Drawing with shadow and light - The Big Draw 2008

[gallery] The Big Draw event at Manchester Art Gallery pulled in the crowds throughout the day as drawing interventions took place in every corner. As they entered the building, families with young children were invited to tie streamers to their buggies to create waves and ripples of colour as they wheeled around the gallery. In the main entrance, visitors were invited to pose for silhouette drawings which were then suspended around the impressive hallway. Elsewhere, in the Modern & Contemporary gallery, a community-initiated project invited visitors to make their own drawing robot which could wheel itself around, leaving a coloured snail trail.

In the lecture theatre, families were invited to wander through and scribble in a cardboard maze which proved to be the ultimate doodling chill-out zone, great for resting inside. One of the education studios had been taken over by the Baby Disco crew who pumped out booming beats and dancefloor cheese, along with its very own troupe of Baby Disco dancers. You may not have been terribly into the music after a few hours of its repetitive loop, however, drawing in time to the music with day-glo light sticks was certainly quite effective.

I was positioned in the studio between the disco and the cardboard maze, creating and facilitating the free-flowing shadow drawing laboratory. After a couple of days' work lining the entire studio floor with white paper and suspending 4 sheets of thin white fabric to form a cube which you could enter, the base for this makeshift shadow laboratory was built. Old overhead projectors (OHPs) were positioned on two sides of the outside of the cube so that people could sit inside and watch projections and passing shadows. Visitors were invited to scribble on the floor and could make their own shadow puppets, shapes, transparency textures and projected drawings on acetate. Ropelights, a fabulous coloured spectrum light and abstract music also enhanced the experimental, fluidity of the space, which changed constantly through the multitudes of interactions.

Young children sat and scribbled, watching the moving silhouettes and shadows -  some tried to catch them, grabbing the gauze screen. Older children and adults enjoyed creating endless projections with shapes, puppets and drawings. One OHP was closer to the projection screen than the other, giving a smaller and clearer square of light which formed the frame of a mini shadow puppet theatre. The other, being slightly further away from the screen enlarged the shadows and transformed the atmosphere inside the cube as different coloured acetate and translucencies were placed onto the projection screen.

All-in-all the activity was fun and offered a range of possibilities. It would have been great to have had less people trudging through as the space was supposed to be calming. Nevertheless, people dipped in and out and some remained there for much longer, simply bathing in the light.