The best books about performance drawing for artists

Maryclare Foá and Carali McCall Author Of Performance Drawing: New Practices since 1945
By Maryclare Foá and Carali McCall

Who are we?

We are artists who met as PhD researchers while individually undertaking research in different areas of drawing – each sharing an interest in process-based and expanded methods of working. In addition to our individual artistic practices, since 2008 we have collaborated on a range of performance drawing projects that address the relationship between the body and presence, and time and space through working with graphite and charcoal, light, sound, and animation. We have exhibited and lectured internationally on the topic of performance drawing and have curated programmes and workshops. Working together collaboratively in this way we aim to contribute to the creative process underpinned by generations of feminist art practice and defy traditional notions of authorship.


We wrote...

Performance Drawing: New Practices since 1945

By Maryclare Foá, Jane Grisewood, Birgitta Hosea, Carali McCall

Book cover of Performance Drawing: New Practices since 1945

What is our book about?

A primer for artists interested in performance drawing. The book features a wide range of artists involved in the expanded field of drawing, establishing performance drawing as a vibrant art movement that has been progressively burgeoning since 1945. Each chapter focuses on a different perspective of performance drawing. Marking: Line and body in time and space, Physicality: Running as drawing, Communication: Directives and/or instructions that promote the activity of drawing, Conjuring: The gift of a surprise, Illuminating: Live mark-making through projected light. While embedded in ephemerality and immediacy, the themes encompass body and energy, time and motion, light and space, imagined and observed, demonstrating how drawing can act as a performative tool.

The books we picked & why

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Drawing Papers 20: Performance Drawings

By Catherine de Zegher,

Book cover of Drawing Papers 20: Performance Drawings

Why this book?

This book was important for us because it was the first time the live method of drawing was first described as performance drawing(s).

The term ‘performance drawing’ first appeared in the subtitle of Catherine de Zegher’s Drawing Papers 20: Performance Drawings, in particular with reference to Alison Knowles and Elena del Rivero. This volume accompanied a series of five solo exhibitions at The Drawing Center, New York (2001) of work that "explored the interrelation of drawing and performance." Since then, performance drawing has compellingly become an operational term – a trope and a thread of thinking to describe the process dedicated to broadening the field of drawing through resourceful practices and cross-disciplinary influence, including dance, audio, moving image, and technology. It made a big impact on our research.


On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century

By Connie Butler, Benjamin Buchloh,

Book cover of On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century

Why this book?

As today’s artists are shifting boundaries of genres, creative debates are opened up and generate transformative methodologies. This book was instrumental for us, in instituting and revealing the relationship between drawing and performing, Butler, and de Zegher’s catalogue, demonstrates artworks at the forefront of the progressively vibrant and forward-thinking approach to art that contributes to the expanded field of drawing.


The Drawing Book: A Survey of Drawing: The Primary Means of Expression

By Tania Kovats,

Book cover of The Drawing Book: A Survey of Drawing: The Primary Means of Expression

Why this book?

At times, it may seem apparent that successive generations of artists reinvent the wheel and explore performance drawing across a range of disciplines; it was in particular, Tania Kovat’s writing in The Drawing Book, that gave us the broad contextualization of things – it seemed to reach into diverse yet significantly relevant references of historical predecessors that excited us. The book is complete with brilliant replications of artworks and quotes by a collection of artists.


Perform, Repeat, Record: Live Art in History

By Amelia Jones (editor), Adrian Heathfield (editor),

Book cover of Perform, Repeat, Record: Live Art in History

Why this book?

A scholarly / anthology resource, this book is a collection of ideas around a theme that made a big impact on us and our approach to writing. We love this book. The book is a collection of writings that provide much debate for researchers in the field discussing themes regarding live art; the book brings together artists, theorists, and historians as contributors and addresses disciplines, such as dance, theatre, action painting and expanded cinema, as forms of live art that today’s artists are inspired by.


The Stage of Drawing: Gesture and Act

By Catherine de Zegher,

Book cover of The Stage of Drawing: Gesture and Act

Why this book?

Throughout this book, the artist and editor, Avis Newman converses with the editor Catherine de Zegher about the practical process of drawing. This approach was also important and also most impactful. In the book, de Zegher asks Newman "What happens in the space between the gesture and its landing on the page?" And we love all conversations around the artist’s “doing” and “thinking." Following this conversation, the book gives the reader a window into how the drawer is thinking in the process of making and illuminates a link between performance and drawing by revealing how a drawing is performative as it comes into the world.


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