Drawing? in schools

I have been involved in art education since 1973 as a teacher, moderator and a link tutor on the PGCE course at Northumbria University and before that as a student at Hylton Red House Comp and Sunderland College of Art. Drawing has been a passion throughout my life.

I was lucky enough to be taught to draw by people like John Thirlwall, George Wilson and Norman Cornish who all added greatly to an enthusiasm that was first fostered by my uncle Tom a miner in Ashington. We all have figures like this in our own drawing background, people who inspired and influenced us.

Drawing was always the crux of our subject, and for many of us it still is and always will be. As Anthony Gormley says “it is the way that people who make things think”.

Drawing was also a vital element in many other subjects – the sciences, geography, history and the design and technology subjects for example. This is not so much the case now.

Many of us involved in art education are concerned that in recent years too many students have moved through their education (primary to university) without a real emphasis on this most crucial and basic form of communicating, creating and exploring the world.

In schools, league tables and the constant pressure to get children through exams at any cost have led many teachers to look for the “easy, fool proof” approach to the subject. Sketchbooks have become scrapbooks and a more and more formulaic approach makes the subject less personal each year.

We may not want to go back to the drawing lessons we had in the past but some of the disciplines and insights gained in these lessons are often missing now.

Everyone I speak to in art education seems to share these concerns so we are hoping that through drawing? we can share ideas and our enthusiasms by highlighting some of the vast amount of good practice that exists in the region.

Colin Turnbull