Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Birth of Abstraction

Playing the "Abstraction" drawing game

  The pictures above are the result of playing the “Abstraction Game” at a family party. This game fascinates me as it lets you see an abstraction develop from a simple picture. It is like “Chinese Whispers” where a circle of people each copy their neighbours drawing without looking at the original. The differences between the first and last picture (there were ten pictures in all) are amazing, but you can follow each feature through the series.

Above is the complete sequence. Below is the final picture with annotation so you can follow the various features through the series.
 The results are much more interesting if you do not give the game away too early in the drawing. For this picture I started with the front knee and then down to the boot. I didn’t put the head in until towards the end as it would give the game away. It is a self portrait of me acting the part of the doctor in our Mummer's play (English Folk art.)  You can watch the changes on the video that is at the end of the post. (coming shortly!!) Or study them in the picture above.
.In this example the drawing starts with a man running and drinking and ends up as an abstract pattern. The head loses all importance but the front boot looms large. Look at the result. All the main features are there throughout the series. Look at the forward leg and see how the boot gets elongated. The buttons of the tailcoat front are now pointing upward, the back foot is still there, but is now hanging off the front leg. At picture 6 the head is now near the top left.

How you play the game

We, as a family, love to draw and this is a favourite game we always play at parties. This is the result of our party last week in London. The group's ages ranged from 10 to 86.
We gather pens and paper and books to rest on and position our chairs in a circle or 'C' shape with paper over books resting on our knees. Don't allow erasers as there is no rubbing out. Arrange the chairs so everyone can see and copy their right hand neighbour's drawing. Ask everyone to number their paper on the top left corner so the order does not get lost at the end. Numbering should start with the leader as 1, the next person as 2 and so on. Numbering at the top left also helps with getting the paper the right way up.
Ask if everyone can you see their neighbour's picture, then start. The leader draws a simple picture bit by bit so that the subject of the drawing does not become obvious too early in the game. As soon as the leader has drawn a line the left hand neighbour copies it and the copying continues all through the group. Left handed people need take care their hand does not block their neighbours view. The original should be simple like a cat on a mat, the cat and the fiddle, cow jumps over the moon, Mickey Mouse, Santa Claus, etc. and should not be abstract.

Similar effects on old coins

In ancient coin making, I've been told when a new batch was needed they would take an existing well-worn coin and copy it. Then when that batch needed renewing, they would do the same again, copy the existing well-worn coins and make a new batch, by then the image had altered and the original design become obscured. The design of the original coin showed a king's head on one side and a horse on the other. After centuries of wear and several copies being made the design looks nothing like the original and now looks like a series of blobs and lines in an abstract pattern.

The coins shown coins from, the Hunter collection Glasgow and Andrew McCabe on Flickr. The coin design originated in the Macedonian empire of Alexander and were used throughout the Roman and Celtic worlds.Top is a Roman coin at the bottom a Celtic one from the South of England.

Help us find a website of coins and show us your pictures

 We cannot find a website that follows the changes in design of these through from the original. Can anyone help? Also I'd like to see any series of pictures you produce playing the abstraction game.
Jeanie Mellersh. Jan 2014

PS our first ebook coming soon!

We are starting experimenting with e-books and one of Nick Mellersh's pantomimes "Snow White of the South Seas" will be available soon on the ibook store.  Download is free at the moments so be sure to grab a copy before Nick learns how to charge people.

Exhibition "60 Years of Drawing Children".

We are preparing an exhibition of Jeanie's children's drawings that will be on show in Minstead Church in February.  Be sure to come.  Watch this space for more announcements.