The sound of drawing

The visual depiction of sound and music has kept musicians and artists busy for a very long time. The evolution of music notation is one of many examples of this lasting connection between the two forms of expression. One could argue that music notation probably has more do to with writing than drawing. The graphic display of soundwaves seems a more direct way to show sound. However I have never seen or heard of a musician using an image of soundwaves as partition.

In illustrations, say of someone shouting or playing trumpet, we are used to see lines coming out of a mouth or an instrument. The illustrator will sometime accompany the lines with onomatopoeia, to specify what the viewer should hear. Another example is that of making voices visible in comic strips with the three basic balloons of thought, talk and scream, and their many variations in emotional tone.

With the advent of cinema, video, and audio recording, image and sound eventually came together in a such way that we tend to forget their independence. Cinema and video is about moving images, and artists have always shown interest in exploring their relation to sound and music.

One of them is Danny Clay, who takes music notation to new playful heights by inviting students to invent and draw their own music notation icons for composing. This is a sound to image to music process.

Other artists committed to explore sound and images, is the duo Heike Liss and Fred Frith who improvise the sound and the image that emerge as one, during a live performance. This may appear a simultaneous act of creation, but the sound leads the drawing in this artistic performance. It is a sound to image process.

The simultaneous production of sound and images  has become quite sophisticated with the aid of digital programs and devices. One prolific artist in this field is Benjamin Heim, who works both individually or with numerous collaborators on large scale projects. This is a simultaneous music-image process where the music determines the movement and duration of the image.

In this relation between audio and visual expression, the preoccupation with visually depicting sound seems the main concern. Only with moving images, do creators preoccupy themselves with what images sound like. But what about still images? Are they condemned to remain silent? The only sounds that are connected to still images are the ones made while the image is created. The only movements connected to fixed images are the past movements of its making, and the movements of the eyes of the viewer.

Luckily, artists never stop searching, and some are exploring sound as it emerges from images, movement, or movement making images. Anna Ridler is one of them. She uses traditional visual media with contemporary digital and audio devices, to created images out of movement and sound.

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that there are now ways to draw on screen with movement and sounds without even touching the screen. Google partnered with CreateAbility Inc. to create Sound Canva. Go ahead and try it out. Tutorials are available too.

Below, André Franquin’s Gaston signs office documents with a deafening jackhammer.

Gaston. Ink on paper, by Léo Beaulieu, c1974. Source: CDIC-CIDE.


There are simple and elaborate ways to make your own puzzles, from your own images or drawings.

The easiest way is just to cut up the image in random pieces of whatever shape or size you want. It is probably better to make the pieces the same size, but you can decide otherwise. However, this method will likely result in the pieces not nesting into each other, and the mosaic will not hold well.

Weather you use this technique or another, it is a good idea to use a reproduction of your original. By doing so, you have a model to guide you. This is particularly useful if you gift the puzzle, and the recipient has never seen the original.

If you have a printer and are patient enough to cut traditional puzzle shapes from a blank model, there are a couple of great tools we found online. Have a look at this puzzle tool on There are also several templates on Twinkl, but unlike the previous one, you will need to create an account.

There are also retail options for blank puzzle pieces, and they vary greatly in price and quality. CreateJigsawPuzzle has a good selection, including wooden and acrylic pieces, beside the regular cardboard.

Pikkii sells blank puzzles with a traditional style painting frame printed along the edges.

If you buy blank puzzles to draw or paint on, take a photo of your drawing after it is done, so you have a guide when you put it back together.

Images that fill the page, and show a variety of colors and contrasts, make great puzzles.

landscape, pencil, paper, 2020s
Landscape. Sri, 2021. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

Hands full

Most of us have a so-called dominant side. We have heard that a left handed person might have a competitive advantage in sports, or challenges in other activities such as writing from left to right. How do you feel about your dominant side when you draw? Did you ever try to draw or paint with your other hand, or both? Maybe you are ambidextrous to some degree, and never pushed your limits as to know to which extend.

There are different ways to explore this. The simplest one is to draw simultaneously each side of one symmetrical object with each hand, like a jar, or a butterfly. It can even be just simple abstract lines that you draw to concentrate on your movements and not a figure, like in this exercise presented by encaustic artist Ruth Maude. You may find that you naturally slow down your dominant side to accommodate the other.

For more advanced level examples, you should follow Colin Darke, but if you do, go to his social media accounts. You will find more of his drawings there. Warning, an Irish contemporary artist has the same name, but with a very different artistic outlook. If you get as good as Colin, you might be able to draw an asymmetric picture with both hands, or even a different subject with each.

Now, if you are ambidextrous and you think you have a super power, you have never heard of quadridextrous Raja Cenna from the Netherlands. What she does is so mind blowing that it feels like you need to see her live to believe your own eyes.

Double draw exercise, by Alisa Burke. Source: AlisaBurke., September 2023.

Craft that rocks

The great thing about making craft with pebbles is that you can go about it with complete simplicity, or you can venture into a complex journey while collecting and sorting them, making sophisticated designs and images. Pebbles are generally easy to find, and you can use only one or hundreds of them in a single art piece. You can paint them, assemble them, or pile them up artistically.

When painting pebbles that you found outdoor, you need to clean and dry the surface before you apply acrylic. You might also decide to add varnish. This will not only make them shinier, it will make them more durable. See a detailed guide with design ideas and references prepared by Melissa J. Will a.k.a. the Empress of Dirt.

It is even more fun and challenging to use only pebbles and nothing else, except for a surface or terrain where to put them. This is land art, and part of the challenge is to let go of it after dedicating possibly hours of physical and mental work. We found two inspiring artists who have mastered this art each in their own right, one with abstract geometry and the other with realistic figures.

Jason Foreman is known as Sculpt the World and his photographic work is as impressive as his land art with pebbles. He also made works with sand, shells and water. Justin Bateman works in portraiture inspired by celebrities or famous paintings. Looking at his works, one can only wonder how he stores and sorts the pebbles. His abstract and conceptual works in other media are just as impressive. He offers mind blowing poetry and surreal drawings for children.

Finally, we need the help from Japanese readers, because that is where we found the most engaging rock balancing sculptures on the web, at the Ishi Hana Club.

Beach stones. Photo: David Bleasdale, 2005. Source: Wikimedia, 2023.

Children characters in comics

Something is brewing in literary studies, specifically among the comics and graphic novel scholars. Could it be the genre’s reckoning with its lasting and deep connection to childhood? If so, this is a good sign, as it reflects the maturity of the field, which painstakingly overcame the stigma of a literature of lesser importance. Stigma it endured for too long in the past.

At the centre of this momentum is a dynamic group of researchers, led by Maaheen Ahmed, at the Ghent University (Belgium). They initiated informed discussions about children characters in European comics, and the influence childhood had, and still have on writers and illustrators. They put in place the appropriately named COMICS project. In their own word, the project “advances the hypothesis that children in comics are distinctive embodiments of the complex experience of modernity, channeling and tempering modern anxieties and incarnating the freedom denied to adults.”

The instigators will host a conference this September 18 and 19th in Ghent: Comics, Children and Childishness. A rare coming together of literary criticism and the history of childhood, it promises to be an innovating event.

Another comics studies conference, this one covering a wide range of contemporary concerns, is to take place this week on July 27-29th, at the University of North Texas. Themed Comics on the Margins, it is hosted by the Comics Studies Society.

To follow progress in comics studies, see the academic journal The Comics Grid.

Source: Gyphy on Pinterest, 2023.

Scribbling and fine arts

The Palais des Beaux-Arts in Paris offers an exciting journey into the little known practice of doodling among celebrated artists since the Renaissance.

Titled Gribouillage / Scarabocchio : From Leonardo da Vinci to Cy Twombly, the event is already on until April 30th, 2023. It offers « new comparisons » between these artists and many others, such as Michelangelo, Bernini, Jean Dubuffet, Henri Michaux, Helen Levitt, Cy Twombly, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Luigi Pericle.

If you go, bring the kids, or even better, bring grown-ups who think that great artists never scribble, or that abstract painters can only do just that.

Gribouillage. Pencil, 1976, Dominique Lachance, Fonds Françoise Roy. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

At your fingertips

Did you ever wonder if the way you hold your pen for writing is the most efficient way? This might surprise you, but there are at least four equally efficient ways to hold a pen. This is according to health reviewers Gregory Minnis and Rebecca Joy Stanborough, in a HealthLine article from 2019: A Gripping Tale: How to Hold a Pencil.

In it, dynamic and lateral tripod, and dynamic and lateral quadrupod grips are described as equally practical for writing. Their article includes simple exercises that will help toddlers progress, from a more primitive grip to one just mentioned. It also notably brings up the fact that other holding techniques are suitable for drawing, and that when it comes to drawing, one is well-advised to get creative with grip styles.

If you would like to take an art history tour of hands holding writing devices, have a look at the many examples in Howard Oakley’s Paintings of Writing 1 & 2 on his Eclectic Light Company website.

Proper way to hold a pen. The Popular Educator, Vol. 1., 1888. By John Cassell. Source: Wikimedia, 9 October 2022.

If it be your quill

A craft activity is a great way to convey a history lesson. A history lesson should be an opportunity to contemplate what has been long gone, as well as parts of the past that still persists in our time.

If you ever consider making a quill with your child, we suggest that you begin with the word processor in your computer. Have a close look at the many fonts available, and see if you and your child can differentiate the old looking ones from the newer ones. You will be quick to find Old English, Palatino, New Roman, Garamond, and the likes. They are the ones with stylish serifs.

Then, ask the child to gather as many different handwriting devices as possible at home. You might have ballpoint pens, felt pens, pencils, crayons, chalks. You might even have a metal quill. Ask the child to write the alphabet with each and compare the results. If you have one, use a magnifier to have a closer look. Make sure to observe the variations in the thickness of lines, as well as the presence or absence of serifs.

At this point, proceed with your quill making, to find out whether a quill will make writing in old style fonts easier. A good guide to use is one posted by the Rhode Island School of Design, aka RISD Museum on Instructible. You might also like the very detailed one by Liralen Li on this old Flick page, or one of the many videos online.

Whichever way you go about it, there are a few important things to keep in mind. First, hygiene. If you take feathers directly from a farm, make sure to clean, sanitize and dry it thoroughly before you handle them with bare hands or before cutting carefully. Second, safety. For best results, the carving requires a short, sharp blade that gives maximum control. Use more than one feather, because your first attempt might fail, or you might want to try different carvings. Once your quill is ready, get some ink and write for fun, your own secret recipe for a magic potion. Try different kinds of paper, and hang on to the one that best suits your quill.

In the end, take the time with your child to browse books or the web, and see if you can find old style fonts. One fantastic recent book about fonts is The Eternal Letter (MIT Press, 2015) edited by Paul Shaw.

Trimmed and sharpened quill. Photo: RISD Museum. Source:, 19 August 2022.

Pupils on holidays

Optical illusions are so much fun. When there is a new one in town, it is time for an optical excursion. Give your dilating and contracting pupils a well deserved vacation right where you are.

Recently, three researchers have published their article The eye pupil adjusts to illusory expanding holes, in which they uncovered the new optical illusion pictured below. Bruno Laeng and Shoaib Nabil, both from the department of psychology at the University of Oslo, and Akiyoshi Kitaoka, from the same at Ritsumeikan University (Japan), “found that participants varied considerably in their perceptions of subjective expansion.” Among many other interesting observations, their study shows that pupils tend to react more to black “holes” than colored ones, in the test images. What about that? The dark side always has such an appeal it seems.

What is your favorite optical illusion? Did you know that there is a Museum of Illusions in Toronto, and in Paris and Lyon as well? Book lovers, get The new book of optical illusions, by Georg Ruschemeyer at Firefly Books.

The « expanding hole» by Dr Akiyoshi Kitaoka, Ritsumeikan University.

Interview with Roger Clark Miller

Musician, composer, conceptual artist Roger Clark Miller shared with us a drawing that he made in 1966, at fourteen. We are lucky that he is a conservationist and thankful he could show it to us and tell its story.

He calls it a GROB and considers it borderline appropriate. Indeed it feels juvenile in a full mid-teens sense, and it remains so to this day, according to the Urban Dictionary. However, little did I suspect before preparing this post, that GROB was not only the name of a German aircraft company, but also a funky philanthropic legal term (Gift with Reservation Of Benefit), as explained by lawyer Sian Davies at Co-op Legal Services in the United Kingdom. How appropriate! We are after all a registered charity. Please donate a GROB, or other gifts as you wish.

Interview with Roger Clark Miller. Source: CDIC-CIDE Youtube channel, 10 July 2022
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