The Spectator

The Excitement of Drawing by Jeannine Cook

I have always admired Paula Rego's capacity to draw really well and also to skewer people in the political art she does so effectively. I was really thrilled when I was accepted into the New Hall Women's Art Collection at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, ( because they have some of Rego's work. Now Paula Rego is having a new museum dedicated to her in Cascais, Portugal, her home country, and she is ever more enthusiastic about drawing. In a recent interview with Andrew Lambirth in The Spectator (, she talked about the process of creation through just getting on and doing the drawing, mindful of the changes which will probably take place. She explained, ..."when you discover what things look like from drawing them, it's most exciting. You forget everything else because your attention is totally focused on what you are doing ..."

Drawing is indeed a most exciting adventure every time you pick up a drawing instrument. You learn how things are put together and how they work, in space, in differing lights, in time. You have no idea what really will happen on the paper until you have completed the drawing (or, more accurately, when it tells you that you have finished...). The initial concept or inspiration that impelled one to launch on the drawing in the first place is never the whole story. As you look hard, at length and with increased understanding, at what you are drawing, you - the artist - are changing too. Your imagination is being stimulated and all sorts of new connections and thoughts occur. Every time one does even the briefest of drawings, life is enriched.

Pomagne, Paula Rego., 1996 (Image courtesy of the Tate)

Pomagne, Paula Rego., 1996 (Image courtesy of the Tate)

No wonder Paula Rego talks of losing track of time when she is drawing. All acts of creation are miraculous erasers of the sense of time! Just ask the patient companion of any artist who has been assured that "this will just take five minutes to do..." as the artist tries to do a quick drawing or painting; half an hour later, or more, the companion is still probably waiting, less patiently! Being totally focused on drawing or painting is incredibly meditative and often healing too. Frequently I find that my sense of "the world being in balance" is directly related to how much I am painting or drawing. It has little to do with the degree of success of the art you are doing - it is the act of creation that counts. It is back to that excitement of drawing - the next voyage of discovery.