Body, space and narrative

Workshop overview and objectives

The Drawing Room is a gallery and exhibition space about 5-minutes walk from the Elephant and Castle tube in South London. The organisation’s website describes the gallery: Drawing Room explores ideas around contemporary drawing and makes them visible in the public domain. As the only public and non-profit gallery in the UK and Europe dedicated to contemporary drawing.

Body, Space and Narrative was a workshop run by The Drawing Room over three consecutive Wednesday evenings between 5th and 19th February 2020.

The workshop is described on the Drawing Room website as: This trio of workshops will unpack themes related to Donna Huddleston’s exhibition The Exhausted Student, through a variety of visual experiments using different materials, techniques and playful research tools.

Donna Huddleston - The Exhausted Student
Fig 1 – The Exhausted Student (Detail) (2019)

The objective of the workshop was for participants to gather visual references from Drawing Room’s study library and combine them with your own sources of inspiration to fuel your creative practice.

Each workshop was 2-hours long.

Workshop 1

Workshop 1 consisted of an introduction where Gabriella Boyd introduced herself and her work.

Gabriella Boyd - Three Rooms
Fig 2 – Three Rooms (2011)

We then reviewed ‘The Exhausted Student‘ exhibition as a group and discussed what we liked and what we found interesting.

Exercise 1

There were 12-people in the workshop and for the first exercise we worked in pairs. Everyone was given an A4 photocopy of a photograph placed face down on the table, an A3 sheet of paper and a graphite pencil. Person one turned over their photograph and described their image in words. Person 2 drew what they heard being described. The exercise took 5-minutes per person and after both partners had completed their drawings there was a group review of the results and experience.

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Exercise 1 drawing

Exercise 2

Everyone was given an A4 sheet of black paper and a stick of white chalk. Participants were asked to visually respond to a two and a half minute piece of music that was repeated once. The music had a voiceover/narrative element.

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Exercise 2 drawing

Exercise 3

Sentences and paragraphs from a piece of writing had been cut into strips from a longer text. Each person was given a strip and 10-minutes to draw  response to the words.


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Exercise 3 drawing – Visual response to written words using watercolour pencils

Exercise 4

The same exercise was repeated but this time in 5-minutes.

Tears text

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Exercise 4 drawing

Exercise 5

The final exercise involved the same process as the previous two exercises but this time we were given the full text and asked to choose two sections/sentences to illustrate.

Excerpts from Anna Kanvan’s Ice

Each illustration took 10-minutes, and the second was drawn on top of the first. The result was a composited image.

The landing textSparks text

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Exercise 5 composite drawing

Workshop 2

The second workshop was run on the next Wednesday evening.

Exercise 1

All participants were given an A6 sketchbook and 10-minutes to capture a visual response to the gallery exhibition space.

Exercise 2

We then given an A2 sheet of paper and 10-minutes to scale-up these rapid sketches to make at least 4 x new drawings.

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Exercise 2 drawing

Exercise 3

The final exercise we were asked to choose a paragraph or sentence from the original text and to create a new image on A2 watercolour paper.

The sentence I chose was:

The warden received me text

This was my visual response:

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Exercise 3 drawing

Workshop 3

The final workshop took place the following Wednesday evening.

For the final practical exercise we were able to draw on all of the materials produced over the previous two workshops. We were given 40-minutes to produce a new piece of work. The scale and format was left open.

I decided to create an illustrated narrative sequence combining images or parts of images created over the previous workshops with new text extracts from the original reference text.

I started by thumbnailing an idea in the A6 sketchbook and then decided to continue using that format to create the narrative.

This was my response:


Working rapidly from imagination to illustrate something that was abstract/described ambiguously was difficult for me. I noticed I was always trying to latch onto what was literal.

I also found that I was drawing familiar subjects; things in my visual memory bank that meant I could try and make sense of what I was describing rather than losing myself in abstraction.

There is something really interesting here in terms of rapid and simple techniques to mash together different visual, wiritten, audio and observed references to create something new.

This workshop was focused on visual image making and the participants all had skills or a background in the visual arts. What would be really interesting would be to run the same workshop but with participants from across different disciplines; for example illustrators working with writers or musicians.


Drawing Lab: Body, Space & Narrative, with Gabriella Boyd (2019) At: (Accessed: 05.04.20)

List of illustrations

Figure 1 – Huddleson, Donna (2019) The Exhausted Student (Detail) (Coloured pencil on paper) At: (Accessed: 05.04.20)

Figure 2 – Boyd, Gabriella (2011) Three Rooms (Oil on canvas) At: (Accessed: 05.04.20)