Dr Curie Scott is an academic, a lecturer and an artist. Her research has led her to explore intuitive drawing, the process of doodling or mark-making without a plan or idea in mind.
Naturally, we were excited to catch up with Curie, and learn more about her practice, approach and her book, Drawing, part of the Arts for Health series.
Interview: Eleanor Pender in conversation with Dr Curie Scott.
Image description: White text reads, 'Drawing to Think. A Conversation with Dr Curie Scott. A painting is in the background, gold lines painted on black, weaving in and out of each other, like water ripples on a beach. Dr Curie Scott's book cover reads 'Arts for Health, Drawing by Dr Curie Scott'.
Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your practice?
I used to draw when I was younger but stopped around 12 years old, and became re-acquainted through an unusual process. I found that drawing helped explain concepts when I was teaching students training to become health professionals. I am deeply interested in how adults think and learn, especially through creative processes. I won a scholarship at the University of Brighton to research how drawing might help students learn. In my first year, I focused on the techniques and the theory of drawing.
Now, I draw most days. At the moment, I enjoy drawing patterns with lines using dip pens with ink. Drawing threads through all my work practices as I teach and coach people to use drawing to think about confusions, uncertainties, and complexities. This can be with university students, doctors, and other health professionals as well as individuals and teams looking into business development, career planning, and relational conflict. Based on my PhD on drawing to think, I was invited to write a book on how drawing improves our health and wellbeing. It is research-based with suggestions of different drawing techniques that anyone can try out.
We’d love to hear a bit about your process, and how you go about creating your drawings.
My PhD focused on intuitive drawing, the sort of drawing process where you doodle or where you are mark-making without a definite idea of what the final product will be. These are drawings that just ‘become’ a final piece. For example, I draw sinuous lines in ink that build up slowly, and I am particularly drawn to metallic inks.
The drawing process continues to intrigue me. I live by the sea and am fascinated by the famous John Ruskin quote about nature not having any straight lines. So, my drawings end up being flowing patterns that represent natural elements such as water, landscapes and rhythm. I carry a simple ‘drawing kit’: different types of pens in a pencil case, a sketchbook as well as a few card blanks.
You are an artist and an academic. How do these two come hand-in-hand? Why do you think that drawing is so effective in communicating a message and affecting wellbeing?
Yes, that’s an interesting question. It’s probably the other way around - I’m an academic lecturer/ researcher first and artist second! I am particularly intrigued about the purpose, meaning and gain that drawing provides - and the research is fascinating! It demonstrates that to represent an item, such as a kidney, through drawing we must study that item closely. Free drawing, or doodling, reduces anxiety and improves information recall in both young and older people. And when we let children draw, their grades improve marks in all subject areas.
So, drawing helps in different ways. As a displacement activity, it takes a level of concentration to draw and reduces our focus on pain and negative thinking. Drawing is not tightly bound by the same rules of language, so there’s greater freedom, and joy too, in making a variety of different marks. There is no wrong way to draw. Often, drawings can hold a lot more information than words. Drawing a map to show someone the location of a certain building can be easier to understand that a list of directions.
What inspires you to create drawings? Why is it important to you, and what do you hope to achieve?
Drawing helps people make sense of the world in the same way that writing, in its many forms, is helpful. Drawing helps me think: it helps me process, untangle, make sense of emotions, and depict the world around me.
What I hope to achieve? I’m part of the same revolution that The Big Draw is on - to get everyone drawing! I have in mind that my work will be done when people no longer say, ‘I can’t draw’. I hope to provide a way to reconnect with drawing, especially if adults enjoyed it when they were younger, and to explore drawing as a way to improve thinking and communication.
What do you do when you’re not making and creating?
I like leading workshops so that individuals and groups can make and create. I also write on drawing and and my next book is on drawing for wellbeing aimed at researchers, academics and wellbeing practitioners, edited with Dr Philippa Lyon. For pleasure, I am enjoying being with my first puppy, Reuben.
What kind of changes and applications would you like to see within using arts for health? What kind of challenges and opportunities do you see ahead that you’d love to tackle?
People tend to feel stuck on a certain form of artistic drawing, related to creating a drawing that is realistic. My book is one of several books which look at Arts for Health by Emerald Publishing so it considers both the research and practical aspects of different arts for our health and wellbeing.
Now we have had the global experience of covid, we are much more open about our mental wellbeing, the need for ways to rest and replenish, and drawing has so much to offer in these areas. The challenges and opportunities are to engage people with drawing who are currently resistant. I did this for several years introducing drawing as a way of thinking at university level and am now reaching out to different sectors.
You host a variety of online and in-person workshops exploring drawing for health and wellbeing. Could you tell us more about these classes, and what they offer?
Yes, my in-person and online sessions are similar. Some drawing sessions suit the format of an interview or a talk such as one on Drawing as a Research Methodology or Drawing for Learning but generally it’s fun to get people drawing. I invite people to bring basic drawing materials to draw with. The focus changes depending on the need. I generally start with various doodling and drawing games. We then do intuitive drawings to make sense of complexities in their lives. For example, by drawing out their emotions, physical drawing movement to embody how they are feeling now and how they want to feel in two separate drawings. I recently ran an in-person Drawing for Wellbeing workshop in response to the ‘Lost Words’ exhibition at The Russell Cotes Art Gallery & Museum.
Thank you, Curie!
If you were inspired by this interview with Dr Curie Scott, you can follow her work on Twitter and find the full Arts for Health series here. Come join us for 'The Thinking Line' workshop, Wed 6 Jul, 6.30pm BST.
Registrations are open for The Big Draw Festival 2022: Come Back to Colour! Find out more about the benefits of becoming an organiser here and other ways to support The Big Draw's mission here.