Creative Dundee

Blog: Drawing as Thinking

Our blog series regularly invites guests to share their thoughts on different aspects of life in Dundee, their own practice, and anything in between.

In this edition, we hear from Anita Taylor, Dean of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, on drawing and how it can be something that develops new community and thinking.


Throughout my career, as an artist, educator and curator I have been committed to developing programmes that have contributed to a resurgence of drawing in creative practice and education. Drawing is both a sophisticated and vital means of thinking and communicating and readily accessible to all. As a primary means of expression, and an integral means of creative development and ideation, reflection and information gathering; so investing time, energy and resources in the development of our knowledge, understanding, skills and facility in and through drawing seems critical to me. Drawing is essential for cognitive development and enhanced communication and expression; and I believe it to be a crucial means to comprehend and navigate our worlds.

This extended period of mass lockdown, quarantine and isolation has been one in which creativity and culture have been reinforced as a life-affirming and connective tissue – for expression, communication, and critical reflection on what it is to be human. With social injustice, inequity, and the precarity of social, economic and political systems truly exposed through the challenges the global pandemic has presented, creativity and culture have sustained and facilitated the exploration of emotional, spatial and temporal dissonances and dislocation and have enabled us to attend to ambiguity, loss and longing; to re-evaluate what is important to us. Drawing has proved a critical activity for many to try to make sense of our worlds – an activity for all, a means of communication and expression, an intermediary for our imaginations, a channel for reflection. A vital force of creativity has reclaimed space in everyday lives through drawing and making, with tangible benefits for health and wellbeing.

As founding Director of the annual open exhibition dedicated to drawing in the UK, now known as the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize (1994 to the present day), and in establishing Drawing Projects UK in 2009 to develop, organise and promote projects that provide opportunities to experience drawing and thereby gain knowledge and understanding of drawing in the UK, I work closely with an astute, committed, and ever-growing community of drawing practitioners, educators, curators, collectors, supporters and advocates.

In 2013, I returned from Australia where I was Director of the National Art School to become the Dean of Bath School of Art and Design – and spent some time looking for a new live-work space in the South West of England, finally finding Bridge House in Trowbridge, the county town of Wiltshire. This find fortuitously provided the opportunity to expand Drawing Projects UK to become an independent centre for drawing and contemporary art – an extension of my research and public engagement – with the support of my partner, Gary Sangster, who has extensive international experience as a curator and museum director, and also in research, enterprise and business development. 

Almost 6 years on, Drawing Projects UK in Wiltshire has evolved into the hub we came to envisage, providing a place for making, seeing, and discussing drawing and contemporary art, and an extended drawing community and providing a welcoming space for all to meet, to test ideas, and to generate new work. There is a gallery, café, ten studios and workspaces, a project space and meeting rooms, as well as residential accommodation for visiting artists and our live-work space. Drawing Projects UK presents a programme of Drawing Sessions, Drawing Discussions, Open to Draw projects and residencies, and hosts the Poetry Stanza, Music Project, Girl Friday Breakfast Club, and many community groups as well as a presenting a curated programme of exhibitions and events on and off-site.

We continue to support and present the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize exhibition as well as supporting associated projects, such as Barbara Walker’s Vanishing Point exhibition for Hastings Contemporary as the outcome of her Evelyn Williams Award, and the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize as an invited project at the inaugural Draw Art Fair in London in 2019. Drawing Projects UK has established itself as a collaborative and developmental platform and resource for facilitating and testing the role of drawing within creative practice with local, national and international participants and audiences. For us, 2020 has meant re-imagining how we connect and present programmes that rely on personal interaction and the exploration of creativity through physical making and engagement. We were fortunate to gain Arts Council England funding to re-open our doors in October and to present the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2020 (before it traveled to Cooper Gallery in Dundee) with 665 visitors in person and a much larger audience for our online Drawing Discussions and residency undertaken by Drawing is Free and that have continued alongside the exhibition in London.

So, why am I telling you about Drawing Projects UK in Wiltshire? Since being appointed as Dean of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in 2019, we have been developing plans for a second iteration of Drawing Projects UK in Dundee using our current version as the model for this development. Lockdown has inevitably slowed everything, but we have continued to develop our plans and to work through the new challenges that the impact of COVID-19 has presented to these.

We still have a number of things to put in to place to achieve this given the impact of the pandemic. However, with the interest and support for this project that we have received to date, including the helpful and positive response of Dundee City Council to our vision and model, we aim to get there. We are really looking forward to realising these plans and to contributing to the creative and cultural life of the city in this way, as well as through my role with DJCAD and the wider University.

If you would like to know more about Drawing Projects UK or how to become involved, please see our website: drawingprojects.uk or email: info@drawingprojects.uk

Follow us on Twitter: @DrawingProjects or Instagram: @DrawingProjectsUK

Anita Taylor in her studio.

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