Celebrating Senses at The Big Draw

The Big Draw returned to Colorado Academy for a 13th year on September 26 and 27, 2023, inspiring artists in Pre-K through Grade 12 during this annual all-school celebration of creativity. An initiative of The Big Draw organization, a pioneering visual literacy charity based in the United Kingdom, The Big Draw Festival is the world’s largest celebration of drawing, dedicated to raising the profile of drawing as a tool for well-being, thought, creativity, and social and cultural engagement.

This year, The Big Draw shifted focus from external to internal, exploring the ways we personally process the world and internalize our experiences through our senses. According to studio and digital art teacher Stashia Taylor, while The Big Draw normally emphasizes observation, “This year we’re embracing a more personal, internal approach. The answer is not right in front of you. Students have to work harder to envision the unseeable.”

Fifth Grader Aubrey Jablonka was doing just that, translating the sound of rattling beans and the shifting colors of a kaleidoscope into a picture that captured “a sense of love.”

All around CA’s Sculpture Garden, students got to choose from a variety of sense-friendly prompts hidden in stations representing sound, sight, and touch. Boxes labeled “Open me” held noisemakers, textured materials, and things to look through, offering a way for even the youngest creators to explore the world through their senses.

The resulting artworks were often abstract, depicting shapes, colors, and motion instead of physical things. Many students found themselves trying to capture an emotion: Ninth Grader Estefanny Tinoco said she was going for a “mellow” feeling with her portrait in blues.

Moving beyond realism, says photography teacher Karen Donald, is a central goal in CA’s Visual Arts Department. “Kids often come to us wanting to do realism. But the real challenge is abstraction. Audiences might think it’s easy, but when you take a closer look, you realize how difficult it can be to go through that process of translating something that’s not necessarily visual into art on the page. It’s far more sophisticated.”

At The Big Draw, it was clear that CA students are eager to embrace art’s challenge in whatever shape, feel, sound, or color they encounter it.