Professor Stephen Farthing and the study of the process and functions of drawing.
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of the Arts London
Unit of AssessmentArt and Design: History, Practice and Theory
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies
Summary of the impact
Professor Stephen Farthing's research proposes a new framework for the
structured study of the process and functions of drawing beyond the
specialist art school curriculum. His work since 2004, in collaboration
with Tate Britain and the Ashmolean Museum, has tested the possibilities
of utilising museum collections as a resource for the teaching of drawing
and has directly impacted on the development of a new drawing curriculum
for schools and further education institutions and on the extension of new
audiences for Ruskin's teaching collection.
In 2004 Farthing was appointed the first Rootstein Hopkins Chair of
Drawing at University of the Arts London (UAL). His remit was to explore
all facets of the medium he describes as the translation of `multidimensional
events that may or may not physically exist, into readable two
dimensional matter' (2011). The status of UAL as an art and
design monotechnic, embracing diverse approaches to drawing pedagogy,
offered Farthing a means to establish the importance of, and build a
framework for, the structured study of drawing beyond the specialist art
school curriculum. This research had two stages:
- To use UAL's resources and expertise to enable drawing collections in
museums to function effectively as teaching collections.
- To develop museum drawing collections as the means to engage
non-specialist practitioners with a structured drawing curriculum.
Farthing's Drawing from Turner exhibition at Tate Britain
(2006/2007) was designed to test the value of redrawing examples from
museum collections as an active component within a drawing curriculum, and
improve understanding of the process of learning to draw by redrawing high
quality examples of fine art drawing. The project took place at a time
when, both within secondary and tertiary education, there were few shared
assumptions about how the subject of drawing should be defined and taught.
There was only one general area of agreement, which was that copying was
no way to learn to draw. This exhibition challenged that understanding and
questioned `whether the making of transcriptions from the drawings of
high achievers have a part to play in developing a curriculum for
learning to draw today?' The exhibition and project proposal were
submitted to Tate Britain in 2004 and were approved by a curatorial team
led by the Museum Director Stephen Deuchar and funded by Tate and the
Rootstein Hopkins Foundation.
Farthing was Principal Investigator, with Nicola Moorby, Collections
Registrar — Prints and Drawings Tate Britain, and Professor Maryanne
Martin, Experimental Psychology Department, University of Oxford. A group
of 50 artists, students and graduates were invited to draw one of 35
Turner drawings selected by the organisers from the Turner Bequest. The
goal was to better understand the role of redrawing within the process of
developing drawing skills. The primary outcome was an exhibition of the
original Turner drawings and the `redrawings', with text panels that
recorded the participants' responses to the research question. This
approach was extended in Farthing's project On Drawing a Man Reading a
Newspaper (2007/2009), where he explored the value of
transcription as a means of both learning to make and to `read' drawings
by tracking his making of 25 interrogative transcriptions from the
original charcoal drawing Man Reading a Newspaper made in 1950 by
the modernist painter Jean Helion.
In 2007, as a part of his subsequent appointment as Hood Fellow at The
University of Auckland, Farthing exhibited 31 drawings at the Gus Fischer
Art Gallery, University of Auckland, with an accompanying publication. The
exhibition and publication were an analysis of John Ruskin's 1857
teach-yourself-drawing book, The Elements Of Drawing. Together
they were a practical and theoretical re-assessment of a unique and once
highly regarded 19th century `distance learning' package and explored the
idea of whether `Ruskin's curriculum has a currency beyond historical
curiosity in curriculum design today?' Farthing's research findings
suggested that Ruskin's drawing course remains in part still viable. This
work on Ruskin enabled a second phase of Farthing's research in which he
tested the possibility of using a museum collection to engage
non-specialist practitioners with a structured drawing curriculum. In
2010, Farthing was invited to join the AHRC funded Elements of Drawing
research team at the University of Oxford (PI Colin Harrison, Print Room
curator, Ashmolean Museum Oxford). In a series of nine short films,
Farthing used John Ruskin's teaching collections as the means of
constructing a structured drawing curriculum for non-specialists.
Farthing's work has also researched the landscape of drawing beyond fine
art, including how drawing is used by mathematicians, cartographers,
scientists, designers and statisticians. Initially explored in his
inaugural UAL Lecture Dirtying the Paper Delicately (2005), and
developed in his keynote speech The Bigger Picture of Drawing at
Teachers College, Columbia University (2010), later published in Thinking
Through Drawing: practice into knowledge and further developed in Drawing
Drawn (A Taxonomy), Visual Communication (2013). Here Farthing
proposes a contextual taxonomy that allows drawing to be seen as a `compendium
of possibilities, not simply as a craft subject attached to the past by
the life room and the future by digital modelling'.
References to the research
Underpinning research and related awards listed below.
1. Farthing, S. (2006) Drawing from Turner. London: Tate Britain.
6 November 2006 -20 May 2007 [Exhibition]. Farthing designed and curated
the exhibition. The exhibition catalogue, which explains the methodology
and contains an analysis of the questionnaire, is available at http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/drawing-turner.
Article published in the Times Higher Education. UAL on request.
2. Farthing, S. (2007) Leaf and Leopard: An analysis of The Elements
of Drawing. New Zealand: Gus Fischer Art Gallery, The University of
Auckland. 4 May- 2 June 2007 [Exhibition]. An exhibition of 31 drawings
and publication (The Centre for New Zealand Art Research and Discovery at
The University of Auckland). UAL on request.
4. Farthing, S. (2009) On Drawing a Man Reading a Newspaper, Visual
Communication, May 2009, vol.8, no.2, pp.147 -158 [Journal article].
Listed in REF2.
5. Farthing, S. (2011) The Bigger Picture of Drawing. In: Thinking
Through Drawing: Practice into Knowledge. Kantrowitz, A., Brew, A.
and Fava, M. eds. New York, Columbia University: Teachers College Press.
UAL on request.
6. Farthing, S. (2013) Drawing Drawn (A Taxonomy). Visual
Communication. vol.12, no.4, pp. 423 -436 [Journal article]. UAL on
University of Oxford, Ashmolean Museum/UAL, PI: Harrison, C. CoI:
Farthing, S. The Elements of Drawing Enhancement and Dissemination for
Impact (03/2010 -10/2011) £182,135. AHRC.
Details of the impact
Farthing's research into the use of art collections as a tool for
teaching drawing has impacted on the teaching of drawing at a national
level, has been utilised by the University of the Arts London's Widening
Participation programme as a vehicle to raise attainment and aspiration in
its partner schools, and has been exploited to extend the audience for
museum collections. For the development of UAL Awarding Body Level 2 and 3
Awards, and Certificates in Drawing, Farthing contributed insights arising
from his examination of how the use of collections and transcription could
inform drawing, as well as those developed from his exploration of drawing
as an activity beyond a fine art context. Farthing led the team of UAL
staff who wrote the qualification and was instrumental in the creation of
the course structure. Part of the Diploma's originality is its promotion
of the creative role of drawing across the curriculum, taking drawing
outside the art room. The development stage of the qualification was
financially supported by Deirdre Hopkins, patron and founder of the UAL
Rootstein Hopkins Chair in Drawing.
The UAL Drawing qualifications have been delivered by an increasing
number of providers since accreditation in 2010, with over 10,000 students
within England having achieved one of the qualifications. There has been a
substantial increase in the number of approved centres offering the
qualifications (rising from 21 in 2010/11 to 30 in 2011/12 to 50 in
2012/13). These range from FE Colleges and HEIs to sixth forms and Adult
Learning providers. The majority of approved centres deliver the
qualifications in addition to a full time main programme of study.
Evidence of the positive impact of the award can be gleaned from comments
made in the report by External Moderators to the qualification in the UAL
Awarding Body Chief Examiner's Annual Report 2011/12 Creative
Framework: `The quality of drawing in most cases was high and
evidenced a real benefit from the units, confirmed by student
evaluations. What was a particular aspect of the assessment evidence in
this sample was the confident and inherent use of drawing by students
who were not natural draughtsmen. This is to be applauded and
celebrated. This has been a well run programme and students have quite
obviously benefited from the experience, the drawing units have enhanced
their confidence and understanding resulting in stronger portfolios and
a higher level of HE acceptance.'
There have been series of well attended events to support the ongoing
delivery of the qualifications. A standardisation event was held at
Leeds College of Art and representatives from over 30 centres attended,
including delivery staff and external moderators. The Drawing
Conference 2012 organised by UAL in collaboration with the Royal
Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) at the National Gallery in
February 2012, enabled 46 representatives involved in the delivery of the
qualification to attend a major venue, discuss the conceptual framework of
the qualification, and have the opportunity to see presentations by
artists including Farthing and Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry. In
addition, Deirdre Hopkins in support of Farthing's work subsequently
funded a series of masterclasses to support teachers in the delivery of
the curriculum. To complement the drawing qualification and serve as a
body of research materials, Farthing has edited and published sketchbooks
of key figures that utilised drawing to inform their creative thinking
across a range of disciplines. The first in the series was the sketchbooks
of architect Nicholas Grimshaw (2009) and the second was those of the
stage designer Jocelyn Herbert (2011), both published by the Royal
Academy. The third in the series, on filmmaker Derek Jarman (Sept 2013),
was published in two English language versions (UK and US), by Thames and
Hudson and in German by Deutscher Kunstverlag.
The UAL Drawing qualification is used as part of UAL's Widening
Participation programme. The qualification has been chosen as the vehicle
for this programme as it translates across the curriculum, giving students
a range of transferable skills, and is an excellent means through which to
explain the creative sector. The drawing programmes are aimed at young
people of 14 -15 years of age who are studying visual arts subjects and
who think that they may be interested in a career in the creative sector;
six cohorts of students have been taught since 2010-11. The courses are
run on Saturdays by UAL tutors and supported by UAL student ambassadors,
with additional masterclasses featuring professional practitioners.
Research visits to the V&A and Tate Britain include talks and
instruction from staff from the museum education departments. Teachers
from participating schools observe and take part in some sessions. The
programme gives students an insight into potential careers within the
creative industries, introduces `art school methods', builds confidence,
as well as professional and personal skills, and brings together
like-minded young people. As one of the schools involved in the programme
says: `For the students involved it has raised attainment levels,
developed social skills and broadened horizons. The success of the
drawing qualification and the Saturday course is in short evidenced by
the change in our young people.'
The value of the activity is evidenced by high attendance and retention
rates within the cohorts with an average pass rate of 89 per cent and a
retention rate of 91 per cent. The programme participates in The Sorrell
Foundation's (a charitable organisation which aims to inspire creativity
in young people) National Art & Design Saturday Club (NADSC). As part
of this initiative, students exhibit their work at Somerset House
alongside 13 other NADSC groups of young people working with Art &
Design faculties in universities and colleges across the UK. Further
evidence of the significance of impact achieved comes from UAL's OFSTED
Inspection Report, 28th February 2012: `The University [...] makes a
significant contribution to social inclusion and widening participation
in Higher Education. Inspirational and innovative activities involve an
extensive range of partners including employers, Local Authorities,
schools, specialist art and design and general further education
colleges. Each year around 2000 students from schools and colleges
benefit from participating in a very well planned series of Saturday
workshops, summer schools and portfolio days. Some of these lead to
intermediate level accreditation in drawing contributing in raising
attainment and aspiration in partner schools.'
Farthing has collaborated with the Ashmolean Museum on The Elements
of Drawing: Enhancement and Dissemination for Impact project
(2010/11) funded by the AHRC. The project aimed to enhance the
sustainability and impact outside academia of the Elements of Drawing
website, which publishes online the collection assembled by John Ruskin to
support his teaching of art and drawing while Slade Professor at Oxford.
As part of his Co-I role Farthing created an online drawing course and
directed the educational areas of the project. He built upon his previous
experience of working through Ruskin's The Elements of Drawing in
the exhibition and publication Leopard and Leaf, as he
investigated the use of the Ruskin collection as a tool for teaching
drawing while constructing the course. He produced an 8-week practical
drawing course based on Ruskinian principles, using the objects in the
collection, writing the scripts, selecting the drawings and acting as the
interface between the student and the website via his recorded spoken
demonstrations. The resource is free to use by amateur artists via the
project website, the Oxford University website and iTunes U. On iTunes U
there have been over 300,000 downloads of the 9 lessons. Farthing also
supported the development of other online resources (factsheets,
worksheets, etc) for the Elements of Drawing project designed for
use by the teaching profession and targeted at Key Stage 3-4 and 5 pupils.
Sources to corroborate the impact
Education via delivery of Drawing qualification:
- UAL Awarding Body Chief Examiner's Report 2011/12 Creative
Framework. UAL on request.
- Drawing level certificate at South East Essex College of Further and
Higher Education. `The need for greater drawing skills in those
entering employment has been identified by a range of industries in
the creative sector including; animation, film, architecture, art
practice, design and communication industries. This qualification,
whilst allowing learners to build on prior experience, will require
you to face up to new intellectual and material experiences and
challenges designed to deliver an independent critical understanding
and extended skills base' http://www.southessex.ac.uk/course/drawing-level-2-certificate
Use of qualification within Widening Participation Programme and
impact on education:
- OFSTED UAL London Inspection Report, 27 January 2012. UAL on request.
- Statement from Advanced Skills Teacher and Head of Art at Plashett
School, Newham. UAL on request.
- Statement from Business Manager at Little Ilford School, Newham. UAL
Extension of audience for Museum Collections:
- Statement from Director of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. UAL on
- Professor Farthing's online drawing course at