I was seeking and hoping for a truly democratic way of collaborating and drawing together – something that I thought would only be possible if we turned ourselves into drawing machines: hands carrying out a pre-planned set of movements.
But of course we must accommodate different minds, opinions and moods – and it is important to me to acknowledge and give space for the different ways different people choose to engage in a situation, Our visual preferences and personal experiences are an important part of us as image-makers, and it’s the combination of these attributes that make a collective. But an enjoyment of the unexpected is one of the reasons you engage in collaborative activity; if you know what you want, just do it yourself.
So the machine didn’t allow for a collectivist paradise, but should drawing be a paradise? It has been through our conversations that the machine has forced us to have the most interesting thoughts in relation to collaboration.
The process has changed how we talk to each other so that we have to think about lines, talk about lines, describe lines. We have to take turns. The machine forces us to engage. It’s hard, tiring and testing – but it is also fun. I both like the process and dislike it.
This is a new way of drawing (for us), and it makes something new, something unseen. These are new movements and lines we are making: lines loaded, with thought, conflict, assistance and hand-holding.
It is illustration because it has a rhetorical component to it, hoping to inform the viewer about the process of the collaboration. It aims to persuade the viewer that what they are seeing is some sort of genuine collaboration and it aims to motivate others to engage in a similar activity, or at least shout about the qualities of it from the nearest high point.
In terms of the discourse around illustration, the process raises questions such as who is the illustrator here? The pen, our collected limbs, our combined brain-waves, our bodies? This is practice as research: thoughts made visible, questions between us quoted and composed. Drawing as discourse.
As we approach the final month of our residency, and as it happens, of working in a studio together for a while, our work together so far has set a new arena for discourse around our collaborative practice. This way of working has given us a collaborative practice, something beyond the process of collective curation we enjoyed before. It’s a movement towards some confusing new world – confusing, but at least we’ll be there together.
Nous Vous Collective is House of Illustration's 2016 Illustrator in Residence. See the results of six months spent exploring the nature of collaborative work at our South Gallery exhibition. Nous Vous: Three Men in a Boat opens on 18 March 2017. Our residency programme is generously supported by the Barbara and Philip Denny Trust.