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Automatic Drawing for Inspiration

An intuitive drawing process made famous by the Surrealists, and how it can be used as an exercise.

This process of drawing, or maybe a non-process of drawing technique has been done by many of us since we were little. When you doodle in your notebook during class, most of those mark making is automatic drawing. It's just that Automatic Drawing and Automatism was made famous by the Surrealists led by André Breton.

Automatism is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as

1 a: the quality or state of being automatic                                                               

b: an automatic action                                                              

2: the moving or functioning (as of an organ, tissue, or a body part) without conscious control that occurs either independently of external stimuli (as in the beating of the heart) or under the influence of external stimuli (as in pupil dilation)                                                       

3: a theory that views the body as a machine and consciousness as a noncontrolling adjunct of the body                                                       

4: suspension of the conscious mind to release subconscious images                                       automatism—the surrealist trend toward spontaneity and intuition—Elle

Poet André Breton was strongly influenced by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud who used automatic drawing and writing with his patients, and defined Surrealism in his first Surrealist Manifesto as

SURREALISM, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state by which one proposes to express—verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner, the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.

I first came across the Automatic Drawing technique/play in a book "Surrealism for Kids" by Queensland Art Gallery/ Gallery of Modern Art, which has 8 fun Surrealism games and some templates. In this book, they instruct children to wear a blindfold and draw for fun. But generally these drawings are done by adults without blindfolds. After looking up "automatic drawing," I thought it may be a fun thing to do for me especially because not-knowing-what-to-draw blank page syndrome has always delayed me.

I tried my automatic drawing #2 listening to music with headphones on. I find it helps me to find my flow and focus easier to "draw to" the music, and it's fun. Collage is also meditative.

My autmatic drawing with pencil and some sections in collage. Landscape-like drawings with some textures drawn in lines and some shapes like a tree, vines, and a bird.
Automatic #2 was created to Frozen River Tunes by Dobrinka Tabakova, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, Maxim Rysanov
Pencil line drawing of waves like shapes and bubbles and floating circles and triangles.
Automatic #4 was created to Sweep the Field by Andrew Bird

Some days I just fest like testing different tools. I am right-handed, so I must have drawn my drawing hand as I drew.. something I had never done.

This automatic drawing is also a test of Faber-Castel 8B Pencil and Lyra Graphite Stick 2B.

And here are my automatic drawings in pen.

I find these exercises freeing, meditative, and can quickly achieve some sort of results. I find it interesting that in automatic drawings, individual styles appear. It is extremely useful to find inspirations for future works, and to find your own style.

As examples, look up automatic drawings of Joan Miró, Hilma af Klint, Salvador Dali, and André Masson, and you see their own distinctive styles you see in their paintings.

I think automatic drawing can be used to unblock your creativity as well, in a similar way morning pages (from The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron) may do.





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