Dynamic Drawing

by Dionne Swift

Drawing is often considered as a dirty word by many textilers - something they feel they have to do at the beginning of a project, but are not really sure how it helps ... exploring source material ... I can feel the shoulders dropping now with a huge sigh/groan!

But fear not, drawing need not be side-lined and just the starting blocks of a project, let's aim to make it the back bone instead. Let's change the pace of the way you work, we'll change the scale and take away the need for realism in drawing ... that 'oh but mine doesn't look right' thought!

  • Choose objects to observe - treat this as the first stage to drawing. Try not to anticipate and imagine what a drawing of that group of objects would look like, instead select objects for their meaning and story.
  • Arrange your objects and make a viewing window - start with a small 4 x 4 cm window cut from the centre of an A4 piece of paper. Moving your window around select an interesting composition, every much as you would compose within the view finder of a camera. You should see this as the second stage of drawing ... you are composing ... that's drawing!
  • Below are a series of drawing exercises, work on the largest paper you dare [min A1!!!]. Aim to stand while doing these as you will have a larger range of movement and arm extension. Work 4/5 of the drawing exercises directly over one another - on the same piece of paper aim to touch each edge of the paper with your image.
  • Work with a different drawing media each time; permanent marker, pencil, graphite stick, biro, fine liner, large brush & dye/ink, wax crayon, charcoal, etc., etc.
  • Between each exercise change your view finder position and rotate your paper

drawing drawing


  • Study your objects for 2 minutes - stare, imagine yourself moving in and out of all the curves & details. Cover the objects and draw.
  • Continuous line drawing: keeping your eyes on your subject matter, you must keep your pen in contact with the paper [without looking at your drawing]. Time yourself - 2 minutes max. and repeat.
  • Do you find your work getting sketchy? Make every mark count by limiting their use. Use an old store card as a ruler; make 50 straight lines - all the same length to represent your composition. Repeat with more or less lines.
  • Tape 2 drawing media together with masking tape and draw with a double line. Again make every line work for you - time yourself: 2 minutes.
  • Learn to enlarge your work by taping your drawing tool to the end of a metre long stick. You'll need to put your paper on the floor and rearrange the position of your objects - again limit your time.


Repeat all of these exercises with differing media overlapping on the page. The timed, fast pace of the schedule should shake you out of the tired observational rut you may have got into.

It's vital that you review the stunning marks you have created - using masking tape, paper windows or your camera identify areas of interest - whether for the varying quality of marks, the composition or the new structures that have materialised. Be aware that this 'identification' is also drawing.

You show now have sheets of exciting surfaces and marvellous marks. You may see a sense of energy in the mark making or possibly a sensitivity that is a reflection of your chosen subject matter. In a relatively short space of time you have generated a vast amount of work - you've evaluated it and selected areas to progress with. Can you now identify textile techniques to help you translate these surfaces into cloth?

These exercises are an extract from my 'Drawing for Textiles' workshop. For the latest details please visit my website www.dionneswift.co.uk and sign up for my monthly newsletter.


Dionne Swift offers workshops on a range of stitch and surface design techniques.