How To Use Automatic Drawing to Explore Your Subconscious And Expand Your Creativity

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Have you ever tried  automatic drawing (automatism)? If you have, I am very excited for you, as I have never experienced it until last evening and I love it. 

This experimental journey was prompted by my partner Michael de Vena sharing of the artwork of Unica Zürn and André Masson. We also watched Great Artists in Their Own Words – Out of the Darkness (Part 1 or 4, 1939-1966)  while we did our own automatic drawing. 


What is Automatic Drawing

Automatic drawing (distinguished from the drawn expression of mediums) was developed by the surrealists, as a means of expressing the subconscious. In automatic drawing, the hand is allowed to move “randomly” across the paper.

The idea is to remove you from the typical logical brain that casts judgments and work towards precision to the more abstract and subconscious part of the brain. It can also be used as a therapeutic way to deal with trauma and challenging times in your life.

Automatic drawing was pioneered by the English artist Austin Osman Spare who wrote a chapter, Automatic Drawing as a Means to Art, in his book, The Book of Pleasure (1913). Other artists who also practiced automatic drawing were Hilma af KlintAndré MassonJoan MiróSalvador DalíJean ArpAndré Breton and Freddy Flores Knistoff.


How to do an Automatic Drawing

There are many ways to do an automatic drawing. There is no right or wrong way to do it in case you wondered and are a perfectionist like me. This is one of the reasons I am exploring this as well as abstraction, to loosen up and not be so rigid in muy artistic practice. So let’s get started.

  • Choose a surface to start on. It can be a canvas, a piece of paper, etc.
  • Choose your tools. Graphite, colored pencils, etc.
  • Take a moment and suspend judgment about how you will start, what you will do and what it will look like.
  • Put your tool to the paper and just start moving it. 
  • You can close your eyes or you can watch it what you are doing. 
  • You can lift the tool and move it around to start and stop at various places or your surface make or you can make continual movement where you do not lift the tool off the surface.
  • When you feel satisfied you can leave it as is or you can move into the next phase.
  • The next phase is finding things in the drawing. Perhaps something looks like a human head, a building, a plant, etc and you enhance those areas how you wish. It does not have to be figurative. You can use lines, shapes, and patterns too.

You did it!

Once you are done, you did it. You don’t have to like what you did. It can feel silly and ridiculous. Just enjoy the process~

Our Artists Examples/Inspiration

    Calvin Marcus Automatic Drawing #11, 2015

    Preparations for Birds, 1963, Joan Miro

    Andre Masson

    Inspirational Video

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