“The art of drawing which is of more real importance to the human race than that of writing... should be taught to every child just as writing is,” declared John Ruskin, one of the most prolific writers of the 19th century. The Campaign For Drawing, a British charity established a decade ago on the centenary of Ruskin's death, duly works to raise the profile of drawing for all ages. The idea is that drawing is an essential and woefully underestimated tool for thinking about and engaging with the world.
Drawing is “making marks with meaning," explains Sue Grayson Ford, director of the Campaign For Drawing. It is an art form but also a communication device, used by architects, archaeologists and mathematicians, as well as artists, cartoonists and regular people. From doodles to murals to blueprints, it is how humans communicated before the invention of language, and it continues to succeed where language often fails. Indeed, it is “the best tool we have for understanding and communicating,” says Ms Grayson Ford.
October is "Big Draw" month, an annual programme of international events to get people to draw. In ten years the festival has grown and spread, with over 1,500 events in 20 cities across five continents—from Berlin and Budapest to Los Angeles and Sydney—making this the world’s largest to be dedicated to drawing. Museums, galleries and community centres have been hosting these events throughout the month. But today and tomorrow, London is holding its own Big Draw festival of events in public spaces along the Thames. The idea is to inspire visitors to engage with their environment, to link the two-dimensional act of drawing with the three-dimensional world around them. Events include the chance to draw with the design team behind the Shard, a new London skyscraper in development; to paint what you think might lurk beneath HMS Belfast, permanently moored on the river; to vote for the funniest banner in the Battle of the Cartoonists; and to release your inner scribbler with free materials and advice from professionals.
As a creative skill that is accessible to rich and poor, young and old, drawing is something worth investing in, argues the campaign. Though the charity lacks statistics that confirm this faith in the power of drawing, anecdotally it is clearly a popular activity and a useful skill. Ms Grayson Ford claims that the charity has “invented public, collective drawing” in order to give people the confidence to put pen to paper. In light of recent government cuts to the arts, it is pleasing to see festivals of creativity that are enjoyable, educational and free.