In the Studio – The Future of Drawing

With the advent of this digital revolution we currently find ourselves immersed in where it is possible to bank, date, order food, book a holiday, sell unwanted clutter and become a Pokemon trainer all from one device and in the space of five minutes, one does wonder what the future holds for age old practices like drawing.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, drawing has moved on from its most basic form of pencil on paper, changing state and becoming much more malleable a concept. It is important to remember that advances in technology and computerisation are not the first potential threats to the future of drawing:

Art history shows us that the realm of virtual movement and virtual bodies stretches from painting to the sculpture, from plane surface to the three dimensional space, and that already in the 1920s the term ‘virtual’ had begun to be used instead of ‘illusory’(Weibel, 2010).

As Weibel evidences, terminology often impacts our understanding of the canon of art history, making it increasingly difficult for new artists to follow the development of art. Often, of course, we go back in history and right wrongs, the desperate clamber to correct gender equality in our art history, or fill in gaps that were forgotten due to social taboo or sensitivity.

To return to Weibel for a moment; drawing has long been complimented with the latest advances in technology, the mechanical pencil or slide rule must have been as ground breaking and controversial as an interactive whiteboard or CAD software has been in our lifetime.

I don’t have great worry that the future of drawing is under threat, it is just simply starting out the next chapter in its own timeline. Perhaps it would be better placed to worry for the perceptions that drawing has among the public, where things are much more concretely defined that art theory permits, and also among artists, art critics and art historians where personal tastes do battle among footnotes of ceaseless debate.

I believe that the future of drawing is in new technology, particularly in product design and architecture drawing is done in a ‘virtual’ plane – the Computer aided design process allowing for greater accuracy, clearer conveying of information and ease of use for the ‘artist’.

Where will that leave the traditional pencil and paper? I seriously doubt either will be abandoned in the wave of further technological advancement. The honourable pencil and paper have already survived many a threat and will likely outlive them all. If anything the addition of science into artistic practice provokes artist and audience to re-examine their most solid thoughts and quickly made perceptions.

Science and technology, the handmaidens of materialism, not only tell us most of what we know about the world, they constantly alter our relationship to ourselves and to our surroundings….If this materialism is not to become a lethal incubus, we must understand it for what it really is. Retreat into outmoded forms of idealism is no solution. Rather, new spiritual insights into the normality of materialism are needed, insights give it proper balance in the human psyche. A small beginning is to record its effects upon one art form” (Burnham, 1968).

Burnham’s writing prompted me to think about my own drawing, materiality has always been central to the drawing process – mine included. No matter the drawing process materiality is the defining factor of a drawing, be it paper type or rendered texture, our sense of touch is hugely important in the appreciation and understanding of art and our surroundings.

Of course, as Huhtamo describes, it is not always possible to experience the materialistic qualities of art:

The emergence of the discourse on haptic visuality in the end of the nineteenth century echoed both the dominant aesthetics and the academic practices of displaying artworks. ‘Touching with one’s eyes only’ was a manifestation of an ideological ‘mechanism’, where the formation of the aesthetic experience was associated with ‘stepping back’ – maintaining physical distance from the artwork. Touching a sculpture or a painting was not only deemed vulgar, but forbidden” (Huhtamo, 2010).

The shift in the importance of monetary value is arguably an overwhelming factor in our denial to interact with artwork on a materialistic level – it is worth noting that there are many religious items around the globe that we are encouraged to touch with many believed to heal or benefit those that touch them.

It is here that I shall predict that the 3D printing process will re-invite viewers to engage with the tactility of drawing. I for one would like to see viewers interact with my ‘drawing’, ever since handling my 3D printed web and finding myself amazed at how different it felt to hold in comparison to how I thought it might feel when on my studio wall,  I have been keen to share this with whomever walks into my studio.

This tactility of 3D drawing and unapologetic inhabiting of multiple planes allows us to question not only our surroundings but our preconditioned behaviour around art. Below is an exploratory video of my 3D printer pen web.

Also of note is an upcoming two day talk on the future of drawing to be held in London in which further thoughts and theories on what the future holds for drawing will be revealed. See more at . I shall certainly be keeping a close eye on that.


Burnham, J. (1968) Beyond Modern Sculpture. Fourth edn. New York: George Brazillier.

Huhtamo, E. (2010) ARTMEDIAHISTORIES. Edited by Oliver Grau. First edn. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT Press.

Weibel, P. (2010) MEDIAARTHISTORIES. Edited by Oliver Grau. First edn. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT Press.


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