Making a drawing you can’t see …

well, when you can’t see all of it at one time. This is a long post, but maybe that’s appropriate for the saga of a long – 12 foot – drawing.

One of the pieces I wanted to make for my final show was a long drawing on a roll of paper, that’s about 150cm wide and 10 metres long. My idea was to start at the top and assemble a series of images that linked from one to the other but also offered some sort of narrative or timeline as the work flowed down the paper. I was influenced by my research on memory, forgetting and the narratives we create for ourselves. And I wanted to make a piece with a process that embodied the idea of the constant and inevitable re-remembering of events and re-writing of the narrative.

So having sorted through my ideas about images for backgrounds, images for foregrounds, what I wanted to do as a pixelation, what might be more interesting as an ink drawing, I began at the beginning. I hung the paper slightly higher than I usually would, to allow me about 3 feet of comfortable working area.







The first element is in the top left corner and that flows into a second element to the right. So far so good. But I needed to move the paper up so that I could carry on down the roll. Here it is about 7 feet from the floor.








I did the third element – the pixelated drawing on the far right and started the background for the next elements. But it was getting physically difficult to work on the pixelation on the left – the girl on the tricycle. I couldn’t hang the paper any higher, so the only thing to do was to roll it up and somehow suspend the roll from hooks.








I needed another pair of hands for this but we managed it. And I finished the pixelated drawing.

But now, of course, I couldn’t see most of the drawing as it was in the roll and even if I could have unfastened it (which needs two people), there isn’t room in my studio to unroll it, let alone to step back for an overview. So to test out options for the next section, I had to piece together photographs of the preceding elements and use that to audition possible ideas.




It was going well, and I started the photo transfers for the next section. But because I wanted a gap in the sequence here, this bit of background ended up quite low to the floor and it really is back-breaking to work kneeling or sitting on a concrete floor. So I needed to move the paper again, rolling more into the upper roll. So here it is again, with the working area again at a comfortable height.


Now all the completed elements of the drawing are in the roll and invisible, so again I had to rely on the taped-together print out to check what I was doing. It felt quite precarious, working with 8 feet of rolled up drawing above my head too! But I’m happy to report that the last element is done; the roll is off the wall; and it’s waiting at college for me to install it. More pictures of the finished work later.

I’m pleased that I made this drawing and managed to work through the challenges as I went along. The main obstacle to doing long drawings is needing someone else to help me manoeuvre the roll of paper. If I want to do a lot more, it would be worth constructing some mechanism that would allow me to move the paper up single-handed. And I need to take more photographs as I go along so that I can piece together a print out of what’s gone before. I found when I was looking at photos to put into this post that I get a bit carried about taking pictures of some sections, but then forget to keep on taking them. Somehow, remembering and forgetting finds its way into everything I do.


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