3.3 Drawing with Machine

In my printmaking practice, I use a Dremel to draw on acetate for drypoint prints. I also find it excellent for carving into lino. I did wonder if I could use it with more conventional drawing media. However, even at the lowest speed, the Dremel was too fast to be useful. A very slow drill (the ancient predecessor to the Dremel) was dug out of a junk box in the garage and pressed into service. The drill chuck is completed rusted, so I used duct tape to attach a pencil to the chuck and used a model railway track tester (of course!) as a speed control.

drawing-by-machine-4-of-20 drawing-by-machine-15-of-20

The drill made rhythmic circular marks which I could direct where I wanted, but they were a bit characterless. Experimenting with other media produced more interesting a variable results.


Soft coloured pencils, compressed charcoal


Hard pastels


Trying representation in pastel


Gouache on a brush

The pastel seemed the most controllable and the paint the most expressive. I would like to try the brush and ink on a big support, but that will have to wait for the weather to improve; the ink will go everywhere and the electronics need to be kept dry.

I continued experimenting, trying to impose more design.


XL graphite block, followed by wet brush



I was saddened to hear of the death of Leonard Cohen this week. The rhythmic marks of the pastel made me think of his song ‘Dance Me to the End of Love’. Using pastels on black paper, I drew in response to the song, imagining couples dancing on their own, spinning and turning around each other, coming together and spinning off again.


This is a bit homogenous, so I added some more definite areas.


A3, hard pastel

Some of the marks have produced a 3 dimensional effect, floating above the picture plane and this is enhanced by the matt black paper. Some pastel marks were scattered by subsequent passes. In the end there are just too many marks here and the original idea is lost. One limitation of the drill is that it is difficult to vary the diameter of the mark. I introduced a small spacer, but anything more than about 2cm is too eccentric to rotate.


Going back to representation, I found a very simple image in my travel sketchbook to try and translate into a large drawing using pastels.


A2 cartridge on floor, green and brown pastel, initial layers

In this drawing, I was concentrating on exploring the range of marks available and the precision with which I could place them. I could build up tone holding the pastel square to the paper, and more dynamic marks by hitting the paper with the edge. The result was rather mechanical but then greatly improve by using the side of my hand to soften and blend.


drawing-by-machine-8-of-11 drawing-by-machine-11-of-11 drawing-by-machine-9-of-11 drawing-by-machine-10-of-11


The rotational marks are very mechanical and predictable. The more random jerky marks, as above left, hold much more interest and I can possibly see myself using those within a hand drawn composition. There is a careful balance to be sought between embracing the rhythm of the marks, happenstance, but not allowing the manically nature of of the drawing to dominate.


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