Drawing the Line

Reflections on the importance of drawing by hand in an increasingly digital age

Stephen Alcorn


Alcorn, Stephen. “Drawing the Line: Reflections on the importance of drawing.” New York Folklore, vol. 41-1-2, 2015, pp. 16-27.


Throughout history humans have responded to a profound need to translate the experience of life into marks, signs, and symbols onto an infinitely varied number surfaces, using an equally varied number of tools and materials, ranging from compressed charcoal on a cave wall to a rod of gold on specially coated parchment. The medium of drawing has chronicled the history of humankind—a rich and varied tapestry comprised of countless interwoven threads, each one bearing the mark of an individual in relation to a series of larger wholes. For the novice, the act of drawing can prove irresistible: give someone a pencil and a sheet of blank paper, and they will likely leave their “mark.” For the accomplished draftsman, drawing provides the satisfying experience not only of exercising a well-honed skill, but also of giving eloquent form to a vision.

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