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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #11: Draw on Me

Let's draw.

Let’s draw on me.

The idea for this week’s wacky fun is the result of several ideas colliding. At first my idea for this week was to make a costume out of art supplies (we seem to have no shortage of dried-up markers around here). But the idea morphed into a dress that people could draw on as a piece of ever-changing, interactive art. Audience participates. I like it! I am a living, talking, walking canvas. Maybe the fact that school just ended and people have been signing yearbooks has informed this idea, too. My only requirement is that no one draws crazy R-rated stuff on my dress. Anything else goes. I’m curious to see how it ends up.

This is my dress before anyone draws on it: 

Of course, I made a hat. It’s getting too hot for hats but I rallied.

Here is my dress after I’ve persuaded people that I really do want them to draw on my clothes. With permanent ink!   

In the 1950s and ‘60s there was an art movement that involved a lot of unpredictability and public interaction. Composer John Cage was one of the first to experiment with the idea of art as an experience rather than something hung on a gallery wall behind velvet ropes. Art was performance-based and these interactions were called Happenings. I learned about this in an art class I took in my early 20s, and some of my artist and musician friends and I staged a few happenings. It was fun in part because it could not be predicted exactly how the happening would go. Freedom and randomness and chance were a big part of it all. My art experiment today fits with this theme.

In 1965 Yoko Ono staged a happening called “Cut Piece.” She asked viewers to cut her dress as she sat on a stage. Ono ended up almost naked, but this (presumably) was something she accepted as a possible outcome. The kind of art in which an audience participates is a little like those Choose Your Own Adventure books—you don’t know exactly how things will end up, but this is part of the fun. My experiment this week is a little like Yoko Ono’s (although I’m not handing anyone scissors!) because having someone change your clothing (whether they’re cutting it or drawing on it) invites people to get closer than they usually would. I’m turning my weekly art assignment on its ear—I’m asking my friends, family and even strangers to become the artist. Will strangers want to draw on a strange lady’s dress? When I talk about art with people I often hear, “Oh, I can’t even draw a straight line.” That’s okay. Having a dress covered in photorealistic art isn’t the goal. The point is asking others to participate. I like seeing what regular people do when presented with something unexpected. What happens when you invite others to contribute to a wearable, changing piece of art?

Update, five hours later:

Well, I’ve been out and about, asking people to draw on me. It’s been fun and it’s also been a fascinating study in human behavior. These are my findings:

·         Most people are glad to participate.

·         Having people draw on your clothes is a great ice-breaker.

·         Some people say they don’t know what to draw and they opt for something quick, like a happy face, and this is okay.

·         Some people drew something personal that reflects their jobs or favorite hobbies.

·         Others felt more comfortable writing something, as opposed to drawing an image.

·         A few people wrote me a personal message (these were friends from the gym, who see me do Wacky Wednesday stuff each week and seem to like my playfulness). That was so sweet. It really did feel like a yearbook signing party.

Let’s think back to yearbooks. What people write says a lot about who they are. Did they sign only their names? Did they write something nice about you in your yearbook? Did they draw a funny picture? It’s been more than twenty years since I last signed yearbooks, in high school. This brought me back. We grown-ups don’t do yearbooks (I guess we do holiday cards instead, because December isn’t quite busy enough, right?)—but maybe we should. It bonds people.

Some people wanted to draw something quick and not very personal, and that is okay. This experiment wasn’t about pressuring people to draw the most amazing piece of art ever. It was about interaction and connection with people. Asking them to draw on me showed them that I like them. Oftentimes people feel more comfortable not starting conversations, but they’re quite friendly if you make the first move and show them that you’re not going to bite! I had some very friendly conversations with people today because I got the ball rolling and once they knew it was okay to open up, they did. It’s quite a revealing glimpse into human nature.

I drew this heart for my friend Allison but the rest of the art was done by others.
I wasn’t sure how covered this dress would be at the end of my experiment. I suppose I could have hit the streets for ten hours, asking hundreds of people for their drawings. But I limited it to five hours and I think I had at least thirty people draw on me. A few people covered up part of what others had done, a little like graffiti on a wall. The first person (other than my kids) who signed was a stranger in a parking lot. She drew a Thai house on stilts in yellow marker. I asked if she was Thai and she said she was. Even though she isn’t 100% fluent in English, we communicated fairly well, which is so cool. I love that connection with others can transcend a language barrier. It’s all about whether people want to try to connect with others. If we all drew on each other’s clothes, I think we would make a lot of connection with others. (We humans are designed to bond, after all!) Maybe we need a yearly Draw On Others day to help facilitate friendliness. Anyone with me?!  







  1. This is so great! One year I went to a Halloween Party with a canvas placard front and back. I made a connect the dots image and gave people markers to draw and bring out the pictures of dracula and a pumpkin. Love your hat too.
    Jeanne Whalen

  2. Oooh, that's a great idea, Jeanne. Thanks so much for the feedback!

  3. This is just sooo awesome, Sar!!! So inspiration, and well-written. I love the idea, and I don't think I would have the guts the do it (I'm too shy). This is such a deep and inspiring idea. It's my absolute favorite blog of yours yet!!! And that's saying a lot!!!

    And yes, I think an annual Draw On Me art day is in order! :-D

    1. Thanks, Lo! It was fun. I didn't ask every stranger passing me--you have to figure out who looks super busy/rushed and not ask them! But it was a good experience...

  4. This is so cool! I wish I could have drawn something on it. I love the hat too.
    When you talked about the interactive sort of art forms it reminds me of a video I saw of a perfectly beautiful woman who stood on the street and asked people to draw on her where she should get plastic surgery. The end product was one of those art pieces that reflect on the darker side of society.

    1. Thanks, Ky! Eeek about the experiment with the woman asking for feedback on her body. Goes to show that if we let others tell us how we're not good enough, there will be reactions (probably all in conflict with one another). So let's not go there. Let's walk tall and proud even if we're 100% confident.

  5. Hi Allison

    Loved what you did with this project, so creative. I was wondering, what dyes/markers/pens did you use? Are some better than others? Do they wash off? Do the colors 'bleed' or damage the dress?

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Hello,
    Did you make the dress out of a pillow case? I love it. I'm thinking of using this idea for a creative writing paper assignment. I'm sure my instructor would get a kick out of the final outcome.