Lines / by Jeannine Cook

Lines loom large in all our lives from a very young age. Who hasn't taken a pencil, a pen, even a lipstick, and made energetic, happy scribbles on all sorts of surfaces from early childhood? Those were our drawings, and they often won praise and encouragement.

Later, lines become the underpinning for paintings, the punctuation marks for long columns of additions in arithmetic or the scaffolding for musical notes on a score. So many uses and so many meanings... But for anyone interested in art, a line becomes more and more nuanced and meaningful. Not only does one learn to use line to express oneself in silverpoint, graphite, pen, paint, charcoal or any other medium, but you also see line much more clearly all around you. For me, the contour lines traced out in grassy strips between ploughed fields to prevent erosion on our farm were some of the earliest memories of line. Even an avenue of trees is two parallel lines that speak of time, order, shade, beauty and horticultural skill - another childhood fascination.

When I draw in silverpoint, lines can whisper or speak loudly, in a metaphorical sense. Just like the lines drawn in space by a violin bow as it moves across the instrument, softly, sensuously, vigourously or hesitantly. Or like the traces of an insect when it walks on a sandy surface. I drew this set of tracks on Sapelo Island, Georgia, in the sand dunes (Sand Dune Colony, Sapelo - silverpoint ). When one looks at lines drawn by Albrecht Durer ( in a silverpoint drawing, such as those in his 1520-21 Diary of A Journey to the Netherlands, they run the gamut of effect and message. As he records an amazing variety of people, places and things he sees during his trip north, the silverpoint lines show his questing eye, trying to understand the anatomy of a dog, the pattern of a tiled floor, the bone structure of a woman's face... Lines in a drawing can show how the artist's eye, brain, hand and paper surface are connecting together; that is why drawings are so often considered so immediate and fresh.

Frequently lines become like a golden orb spider's magnificent web, linking together in complex fashion to become a drawing, a painting, an architect's structure. Every time we start to work with lines, something unique evolves. A simple line, short, long, interrupted or continuous, can be an amazing creation.