For many people August was a time to relax, escape the hectic travails of everyday life and find time to holiday. But for a community of artists on social network site Twitter, it became an exhilarating thirty-one days of intense productivity, support and critique. Drawing August came from an innocent conversation online between Wales Arts Review’s Design Editor, Dean Lewis (@olderthanevil), and artist Jean Stevens (@JeanStevens4), and quickly became a phenomenon, resulting in a cavalcade of brilliant and diverse work from artists from all over the world. Wales Arts Review is proud to exhibit just a tiny sample of what was produced that month, a perfect introduction to the treasure chamber that is #DrawingAugust.
5th August 2013. Pen & Ink drawing of a crow by @JeanStevens4
Here, Drawing August co-founder, Jean Stevens, explains the ideas and processes behind the event.
There are times in your life when you wish you had the chance to give some focus to a skill that you’re trying to develop or refine. And a chance conversation with Wales Arts Review’s Design Editor Dean Lewis (@OlderthanEvil) on Twitter was all it took to provide the idea for Drawing August.
The catalyst was a discussion of how we both needed to make more time for drawing. So I suggested to Dean that we should do a drawing a day for a month. As with all these things, the sudden realisation that you are about to make a commitment led us both to find a time that would work for both of us. So we agreed August would be that month and #DrawingAugust was born. This was supposed to be a small venture just between two people. But social media is a powerful thing, and as we tweeted more about it others began to show interest. The hashtag began to open up the potential in, and the enthusiasm for, this idea.
It’s great to see social media used for a positive purpose where people can provide a supportive environment to build networks, encourage others and help others gain confidence. It’s a big thing showing your drawings to the world for everyone to see, judge and potentially feedback. So, with more volunteers signing up every day, we sent out tweets asking if anyone else wanted to join in. We thought it would be great to get to 50 participants, then it went to 100, and so on, until we ended with 213 official participants and many more using the hashtag to comment on the work and the project as a whole. One of the best things about reaching out to people using Twitter is that retweeting spreads the message and before you know it, your message has reached a huge population. We had participants in Europe, America and Australia.
Communication was key to keeping the momentum going, so a countdown started at the beginning of July with a quick tweet to remind everyone that the start date was looming. As soon as 1st August arrived there was nothing more to do but draw and tweet, and view everyone else’s drawings. The number of people involved continued to grow throughout August and people were still joining in during the final week. Our simple idea, born of a simple conversation on twitter, had become an event, and it continued to grow and grow.
With no set format or theme for the drawings, each person was able to pick their own subject and draw in their own style, whether that was with charcoal, ink, graphite, pastel, or paint. The range of drawings, genres and styles were truly eclectic and I’m sure that a drawing shown by one person sparked the imagination of another.
Drawing August has been a success for a number of reasons and strangely the drawing is the least of them. The main one for me has been the sense of community that has been formed by a group of people who shared a common interest. Closely following this is the encouragement shown to others by artists of all abilities which will, hopefully, help others to build their skills and grow their confidence. The vast range of drawing styles that were presented over the 31 days made me re-examine my own drawing style and try to give my style breadth. And it was great to see children encouraged to take part by their parents and also to post their work to the hashtag. I’m sure the excitement that they felt must have been electric!
It’s been a remarkable success because of the people involved. There’s a commitment to continue as a group and we’ve already started that journey. Another Drawing August participant, Haidee-Jo Summers (@HaideeJoSummers) has started Paint September on 1st September and some of the Drawing August followers have moved onto this. Anyone can join, they just need to sign up to the group via Dean Lewis (@OlderthanEvil). We’ve also talked about doing a challenge over Christmas. So now that the momentum is in full swing, we’ll try to keep it going and continue to build our Twitter art community.
“Kids, if you’re not sure where you put it, check the shed” Aug 25 by @OlderthanEvil
Joeby in colour Day27 A lovely day x by @sumi1998
“6 Nottingham Frank & Sasha agreed to quick snapshot pose. The homeless have names” by @IanGordonCraig
“15 Aug. Mackerel being incessantly poked by children. Pen & watercolour.” by @kardisom
“4th of same subject and finally felt I’d made a decent statement here! A lesson in pereseverance! 8/8” by @HaideeJoSummers
“The sixteenth: *Boris made me do it* (a bit of colouring in)” by @deeN1cKers0n
“Day 25 Hawker’s Hut, Cornwall.” by @staithesartist
“Hiding from the sun” by @CathyTStudios
“Day 9 is a special one. I surprised my dad for his 65th birthday.” by @that_designer
“25.4 I got this hat at the Soton Balloon Festival ‘cos I needed a hat, but it never quite fit. Digital” by @Zalamanderuk
“No 10. A pair of Ercol chairs.” by @janbrewerton
“Beyond the Nettle Patch! Breezy lunchtime on the Somerset levels, black chalk & charcoal.” by @EricaSharpe
“28/08/2013 – my dog ( Lab-Timber Wolf mix) Dex fast asleep. Biggest softy ever!” by @TamTiger
“Drew this & thought of you” by @vividly
“Another Ludlow tinted drawing today-not skilled enough to call it watercolour painting!” 17 by @thredspider
“Now I’ve established what day it is here’s one for day 7.” by @smallofferings
“81 aug21” by @jerryshawback
“Life drawing today, not sure what’s going on with shoulder! Day 15” by @chrimw
“27. Digging potatoes on the plot.” by @alpacakatie
“Drawdiary- looking out at the world as we journey along – happy to be travelling near or far.” by @drawmill
“There was a cooking frenzy around here tonight… Delicious. Aug 27” by @bev_laing
“29/8 Afternoon Nap. Based on yesterday’s sketch. Drawing inks.” by @Betty Knitter
“The last one for #DrawingAugust . I have loved sharing…thank you everyone, here is my Baroque horse. X” by @GloriaDeanArt
“Day 31. ‘A Perfect Ending’ Very sad to have the month end. Looking forward to #PaintSeptember” by @Printsbymaggieg
“#DrawingAugust 31 – the final one – sat on the river bank this afternoon Parchey Bridge #KingSedgemoorDrain” by @jcurtistart
Alternatively, to access all images search #DrawingAugust on Twitter
Banner illustration by Dean Lewis