Defining Drawing / by Jeannine Cook

September is the renewal of life drawing sessions for my group after summer. It is good to be drawing again, reminding of the need to observe closely, to trust one's eye and – just go with it! What I also noticed afresh is how differently each artist draws, both physically as well as stylistically.

The body movements, the gestures, that each artist makes as he or she draws are individualistic. Some stand at an easel, making huge, sweeping motions as they make the marks on the canvas or paper, almost like a violin player with a lively bow. Others sit and barely move their arms. The resemblance to dance movements is often remarkable. No wonder artists have always felt a close kinship to dancers. Add in music and the resemblance between mark-making and dance becomes clearer.

In a way, the definition of drawing becomes more murky when you see such artists working. Are they drawing in the air or on a solid surface? Things get even more complex if you consider that today, drawing does not have to be contingent on pencil and paper, or any other traditional mark-making combination. Film/video, digital routes, even three-dimensional means to break up space, within a defined area - all are used to lay out an image. Lines can be made with so many means - from tape, to beads, to tools, to thread, to stylii, even cell phones.

This drawing, for instance, was done with silverpoint, graphite, watercolour and silk thread. I called it "Symphony in Blue".

Symphony in Blue, silverpoint, graphite, watercolour and silk thread, Jeannine Cook artist

Symphony in Blue, silverpoint, graphite, watercolour and silk thread, Jeannine Cook artist

The traditional definition of drawing, since the early 14th century, is pretty straightforward: "a graphic representation, by lines, of an object or idea, as with a pencil; a delineation of form without reference to colour - a sketch, plan or design, especially made with pen, pencil or crayon" is one dictionary definition, very much echoing others. But now, as I have said, all bets are off.

One exhibition which should be very interesting to see in this regard is coming up at MOMA, New York, from November 21st onwards. On Line: Drawing through the Twentieth Century is apparently a wide-ranging examination of different approaches to drawing done by many artists from different lands. It should be very thought-provoking for anyone who loves drawing.