Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Secret of Drawing

In 2005, the history of drawing was explored by Andrew Graham Dixon in a four part series called The Secret of Drawing.

That series of programmes are now on YouTube.  I'm not sure how they got there - but they're certainly worth taking a look at. It's just such a pity that the website for the series does not include links to the videos within its archive of the programmes - because it should!  There are far too few arts programmes on television and the archive is really important.

Do also take a look at the website for each programme as this makes suggestions for ways of following up on the topics covered by each video

Below are the videos of the four programmes in the series. The scope of the series reminds me a lot of 'Drawing towards Enquiry' - a series of lectures I attended at the National Gallery in 2006, given by Professor Deanna Petherbridge - in the run-up to the publication of her book The Primacy of Drawing: Histories & Theories of Practice

The Line of Enquiry

Andrew looks at artists who have chosen the natural world as their subject matter and explores how drawing has helped man to understand his place in the universe. The programme covers the Rennaissance, the Eastern way, Turner, Constable and contemporary artists Anthony Gormley and Richard Long.


Drawing has always been an essential tool for the telling of stories. Andrew looks at the satire of Gillray, Goya and Hogarth and its influence on photojournalism, American comics, Japanese Manga and Hollywood storyboards today.

All in the Mind

Andrew investigates drawing as a primal human instinct and a learned discipline, looking at the earliest cave drawings and the work of David Hockney and Picasso. The programme uses the latest developments in cognitive science to examine why we draw the way we do.

Drawing by Design

Andrew explores the role drawing has played in technical design and architecture, studying complex structures such as the Guggenheim and Boeing 777. From Leonardo to Libeskind, he shows how drawing has been a crucial tool in the history of scientific and technological discovery.


  1. I viewed this series when it was first shown and it gives such an intelligent and acurate expression of the function and purpose of Drawing.

    The views that are expressed are those held by practicing artists who draw, and are not simply the observations of Andrew Graham Dixon himself.

    It is a lot easier for artists to by-pass the drawing process, but in so doing they neglect something of their own profoundly innate ability to observe.

    This is perhaps because drawing is fundamentally an intense process that demands concentrated focus.

    Hard work of this kind is not something that all artists are willing to engage with, which leads me to suspect that this is why contemporary painting in the fine art sphere has of recent years produced many good painters but very few absolutely outstanding ones.

    The history we have in the UK of producing Painters who are phenomenal and art-history-forming, has been on the decline in the UK over the last 30 years, and this series of programs offers a clear insight into why this is so.


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