All you have to do is draw three lines — any three lines on a piece of paper — and Kenny Harrison will transform them into something wonderful.
“I’ll be doing some fortune-telling this year,” Harrison said. “I’ll be seeing the future, predicting what your drawing will become.”
Harrison is one of a large collection of local artists who will be attending the 10th annual Draw-A-Thon — a free, 24-hour art extravaganza that will run from 6:30 a.m. Nov. 28 to 6:30 a.m. Nov. 29 at the New Orleans Art Center on St. Claude Avenue.
Since its birth in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the mission of the Draw-A-Thon has been the same: Create a casual, supportive environment for people of all ages to discover and nurture their creative side. The event last year drew more than 1,600 people over the 24-hour period.
“Drawing has both the power to make a child feel like they are the master of their world and make an adult feel like a child again,” said Susan Gisleson, one of the founders of Press Street, the nonprofit literary and visual arts collective that organizes the Draw-A-Thon. “So, what we basically do is take a building and completely cover the interior from floor to ceiling with paper and cardboard, provide all the art materials and set people free.”
For Harrison, a painter, author and children’s book illustrator and former illustrator for The Times-Picayune, the beauty of the event is it’s meant for everyone, whether they love to draw or haven’t doodled since elementary school.
“A lot of people are afraid of a blank page,” he said. “They look at it and think, “What am I supposed to do?’”
Have no fear. The Draw-A-Thon is packed with options for the artistically hesitant, and this year they fall along the theme of time travel.
“In our Time Travel Convenience Store we’ll have boxes of all sizes where you can draw the kinds of supplies you would need for time travel.” Gisleson said. “We’ll also have a cave where people can do cave drawings like in prehistoric times, and, of course, the ever-popular Draw-A-Tron 3000, a gigantic structure where all you have to do is write out anything you’d like drawn, insert it in the Draw-A-Tron and in just a minute or two, out will pop your drawing.”
Each year the Draw-A-Tron takes a different shape. The artist-powered creation this year will be a time machine.
“I always do a shift inside the Draw-A-Tron, and it’s really fun, since people are always trying to stump us,” Harrison said. “Last year, I had someone ask for a drawing of their soul. I sent out a drawing of the bottom of a shoe,” he laughed. “It’s all about that sense of playful interaction.”
Children’s activities are centered around the morning hours, young adults in the afternoon and adult activities (like figure drawing and a surreal performance art piece) will stretch into the wee hours of the morning.
“My favorite part of the event is seeing what the space becomes,” Harrison said. “By the end, there will be everything from stick figures to elaborate portraits on every surface of the room. It really is just an incredible sight.”