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…

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  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.

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    • 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

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  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.

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    • 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 next #MuseumOfTheFuture gallery space is Room 55, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery of Mesopotamia 1500–539 BC. The civilisations of Babylonia and Assyria flourished during the first millennium BC. Political developments resulted in the incorporation of the entire Near East into a single empire, while increased international contact and trade influenced the material culture of the region.
Room 55 traces the history of Babylonia under the Kassites and the growth of the Babylonian state and empire until it was taken over by the Persian King Cyrus in 539 BC.
'Boundary Stones' carved with images of kings and symbols of the gods record royal land grants. The development of the Assyrian state and empire, until its fall in 612 BC, is illustrated by objects excavated in its palaces. Mesopotamia’s highly developed literature and learning are demonstrated by clay tablets from the library of King Ashurbanipal (r. 668–631 BC) at Nineveh, written in cuneiform script. It's time for Room 54 in our #MuseumOfTheFuture gallery series – the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery of Anatolia and Urartu 7000–300 BC. Ancient Anatolia and Urartu form an important land link between Europe and Asia and lie where the modern Republic of Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and north-west Iran are located today. Objects in Room 54 show different cultures from prehistoric to Hellenistic times.
Examples of Early Bronze Age craftsmanship on display include a silver bull and cup, and business archives of Middle Bronze Age merchants illustrate trading between central Anatolia and Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). Delicate gold jewellery and figurines date from the Hittite period, and Iron Age objects from Urartu include winged bulls and griffins that were used to decorate furniture. Next in our #MuseumOfTheFuture series of gallery spaces it's Room 53, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery of Ancient South Arabia. Ancient South Arabia was centred on what is now modern Yemen but included parts of Saudi Arabia and southern Oman. It was famous in the ancient world as an important source of valuable incense and perfume, and was described by Classical writers as Arabia Felix ('Fortunate Arabia') because of its fertility.
Several important kingdoms flourished there at different times between 1000 BC and the rise of Islam in the 6th century AD. The oldest and most important of these was Saba, which is referred to as Sheba in the Bible.
Room 53 features highlights from the Museum’s collection, which is one of the most important outside Yemen. The display includes examples of beautiful carved alabaster sculptures originally placed inside tombs, incense-burners and a massive bronze altar. You can see the East stairs in the background of this picture. We've reached Room 52 on our #MuseumOfTheFuture series of gallery spaces – the Rahim Irvani Gallery of Ancient Iran. Iran was a major centre of ancient culture. It was rich in valuable natural resources, especially metals, and played an important role in the development of ancient Middle Eastern civilisation and trade. Room 52 highlights these ancient interconnections and the rise of distinctive local cultures, such as in Luristan, during the age of migrations after about 1400 BC.
During the 6th century BC, Cyrus the Great founded a mighty Persian empire which eventually stretched from Egypt to Pakistan. Objects on display from this period include the Cyrus Cylinder (in the centre of the picture) and the Oxus Treasure (in the case to the left of the picture). Monumental plaster casts of sculptures from Persepolis are also displayed in Room 52 and on the East stairs.
The later periods of the Parthian and Sasanian empires mark a revival in Iranian culture and are represented through displays including silver plates and cut glass. The next gallery space in our #MuseumOfTheFuture series is Room 51, Europe and Middle East 10,000–800 BC. Farming began in the Middle East around 12,000 years ago, making possible the social, cultural and economic changes which shaped the modern world. It arrived in Britain around 6,000 years ago bringing a new way of life. This change in lifestyle meant people competed for wealth, power and status, displaying these through jewellery, weapons and feasting.
The objects on display in Room 51 show how the people of prehistoric Europe celebrated life and death and expressed their relationship with the natural world, the spirit world and each other. The object in the centre of this picture is the Mold gold cape, found in Flintshire in 1833 and dating to around 1900–1600 BC. This is Room 50, Britain and Europe 800 BC–AD 43, the next gallery space in our ongoing #MuseumOfTheFuture series. The Iron Age was a time of dramatic change for the people of Britain and Europe. Iron replaced bronze as the material used to make tools and weapons, while religion, art, daily life, economics and politics changed dramatically. The story of these civilisations (known to the Greeks and Romans as Britons, Celts, Germans and Iberians) and their distinct material cultures, is told through decorated Iron Age artefacts known as 'Celtic art' and more everyday objects. In the foreground of this picture you can see a selection of torcs and to the right is the Battersea shield, found in the River Thames in the 1850s.
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