Everyone knows Oslo Davis. His regular cartoons and “Overheard” section in The Age are reader favourites, and his work brightens cultural institutions across Victoria – from Readings’ monthly publication to the Meredith Music Festival program.
Ahead of his special School of Life session on Friday, 'Drawing as Therapy', we pick the illustrator’s brain about how – when your day can be filled with clicks, texts and screens – drawing can be a blissful release.
Broadsheet: Oslo, is drawing a cathartic process?
Oslo Davis: Yes, it can be. It takes time to warm up, but once you’re flying, drawing can make you forget time and put you in a different headspace.
BS: For those of us who haven’t drawn anything in a long time, what have we been missing out on?
OD: You’ve missed out on using your hand to do something other than text, click a mouse, handle a utensil or write a word. Practically speaking, drawing is often the fastest way to design, create a map or copy something from real life. It is also a great way to quickly create new things that didn’t exist in the world before.
BS: Seeing as this workshop is billed as Drawing as Therapy, what particular aspects of drawing can be therapeutic?
OD: Drawing probably won’t resolve any issues you have with your mother, but it will, for a few minutes in your day, take you out of yourself, slow you down and get you thinking differently.
BS: Is there a specific example of a drawing you’ve done explicitly as therapy, or realised, in retrospect, that it was cathartic? If so, could you briefly describe it?
OD: Relax your non-drawing hand on your desk, set the timer on your phone for one minute and then draw your hand without looking at your pen or what you are drawing. Resist the urge to see what you are drawing until the alarm goes off. Then do the activity again, this time for five minutes. You will go mad trying not look at your drawing as you draw, but once you break through that temptation you will enter a timeless zone of thinking, or non-thinking, and you will see details in your hand that you hadn’t seen before. And your drawing will look amazing!
BS: How would you describe a Drawing As Therapy class?
OD: We’ll have a lot of games like this, a lot of free-drawing time. We’ll also play with different drawing materials and see where watercolour, pencils and pens, for example, might take us. The focus won’t be on becoming a great drawer, but rather on how to lose yourself in the act of drawing.
BS: In the class, you’re going to talk about a number of different “modes” of drawing, such as pleasure and humour. Can you elaborate on why these modes exist?
OD: Drawing can of course have different outcomes or purposes, like making your kids laugh, or creating a pretty, abstract artwork, or telling a story. Different desired outcomes might require different techniques, which we will explore.
BS: So what effects can drawing on a regular basis have? Like a doodle on a notepad, or a few dots jotted down while waiting on the phone, for example?
OD: We all appreciate the power and unique effect art can have on us. Colour, line, white space, caricatures, scribbles, funny drawings on our hands all have the power to affect us. I’m no neurologist, but I reckon even the simplest of scribbles has the power to light up parts of our brain that words, computer graphics or TV images and information can’t. Children are very good at using drawings to express and excite themselves, as well as to tell stories. Regular drawing, I reckon, has the power to reconnect us to this world.
BS: In the class, you’re going to talk about simple drills to get us to think in a new way when we draw. What methods in your own drawing practice have re-wired your brain?
OD: My cartooning work involves addressing a topic or an issue and then making a witty comment and sketch about it. To come up with an idea I often brainstorm around the topic using images, not words. This can be effective in thinking graphically about a topic, rather than by using words. Drawings lines, shapes and objects can lead to unexpected images and connections.
BS: For those of us coming to the class, what do you think is the best thing to take away from drawing as a form of therapy?
OD: We all enjoyed drawing as little kids, even if we don’t remember it. My class will, hopefully, reintroduce you to those golden, timeless moments when we used to randomly, freely and selfishly draw for no reason other than for the pleasure of drawing.
Drawing as Therapy with Oslo Davis will take place at The School of Life at 669 Bourke Street, Melbourne on Friday July 10 at 6pm.