art > Other visual work

Automatic Drawing

organic and convoluted pencil drawing

With my automatic drawings (in 6B pencil) I don’t make any effort to engage in mainstream art practice. It looks a little like surrealism because the process of automatic drawing is similar to the technique of automatic writing borrowed from spiritualism by the original surrealists. I empty my mind and let the emerging images take over, starting either with a series of random marks, or with some small detail on the page. Drawing in a kind af hypnotic state I find it very hard to talk, and don’t like being disturbed or taking a break, sometimes drawing for over four hours and getting through two pencils until I reach the end. If someone is with me, my impression of their presence can appear in the picture. If anyone asks, I’ll draw an automatic portrait in their presence. The key element is to strengthen the link between the conscious self and the less accessible parts of the human psyche.

You can read more about automatic writing on the Surrealism Server, and here are two other good links: the academic index by Alan Mak has a good page with an explanation of automatism, and Monica Sanchez has a page on the history of surrealism. Or try this page on Austin Spare, who used automatic drawing as part of his approach to occult work. The women surrealists are now thankfully fully part of art history (Leonora Carrington was also one of my favourite authors).

Coloured Drawing

Coloured pencil drawing

Careful small, detailed icon-like coloured pencil images (I never got on with paint of any kind) taken from found squiggles, fragments of children’s drawings, collected scraps, dreams and interests in geometry and mathematics, with an admixture of post-theosophical, occult and magical symbolism. These were only exhibited once or twice, on one occasion at Nottingham Castle. See older coloured drawings.

symbols and images

red green and blue symbol

I'm also interested in the evolution of symbols and symbolic systems and, like numerous artists, have mined various occult-based systems for their rich associative patterns, particularly Theosophy, the Kabalah and astrology. Such systems (somewhat remote from the current popular new age movement, even though they are its foundation) contain rich symbolic languages, including a numerical symbolism. Here is the symbol-based coloured drawing from which the miniature on the left is an extract.

Research and sources

As part of the research behind my work, I’m exploring the cultural meaning of integers and their relation to current scientific and mathematical thinking. This process has also informed some of my written work, including a (not yet complete) hypertext piece about the search for perfection in geometry, called The Heptagon.

I like to both explore and deconstruct spiritual philosophies such as Theosophy. Belief is irrelevant here—receptivity to the entire spectrum of human thought and varying models of reality is what interests me, with the potential to highlight different facets of human existence and expand approaches to meaning. It’s my view that adopting only one mode of thought precludes the possibility of accepting the unexpected, and can produce sterile self-referential ideas and formulaic responses, especially when strengthened by group agreement. I think there can be multiple viewpoints and no absolute personal truths, only working hypotheses (excepting scientifically-established concepts).