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I have long been interested in automatic drawing. A while back Chris Carter had a post about automatic drawing and came up with this on a sleepless night. I finally decided to give it another go. As busy as I am, lately,  it is something I can do when I have a moment of time.

  click to enlarge

The above was my first attempt. I have no idea what the egg or the bird signify.  The book I read on the subject of automatic drawing said to start by making marks on your paper. They can be any marks (swooping lines, crosshatches, dots). You can use the side of your pencil and your eraser. The idea is to draw. It was suggested that you follow the shapes of what you are creating and can turn the format and view it from all angles as you work your drawing. As you begin to see something appear, shade and draw to bring that image to the foreground. I have a tendency to be judgemental, so I have to keep reminding myself to let go and let it happen.

click to enlarge

This was my second automatic drawing.  This one actually moved me as it began to appear.  I imagined a fairy- like figure shaping the landscape. I searched for what she might be fashioning. I stopped, prematurely, because I wanted to allow that landscape to become whatever the viewer wants to imagine it to be. I may try and watercolor and rice paper collage this one. I wonder if I can maintain the mystery in paint.  I will post it if I do so.

 click to enlarge

Back to another egg and figure and bird.  What is this?  I can assure you I did not set out to draw them. As it began to appear in the lines, I even had to erase back along the bird’s breast to bring the figure I saw forward. I think I’d like to paint this one, also.

If any of you try this, I’d really like to see what you come up with. I find it a great way to free me up and suggest possibilities for paintings as well practice my drawing skills.


  1. Leslie these are so fascinating. I suspect your gift – artistic talent – helps this process tremendously. With as much gentle coercion as I can muster, I ask you, Leslie, please make sure you say a wee prayer of protection – that the drawing come from the Highest Love that has the broadest concern for your well-being. Edgar Cayce used to emphasize this – as have a few of my teachers.

    The bird, the egg and the person present so many grand possibilities. Hope the symbolism comes clear to you and that you are willing to share it.

    • Sort of like automatic writing? O’kay. I can do that, Amy. I like the egg, the bird and the figure, the more I look at it. Right now, I just feel like there is a lot in all three of these that suggest change and a shaping going on. I don’t want to mess it up with a bunch of interpretation. New life could mean a new situation, a new direction, a passing, anything! The fact that the bird is in it causes me to believe that this is a gifting. Wings? Well they are on the birds and the fairy. There is something there. Ha! Didn’t you just write about clarity? 🙂 Thank you, Amy!

  2. Very interesting , isnt it? They look beautiful and mirror your thought flow.. I have tried this with acrylic paints and I came up with a mother and child 🙂 May be subconsciously we get attracted to our favorite subjects 🙂

    • Did you post your Mother and Child, Padmaja? I’d like to see it. Trying this with paint is a fascinating idea. Acrylics would seem to be the way to go so the painter could build on what they see coming through woithout the worry of muddying it. If this is my favorite subject, I need to figure out what is being said. 🙂 Thank you, Padmaja!

  3. You amaze me Leslie, every time I visit. In the first piece I saw a baby figure, cuddled by a bird, head and wings protectively encircling the figure of the child. The third one fascinates in that the elongated figure looks to be super human in shape, and the egg?.. could signify a puzzle or a life to be. Very very mystical looking too, with the swirling lines, mayhap a futuristic scene, where something important lays in the balance. You set my mind off on many far seeking imagination trails… 😀 xPenx

    • I think the first one was a coming to terms with this style of drawing, Pen. It did look like a baby to me, also, and then became a grandmother and then began to have arms and webbed feet becoming entangled as though there is a confusion going on. I think that was me. 🙂 I was still trying to control the process. The second one and the third one are more indicative of my allowing something to come forward. I like that last one, also…sort of a non-gender being and a winged soul sharing a new promise. I think your idea of futuristic is fascinating and why not? Every second we are moving into the future and facing new possibilities. Thank you, Pen! You offer me food for thought.

  4. Very interesting! I never tried this but will try it. There is something mysterious and fascinating about the drawings you made.
    The thing I tried with kids that is close to that process is make a random watercolor background, let it dry and then try to find shapes in it and outline and shade them. We had fun 🙂
    I read somewhere that the brain doesn’t like random pattern and will try to make sense of it. That is why you can see figures appear on random textures ( for example the tiles on my bathroom floor 🙂 ) I guess it is the same kind of process, what you can find or see is not random though, I am sure it would be a good material for psychoanalysis.

    • I agree with you, Sandrine. I have tried this several times before and wasn’t able to get the feel of it. I have long admired abstracts with substance and am hoping that spending some time with this will shed some light on that desire of mine. You have shared many techniques I can try in the future when time allows and I have been gathering some of my own. Perhaps these drawings can be revisited in paint; or as Padmaja has suggested, just try the whole process in acrylic and allow it to flow. I think Soul Dipper’s suggestion to create these with the highest love is a good one, also. Through the comments, above, I begin to see the possessive struggle in the first attempt. It is evident I was not wanting to “let go”. 🙂 I did not see that before reading these comments. Thank you! …and I would really enjoy seeing what you might come up with Sandrine. You have a gift for expression.

  5. The mind is an amazing thing when we just let it flow artistically; something I have always taught my son to when he was a child. When we relax we can produce some amazing work, as you have done so her so beautifully.

    • I know you drawfor the love of drawing, Debbie, and I admire you for that soulful input in many of your creations. Thank you for this comment. I also agree that we often place far too many parameters on our childrens’ expressions.

  6. Leslie, these are wonderful. I’ve never heard of automatic drawing but I’d really like to give this a go and see just what is lurking around my subconscious! I’ve heard of automatic writing but only in a supernatural context-Maybe I’ll be able to conjure up my own supressed free spirit instead of any actual ghosts!

    • Oh yes, Nicola, do try this. I imagined you do this to some extent in creating your “Twisty Towns”. There is so much to be gained by exploring possibility and it certainly can’t harm our drawing skills! 🙂 Thank you!

  7. These abstracts are rather unusual, in fact a tad bizzare
    but I do like the latter of the three, Automatic 3 should I say
    as it does offer something quite different…

    Have a wonderful rest of day and a wicked evening also 🙂

    Androgoth XXx

    • I think you have put your finger on it, Andro. Unusual would be ever so much more the norm if we did not place parameters on our work and allowed for expression. It is some of what I viewed in your recent drawings. It is one thing to record what we see and another to speak through our drawings. This exercise will hopefully help me to enjoy some expressive possibilities in the abstract. Thank you so much! 🙂

        • Androgoth
        • Posted September 15, 2011 at 6:04 pm
        • Permalink

        Yes I agree Leslie and expanding one’s thoughts is always
        a very interesting idea, and sometimes the results can be quite
        astonishing too don’t you think? 🙂 Have a lovely Friday 🙂

        Androgoth XXx

  8. What a great project! I have been doing stream-of-consciousness writing every morning and that has revealed some wonderful insights. I want to try this and can’t wait to see what results I get. If I am am brave enough will post my results as well. 🙂 Although I suspect that I will also have difficulty letting go at first. My drawing style is very tight and controlled. Thank you so much for posting this.

    • I have heard of automatic writing, also. I’m still dealing with the letting gopart of this, but figure it is much like when I began to draw. I had preconceived notions of what things really looked like, and until I began to practice drawing on the right side of the brain exercises, I could not truly “see” a line correctly or feel my subject. I assure you, I have no idea where these images came from but they are oddly similar. Fascinating really and I hope to be even more fascinated as I venture furthur. Try it, Karen! Thank you for the comment, here. Would like to see what you come up with!

  9. Oh Leslie, these are so wonderful. I see love, a not yet uncovered gift to yourself, protection, opening up to new possibilities, protection, but that’s what I see. How great and courageous to do and post it.
    I still haven’t figured out what art is, however for me it’s al about being free.

    • I really like your take on protection and love, Hannekekoop! I think you would be awesome at this. You venture into realms I have not discovered. It will be interesting to see what you visualise in your mark making, for sure! Thank you!

  10. These three drawings are enchanting – ethereal and delicate. The first looks like you thinking about your granddaughter and I understand your interpretation of the other two drawings. These would make stunning watercolors.

    • I wondered about the grandmother/granddaughter theme in the first one, Linda. It is interesting you see that two, but then again, we are both grandmas. Thank you for the encouragement toward doing these in watercolor. Must find time! Thank you! I’ve enjoyed your ACEO’s of the cherry tomatoes.

  11. What bird ?? On the top one, I see a girl with large piggy tails !! These are so much fun ! Pure unconscious! I love them! can’t wait to try them..
    Constantly growing in new directions, aren’t you ??

    • I see the pigtails, now! Thanks, Isabelle. You don’t see the duck-like head in that one? It is in a pigtail. Ha! Oh, don’t think for a minute I didn’t think of you while doing these. You have always been so inspirational in your work. I consider you a fellow explorer, you know. 🙂 Have at this. I think you will really like exploring your mark making.

        • napabelle
        • Posted September 17, 2011 at 10:41 am
        • Permalink

        What is “mark making “??

      • Mark making is drawing. Icalled it that because I started by drawing without intention and decided to call that mark making. 🙂 I had heard another artist reference it as such and liked that so have called drawing like this just that.

  12. i find it incredible that these just flow out of your body so naturally and beautifully.

    • I think you do this everytime you set pen to paper and write from the inspiration of your photography, “Y”. I think your words inspire me to be courageous and find depth. Thank you for this comment.

      • oh, shucks – you are too sweet. thank you, Leslie, for your continued support. i’ve always wanted to draw, but never seemed to be able to breathe life into my drawings the way you do so naturally.

    • Wayside Artist
    • Posted September 15, 2011 at 12:23 am
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Leslie, you are very adventurous with these drawings. They took you on an adventure too! How freeing this process must be as long as one can quiet that judgmental, internal critic and experience randomness. For some reason with a pencil in hand I want to direct and command a situation that I would be willing to let flow out of me if using a paint brush. Ha! For me your first one is just so appealing. There’s a bit of an impish expression, or so I see, on the figure that is delightful. This is something I will try!


    • I know what you mean about control. Some of our best moves are controlled out, at times. I like that take about impish on the first one, Nanina. I figure it represented my struggle to hang on to control. Thank you, Nanina! 🙂

  13. Very interesting and creative work . They look amazing. Well done 🙂

  14. The drawings are lovely!. It does not surprise me that egg shapes appear. The figures that emerged in the drawing of mine that you linked to is unusual for me. Most of my automatic drawings evolve into orbs, egg-shaped forms and ribbon shapes flying through space. Perhaps it is the original shape of a cell that inspires these orbs and eggs to shine through when we are tapping into our inner selves. I find automatic drawing to be a cleansing process, meditative and extremely enjoyable. I’m delighted that you have given it a try and hope you will continue with it.

    • Thank you for letting me know about the orbs. Mine are elongated and so much like an egg. I think the eggshapes that came through can be easily seen in the second one. The figures actually evolved from lines I created to trail away from the oval shapes. It makes me wonder about Dr Seuss and his illustrations as I find the line in these Seuss-like.
      I will explore this furthur because I know I can benefit from work with value and seeing. Thank you, Chris, for the inspiration to try this.

  15. Ah, wonderful! Leslie, this is how I work. I start with no idea at all, and it gradually forms. This applies to my digital work and to my pencil drawings. Gradually out of ‘nothing’ comes ‘something’. A tip to turn off the inner critic: try using your non-dominant hand (unless you’re ambidextrous in which case that tip will be useless!) It’s very freeing to work like this, it brings out the imagination as it’s not hampered by our expectations. Please do more of these. Oh, and sit with them for a while then try adding colour (or put them into a graphics program and add colour). I’d love to see what you get. 🙂

    • Now that you mention it, Val, I remember you saying that about your digital creations. I remember being fascinated by what came forward in brilliant color. Thank you for the tip on the non-dominant hand because I have drawn with that hand as an exercise in seeing. Wonder what might develop with my left hand on the pencil. Thank you for that tip. I am going to re-draw and paint and collage a couple of these. Just have not had the time, as yet. Ha! I would have to really work at the digital coloring, I would. 🙂 Thank you for the visit and the comment.

  16. I agree with many of the comments. I think this is a positive drawing exercise to be engaged in because it let’s another layer of your brain play. In his notebooks, DaVinci extolled the virtues of seeing forms and objects in wood grain and clouds. Of course the Surrealists developed this as an art making method to a high degree. I have found, however, that if you dwell too long here…the images do become more predictable over time and lose that “automatic” feeling. I will be curious to see if you eventually feel similarly? Still, I love that searching line quality of these sketches.

    • I really like the information on what Da Vinci did. That is great food for an abstract idea! I can’t help but agree with you about this becoming predictable if the only method used to create. I think it is an exercise to reap the benefits from off and on when creativity becomes a bit stale. Until now, I was not able to see anything in automatic drawings. I always felt as though I was controlling them. ….watercolor helped me to begin to see forms in the wet washes I put down and a light went on; “Maybe that was what I was not able to see in my graphite marks”. It made sense, so I took that approach when I tried this this time. The focus was more on the values as I made my marks. I would draw some lines and shade and draw some lines and shade. Then I would see something and draw the lines and increase the shading until the forms became more readable. Thank you for yur input and visit, Al.

  17. Fascinating! I never heard of automatic drawing until I read about it here, from you, Leslie! Now that I read about it – it totally makes sense! We just watched a documentary of Dr. Jung talking about collective subconscious and depth of individual psyche. Fantastic stuff can come out of it if we could only learn how to rein it in. It seems that automatic drawing taps into these amazing depths. Aside from all the nerdy stuff, I find your line work simply beautiful!

    • You know how much I would like to tap into the abstract because I think I have mentioned it to you, before, Alex. This may be one way I can begin to create with a bit of a different twist. I have so enjoyed my work in watercolor and rice paper collage that I’d like to explore this possibility. Perhaps I can even start with a blank piece of paper and watercolor and collage away until I begin to see images appear and go for it. I hope this drawing exercise will help me grow toward that. I had read about this in several drawing books as a way to relax and to help us get away from the tight control issues we tend to get into. It does work. Thank you!

  18. Leslie—these are fascinating. Not only the result but the process. It took me a second to corner what you meant by automatic drawing. We use to have similar approaches in writing workshops in grad school and some “automatic” writing actually gave birth to the opening of a book I had done there. It makes me wonder how to translate that to photography…thanks! As always, I enjoy the immersion into craft here on your blog. On the drawings, I love the long lines and how the shapes implicate rather than show in concrete. They remind me of something, something I can’t remember but I enjoyed the evocation. Cheers.

    • I purchased a photographic creation that was something like this and can not for the life of me remember what the technique was called, Bbrasseaux. The artist/ photographer somehow used acid on a negative while in her dark room in order to manipulate and change the image in the photograph? Do you know about this. I was told it was somewhat dangerous and these creations were a one time deal, only can be reproduced with a print of the finished product? She created some stunning imagery this way and they made for interesting art and viewing. I think that is one way a photographer could experience this with their art. Thank you for the visit and this comment.

  19. Very interesting stuff, Leslie. In the second one, I see a figure, holding an egg, resting their head on flower petals, while a bird watches over them. Do you see it? Love this. I can’t even imagine doing it. Maybe I’ll try. Have a great weekend!

    • Now I see the bird in that one too! Thank you, Beth. Sometimes I like to take in art shows with a friend who enjoys viewing art as much as I do. We can always find something different in the same piece.

  20. I love what you came up with here, Leslie. This is so interesting to me.

    I imagine that this type of drawing allows your subconscious perhaps to come forth and express itself. Fascinating! I find this very cool. Do you think someone with no idea about drawing, shading, etc. could create something? I may give this a try myself!

    • Oh…I think we all do this when we doodle while talking on the phone. I have even heard it called “noodling”. The only difference between doodling and this is perhaps the initial intention as an exercise rather than something we are doing with our hands while concentrating on the conversation of another. I think the most fun on creating art is taking materials and trying to make something of it. Thank you, Gayle! 🙂 Give it a go.

  21. These are very “ghostly” and otherworldly, Leslie. Enticing and “spookiy” at once. Hi.

    • They are probably ghostly due to my inability to develop them furthur without reference material. 🙂 I think the spooky comes from that a little. Thanks, Eva.

  22. I am reading about automatic drawing for the first time here. What an interesting technique. I am sure I will come with a portrait if I try one. I feel like I may go out of my comfort zone by attempting this.

    • It does take me out of my comfort zone and I have to resist the desire to rush for some sort of reference material when I begin to see suggestions of something realistic appear. Thank you for the visit and the comment, Raji!

  23. The automatic 2 looks like a dance of light.
    Some of the land-art i made on the beach were made by automatic drawing in the sand, the idea of letting loose what it must be made it possible to draw in the sand. For a period of time i used music to get me away from making an image and more into just making the lines. We all have the tendency to see something almost as if it has to be clear, an egg, a tree, a fairytale and yet it all is without the meaning to make it the egg or the fairy. Looking forwards to see the paintings, just wondering about the colours. You could pick the colours blind and than choose the part which will have this blind colour.

    • I like your take on automatic 2 being a dance of light. I like your idea of choosing colors blindly. I don’t know if I’m up for that just yet, but I do experiment with color and am sure a lot of that will go into the paintings, as well as collaged rice papers. I really like your comment about the loose lines in the sand. The waves leave behind loose lines on the land. Animals leave interesting marks on the land, also. You have caused me to consider new things, Clegyrboia. Thank you for that! 🙂

  24. Hi Leslie, thanks for giving me yet another technique to think about and try. I like all of your drawings. Interesting how all three of them have an egg shape in them. Time for a rebirth of some sort?

    • I didn’t even see the egg shape in the second one until Beth mentioned it in the comment, above. Thank you for noticing it so I could see it, also. I think you are correct about the rebirth idea. I have had that thought as I view these. Thank you for reinforcing it, Carol.

  25. Well that certainly looks very interesting, and I love what you’ve presented us with… Maybe one day I’ll give it a go too…

    • I think you already do some of this when you manipulate your photos to what you visualise they can become, Brian. Thank you!

  26. L$! I am glad to see you are busy with living such a rich life, but sad that there wasn’t a new watercolor here. Lol, I may be spoiled. I like these drawings though. They bring a nostalgic feeling to me. I would love to see them in color. Pastels on black or sepia maybe? Or even ink on off white. Oh, and if you are secretly out of watercolor picture ideas, I am full of them lol

    • Thank you, Roni! I have not had the time to watercolor as of late. I am working on a watercolor and collage of one of these. I assure you I am a watercolorist and the watercolors will return. 🙂

  27. Very thought provoking Leslie. I love your hand in these, gentle yet full of movement. I think I can see the eye of a sculptor perhaps? Lovely work as always. I have sheep to draw and you’ve got me thinking.

    • Thank you, Keith. I have never sculpted unless sand castles on the beach count. 🙂

  28. The spontaneous painting is really amazing. I love the fine drawing, it’s very gentle and artistic. I wish sometimes the creativity will just appear like a waterfall. You are talented.

    • You were the one that amazed me with your creativity a few years back and I viewed one of my favorites of yors, here: I have that image imprinted in my brain and have wondered how you and other artists can do this. I suppose the above drawings are my baby steps to that. Thank you for your comment and visit!

  29. these drawings wow me leslie…they evoke such a sense of the creative, a truly dynamic set of drawings here… awesome!

    • Thankyou, so much, JRuth. Like I said to Francis, above, I hope these are “baby steps” to figuring out how to express myself through the abstract and become a little more creative.

  30. What a fascinating technique. I love your results. Thank you for sharing this, now I want to try this automatic drawing!

    • I think you would be awesome with automatic drawing, Amber. You are creative in every endeavor you try! Thank you!

  31. these are very calm and beautiful Leslie – a bit like doodling with intent

    • I think it is a lot like doodling, as you say, Steven. I wish my prior doodles would have been “with intent” as I would have a storehouse of reference material for painting like this. 🙂 Thank you!

  32. I thought of this I think automatic drawing may be what I call “Doodling” with a capital D. But also I wanted to comment on what should be the correct definition of doodle. “Doodling is making spontaneous marks to help your self think. I am soooo curious about automatic drawing right now and love love love the lyrical quality of your lines in these drawings.

    • Big hug to you, Meg! Thank you for this link. I watched it twice to make sure I missed nothing she said about doodling. You have made my day! Thank you for the comment about my linework. That comment, also, refreshes me. I “see” better in line and the values are secondary for me, always, so a comment to my line making makes me feel good. I hope those who follow comments on blogs take the time to view the link you have added, here. Doodle on! You have reinforced my engagement in it! 🙂

  33. When I studied French literature in college I was intrigued by the Surrealists, who were big on automatic drawing and automatic writing. I’m glad to see you’ve gotten good results with your experiments in that technique.

    Steve Schwartzman

    • Thank you, Steve! There was another comment referring to Surrealists. I am going to have to look that up. Anything to stretch my creativity. 🙂

  34. Amazing; I love the movement 🙂

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By September 15, 2011 « Linda Halcomb's Blog on 19 Sep 2011 at 3:45 pm

    […] have been intrigued by the recent posts that discuss automatic drawing. Leslie’s post is here. Take a look, it is fascinating. Chris Carter has also written several posts about squiggle drawing […]

  2. By Painting Dreams « Leslie White on 22 Sep 2011 at 4:03 pm

    […] above painting was inspired by the second drawing in the previous post on automatic drawing.  I allowed the paint to guide me through this creation. […]

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