The Big Draw: Unleash your inner artist

The Campaign for Drawing believes anyone can be an artist. And the benefits of picking up pencil and paper can be huge. Rachel Shields reports

It is a simple yet profound act that most of us give up after the age of five. A child's pride in taking a pencil or a crayon to a blank sheet of paper is soon lost, and the only time most adults go near drawing or painting materials is when it's time to redecorate the kitchen.

The Campaign for Drawing hopes to reverse this by persuading people to unleash their inner artist. On Tuesday the campaign will bring together 60 new works by its patrons, who include top artists such as Gerald Scarfe, Paula Rego, Chris Orr and David Hughes, for an exhibition to mark its 10th anniversary.

The campaign's stalwarts, such as the new Children's Laureate, Anthony Browne, and the illustrator Quentin Blake, believe that picking up a pencil can bring widespread benefits, including helping people to see the world more clearly, stimulating imagination and enhancing self-esteem and happiness.

"Creativity comes naturally to all children – all five-year-olds can draw beautifully," Browne said. "Most of us lose that ability as we grow older. As Children's Laureate I'd like to help us all to regain that visual imagination and encourage children to develop it throughout their lives."

More than 2.5 million people have taken part in art workshops since the campaign was launched in 2000 by the Guild of St George, a charity founded by the art critic John Ruskin in 1871. Ruskin believed that drawing was the foundation for visual thought, and said his mission was not to teach people how to draw, but how to see.

"Ruskin would probably say that drawing makes you really look at things in a way that you wouldn't otherwise, and that is absolutely right," Blake said. "Why I also think that it is worth at least starting to draw is that you might enjoy it, and if you enjoyed it at least half as much as I have, you would be on to a good thing. A sort of revelation to me with the Campaign for Drawing was that a lot of the time you didn't have to encourage people to draw; it was sufficient to tell them they are allowed to do it, and off they go."

Hundreds of events will take place throughout October to encourage people to draw, from creating a paper city at the Royal Academy of Arts in London to a fuzzy-felting frenzy, which involves making pictures with fabric, in Dundee.

It's no longer just about drawing, however. October's Big Draw event will see budding artists encouraged to express themselves with computer graphic programmes as well as paint, charcoal, sand, clay and vapour trails.

The campaign believes that children especially can benefit, with experts worried that schools' emphasis on core subjects and exam targets means that arts and crafts are being sidelined.

"We live in a world bombarded by computer visuals and the like all the time, but children need to be visually literate to understand them," said Sue Grayson Ford, the campaign's director. "Drawing helps them to understand every subject, from maths to history and science."

'Now We Are Ten: The Campaign for Drawing's 10th Anniversary Exhibition & Auction' is on at The Idea Generation Gallery from 8th to 20th September 2009

The IoS Draw for Britain art competition

The Independent on Sunday is launching 'Draw for Britain', an art competition to get everyone across the country sketching, painting or sculpting. There will be three age groups for children: up to the age of 7, 8-11, and 12-16, and a category for adults. You can do whatever you want: a portrait or self-portrait, a still life, an abstract drawing, or, indeed, anything else. And you can choose any theme – maybe your family, your school, your favourite place or your best ever day. The IoS will draw up a shortlist for each category, and then Anthony Browne, the Children's Laureate, will select the winners. Each winner will receive a fantastic prize, worth up to £250. And we will publish your picture in the IoS. Please send your entries to: Draw for Britain, Colin Wilson, Art Director, The Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF.

Terms and conditions: Closing date for competition is 5.30pm on Friday 2 October 2009. The results – and winners – will be published in The Independent on Sunday on 11 October 2009. Only one entry per person. Competition is open to all. The prizes are subject to availability and cannot be exchanged for a cash alternative. A full set of terms and conditions can be found at

Entries are free. Please do not send any framed artwork: either roll it or send it flat. Should you wish your artwork returned, please make sure your name and address is on the back of it. We will do our very best to send it back after judging, but we can’t be responsible for any loss or damage.

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