In search of story


Vagaries in Gestation: On Being Linear, Part lll, March 15.17

©M. O’Hern


There may be no lines in Nature, but there are lines in Geometry, where I learned that a line is an infinite series of dots, that we see only a segment of it as it stretches into infinity. That hurt my head.

Can’t a line be just a line? Must Geometry ruin more than an hour of the school day? Must it contaminate every sketch wherein a line suggests a form, a gesture?

These lines tell of a hand, our first tool and our last. If the lines stretch into infinity, how fitting that they take with them this transient tool. This hand, no longer useful, waits. My pencil reaches out, as does my heart, to that waiting, transcribing it to something see-able. Something tangible. Some way to show what I feel. Some way to keep my dad.

When I sketched this, I didn’t know he would die in two days. I only knew that I was seeing things that no one else saw. I was alone at his bedside, as usual. I am sure that, as it sketched, my hand was also reaching out. Would anyone ever know what this was like for the solitary daughter? Yes. Now you know.

If the line we see is only a segment of its infinite self, what does that tell us about everything else we see?

It flows then like the line that the simplicity of a sketch is not simple at all.




Vagaries in Gestation




Vagaries in Gestation: On Being Linear, Part ll, 3.13.17

tube rose [gray]©Maureen O’Hern

A drawing takes a lot of time

a million hours or more

it cramps your upper body

and makes your eyeballs sore.

But anything rendered in graphite

is deemed too quickly done

a couple strokes of pencil

meritless, homespun.

Indignant, I object.

Vociferous, I kvetch.

It may be done in graphite,

but don’t call it a sketch!

Please do not copy my drawings.

Vagaries in Gestation


Vagaries in Gestation: On Being Linear, Part l, 3.12.17

Tuberose © Maureen O’Hern

Did you ever hear words that stopped your breath? I did: our instructor told us that we had to draw without lines. I was a simple English major, with my toe tentatively dipped in the waters of botanical illustration, and I was frozen in that position, rethinking my commitment. Was she serious?

She went on: “There are no lines in Nature.” That helped me not at all. But I left my toe in. What ensued was slavish hunching over a drawing table with neurotically-controlled lighting, racing a life cycle, capturing it with graphite before it drooped and its shadows changed.

Yes, shadows. Not lines. I had to work with magnifying lenses clipped to my glasses, so demanding was the technique. What was perceived in my drawing as a line was in reality an obsessively nuanced shadow, pristine in its effect, subtle in its application. Deadly to my neck.

Thus did I become enamored of buds. I had, of course, marveled at buds as a gardener, but that was not the same as falling into them as a botanical artist. Their myriad tiny hills and vales had gone unnoticed by me  — how could I never have perceived that there was not the vestige of a line in those tiny becomings?

Becoming. The meaning of the bud.  That moment when something changes in us, when, for instance, someone tells us there are no lines.

Did I know that living — becoming — was not a simple matter of black and white, of sharp, clear line? Of course I did, but that was mere knowledge. Knowledge isn’t the same as wonder. One can follow a line to knowledge, but wonder awaits in shadows.




Please do not copy my drawings or use them in any way.

Vagaries in Gestation