Involuntary Presence

Copying, Printing, and Multiplying Line

  • Frances Robertson Glasgow School of Art


Drawing, in particular sparse freehand line drawing, is often revered for its ‘immediacy and directness bordering on rawness’ (Craig-Martin 1995: 10). Against such original drawings, prints come in second place, as reproductions, substitutes, mindless copies. In opposition to these ideas, this article will argue instead for the primacy of print as a drawing medium, with a focus on the self-realising activities of more anonymous practitioners. I examine the re-working and transmutation of mark making at work within drawing for print, the ‘sympathetic magic’ of mimesis and re-invention (Taussig 1993: xiii) through copying and appropriation. Moreover when I celebrate the presence conjured through drawing for print, I also urge the creative force of apparently thoughtless doodling generated by webs of repetitive lines across the page. I will argue that printed multiplying marks, with their flourishes of ornamental space covering repetitions, create presence despite the artist who is merely their attendant. With reference to the informal drawing education practices of all aspiring visual practitioners in Britain in the period of industrialisation, we find that drawing and printing mediums ceaselessly inflected one another. In this paper I will focus specifically on photomechanical line processes such as line blocks, offset litho or Xerox, relatively crude mediums with little of the apparent presence associated with either original drawings or with carefully editioned artist prints.

How to Cite
ROBERTSON, Frances. Involuntary Presence. TRACEY, [S.l.], v. 11, n. 1, p. 1-17, nov. 2016. ISSN 1742-3570. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 18 june 2019.