Derwent Art Prize: Exploring Drawing

Until we can insert a USB into our ear and download our thoughts, drawing remains the best way of getting visual information on to the page.

Typically forthright, Grayson Perry makes his opinion on the value of drawing abundantly clear. Though Perry doesn’t often find himself sitting pretty within the realm of popular opinion, his thoughts on drawing align with those of many of his contemporaries. David Hockney, for example, claims that ‘drawing has been neglected for the last 30 years in art education…It is time for us to look at how images are made, to place greater value on drawings and draughtsmanship…practically everything comes to life on a drawing board’.

This championship of drawing is not just a contemporary phenomenon. In the 19th century, John Ruskin claimed that drawing ‘is of more real importance to the human race than that of writing’ and that it ‘should be taught to every child just as writing is’. Earlier still, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres defined drawing as ‘the probity of art. To draw does not mean simply to reproduce contours; drawing does not consist merely of line: drawing is also expression, the inner form, the plane, the modelling’. Cycling back through the centuries, we find Tintoretto, Giorgio Vasari and Titian expressing similar sentiments, with Michelangelo pronouncing that drawing is a ‘power’ and that those who have it hold ‘a great treasure’.

As per Ruskin’s instruction, in today’s early education system drawing is aligned with writing in a child’s education – at least in terms of time devoted if not in terms of value. Since the 1990s, drawing has also grown in prominence within the higher tiers of education and further education. In an article written for The Guardian in 2014, artist and Professor Anita Taylor comments that ‘from the Campaign for Drawing to the Drawing Research Network, from the Drawing Room to the Rabley Drawing Centre, we’ve witnessed a proliferation of passion, effort and energy matched by increased museum exhibitions, dedicated degree courses, professors, publications and conferences’.

Art Prizes like The Big Draw, the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize and of course the Derwent Art Prize play a huge part in demonstrating the role and expounding the importance of drawing today. They offer artists the opportunity to challenge the current understanding of drawing, thus extending and pushing the boundaries of their own practice. The diverse exhibitions that emerge following the open submission process – during which thousands of works from around the world may be received – give the public the chance to engage with contemporary drawing, experience its impact first-hand and draw their own conclusions as to its purpose and value.

Illustration from Grayson Perry’s sketchbook

The Derwent Art Prize 2020 is now calling for entries. To enter, please visit where you can fill in an online entry form and upload your images. The deadline is 17 February 2020.