Scratchboard Drawings: Organic Fractals

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These drawings are currently available through the Demossa Gallery.

For many years, during long quiet evenings, listening to music, watching television or sitting quietly with family or friends, I have spent that time with a sketchbook in my lap. For several years I worked with silverpoint, an ancient technique of drawing with a sharpened stick of silver wire on paper with a specially created surface. With silverpoint drawings, it is impossible to get a truly dark line, so the entire drawing remains elusive, a little ghostly. It is a beautiful finish, quite unlike the bolder chiaroscuro of my other work.

After seeing a friend’s first drawings on scratchboard, I was immediately intrigued. Drawing with an etching needle or special sharp, spade-shaped nib to scratch white lines through a prepared ink surface over a clay ground, I found a medium that was highly satisfying. It gave me the advantage of a full range of tonality between dark and light values, while still using a tool that felt comfortable and totally natural.

In these drawings, whether with a stick of silver or a needle-like stylus, I can move the tool over the surface just a small distance, with the movement of my hand anchored in one place by my wrist. It moves in short, parallel lines, usually forming a curved plane. At the end of each series of strokes, I move my hand and continue, building up the volumes and directions slowly, deliberately, and yet without a preconceived plan of how the drawing will emerge. I find this practice exciting in its abstraction, whereas my other modalities of work are almost always figurative and determined.

Yet, these abstractions have a definite pattern of emergence. The forms are almost always organic, and mimic the process of creating fractals on a computer. Each form becomes a variable that is added to and developed to become part of a much more complex whole.

I called the first books of silverpoint drawings “Erotic Fractals.” The scratchboard drawings are more wide-ranging. I call them “Organic Fractals.”

Kathryn Jacobi July, 2013