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Making a Drawing Machine

Lesson 6 from: Abstract Drawing: Getting Started with 7 Abstract Art Ideas

Amy Wynne

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Lesson Info

6. Making a Drawing Machine

Embrace the beauty that comes with loss of control while you create. Learn to play with your art and surrender to your own unique process.

Lesson Info

Making a Drawing Machine

So I wanna have some fun here. We are going to really work with abstraction. And what we're gonna do is we're going to make drawings that are really not up to us. And that's because we are not actually using our hands to make them at all. And what we're going to be doing is we're going to be making some what I like to call like drawing devices or drawing machines, ways to make marks that are completely unexpected, very abstract because you are not in control of what's gonna happen. So I love doing this from time to time. I've devised ways to do this. There was a time where I actually made a series of drawings where I stuck a big piece of graphite in my pocket. And I would walk with a sketchbook pressed up against it. And at the end of the walk, I would look and see what drawing was there. So it was like I was making a drawing with my body, but it wasn't with my hands. So I like the surprise. I like the outcome. And I think there are a lot of contemporary artists who work with experimen...

tation, work with making drawings in innovative ways. So I wanna show you just three ways that I like to have fun doing this. And then I really invite you to make your own, make your own drawing machines, make your own drawing devices. It's a really fun way to expand your repertoire, expand how you might approach abstract drawing. And you might say, but is this drawing? I think it is drawing. I think drawing has broad possibilities. And I think the main thing is you wanna make it fun for yourself and exciting and try new things because you never know, you might hit something where you're like, that's actually something I wanna pursue a little bit deeper. So the first thing we're gonna try is I have this kind of gorgeous box of chalk pastels. They're very, very soft, and I'm gonna choose a super bright color. I'm gonna choose this red one here. And I made, well, I have a box. And what I did in this box is I lined it with drawing paper. I lined it with drawing paper. I cut the paper to the width of the box, and I just tucked it in. I kind of looped it through. And what I'm going to do is we're gonna shake things up. So I'm gonna drop the pastel into the box. There's my drawing tool. And then I'm gonna close the box. I'm just gonna close it up. So I've got my pastel in here. The box is closed, and I'm just gonna use motion. (pastel clacking) Side-to-side. Up and down. No clue what's going on in there. (pastel clacking) Maybe a little more. (pastel clacking) The more vigorously you shake it, I'm hoping, we'll see, something might happen. All right, so now I'm gonna open it up. I'm gonna take the chalk out. And I'm gonna take the paper out. And voila, we have this kind of amazing drawing that was done purely by the shaking of the box. Nothing that I did just now dictated where those marks were gonna go in terms of using my hand on the pastel. And I kind of love this. It's got this sort of percussive quality. It's got intensity in some places. Under the places it's sort of smudgy. And so you could try that. You could try putting some pastel in a box or some kind of enclosed space and knock it around and see what happens. So this drawing wasn't up to me, it was a drawing device, and it certainly created an abstract effect. All right. So that's a super fun way to work with chalk and pastel. But there's other things you could do. So these little guys are called HEXBUGs. They're like little cat toys or kids' toys. And when my daughter was a little, we used to make these sort of mazes that they'd find their way through. And what I'd like to try to do is I'd like to, I created a little tail for each of them out of string and I just kind of created a little paint brush out of it. And I taped it onto the back. And over here, I have a little tin of very, very dark India ink. And what I'm gonna do, we'll see how this goes, I'm gonna dip the tails into the ink. And then I'm gonna set the, and turn the HEXBUGs on and have them travel around this paper that I've laid down. I have a boundary here because if I didn't, they would just keep going off the table and we want them to kind of work on this drawing. So it's sort of the lazy person's way of drawing. Just turn on the HEXBUG and see what they do. But I'm really curious to see what the outcome will be. So I'm going to dip their tails in the ink. So it really absorbs a bunch of ink. And then I'm just gonna turn them on. And we'll see what happens. So I'm gonna dip this one in, get a fair amount of ink on there. Just get it to sort of submerge a little bit. Oh yeah. All right. And then, I'm gonna let this one go. (HEXBUG buzzing) I'm gonna do this one. And let this one go in another area. (HEXBUGs buzzing) And let's let this one go. Let's see what they do. So I have no control over what's going on right now. They are doing their own thing. They are moving, they are dragging their tails. They're changing direction themselves. And this one's kind of caught in a corner. So I'm gonna move him out and around. Let's see, here we go. So they're their own drawing machines. They are making marks that are absolutely unexpected. They're trailing the ink behind them. So this is a really fun thing to try. You could use a wind up toy, like a old wind up toy and attach a pencil to it. Or you could make your own sort of DIY drawing tools to create new effects. So HEXBUGs, this one moving along the edge here. These are really fun ways to create devices, create motion without your hands. So I highly recommend experimenting with any kind of toy that might move and making your own drawing tool out of that, out of string, out of Q-tips, out of attaching even organic objects like pine cones, you could dip in ink and can kind of roll them around. So there's a lot of possibilities in terms of that. All right. Another thing that we can do in terms of working with drawing machines is harnessing nature, harnessing the elements. So I like to work with wind. I like to work with air, and what I have over here is a little setup where I have a rainbow assortment of pens, and they're all hanging from this grid, this grid here with string. And the first thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna take off the tops to the pens and just make sure that they're touching the paper. Because when we do this type of drawing by harnessing the wind, we wanna make sure that as the wind hits these, that they're gonna make some kind of mark. Yeah. So far so good. So if you set something like this up, what I've done is basically taken string, I've, woo, I've attached it to the pens and I've adjusted the height so that they all sort of are touching the paper at the same level. Yeah, and then here's the last one. And you can use Sharpies. You can use other types of felt tip pens. All right. So now they're all just touching the paper. Some of them are making some slight marks. This one is a little bit high. So I'm just gonna adjust the string a little bit to make it a little lower. Yeah, that's great. So now I'm gonna turn the fan on, and let's just see what the air does to these pens and see if it'll move them around a little bit. All right, here we go. (fan whirring) Now it's blowing, and they're starting to move around a bit. You can see these sweet little marks starting to happen, but I'm curious to see what happens if we oscillate it a little bit and get it to move a little bit more. So let's see when the wind comes across. Oh, yeah. Check that out. So this idea of harnessing the wind, harnessing nature to move pens around can be a really cool way to work. You can even hang pens from trees. You could hang them from branches and have the branches move around to create marks, to create new drawings. So this is, some of these are moving a little bit more fluidly than others. But I'm curious to see, once we stop the motion and pull this out, the quality of these marks. So I'm just gonna go ahead and turn off the fan. I'm going to pull this out. And it's actually made its own trails. But there's some really cool little marks that happen. Like if you look at this purple one, you can see how there's sort of like deeper, darker marks where the pen was resting longer, but then little like soft marks on the edges. This orange one created sort of longer marks, sort of trails of marks. And this one also created a bit of a trail in almost like a constellation pattern. So the possibility of working with different kinds of materials with harnessing things like the wind, with working with sort of pastel and rhythm in a container, and also the possibility of creating your own little drawing devices that move across the page is just a way to experiment and create new sorts of marks that aren't up to you, that you actually can't really control. And through doing that, and actually maybe even amassing like a bunch of drawing devices on the side that you could pull out whenever you think you really want them, that's a really awesome experimental way to expand what you might habitually do and totally get out of your comfort zone. So I recommend giving it a try, get a HEXBUG, get a fan, hang some felt tip markers. Get a box and shake it up. I think you'll have a really great time with it. And I think you'll be absolutely surprised at the abstract results.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Joan Mitchell Quote
Abstract Drawing Materials
Abstract Drawing Surfaces

Ratings and Reviews


I recently became interested in abstract drawing and painting. This is a great course for beginners. I filled my art journal with several new creative and thought provoking techniques. The “drawing to music” with eyes closed was just the first of several cool ideas. The course will jumpstart your own creativity! Thank you for your experience and knowledge, Amy.

Rachel Franklin

Yes- relaxes your creative efforts! Love her

Student Work