responding with furious scribbling, free thought and pondered motions.

“I was entering the experience with a completely open mind”

Like many of the hundreds of people who came down to participate on the day, I was entering the experience with a completely open mind, having not had the opportunity to attend the widely applauded first session held at The Royal Standard last year. Collaborator Mike talked to me with great energy and positivity about the progression made so far that afternoon, having also moments before (as his producing alter-ego Bantam Lions) performed an hour long set of live organic composition.

A similar personal fascination of basic audio programming and abstraction of sound versus drawing stems from my time at art school in Glasgow, when it was my daily point of reference to find fellow students experimenting with their surroundings in a multi-faceted manner, merging self made imagery, spoken word, sampling audio before manipulating and twisting it through machines of all shapes and sizes. Consigning statements to canvas, acid etched into steel, pressed to vinyl record; it is always a pleasure to be able to revisit the notion that although entirely nostalgic, as a landscape, still greatly inspires me to this day.

Partaking in the fun and exhilarating immersive quality of drawing quite happily and quietly at my easel also brought me home to the reality that I’ve come to forget the time when, as a professional, creative boundaries were also once unlimited, devoid of stress, client amendments at 10.30pm, Photoshop and externally misinformed dictatorship. Drawing Sessions #2 unlocked that lost moment for me, switching it back to a simpler time when the most naturally motivated act of mark-making was from lacking any inhibition and striking great swathes of charcoal across the page, attacking it with an eraser if you felt like it or just leave it to shift and smudge itself and try something else. Delicate line drawing, considered patterns, scratching like a seismograph in a state of panic, it just didn’t matter.

“Delicate line drawing, considered patterns, scratching like a seismograph in a state of panic, it just didn’t matter”

For example, my friend (and The Double Negative contributor) Amy Roberts, whilst laughing her head off wildly, handed me a picture she had just drawn of a manically depressed cow, with rain and lighting flashing out of its udders exclaiming to the viewer “What’s the beef?” ‘Misery moo’ was surrounded in its field by flopping unhappy flowers, staring out with an empty lost expression on their faces suggesting they had just seen an episode of the ‘Xtra Factor’ on ITV2 and liked it. Feet away a young boy with his graphite stick set to paper what I believe resembled a witch, with dark withdrawn features and crooked gothic fingers. However for all I know this could have just been his Maths teacher. Or his mother.

Having completely lost track of time and without having the slightest urge to leave until my stomach started rumbling round like a washing machine, I was delighted and astounded to learn that I’d spent nearly six and a half hours in there. It just made me wish such a great social and creative happening existed in this city more; perhaps the success from this day will be the trigger. I hope so.

Later in the afternoon, whilst Octopus Collective (comprising of Ryoko Akama, John Hall and Glenn Boulter) were performing, I was invited to submit an abstract sketch to whoever it was curled over a tin opener, violin and keyboard wired up to a computer on the floor. From it the musician was in turn (with images held up by a charming blonde assistant) composing the most incredible sounds from them – till he got to mine. Perhaps I had somehow managed to channel through a pencil what I felt the moment earlier that afternoon, when I accidentally cooked my finger on the grill. Within seconds, although he retained a cinematic quality, heads turned as painful screeches and warped plucking of violin strings rose.

Come on mate, my drawing wasn’t that bad was it? Was it!? Oh.

Julian Shepherd

Image courtesy Thom Isom and The Royal Standard

Posted on 27/11/2012 by thedoublenegative