Built Drawings

Presented by: Deborah Scott

Designers and artists use drawing to see, to anticipate and to communicate but it is limiting to view drawing as a mere act of mark-making that represents intention in form.  Jean-Luc Nancy (2013) theorizes that “drawing is the opening of form” and that the experience of drawing is an opportunity for revelation prompting potential and non-closure (p. 1). Drawings in this series combine technological processes that produce drawings with laborious manual drawing activity in order to highlight the experience of drawing and make it visible.

Each drawing in the series is the result of experimentation with the laser cutter’s potential to make marks and cut perfect contours that result in unpredictable outcomes. Incised laser-cut contour drawings of wooden school chairs underlie layers of gesso, pigmented wax and powdered graphite. When a torch flame is passed manually back and forth across the gesso surface in a manner that mimics a laser-cutter’s movements, melting wax wicks and finds areas of weakness in the layers in which to pool. Abstractions and new associations develop from the additive and subtractive techniques such as over-layering and scraping that have been used to transform the emerging digital drawing and the pointillist composition of black dots and the linear segments that are pulled to and that sometimes extend beyond the surface using highly physical, participatory, and indeterminate activity.   

The notion of technological cutting as mark-making and its association with construction materials invites us to view drawing as building-oriented more than as a mark-making activity. The tactile nature of this series of works suggests that the dimension of their surfaces be felt (literally and figuratively) as construction methods and image-making are conflated.  In the end, these works critically challenge the relationship between drawings and three-dimensional compositions by de-emphasizing the visual in favor of a larger sensorial experience of drawing. Invoking the theory of “ideasthesia” or “sensing concepts” as presented by Nikolic, these drawings embody the idea that cross-sensory modalities create complex semantic networks that extend visual experience by activating a range of our senses. By invoking a cyclical process in which hand-drawn images that are incised by machines intermingle with direct hand processes that mimic the act of the laser to activate new imagery in a thick but malleable surface, these indeterminate drawings make visible Nancy’s proposition that drawing is a “gift, invention, uprising, or birth of form” (p. 3).


  • Jean-Luc Nancy, (2013). The Pleasure in Drawing. New York: Fordham University Press.
  • Nikolic, Danko, (2015). Synesthesia-ideasthesia. Retrieved from (http://www.danko-nikolic.com/synesthesia-ideasthesia/).