Drawing by Dorothy Smith

Text by Dorothy Smith published in ‘..the lives we live..’, Grangegorman Public Art in December 2020


Drawing a rich metaphorical word.

We draw water

draw tickets
draw curtains
draw guns
draw breath
draw things behind us
draw things to us
draw conclusions
draw attention to ourselves
We can withdraw from a person or place
We can become withdrawn
We can withdraw to a drawing room
We are drawn to certain people and places
We are drawn to activities and objects
As people we are drawn together
People have been hung, drawn and quartered
We draw pictures.

What is happening when we draw?

To draw implies movement, a shift from one place or way of being to another, a transition from one state or function to another.
The water moves from the well or river to the bucket and becomes a liquid to drink or wash with. The curtains extend across the window and block the light, provide privacy. Air moves from outside our body to inside and becomes part of us. We remove ourselves from others physically or emotionally. Our focus, attention and physical being shift when we are attracted to new places, people, objects and activities.

The act of drawing embodies movement; a pencil moving across a page, a stimulus transformed into marks, information and ideas being sifted, sorted, processed. The source material from which we draw can be visual, conceptual, emotional, it can be a clear idea or a ‘niggling’ thought.  Drawing transforms this source into another state, in a specific place, giving it form and function. Some ideas will never be realised or generated if not worked out through drawing. Drawing is searching. It is a way of thinking. It makes ideas visible.

Drawing is an intrinsic part of human existence. Drawing goes back through time and form, from a luminous example such as the Lasceaux cave drawings of 20,000 years ago, to ipad sketches of  the present day. Everyone, with few exceptions, has drawn at some stage in their lives. We start drawing at an early age often before the age of one. Drawing is non-discipline specific; architects, cartographers, engineers, and all designers draw to capture, develop and visualise ideas, to communicate. Drawing has a role in medicine, maths, the sciences, and communications. Drawing is not the preserve of the artist.

Drawing is both a verb and a noun. To draw is a process. A drawing is a product. All drawing takes place somewhere on this continuum from process to product. In early childhood children are involved in the process of drawing with little concern for the look of their drawing. Teenagers become concerned with the look, wanting to get it ‘right’. Where anyone’s work lies on this continuum is dependent on the person, the discipline and the context in which the work is happening. Some people will work exclusively on one end or the other of this continuum, others will, in exploring an idea or over the course of a project move back and forth along its full length. No two people draw alike. No two people see in the same way.

Drawing is a quiet word. It has an intrinsic psychological component. It operates in a private sphere and requires concentration, attention with an openness to chance. It is a unique way of interacting with the world and with oneself. It is an embodied activity that necessitates the moving, distilling, arranging and sorting of information from, potentially, many sources into new ideas and knowledge.

Dorothy Smith, May 2020

This text was based on a short talk I gave at Drawing Together, a public seminar which took place in St Laurence’s Church, Grangegorman, Dublin, 12 October 2019. Curated by Conor Sreenan GDA (Grangegorman Development Agency), held in association with the Irish Architecture Foundation Open House Dublin. Drawing Together launched a series of City Drawings by plattenbaustudio. These drawings, commissioned by GDA, marked the 10thanniversary of breaking ground at Grangegorman, following the masterplan for the site drawn by architect James Mary O’Connor of Moore Ruble Yudell Architects. The event gathered architects Valerie Mulvin, James Mary O’Connor, Jennifer O’Donnell, Jonathan Janssens, moderated by artist Dorothy Smith, to discuss the role and value of drawing in city-making.