WCA Drawing Lab 1: Pliny’s Shadow

Drawing Lab One


Materials: sheets of paper, no smaller than A3. Pens, pencils, anything that can make a line. Something to take a line from two dimensions to three dimensions: cutting materials –scissors or knife to make a silhouette, or wire, or string. A simple object to draw.


First Drawing


This Drawing Lab will invite us to consider the story of the first drawing ever made, that of Pliny’s Shadow. The classical Greek myth describes an act of tracing by the potter Boutades‘ daughter. Her lover is about to sail away and leave her and she senses she will never see him again. He sleeps next to the fire and she sits and watches him sleep. She picks up a coal from the fire and draws around the shadow his profile is casting on the wall. The first drawing is made, a trace using a marker from the fire, the source of light and shadow. The drawing was then turned into a clay relief by the potter Boutades, so the drawing moved from two dimensions to three dimensions.


This first drawing is an immediate act, a kinetic tracing, the act of measuring space, distance, emotion, and is motivated by both love and loss. The primary act of drawing is circumscription – you place the tip of a mark-making tool on a ground and draw a line that goes around the subject represented. Lines don’t actually exist outside of drawing them. Rawson in his seminal 1969 bookDrawing, states ‘No one ever actually sees a black outline, or the line that separates one plane from another’. But this is language we live with through drawing.

Exercise One. 20 minutes

i.Using line draw around an object without looking at your drawing. Try to have you line come back to the place you started from.

ii.Using line draw around your object whilst looking at it.

Make your line travel around the object in a single stroke as if the object has been taken away.Try again until your object is well described with a single line.

Exercise Two. 10 minutes each

Work in pairs and draw around your partner’s profile with a single line.

Exercise Three. 15minute each

Work in pairs and draw around your partner’s profile with a single line as they turn their head slowly from side to side. You can ask them to stop at given points.

Excercise Four. 20 minutes for each session.

The group will be divided in two halves, a drawing half and sitting half.

On one piece of paper you will draw a number of profiles in rotation, one head relative to another.

The exercise will be repeated with the sitters now drawing, and vice versa.

Lab 1 Pliny’s Shadow 24 Oct 13

Excercise Five. 20 minutes

Using one of your drawings allow your line to leave the paper – either by making it into a wire line in space, a cut out, or some other way you can take it into space.

Lab 1- 2D to 3D 24 Perspective 2 Oct 13

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