[a] Drawing nematodes with the aid of a Leica Microscope, Darwin Centre, Natural History Museum
[b] Anisoptera and magnifying glass, Angela Marmot Centre, Natural History Museum
[c] Drawing Fungi specimen directly on to copper plate, Mycology Department, Kew Gardens
[d] Drawing dendritic copper from the private mineral collection of Courtenay Smale, Cornwall.
Permission to draw and handle each specimen enables close observation, revealing unexpected comparisons of form. Observational drawing involves hand-eye coordination, analysis, delineation, abstraction, improvisation, collage and deep concentration. Perception of the object is a process of transition from experience to judgement, insight to application.
Concentrated observation within the act of drawing creates new perceptual knowledge. The morphology is observed in detail – activating the process of comparison. Each form observed joins a bank of knowledge in the observer’s mind and each new drawing experience triggers a different formal memory stored in this bank. Each drawing adds value to each drawing previously made, and vice versa.
A necessary process of abstraction occurs during the observational drawing process. All knowledge of the object and its conventional context and name are forgotten; what is left is an involvement in the form of the specimen. The concentration shifts from drawing the whole to drawing a series of parts. This process, which concentrates on form, trains the artist to abstract: to draw and to play with the form, eventually without observing the object and thus entering a new realm of understanding.