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OUTSIDE THE LINES is an Art and Social Practice research project. Artist Jaccqueline Mackenzie worked with the Art department at Millburn Academy in Inverness, where she asked a class of 3rd year pupils to take part in drawing experiments.


Minimal instruction was given, to encourage the participants to rely on their own decisions and ideas about how to tackle each challenge. Pupils were encouraged to focus on their thoughts and interests and to draw self portraits and their hands too. They had little option but to trust their intuition and become aware of their passing thoughts.


By realising what we are thinking while drawing, we start to notice how creative activities can change how you feel. In this way, the artist hoped that some participants would find that drawing can be used as a tool to soothe and regulate emotions.


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. The artist hopes that this builds transferrable creative thinking skills. This is increasingly in demand for the job market of the future, according to the World Economic Forum.

This project took place early in 2020, at Millburn Academy. Thank you to the staff and pupils involved, for their generous cooperation and collaboration.

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

    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 is from Inverness. She studied Painting at Edinburgh College of Art and produced highly personal and expressive drawing work which explores extreme emotions and memory.

She has worked as a Childrens Worker in the Highlands for many years and, this project combines knowledge from both professions, to explore how drawing might be used to benefit young peoples' wellbeing.

In Western culture, when we start drawing, we immediately become aware that our work will be seen and judged by others. Right away we become self consious. The project used this thought process to help pupils be more aware of themselves and their own thoughts, and to try to suspend any self-criticism by learning about different functions in the brain. Some tasks like drawing upside down, or on perspex or windows reduce the chances of the logical brain jumping in to criticise. With practice this frees up the creative part of the brain to take control and consider aesthetic concerns without interruption. The pupils were directed to note down each others comments when drawing, to illustrate some of the critical internal thoughts going on.

The artist thought that if you practice tuning into your internal dialogue of thoughts, then learn to silence any negativity, this can be applied to any situation and build emotional tolerance to creative risk taking. These strengths can then be carried from the art department to any subject or activity. Creative thinking is helpful for all kinds of tasks and makes us more resilient and better at solving problems.

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.....


for most people

Is unique like

a fingerprint

Improves concentration

Builds flexible thinking

Personal expression

Develops creativity

Can change how you feel


Increases self belief

Boosts problem solving skills

Allows you to envision what you cannot see.

Builds imagination