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OUTSIDE THE LINES was my Art and Social Practice Masters final research project. As visiting artist I worked with a class of third year pupils during their art classes in Millburn Academy in Inverness. With the generous cooperation of The Head of department, Ms Keating, I led pupils through very challenging drawing tasks as a complement to their social science artwork.


To encourage participants to rely on their own ideas about how to tackle each challenge, I gave them very minimal instruction which sparked questioning. Pupils were encouraged to identify and focus on their own thoughts and interests, and drew self portraits as well as their hands. The drawing tasks were chosen to bring the pupils' attention to their logical thoughts: casting doubt on the sense in taking part in apparently pointless creative tasks. We succeeded in capturing some of the commentary when this was happening.


Taking attention away from producing a finished work, I hoped that the young artists might notice the quieting, therapeutic nature of drawing, once they realised that they were meant to make creative decisions about each task, for themselves.


Also, the tasks were designed to challenge ideas about what drawing is, and provide emotionally safe ways to take risks by doing tasks without knowing exactly why.


self esteem.webp

    They were also tasked with designing a collage inspired by Matisse' paper cutouts.

Each participant chose from a list of social science topics, to be the subject of their own collage. Next, they made a moodboard about the topics.



Jacqueline Mackenzie studied Painting at Edinburgh College of Art and this project is part of her research for an MA in Art and Social Practice at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

She has worked in early intervention with children for many years and has combined knowledge from social services and art for this project.


Jacqueline is interested in the invisible creative processes which take place when we take part in an art class. Often people become immediately self consious and critical of their efforts when they draw. We automatically focus on the quality of our work. This project used this self consiousness and awareness to investigate how drawing can change how you feel. The process of drawing affects thinking and chemicals in the brain which can help you to feel good.

 The artists' Drawing tasks felt hard to understand. They were not aimed at making a good image. They were aimed at confusing us so that we had to guess what to do. We wrote down each others comments as we worked (see some on the left here). You can see some of our negative and doubting comments which show how we were thinking.


At the same time, the teacher started us working on our self portraits and a social science collage. We saw how Matisse used scissors to draw by cutting paper shapes. Inspired by our own moodboards, we designed and made collages in a similar way to him. We each chose a social science topic to focus on. We uploaded our work into a small online portfolio via Padlet, where we could see each others work and communicate with the artist if we needed to.

Altogether our drawings were meant to be edited together, combinging all the different kinds of drawing; to make a page for a colouring book. Unfortunately we reached half term and then school needed to close because of the Pandemic in March 2020. Although this part was not finished, Jacqueline has used our work to complete her research findings, about whether doing confusing kinds of drawing can help develop more creative pathways in the brain. You can find out more about this by clicking the RESEARCH button.

Altogether, we made a collection of drawings, and our collages, and uploaded them to the Project Padlet. This made a mini portfolio of our notes and work with our social science topic mood board images.

We did fast drawings of one another in the class. Some of these came out more like cartoon portraits.Mostly though, they look recogniseable. This was drawing some of what you see and some of what you know at the same time.

We drew the view from school windows onto the glass then photographed our drawings to go on our Padlet. The clear surface becomes a 'picture plane' which is a flat drawing surface. This exercise helps your brain to see how a painter sees 3D images, in 2D, to make into a painting or drawing. 

We drew our non-dominant hands with pencil. Some people traced around their hand and some took their time to look in more detail.

This is a well known drawing challenge where you copy this Picasso drawing upside down. Your drawing is upside down. When you turn it the right way up, you should find that it looks more like the original than if you drew it the right way up.


We drew using scissors to make lines when we cut out shapes from coloured paper. We arranged the shapes into a collage about our social science topic.


The project ran with Mrs Keatings' Collage project; interspersed with the artists' drawing activities. Altogether this made up a block of art work on pupils  Health and Wellbeing  The class started with A3 pencil self portraits;  (some examples below).

This project took place early in 2020. Thank you to the staff, especially Mrs Keating, Mr Quigley and pupils involved, for their generous cooperation and collaboration.


Drawing tasks

Here are a selection of our hand drawings, both pencil on paper and then we balanced perspex sheets on our hand and drew what we could see on top of the sheet with pen. This exercise helps you learn how to translate a 3D image onto a 2D surface. Also here are some fast portraits we drew. We made self portraits in 15 minutes, then 5 minutes and then drew one another for 5 minutes. Fast drawing has less detail but more character.


What other research says about what drawing can do for children and young people.....

Personal expression

Develops creativity

Can change how you feel


Increases self belief

Boosts problem solving skills

Builds imagination

Builds flexible thinking

Improves concentration

Is unique like
a fingerprint


Allows you to envision what you cannot see.

for most people

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