dito – a communicative impulse

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  1. dito – prehistory

When I used to write my regular faxes to my wife Ulrike, from Argentina, our children also wanted to read them. In order to make this possible, I added illustrated pictures to the words. These conveyed the meaning of the words. Thus enabling our children to read them also. My faxes were then glued to the inside of a cabinet door and collected. Later, at the request of the children, two little souvenir books („Daddys Faxes“) were to be made for them.

Then, during my time as a learning companion at the „Freie Hofschule Salzburg“ the situation occurred that a boy asked me to help him with a drawing. I answered, truthfully, apologizing, that I could not draw! Thereupon he said: „But Mr. Horstmann, you always tell us, if you can not do something, you should keep trying to learn it!“

dito – I was confronted with what I had said before! Immediately I felt I had been caught and started drawing that day.

An important reason for my drawings was our stated goal to observe the children attentively during their actions and to document what was seen in as many ways as possible. I decided to use my drawings to learn how to observe and document myself better. The focus was on my stick figure stories, which recounted the daily routines of the learning research project and which I drew while the children were writing their learning journals. Often, the children who had finished their work came to me and wanted to see my drawings.

A drawing intermezzo was my bumbling attempt to add and summarize the „Little Forest Men and Squirrel Stories“ that I used to tell my children while putting them to bed in former times, into small memory books – supplemented with a few pictures.

As a result, I began independently to draw everyday stories and attitudes with my medium of stick figures, which I – inspired by the prehistory – began to call ‚dito‘. These stories will be familiar to many observers, they tell about everyday life. Nevertheless, some individuals – and I am essentially concerned with this impulse – will remember situations of their own lives; this rethinking and thus the opening of the possibility to change attitudes is important to me.

  1. Gesture und content

As before, I prefer to draw from the spontaneous idea; in essence, without correction. I am less concerned with brilliance in the stroke or execution, but rather with my most authentic statement and transmission of my feelings, attitude or a situation. I want to portray real life and get into conversation about it with the viewers. I see myself as a drawing storyteller, not as an artist.

The simplicity of the drawing as well as the everyday nature of the content are an essential element to the accessibility of the drawings for each viewer. So, I understand dito as a futhur initiative for the democratization of art to that effect that I want to contribute to reducing the reserve to deal with ‚art in the broadest sense‘.

  1. Communication and pictures

Undoubtedly, human communication and media consumption have undergone massive changes through digitization. The daily duration of use of digital end devices (PC, mobile phone, laptop) was,in 2015, already over three hours by adolescents. The videos on youtube and the pictures on Instagram are supplemented by selfies and emoticons (Emotion and Icon). The emoticons are the digital trailers for feelings in a communication that is largely distanced from speech, writing and letters written in ink.

My dito images thus meet the increasing need for graphic communication, but offer a highly individualized and not digitally processed platform. Accessible via digital channels, the authentic hand-drawn ditos create a constellation of tension that helps to question the quality of the term ’social networks‘. They profit by an unexpectedly direct approach to the personal feelings and thoughts with which the drawings are charged.

  1. Background thoughts

Dito interests me because of the fascinating triangular relationship constructed by me, between the verbal meaning (= „as I said“), the figurative form of expression (the dito’s – illustrated stick figure) and the literal english expression „do it“ (do it, call to action).


dito – derived from ditto (ital.), is the past participle of the Italian verb „dire“ (Latin: dicere) = to speak, and means translated: „said, spoken“. Linguistic synonyms are: the same, likewise, as I said. Language as a fundamental human cultural activity enables the transmission of information, the formation of realization and the transmission of knowledge. However, dito mainly talks non-verbally – so it works independent of language and speach. Dito is globally understandable and opens as a simple, very reduced form of communication. An understanding and a confrontation without explanations. That is my goal.

The drawings (my language – communication form) often describe the past, they „retell“ and emphasize therefore practiced life, following the idea to think about it, reflecting it – reflecting and studying ourselves and our behavior, our roles. It is about understanding and developing oneself as a social being in order to create and implement adequate action consequences.


As a stick figure dito is the radical reduction of human representation and not accidentally also the oldest (Bronze Age, rock carvings in Tanum). It is also the first pictorial representation of humanity practiced by all of us as an infant, our beginnings in artistic creation, in the figuration of our surroundings and the world around us. With circle and line (R. Steiner: the crooked and the straight line) I use the two most original and simplest symbols. The straight line stands for separation, duality, contradiction and the connection between the separated. The circle is the symbol of the perfection, the closed round, the divine and the all-embracing unity.

In Modern Art, simplistic males have been used already several times, so by A.R. Plenck, Harald Naegli (Sprayer of Zurich), Joel Shapiro, Matt Mullican and probably best known by Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

In my drawings and stories the stick figure stands for the action-oriented social dynamics of the human individual as well as the human responsibility – for the social handling with global problems (hence: do it – dito).

Single figure

Individual gestures or attitudes are sufficient to make a statement, to convey information. Our body language and movements have a far greater share in our communication than most of us realize. With our words and movements we tell our fellow human beings about ourselves. I am very interested in these non-verbal messages, which are so important in exchange with other people, that is why they are an important part of the dito drawings.

Picture stories (Strip cartoons)

The first dito stories came about in my faxes from Argentina to my family around 1998. They found their continuation in my drawn „daily reports“ in the „Freie Hofschule Gaisberg“ (starting from 2005). The most retelling everyday , previously experienced situations, enabling identification, encouraging the reflection of one’s own behavior or confronting other behavioral patterns – they encourage examination/dispute.

Speech bubbles

The option of speech bubbles, that I picked up a year ago, makes it possible to convey certain contents more precisely through ’non-spoken words‘. For the interactive reinforcement of the drawings on the „Why EUROPE“ project, this supplement seemed to me to be appropriate and necessary in order to bring certain arguments into conversation.

Gesture or character

The drawings, taken from life refer to the real essential – the content, the statement. I am not concerned with the image, but rather with the question whether the image is meaningful, whether it expresses my personal statement intelligibly, or even transports it to the viewer.

The deliberately casual, simple gesture or character of the drawings reduces the „threshold“ between the viewer and me, facilitates our communication. The sometimes perceptible humoristic level in the drawings is also a conscious instrument of condensing or intensifying the exchange. Formerly, my ditos still had faces, but also here a reduction was successfully achieved and the gesture and posture has, therefore, gained even more importance.

If, when looking at the dito’s, the idea arises, „I can do that too, there’s nothing to art“, then I have almost won. Because that’s exactly what it‘s all about – each of us is able to, and should, do it oneself, both drawing stick figures as well as thinking about our behavior and learning from it, in order to responsibly participate in the shaping of society.

do it

The arising proverbial request (do it, make it) to action is the dito concept, derived from the same letters: „do it“!

The call to action relates to the social obligation of each individual to participate actively, to take part in the forming of society. „Gesamtkunstwerk“/total work of Art (J. Beuys) of society. Though, my personal drawing style is not perfectionistic, but rather kind of „I can do that too‘ provocative and thus both emotional binding energy and – in the best case – animation, to start drawing oneself – to dare something new, including „do it“!

dito embodies, for me, the necessity for individual and social learning to be „lived“, in order to implement common knowledge into action-oriented global responsibility.