Automatic Drawing Class

Two people sit on the floor and face each other. They put a sheet of paper on a board between them. They hold a pencil together with their four hands. They relax and let the pencil wander where it will
Automatic Drawing

Almost Invented

Automatic Drawing is a technique that Lee Le and I invented in March 2008. Or at least we thought we’d invented it at the time. In later research we discovered that people had actually been using this practice for centuries!

a drawing of a deep, tornado-like vortex of sepia-toned circles on white paper
Automatic Drawing by Linda & Glenn
close up of the lines and texture of a part of Linda and Glenn's automatic drawing
Automatic Drawing by Linda & Glenn, detail

Technique

The idea is to relax your conscious mind and try to create a tandem drawing without intentionality. Things like a glass of wine and candlelight can help set the mood.

Cross your legs and sit facing your partner. Put a sheet of paper on a board between you. You can rest it on the tops of your legs. I like using a sheet about 22″ x 30″ (56 x 76 cm). Any paper will do. Cheap butcher paper is great. A glorious sheet of paper like Rives BFK is, well, glorious. Then with all 4 of your hands, jointly hold a pencil or some drawing tool. If it is a pencil, a fat piece of graphite is nice. Sticks of pastel, or Conté crayon, or charcoal are nice. A white Conté crayon on black paper can be pretty cool.

The scenario makes some people laugh. Laughter is a good thing, so enjoy it! However your pencil is more likely to move if you’re in a more relaxed state. Maybe a bit like meditation. For some people they have to relax for a while before the pencil will finally move. For me personally, it usually takes off pretty quickly.

Your eyes could be open or closed. Open can be a more intimate dance with your partner. Closed can be a more released and meditative drawing. I’m usually silent during the drawing, but others might carry on a conversation and let the brightness or darkness of the topics reflect in the nature of the marks made.

There’s definitely no correct or incorrect result! Just try to let your ego and intentionality relax and let the pencil that you share with your partner “dance” on its own.

Joe and Linda hold a pencil between them and allow it to roam across the surface of a sheet of paper
Joe & Linda making an automatic drawing
deep, dark, rich sepia circles on a white sheet of Rives BFK paper
Automatic Drawing by Joe & Linda
conte crayon marks on white paper
Automatic Drawing by Saeef & Waleed
graphite signatures on a white sheet of paper
Saeef & Waleed’s signatures on their automatic drawing

What are your educational insights?