Drawing and Writing – the Intersection, Draw talk by Stephen Farthing. 4 February 2016


StephenFarthingTalk_Drawing&Writing_The Intersection


Professor Stephen Farthing

Professor Stephen Farthing is the Rootstein Hopkins Chair of Drawing at University of the Arts London, a Royal Academician where he is Honorary Curator of the Collections and an Emeritus Fellow of St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford. He studied at Central Saint Martins (then St Martins School of Fine Art) and the Royal College of Art.

From 1990–2000 he was the Ruskin Master of Drawing at the University of Oxford; from 2000–04 he was director of the New York Academy of Art.

In addition to his activities as an artist he is currently writing Living Color for Yale University Press with David Kastan and researching Leonardo: The Corpus with Professor Michael Farthing MD.

Farthing is involved with a number of research projects with institutions, which include  the Royal Academy of Arts  in London,  University of Tasmania  college of the Arts and in the USA, Yale University.

Research Interests

Drawing and painting, taxonomy of drawing, archival resources, drawing, writing and the spoken word and the drawings made after first contact by preliterate societies.



Draw event: Join UAL’s Rootstein Hopkins Professor of Drawing, Stephen Farthing for a presentation and discussion around his essay ‘Drawing and Writing: the intersection’.

“During their making you can see the strength of the relationship that exists between writing and drawing through the ease with which a trained hand will freely move between the two. That is, I suspect, because both are part of our literacy, both are tools of representation and both designed as methods of managing multidimensional matter. What separate them are alphabets, dictionaries and the way they are read.”
Stephen Farthing, 2013

Stephen’s presentation will be followed by a discussion chaired by Tania Kovats, Course Director, MA Drawing. Prior to the event, participants will be expected to read Stephen Farthing’s essay ‘Drawing and Writing: the intersection’ (supplied on booking).




Notes from talk:

Even if I write my name I am drawing.
We learn to draw but we don’t learn to read drawings.
Town planners ‘read drawings’ but they don’t draw them
Writing is 2d rendering of the spoken word – it’s readable
Can’t read an artists drawing one can only try and make sense of it. Drawings are emotional and atmospheric and read by empathy.
Ski-ing is a line in motion… it’s an act of gliding across a surface
A footprint is a print
A trace … leaving a trace is drawing
Drawings are evidence of movement
Drawing does not exist without speech
What is drawing a representation of?
Musical notation is a representation of sound


Serge Tisseron – Geniality of writing on child development: the first marks a child makes is measuring the distance to the mother.

Frank Auerbach – every-time he went to his studio to paint he measured his own commitment to being an artist.

Tracy Emin’s monotypes – blur the edges between writing and drawing due to the monotype process


TracyEmin - Stephen Farthing talk


9 elements to Drawing
Knowledge: estimation and measurement
Annotation -relationship between reading and writing
Wetness (rarest component – more from eastern culture)

Tania Kovats comment on reading a drawing… one can read where it starts and ends…it’s time based.

Sitting Bull
Drew his own autobiography in 1860 when in prison.
Pre-literate drawing used when no language available for him to use.


StephenFarthingTalk_Drawing &Writing_The Intersection

Sitting Bull Drawing

Lots of interesting thoughts on Drawing and Writing – the intersection.  Not sure there was a conclusion….


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