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.