Thinking out loud on paper / by Jeannine Cook

I am back to drawing in silverpoint, tackling a large study of lily seed pods which have been "talking" to me for some time since I rescued them from the winter struck garden last year.

Since silverpoint, a medium that makes marks with a silver stylus on a prepared ground, precludes any erasures and thus requires a little thought and planning, I found this quote resonated : "Drawings were always ways for artists to think out loud on paper...". This was said about an exhibition of Old Master drawings in the Scholz Family Works on Paper Gallery at the Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame (www.nd.edu/sniteart/collection/printdrawing/index.html), where it was also pointed out that drawings were called "studi, schizzi, pensieri" in Italian.

It is true that one does think, possibly out loud when alone, in the midst of drawing. As I started working with these majestic seed pods of a Madonna Lily, I kept thinking of the role of the Madonna Lily in all the Renaissance Annunciations paintings that I have seen over the years. The famous ones, by Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticello, Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio) or Fra Filippo Lippi, are joined by many others painted by Italian Renaissance artists on canvas or fresco. The custom that the Angel who announces the amazing news to the Virgin Mary should carry a spray of Madonna or Regale Lilies seems to have pertained from the mid-1400s onwards, for about 50-75 years. Looking at a large selection of images on Wikipedia Commons (http://www.commons,wikipedia.org/wiki/category:Renaissance_paintings_of_Annunciation), it is fascinating to see how "standardised" the lilies were for all those artists.

Beyond the Renaissance memories, I keep thinking that these lily seed pods are metaphors for proud, elegant women who have born children and grown in stature and grace as they watch their progeny disperse. Their bone structures are refined and beautiful, they hold themselves erect, despite advancing years, they epitomise distilled, condensed wisdom and lore.

But as I think these thoughts, and many others, as I draw, I am left wondering if I will convey any of this when I finish this drawing... who knows? I can but hope so, but, in the meanwhile, I still have a lot of drawing, and thinking, to do!