Thursday, July 31, 2008


A month or so ago I got the idea to host a 24 hour draw-a-thon. I was stuck at an education conference in Montgomery. During a particularly dull stretch I started doodling on the butcher paper covering the table. Artist, Richard Curtis, sitting across from me, was doing the same thing. This simultaneity gave our scribbling momentum. The act of drawing, in groups or teams, in an open space, transmogrifies the experience. There's an extra charge of spontaneity. Competition and collaboration enter the fray. Drawing becomes spectacle. New things come out. In Montgomery, our random markings eventually coalesced into something grand. People gathered to see what we were doing and talked about it afterwards. With the Draw-A-Thon, I wanted to explore this dynamic and, perhaps, open new doors in my own work and in my relationship to the work.

Southwest Paper over in Livingston generously donated a ton of all kinds of paper. Literally a ton. Rolls and rolls of paper. It weighed my truck down. I wanted to invite a good number of artists to participate but time and space didn't allow that just yet. So the goal was to have a decent go with the few folks we had, document it well and make a case for doing it next year on a larger scale.

We launched the 24Hour Draw with a bit of silliness to get ourselves psyched for the challenge ahead. Fashioning ourselves as a kind of Superhero Confederation, Richard and I arrived at the studio ready for an epic battle. The only enemy is Sleep.

Saturday, 10:am -
We created a list of drawing challenges and prompts the night before; themes to help give us a focus at any given time. Choosing a new challenge roughly every hour, we began with a free drawing warm-up. We scattered free drawing periods throughout the 24 Hours. I'd use free draw time to investigate ideas I've been percolating for some time.

11:am -
Still Life Drawing.

Trains scream through York several times an hour. You can hear the whistle far and wide. We decided to treat the train whistle as a signal to invert the drawing - turn it upside down and continue. This made for some interesting results.

12:pm -
10,000 Lines

I was excited to draw only lines for a full hour. Kind of a mini endurance test.

Alice Tuan came out of her cocoon to join this Ultimate Drawing Experience. I can't do anything anymore without Alice. She is the Contextualizer!

2:pm -
With marker tip swords and poster board armor, we attempted to tag one another with bravado. This fencing was dangerous. I bloodied Rich's lip and I coulda put his eye out if I'd taken better aim.

The guy with the most marks on his armor loses but everybody wins because we made art while maiming each other.

3pm -
Copy the Masters from Memory.
I never much cared for Mondrian. But gazing at his paintings at MOMA a few months ago, I suddenly got it. I think the guy's a perfect painter actually - sublime and emotional.

4pm -
X's & O's

5pm -
Replace guns and bullets with markers and paper.

7pm -
Free Draw

I'm really getting into these sequential drawings. It's theme and variation. Feels like improvisational music.

The repetition of form bears an uncanny resemblance to the making of traditional Chinese dumplings - Consistent ingredients. Individually rendered units. Pattern and rhythm.

Alice makes a huge batch of dumplings every July 26th. We just lucked out that she happened to be in Alabama this day.


We wanted to pay homage to the court Dumpling Maker by creating her portrait in an iconic manner that reflected our affection and respect.

10pm -
Community Drawing

A group of neighborhood kids saw the door open and the strange goings on inside. We invited them to join in the fun. Richard first coached them in landscape drawing.

They saw me attempting to copy one of the fencing drawings. I told them all about the process and the boys wanted to try it.

The Lake brothers here were all around better at fencing than Richard and I. Definitely more athletic and energetic but their drawings were more exciting as well. I forgot to photograph the drawings before they took them home. I thought they were just excellent.

After another dumpling break, I spread out a huge piece of paper for a group drawing. In a variation on the body tracing idea, we layered and criss-crossed our outlines to create an abstract design.

We then applied color, careful to maintain balance and contrast.

The kids stayed over 2 hours. We had a ball. But we had to cut the party short when their mother came looking for them.

12am -

After preparing the pieces and the board we commenced playing. The object was not only to win but also to record each move with colored chalk.

My computer space robots dominated the board for most of the match, which continued on and off through the night. But my robot queen was captured in a snafu and I found it hard to recover. I don't think we ever really finished the game.

1am -
More Free Drawing. Desperate measures to stay awake.

4am -
Superhero Challenge. Design an original superhero.

5am -
Phone A Friend.
We were to dial a friend to tell us what to draw.

6am -
Gesture Drawing

Alice the writer stepped up her drawing game. This piece consisted of abstract birds and movable flaps. Kind of a kinetic drawing.

7am -

Create collages using scraps and discarded drawings from the previous 21 hours.

8am -
Sidewalk Art

9am -
Alice reads sketches for a manifesto. We concluded our 24 Hours with drawings of doors.

"Living this particular day, every moment awake, is
singular and ascendent. After passing the test of
endurance, there is no encumberance—everything is

We bid farewell to comrade Tuan.

Long live the TILT alliance.