On Monday the 18th of May 2015 The Big Draw hosted its 16th annual awards ceremony in the prestigious Painters' Hall to highlight and celebrate the significance of drawing in the world. An inspiring day was attended by art teachers in primary schools, individual artists, museum curators, art patrons, gallerists and film directors of international acclaim.
Director Mike Leigh and the ex-Master of the Painter Stainers Charles Pettit
Guests and patrons enjoyed the various workshop stations of artists, and art collectives, who had received recognition for The Big Draw awards. As the guests mingled, they were served tea and coffee and showed remarkable grace and restraint with the biscuits!
Big Draw Awards runners up Jenny Robins and June Chanpoomidole
The first stand upon entering the hall belonged to the illustrators Jenny Robins and June Chanpoomidole. They had gained recognition from the Big Draw for dynamic drawing challenges, as they engaged the public in roving London and drawing their surroundings. People were given simple drawing rules like: ‘no stick people’, ‘draw from imagination’, and ‘use typography’ to name a few, and given three minutes to complete the task. The participants thoroughly enjoyed their exercise in urban drawing, and the resulting illustrations were compiled into sketchbooks to complete the project.
The animation made by Eastbury Comprehensive
Darren Bartholomew hosted another stand representing Eastbury Comprehensive in Barking, and their Rotoscope animation. Up to three hundred children from eight to ten years old produced the animation; an illustrated interpretation of a sequence of stills from a video of a student dancing. These stencils were then scanned and compiled to produce a short energetic animation of the student dancing to music in a riot of colour, and variety of compositions, but yet the essential lines and movement of the body were retained. When the video was played afterwards at the awards ceremony it received some of the loudest applause.
On stand three Paula Briggs, author of Drawing Projects for Children, represented Access Art: a registered charity that helps people access painting, sculpture, drawing and other visual arts. They encouraged people to appreciate the beauty of feathers by not only illustrating them, but by using the feathers in the mark making process.
Neaten's drawn selfie Gallery
On the fourth stand a particularly witty collective NEATEN (North East Art Teachers and Education Network) and Big Draw winners, set up what they called a ‘Selfie Gallery’. The network, which has a close collaboration with the Baltic Gallery in Gateshead, encouraged participants to draw a small self portrait within the blank screen of a photocopied smartphone. The portraits, completed in playful coloured pen, were pinned to the back wall of the stand in a collection of mobile phone-esque ‘selfies’ that added skill and humour to a ubiquitous phenomena.
Jessica Voorsanger's collage
Last but not least, the fifth stand stood inhabited by the mysterious live artist Jessica Voorsanger. The artist when not exploring the identity of David Hockney and other high profile figures, produces live illustrations and collages inspired by events in the news. Voorsanger worked into her emerging illustration a film premiere featuring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, an article on a north London wildlife sanctuary, and a flotilla of boats gathered in protest at oil exploration in Alaska. The unusual pictures used a combination of photo clippings and hand illustration, and were represented on two separate sheets of white paper, detailed a coastline, a city scene, and a pheasant dangling upside down.
Charles Pettit recounts the incredible history of the Painter-Stainers
The chattering room was halted to allow the robust voice and physique of Charles Pettit to boom across the crowd. When the Ex-Master of the Painter-Stainers Guild ascended a chair with vigor, he wasted little time launching into the history of the establishment to the rapt crowd. With evident pride and entertaining delivery he told his audience, among other brief anecdotes, that the first recorded reference to the Painters Guild was in 1283, and that they were given a royal charter by Queen Elizabeth I when they combined their efforts with the Stainers in 1581.
After Pettit’s brief speech, winners, guests and patrons moved upstairs to the Livery Hall; which glittered with chandeliers, portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and glowing coats of arms in stained glass windows. The indomitable Sue Grayson-Ford took to the stand as host and master of ceremonies to introduce two key speakers on the importance of drawing. The first speaker was Bob & Roberta Smith, a passionate defender of the arts who stood as an independent against Michael Gove in his constituency of Surrey Heath. Smith campaigned for more arts in business, schools, health, and society at large for a positive manifesto to improve the economy and reduce pressure on the NHS. His compelling arguments were punctuated by government statistics stating that for every £1 spent on the arts £4 is returned, and that the creative industries contribute £71.4 billion pounds to the economy.
Campaign patron Bob & Roberta Smith with one of many placards
After Smith ended his speech, to rapturous applause, the internationally acclaimed film and theatre director Mike Leigh, of films such as Abigail’s Party, Secrets and Lies, Vera Drake, and Mr Turner, gave a heartfelt speech. Leigh spoke of his formative years on the Foundation at Camberwell College of art, and how that had liberated his mind and imagination from the stuffy training he had received as a young actor at a drama school in the 60′s. In particular Leigh advocated the importance of life drawing, which helped him to understand the demands of visual problem solving and composing images for film.
Mike Leigh begins a rousing speech on the importance of the arts
After Leigh’s speech the awards got underway, and with a charming flourish winners were brought to the stage with delightful fanfares from a trumpeter. The 18 international award winners highlighted the progress that The Big Draw has made, an influence that began in the UK but now reaches as far as China, India and America.
The Highly Commended Winners were The British School of Beijing: which promoted creativity and learning; Hinchingbrooke Country Park: for encouraging closer engagement with landscape; Playeum of Singapore: for campaigning for a children’s learning centre; Rugby Art Gallery and Museum: which invited guests to respond to ‘Furoshiki’, a technique for wrapping Japanese cloth; and Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, Exeter: in collaboration with The Royal Society of Birds got participants to illustrate and interact with their taxidermied bird collections.
The nominated Runners Up were: Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, which used their Big Draw to help build bridges with other organisations, and conducted a ‘Tape Takeover’ which encouraged 1,500 people to create images on floors and walls with tape; the aforementioned June Chanpoomidole and Jenny Robins, for the ‘Walk and Draw’ in London workshop; and Hidden Narratives Dangerous Erasions: South London Visual Artists, a collective of nineteen female artists who illustrated the contribution of women to art on the entrance walls of a cinema over several days.
The Trail-Blazers awards were presented by Alison Carlier, winner of the prestigious Jerwood Drawing Prize 2014. She presented awards to: Village School, Kingsbury, London which used ultra violet light and glow paints to create a psychedelic installation and environment for children with special needs, Retkozi Museum, Kisvarda, Hungary encouraged 1,700 people to reimagine four key sights in the town with illustration: the castle, library, Catholic church and Synagogue. The resulting posters are displayed in the museum; 3peel Group, Bangalore, India got eight youths at an education centre to create a permanent mural; and Middlesex University got 500 participants to draw creepy crawlies and other beasts in a mobile menagerie for a week long drawing fest.
NEATEN and Baltic celebrate in style. Director Mike Leigh hands over the award.
The Winners included: NEATEN and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, which used shadow puppetry to create traceable outlines that were then used to make a forest of hands; Ordsall Community Arts, Salford: won a seven year battle to turn wasteland into allotments where retirees, and those suffering from illness or isolation, used surplus veg as tools to make print impressions with leaves and roots, and create imaginative wallpaper and soft furnishings to decorate their sheds; and Round in Circles: The Open Museum, Glasgow; which used its outreach to engage passengers on the Cathcart Circle overground, and put their phones, tablets and papers aside to draw some of the museum’s artefacts. Artists on the train asked willing commuters to make tools, draw the sounds of their journey, or do a continuous line drawing with their eyes closed. The results of the mobile workshop were displayed in Queens Street station in the centre of Glasgow.
Paul Bell recent winner of the BBC Big Painting Challenge presented gifts for the Creative School Award, and to the joint Winners, who were, Tyssen Community School, Hackney, London: who turned their premises into an art school for nine hours, with dramatic results; and Stanley Grove Primary Academy, Longsight, Manchester: which produced an extraordinary installation made of a multitude of hand illustrated 3D paper cut outs, which were placed together to recreate the city scape of Manchester, and which extended for over thirty feet from wall to floor. The collective work of the children and their teachers would have put many an installation to shame, and demonstrated a virtuosity and intensity of purpose that can, at times, be lacking in some contemporary art today.
The final prize of The NADFAS Young Arts Award, which brought the ceremony to a close, was given to the Rotoscope practitioners of Eastbury Comprehensive School, Barking, Essex and presented by Sue Gilbert, Head of Young Arts at NADFAS (The National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies). As one of the chief sponsors of the Big Draw Awards NADFAS underlined the importance of drawing and creativity, and congratulated the Big Draw, and its small team, in its success of securing Arts Council funding. Closing words were given by new trustee, Emma Black: who will be using her significant experience at The Science Museum to create an ever brighter future for The Big Draw.
At the end of the ceremony the guests moved back downstairs for drinks and tasty canapes, buoyed no doubt, in the knowledge that the future of drawing looks bright, and that The Big Draw can only grow in reach and significance.
Article Written by Hogarth Brown for the Big Draw