British Museum blog

The Big Draw: why drawing matters

Hilary Williams, Art History Education Officer, British Museum

The act of drawing makes someone really look. Drawing heightens curiosity, one of the concepts on which the Museum was founded way back in 1753 when it aimed to attract the “interested and curious”. While drawing, you are almost asking yourself, how was this made, how did that craftsman or artist form this object, mould it, carve it, colour it and use it?

Drawing objects is part of a journey. A journey asking these questions but also discovering something about yourself, as you look, perceive, question and discover. As Picasso said so eloquently, “I do not seek, I find”.

The Big Draw will take place at the British Museum on Saturday 8 October 2011 and encourages participants to spend 20 to 30 minutes or more really looking at objects through drawing them.

This is our twelfth Big Draw and we’ve taken the theme from the forthcoming exhibition Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman. That theme is the Teddy Bears Picnic and is inspired by Grayson’s use of Alan Measles, his teddy bear and god of his world of creativity, and should appeal to families or children of all ages, from three to 93… Teddies will be posed with the British Museum objects which have inspired Grayson in his choice of objects included in his new exhibition.

Why do I think the Big Draw is important? Drawing can be part of the creative exercise, creating another world for thoughts, dreams, objects or whatever. Drawing can also communicate that creativity. It can be a means of showing your imagination to someone else; what a sublime experience!

Grayson Perry is a marvellous example of this. He uses drawing to create imaginary worlds and a new context for thoughts or, in the exhibition at the British Museum, for objects. We are incredibly lucky that Grayson is coming to discuss why and how he draws, on Big Draw day, at 14.00.

To see the Big Draw in action is inspiring and a real thrill. It’s great to see people of all ages and backgrounds, drawing together, literally and metaphorically, across generations and cultures, without language being a barrier. Everyone can draw!

Come on a journey to draw and find curious new worlds, in front of your eyes and in your imagination!

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

The Big Draw: the teddy bears’ picnic takes place at the British Museum on Saturday 8 October, 11.00–16.00. The full programme is available online. Children and teddy bears must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman
is supported by AlixPartners, with Louis Vuitton.
Book tickets now

Filed under: Exhibitions, Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, , , ,

6 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. Rahul says:

    Drawing is an immese relief for the artists…you can actually see something tangible…


  2. Mrs Gwynedd Sooke says:

    On behalf of Gwynedd Sooke, who wrote her thoughts for the blog after attending Grayson Perry’s lecture during The Big Draw-

    Grayson Perry’s talk was received enthusiastically. One could see why. He has an endearing personality, plays down his gifts, is open and honest about his opinions and beliefs and his journey as an artist…….. Perhaps, he was right in not presuming to demonstrate or instruct, rather to show as he did the results of his own observation and perception. I am sure that the audience would view his current exhibition with fresh eyes as a result of this contact with him.


    • Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, it was marvellous that Grayson gave us a sense of why he draws, as part of a long creative process, a sort of “thinking through” of ideas and then transmitting those thoughts from 2D to 3D gave a wonderful window onto his creative world.

      Hilary Williams, British Museum


  3. annette milnes says:

    Grayson Perry’s exhibition, which I visited yesterday, was one of the most amazing exhibitions I have ever seen. The pots were probably my favourite items on display but the tapestries were wonderful too. His use of colour is amazing and I have always loved yellow and blue together. Each item by Grayson Perry looked to have so much intricacy in them. The other items in the exhibition which had been chosen by GP contrasted perfectly with his own work. The coffin containing GP’s ponytail was very clever and immediately reminded me of ancient Egypt’s approach to death. My son, who came with, me can easily visit again as he lives in Bloomsbury, but I live near Oxford so it is not so easy… but I do have a copy of the catalogue to remind myself of a magical visit.


    • Hilary Williams says:

      Thank you for your comments and feedback on the exhibition. Yellow and blue juxtaposed always seem to work so well, in Vermeer, Van Gogh and Grayson Perry. In a lecture on Big Draw Day, Grayson made a wonderful comment on colour, in response a young boy’s question, “What is your favourite colour?” Grayson said he did not have one because the effect of colour changes depending on which other colour is next to it. A great answer, whether the listener is 8 or 88.

      Hilary Williams, British Museum


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Our #Celts exhibition opens today! It brings together the incredible Iron Age, Roman and early medieval collections of the British Museum and @nationalmuseumsscotland.
Roman control of southern Britain broke down around AD 410. New leaders established Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England, and Roman towns and cities were largely abandoned. Neighbouring communities in Scotland, Ireland and Wales continued to develop their own unique identities. Monasteries in these areas stood out as European centres of art, learning and literacy, perpetuating and reinventing local traditions. Communities here spoke languages that we now call Celtic, and practiced a distinctive form of Christianity.
Striking stone crosses, such as this one found in Monifieth, Scotland, combined ancient Celtic curves with Anglo-Saxon knotwork and interlace designs to express these distinctive Celtic identities in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. This sculpture may have been a personal memorial or grave-slab.
Slab of grey sandstone with a cross on one side. From Monifieth, Angus, Scotland, c. AD 800–900. National Museums Scotland.
Find out more about #Celtic art and history and book tickets at Our #Celts exhibition opens today! It brings together stunning objects from the British and Irish Isles as well spectacular loans from across Europe.
This magnificent cauldron is one of the most important and intriguing finds from ancient Europe. It reveals connections between communities thousands of miles apart. Although it depicts objects used in central and western Europe,
it was found in a bog near Gundestrup in Denmark, beyond the northern edge of the Celtic regions. The style of the designs suggests that it was made further east, in Bulgaria or Romania. The strange animals and cross-legged pose of
the antlered figure hint at even wider influences, from as far afield as Asia. The scenes on the panels give a glimpse into a world of ancient myths, and the stories of gods and heroes whose names are now lost.
The Gundestrup cauldron was probably reserved for important rituals. It is likely that most people would have viewed it from a distance, seeing only the forbidding faces of gods and goddesses on the outer panels. The fantastical scenes on the inside would have been revealed to those allowed to experience the cauldron close up.
Gundestrup cauldron. Iron Age, c. 100 BC–AD 1. Found in Gundestrup, northern Jutland, Denmark. @nationalmuseet, #Denmark.
Find out more about #Celtic art and history and book tickets at Our major new #Celts exhibition is now open! Come on a 2,500-year journey tracing what it means to be Celtic...
The peoples first referred to as Celts lived across much of Europe north of the Alps, in villages or fortified hilltop settlements. Although not a single distinct group, they were interconnected, sharing cultural ideas across the continent. The objects they made for feasting, religious ceremonies, adornment and warfare were both stunning works of art and powerful ways to convey shared values and beliefs. Their unique abstract style set them apart from the classical world, but their technological accomplishments stand on par with the finest achievements of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
2,000 years ago valuable objects like this were cast into rivers. This magnificent shield was found in the River Thames at Battersea Bridge. It was not made for serious warfare as it is too short to provide sensible protection. Instead, it was probably made for flamboyant display. The highly polished bronze and glinting red glass would have made for a great spectacle.
The Battersea shield. Iron Age, c. 350–50 BC. Found in the River Thames, London, England.
Find out more about #Celtic art and history and book tickets at This 7th-century coin may be the earliest known depiction of a Muslim, the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik. The Umayyad dynasty were the first Muslim rulers to govern Egypt. This coin shows Abd al-Malik holding a sword and surrounded by the shahada, meaning ‘the testimony’ – a statement of faith in the Oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as God’s Prophet.
Discover how Egypt’s religious and political landscape was transformed over 12 centuries in our #EgyptExhibition, opening 29 October.
#Islam #Muslim #coin #Islamic Christians adopted the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible as their Old Testament and understood many of its stories in the context of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This ivory box, known as a pyxis, shows Daniel, who was thrown into a lions’ den by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar but saved by his faith. On the other side, an angel rushes forward behind a ram, referring to the story where a ram is substituted for Abraham’s son at the last minute as a sacrifice to God.
Discover how Egypt’s religious and political landscape was transformed over 12 centuries in our #EgyptExhibition. In 4th-century Egypt many people of different faiths wore amulets, which were believed to provide protection. The menorah – a seven-branched lampstand – is one of the few ways of identifying Jewish material in Egypt. In time, it became the most common symbol of Jewish identity. Judaism never became a state religion in Egypt, but it had a thriving Jewish population from the Roman through to the Islamic periods. 
Find out more about Jews in Egypt in our forthcoming #EgyptExhibition

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