We live in a world where grown-ups often confuse images of elephant-swallowing boa constrictors with simple pictures of a hat. These same grown-ups are responsible for derailing the creative aspirations of many young doodlers, scrawlers and limners. After all, in Antoine de Saint-ExupÃ©ry’s “The Little Prince,” that is exactly how the narrator describes the trajectory of his failed career as an artist.
If only the narrator were an Angeleno, he could have rekindled his childhood passion for art and participated in The Big Draw LA, a celebration of drawing spanning the month of October. Museums, libraries and local art groups across Los Angeles created programs and special events intended to get communities and individuals drawing.
Among the participants are the Getty Museum, the Huntington Library, a drinking and drawing society (based out of a Casey’s Irish Pub in downtown Los Angeles) and the Fowler Museum, located on the UCLA campus.
“We have a big day on Oct. 9 ““ that is our public kick-off day,” said Betsy Quick, Fowler Museum’s director of education. “Those are a whole series of drop-in drawing activities that the public, from parents with little ones to … adults who are expert drawers … (are) invited to participate in.”
The Fowler’s efforts to create a communal creative spirit through drawing mirrors Big Draw LA’s overall vision of art as a form of communication. Furthermore, the Big Draw LA adopted its model from the original Big Draw, a month-long event in the United Kingdom that has been going for 10 years strong. Diane Brigham, executive director of Ryman Arts, spearheaded the campaign to bring the Big Draw to Los Angeles.
“I had the opportunity to attend an international conference representing the United States where they were bringing together people to observe the Big Draw … and to examine how those ideas and the program might be exported to other countries,” Brigham said.
Brigham observed how a thousand events, large and small, filled the month of October. At the events she attended herself, she saw families, seniors, students, scientists and artists all joining together.
“It really was something that was permeating (London), and I thought that is something that would be invaluable for Los Angeles,” Brigham said.
The Fowler event organizers asked Justin McInteer, a local artist who has worked in museum education programs for the past 10 years, to get involved with planning the drop-in drawing activities for the kick-off day. From footprint art to perspective exercises using blue painter’s tape, his broad definition of drawing stretched the Fowler’s vision of what The Big Draw LA could achieve.
“The act of drawing is making a mark,” McInteer said. “Data commute trails, those are marks that you’re leaving through space. and those are a form of drawing. Someone walks by you with perfume and that vapor trail is a mark that she’s leaving behind.”
According to McInteers, his approach to drawing tries to reawaken in people the sense that drawing is a daily action.
“If you’re someone who’s not really engaged in artwork, you’re still making marks constantly through space or through whatever and those marks do define a part of your life,” McInteer said.
In addition to events intended to attract families, children, Sunday painters and students, the Fowler has organized more technical drawing workshops for local teachers. Eben Goff, a freelance artist and recent graduate from UCLA’s master’s program in visual arts, was invited to run these workshops.
“LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) teachers from all different branches … are voluntarily coming to see how to integrate a museum space like the Fowler into their own field trips and curriculum,” Goff said. “A second aspect being: How can drawing play a role in the classroom and how can drawing be a format for interaction with content in exhibitions.”
Anyone can register their own Big Draw LA event at the official website, bigdrawla.org. This brand of independent drawing get-togethers is a fundamental aspect of the Big Draw, showing that drawing happens outside of major art institutions.
“Some of the teachers that come for the teaching workshops bring back some new ideas for how to set up their own events,” Goff said. “There’s a nice flexibility to it in that it’s not a single 24-hour celebration, some calendar date, like Earth Day. It’s really in the spirit of awareness months so that in the end all these groups from all over the world will be able to catalogue all the activity they’ve done over the period of October.”
As for the Fowler kick-off day, Goff said it will be a quick, energetic art-making experience.
“Coming up on Saturday, it’s quite possible that you can get some fantastic gestures and some really beautiful messes,” Goff said.