Automatic drawing, Surrealist Automatism and Auragraphs

Automatic drawing, Surrealist Automatism and Auragraphs
11th June 2024 Richard Stuttle

Automatic drawing, Surrealist Automatism and Auragraphs

A painting or work of art often begins with a moment or flash inspiration, from that point creativity can flow. Many artists wait for inspiration to strike before beginning work, once the idea arrives in the mind the artist relies on their skills and talents to bring the idea to life on canvas or paper. This method can be thought of as understanding the ‘creativity within the thinking mind’.

Automatic drawing works differently, allowing the free flowing nature of the conscious mind to happen live on the canvas. Rather than the frequency of thought flowing around the energy of our consciousness its translated into the freedom of movement through the hand of the artist.

Automatic drawing

Automatic drawing works by the artist putting themselves in a state of relaxation in front of their easel and allow the inspiration to happen in the moment of creation. The artist allows the hand to move freely with energy and influence of the feelings they are picking up in the moment. There is no fixed direction for destination for the work, it is just allowed to unfold naturally.

Many artists practiced automatic drawing it became more common in the surrealist movement and the phrase ‘Surrealist automatism’ was created. It was the method of drawing which moved the conscious mind out of the way and allowed the subconscious and unconscious minds to have a greater influence in the work. It became popular in the 1920’s with artists like Andre Benton who produced wonderful drawings without the thinking mind. Hans Arp or more commonly known as Jean Arp was linked with spiritual communities and exhibitions. He produced incredible bronze sculptures and large-scale paintings without the constrictions of seen reality.

It was also thought that artists like Miro and Picasso used a form of automatic drawing when starting some of their later works. After the initial painting was started with automatic drawing, they would bring forward their conscious mind to make decisions on structure and focus, picking out colours and shapes to support a narrative for the work.

Austin Osman Spare was an English artist who gained a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London, United Kingdom. His work took many turns during his career and other influences of the occult which he called magical techniques such as automatic drawing and automatic writing. This was around channelling energy from another source, the questions arose what energy was he channelling, from what source?


The first introduction of the Auragraph was in the 1940’s by a gentleman called Harold Sharp. He was first introduced into Spiritualism in the 1920’s after visiting the Arthur Conan Doyle’s psychic museum and bookshop in Westminster. Over the following years he developed his mediumship, he became aware of his connection with spirit guide Chan Shih.

Chan Shih would influence Mr Sharp when creating drawings. He produced many pieces of art, many of which were within a circle shape and held an Asian style in design and colour.

In 1943 Psychic News published the following account of his work which stated: ‘Harold Sharp has developed a new phase of his mediumship. It is automatic drawing and colouring, the latest stage being the production of graphs of the human aura executed in delicate colouring and intricate but rhythmic designs. These are produced at high speed by the medium who has never had an art lesson and cannot normally draw.’

He used his mediumship to accompany the drawings writing information what came into his mind as well as interpreting the drawings in relation to a sitter or specific person. He produced many drawings which could be used in general for other mediums and intuitive could use the artwork to help unfold and add depth to their spiritual readings. This was another tool for mediums similar to oracle cards or the tarot, each had a specific meaning but also an intuitive meaning.

Mr Sharp was not in trance during these sessions but merely sat quietly with the awareness of his guide and allowing the art to unfold. The starting point for the art was different each time and he allowed the drawings to unfold without having an end result in mind.

The process within art

Every artist follows their own process and may have inspirers in their peers or artists of the past. Painting is unique to the individual but many shares similar thoughts on what makes a great painting or work of art – The moments or brush strokes that make a work shine arrive when the artist is in flow, working without the influence of the conscious mind. A state where inspiration can come in and the artists hand and palette can be guided without the influence of preconception or design.

However you choose to paint or harness your creativity make moments for flow and allow yourself the freedom to feel the energy and world around you.

Written by Richard Stuttle