A Progression of Lines / by Jeannine Cook

These hot, humid days make staying at home in air-conditioned coherence very attractive. This means that all of a sudden, I find that my "eye" spots potential drawings or paintings in places I normally don't expect. It is the bonus of quiet days at home mid-summer, I have learned.

Today's bonus was a beautiful dendrobium that obligingly reblooms on a regular basis - it has produced elegant, shapely flowers, but at the gravity-defying angles that hallmark my dendrobiums. Staking them, greenhouse fashion, doesn't seem to work for me! As I sat listening to music and starting to do a graphite drawing of the flowers and strange stem, I kept thinking back to remarks I had read by Luisa Rabbia when she was being interviewed in Art in America after her Residency at the Isabella Gardiner Museum in Boston. Talking about drawing, she said "Drawing is for me a way of writing, recording moments, the passing of time ... you change ideas so many times when you are working, and I like that. I start from something and never know where I am going to."

Prima della tempesta, 2006, certosa di Padula, Luisa Rabbia,  (Image courtesy of the artist)

Prima della tempesta, 2006, certosa di Padula, Luisa Rabbia,  (Image courtesy of the artist)

It is true. I find the same thing. I might start drawing, say, the dendrobium, but by the time I have worked for a while, the flowers I am depicting not only have changed themselves, but I had also added, subtracted, moved and generally altered things substantially. I draw for a while, then stop and make a cup of tea... the perfect way then to return to the drawing with a fresher eye, to assess a little where I am going, what needs next to be done. The original idea that sparked the drawing is still there in its core, but the drawing itself has taken hold of my initial passion and made it its own.

Luisa Rabbia was accurate and eloquent about drawing - "A drawing itself is a record of the development of an idea. You change ideas so many times.... For me, the shape of each line is determined by the shape of the preceding line and determines the shape of the following line. There is this progression of lines, thoughts and moments." It does not really matter what you are drawing - a landscape, an abstract, a still life or a flower... the process of drawing seems to follow the same progression and development. The drawing medium does not alter this process either. As Luisa also remarked, line "is like breathing". One line falls naturally into place after the previous one, almost involuntarily, until suddenly, a little voice inside one's head says "stop" and you know that you have reached the end of that particular drawing journey.

Fascinating and addictive, this drawing process...