[educatie] Workshop ‘Drawing a Trail to Action: Exploring the potential of illustration research’ by Tânia A. Cardoso

‘Drawing a Trail to Action: Exploring the potential of illustration research’ a workshop by Tânia A. Cardoso

Drawing as a Trail to Action, held on October 11 and November 24, is a walkshop that provides a unique opportunity for participants to explore the fascinating world of illustration as a form of activism. Inspired by the Trail Blazers: 20th Century Illustrators and Activism, this ‘walkshop’ is designed to help participants reflect on how drawing can be a socially engaged practice. Stepping into the shoes of the illustrator, participants learned how the person drawing, movement, and the subject being investigated are all connected in a transformative process where all are affected, and all are left transformed in the end. We engaged with three key questions: how to conduct research through illustration, uncover hidden layers of meaning in urban spaces, and use drawing to engage with others and our surroundings. 

We started at the Meterhuis in Westerpark, walking with our sketchbooks through Staatsliedenbuurt, weather permitting. We explored nearby areas and, when that was not possible, the exhibition, studying the techniques and viewpoints of the featured illustrators and integrating their teachings into our sketchbooks. In an approach that blends psychogeography and graphic journalism, the walkshop emphasised close observation through drawing in a dynamic and mobile way. Our movements and pauses created a rhythmic sequence, resulting in a continuously evolving sense of place. This process, which I call thinking by drawing, enabled us to learn continuously through a full-bodied sensory experience while documenting our observations simultaneously.

Photos by Tânia A. Cardoso

Drawing in such a way serves as a powerful tool for social engagement, enabling constant interactions between various stakeholders. The core focus was to investigate the urban environment and exhibition materials, randomly selecting a related word from a bag and following our instincts and senses, allowing chance to guide our attention in the surrounding space. The word was used to guide each participant’s exploration, specifying issues such as representation, erasure, visibility, discrimination, authenticity, and control. As researchers or even detectives, participants used drawing to investigate these issues and uncover their presence in the tapestry of urban space. Each participant achieved a different result—their viewpoint and interpretation, highlighting diverse aspects of our collective journey. This resulted in a thoughtful challenge drawn in their sketchbooks or a soft disruption within urban space as we moved together. 

Photos by Tânia A. Cardoso

We kept the questions that were initially posed open-ended. Instead, we focused on encouraging the participants to engage with the exhibition’s topics differently through experimentation. The walkshops were a great success, providing the participants with a unique opportunity to explore the world of illustration and its many possibilities. The resulting discussions demonstrated the potential of illustration methodologies as educational tools to bring attention to varying perspectives and as a means of collective involvement and participation. Most importantly, it highlighted illustration’s potential as an active method of communication. Through these playful walkshops, I aimed to shift attention and raise awareness of the crucial role of research through illustration, highlighting drawing and spatial immersion through walking as socially engaged practices. Illustrators have a multifaceted role – they are artists, but they are also researchers and activists who challenge dominant narratives and bring hidden issues to light through their work. By carrying sketchbooks and taking walks through the streets, they become fully immersed in their surroundings, capturing sensory and subjective information, and developing an awareness of place through their responses to it. Thus, the created illustrations hold agency with their audience and serve as a potent tool to raise awareness of surroundings and communities, ultimately serving as a form of activism.