Drawing music is something that has been with me for a while, since I started doing it during ‘Blind Week’ in the second year of my degree (1999). This was a week in which I wore adapted goggles (then used for training purposes, for professionals working with visually impaired people) these gave me the effect of having severe cataracts. I took the decision to do this, not in anyway as an attempt to ‘know’ what it was like to live with a visual impairment, but as a way of researching for my then dissertation research I needed to become absorbed in the subject through doing. This research looked at creating and experiencing art without focusing exclusively on the visual, and was the beginning of an interest in art and the senses that shapes my practice today.
One of the many states I found myself in during blind week was, unexpectedly, boredom. Not being able to read, watch television or observe the visual world around me, music suddenly became very important. I started to visualise patterns and forms within it and then, as a release, began to draw it. I have continued to do so, alone or with other people in workshops (see previous blog as an example)
My method of drawing music, and other sounds, is close to dance, with the act of listening and physical response at its core. Through drawing in this way, I am attempting to bring an immediate connection between mind and body that results in a drawing. This process involves working with your eyes closed and using both hands, moving in response to the layers and speed the of sound heard, and consequently building up an energetic drawing of layered marks.
Working in this way has often evoked a strong emotional response in both the drawer and anyone observing. The appearance of people moving and drawing with their faces ‘closed’ (eyes shut), is as fascinating as the drawings they produce. In this sense, as well as a sensory drawing method, it is a participatory piece of work with a performative element - exploring a solitary, internal, act of perception and a shared act of creativity. For me, this piece of work also has connections with ritual /spiritual gatherings within other cultures.
My renewed focus on this aspect of my practice has led to a desire to develop the drawings, both by pushing the materials and techniques I use and by staging a series of participatory music drawing events. There are many possibilities within the music drawing that I intend to explore through the events, such as collaborating with musicians, dancers (as drawers in amongst myself and the general public) and using silent disco technology.
The silent disco aspect will enhance the performative aspect of a group of people drawing music. The silence will bring the sounds made whist drawing into focus, and leave observers in the dark as to the source of the drawing. At interim periods the music can be played out and heard by everyone in the room, briefly connecting the key components of a music drawing event: listening, movement, drawing and the solitary creative act within the shared. It will also enable participants to choose from to different ‘channels of music’ with one person furiously drawing jimi Hendrix while their neighbour glides to classical. Other methods I am looking into are drawing live music, and exploring the influences each venue could have on collaborating musicians, music selected and participants
I have been experimenting with colour and contrasting materials. Though the drawing is never seen until I open my eyes, the result informs me as to how I can take it further. Control of the drawings comes mainly through the music chosen and drawing materials selected - I draw with both hands and two contrasting materials tend to ‘layer well’ showing the history of the movement and marks made, during one song. Though sometimes a built up solid mass of lines, represents the experience of listening better, to Indian drumming for example.
I have also begun drawing back into some of the drawings, something that at first felt strange, like I was cheating. I now see this as a balance between letting my ‘blind’ response lead and my sight edit, or collaborate with. If the drawing at the end of the song does not feel right as a visual representation of my memory of listening/drawing, then I will pull out and highlight elements within the drawing by adding tone, leaving still markers amongst the speeding lines.
Recently I have drawn with musician Amalie Roberts, and filmed this. I intend to create a film from the music drawing events and this gave me the first chance to imagine how it might, or should look. Looking back over the films it was interesting to see the drawings develop. I noticed at the start of the drawing I lay out a spine, this gets added to as the music continues becoming more emphasised and intense, or grown over completely. This has given me the idea to try drawing with a timer next, dividing the song up into sections of time, and creating a series of drawings for one song, rather than layering in one place.
Amalie and I drew each song completely differently, our drawings our are very recognisable from one another and show that we listen differently. Looking at the drawings I think I focused on lyrics more where as Amalie, focuses on the structure of the music, the rhythms. The next time we draw together we have decided to use Amalie’s own music, as well as a selection she thinks will be good to draw by other musicians. I know that when I hear a song whilst drawing it, I listen in far more depth, just as I ‘know’ an object through drawing it. I am looking forward to finding out how this applies to musicians drawing their own music.
Alongside the actual drawing I have been working to gather support for staging the events, from venues, musicians, dancers, other participant ‘drawers’ and a filmmaker. This is progressing well and I have interest in the events from two galleries, one in Liverpool and one in Manchester as well as a music venue in Manchester. As this work links to dance and music as well as drawing and the visual arts, I am excited by the idea that events can take place in venues across the disciplines. Of course I will need to source some funding to match this support, so I am expecting a summer of drawing until I drop and lots of admin!
To see more of my recent music drawings and films follow the links below. As the drawings continue I will keep adding to flickr and vimeo so keep an eye on them if our interested.
Any suggestions of music I could draw are very welcome, leave comments if you have an idea.
Thanks to Andrew Brooks for filming and photography and Amalie Roberts, my brilliant drawing partner.
Drawings all by and copyright of Naomi Kendrick 2010, from the top: Music drawing during 'Blind Week' 1999, Classical 6/10, Indian Drumming 6/10, Patti Smith colour 1 6/10, B Classical 6/10, Patti Smith 2 6/10.