Live drawing at the Circuit conference

On 10th March 2017, delegates from arts and youth organisations came together for a day of lively debate at the Circuit National Conference. We invited artist Niall Farrelly to live draw the event, and his series of illustrations beautifully capture key moments. In the below, Niall describes his practice and use of drawing as a means to explore memory.

I’ve been drawing continuous line blind drawings for a while now. It’s a style of drawing I picked up while studying on my Foundation in Art and Design. It was the first time I had ever encountered this way of drawing before yet once I started using it, it became my favourite method of drawing. My drawings are usually portraits, yet no matter the subject I’ve found drawing in this way captures something of the person or object, something really familiar that I don’t think I would capture were I to draw the same subject in a very detailed or focused way.

The idea of drawing this way is quite simple. The process is that you draw in a single continuous line while not looking at the paper and only focusing on your subject. Some challenges do arise, such as avoiding the temptation to look at the paper as you are drawing. It takes some practice not to break the line or slip off the edge of the paper. It can also be all too easy to forget which part you’ve already drawn. I tend to be quite quick with the drawings, the longer you take the more detail you can add, although it’s also likely that the more ink you put down the more the final result looks like an indistinguishable scribble.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of drawing this way is when you’ve finished a drawing and look at it for the first time. You may have just drawn it but it remains something completely new to you until you put down your pencil. It makes it exciting and each drawing is unique. There are recognisable features that come through in the drawing, and it makes for a humorous moment with the person being sketched to look at a recognizable albeit messy representation of themselves. Everyone can laugh at a weird drawing of a face. While drawing I always have a conversation with people, something about the process seems to allow people to open up.

I’m currently using this style of drawing in an ongoing series of portraits documenting people I know. The series is called “Life Advice From Strangers”. It came about when I happened to write a quote of the conversation I had with a person underneath their portrait. My terrible handwriting happened to work well alongside the blind drawing and I thought why not continue with this. From that point I’ve been using the portraits and quotes as a means of documenting the people in my life, when paired with a quote it really captures their personality and quite often mutual friends can recognise who it is. When viewed by other people I like how the drawings become anonymous, the faces could be like strangers and the quotes take on a different meaning, at times being quite profound, hence the title “Life Advice From Strangers”.

In a lot of my work I’m interested in exploring memories and history, ways of documenting and recording and how these memories can be altered and passed on. “Life Advice From Strangers” is a good example of this, where the eventual aim for the series is to document everyone I know. I’ve also done some work where I draw from old family photos, and then giving those drawings new meanings or different contexts. An example of this would be my series “That Feeling When”, where inspired by memes I took drawings of old family photos and gave them captions featuring bizarre scenarios, playing on the relatability of memes.