Drawing as Thinking / by Jeannine Cook

In earlier posts on this blog, I alluded to the exploration and excitement of drawing. But as I try to work on a series of silverpoint drawings I am doing, I realise again how much the act of drawing is a form of thinking. I am working on a series based on a piece of music that I listened to during a Savannah Music Festival concert. The images began to flood into my mind's eye as I heard the music. Now I need actually to work out how I want to construct those images and what I am actually trying to say in the drawings.

Consequently, I am trying to think through the silverpoint stylus, in fact, as I work out the drawing. The exercise makes me think of a really fascinating document I found some while ago - Aesthetic Education, Inquiry and the Imagination, written in 2007 by Madeleine Fuchs Holzer, Director of Educational Development at the Lincoln Center Institute (http://www.lcinstitute.org/wps/PA_1_0_P1/Docs/495-AEII.pdf). In this document, well worth downloading, especially if you are a teacher, nine Capacities for Imaginative Learning are laid out. The first ones, Noticing Deeply, Embodying, Questioning, Making Connections and Identifying Patterns, seem not only very germane for teachers but for artists themselves.

Every one of those concepts helps as one is thinking and/or drawing. If you are drawing something from real life, the level of observation will dictate the level of detail you show in your knowledge and thus portrayal of the subject matter. Even if you later simplify the drawing, or painting, the knowledge you have gained from noticing deeply will enrich and inform the art. The same acquired essence of the subject will permeate the artwork though your embodying it and translating it into the art. A questing curiosity and willingness to venture into unknown realms will lead you to do better art - the questioning part is very much bound up with thinking with the pencil or silver stylus. What if I do this... or that? What will that convey and what effect will it achieve? The same elasticity and openness of mind allows one to remember back to other art seen or done, other experiences, other results; the new work you are thinking about creating will be enriched by the connections you can make as you are developing the art. Even identifying patterns, visually or otherwise, can be a valuable stepping stone to thinking of the best way to go in planning the art.

Ultimately, however, after all the effort put into the initial thinking/drawing stage, there comes the time to launch yourself into what you are being driven to create. And you know full well that along the way, there will be surprises and deviations... and more thought and more drawing... before the work is finished.